NDP questions grant as GoodLocal downsizes
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/05/2022 (306 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Progressive Conservative government came under fire again Monday for a $500,000 pandemic grant given to GoodLocal, after the Manitoba e-commerce platform announced it would be downsizing.
During question period Monday, St. Vital NDP MLA Jamie Moses questioned whether the half-million-dollar grant was good value for taxpayers in light of changes to its business operations.
“Five-hundred-thousand dollars spread out to many different businesses would have gone a lot further than to one business that didn’t even generate much in sales,” Moses said.
On May 26, GoodLocal, which is co-owned by Fort Whyte MLA Obby Khan, sent a letter to vendors saying it could no longer afford to store products for free at its warehouse, which would be relocated immediately. The e-commerce site was also taken offline for redevelopment.
In December 2020, GoodLocal received a $500,000 grant to expand its warehouse, delivery services and website and hire a full-time marketing consultant to promote the platform, which had launched a month prior.
The money flowed through the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce to GoodLocal.
The chamber was tasked by the provincial government to run its COVID-19 pandemic relief program while many retailers were shuttered due to public health orders.
Roughly 10 months later, Khan endorsed Heather Stefanson in her successful bid to become leader of the PC party. In January, he announced his candidacy for the Tory nomination in the Fort Whyte byelection. He was elected in a tight race in March.
The Tories have since distanced themselves from the pandemic relief program, saying the chamber selected GoodLocal as the e-commerce platform of choice and awarded the contract to Khan’s business despite the province signing a contract that identified GoodLocal as the funding recipient.
Economic Development Minister Cliff Cullen defended the grant and called the NDP’s line of questioning a “smear campaign.”
“The business is not shut down. The business continues to grow,” Cullen said. “Manitobans and Manitoba business are benefiting from this investment.”
Khan did not respond to questions raised by the NDP in question period.
When asked for comment from the Fort Whyte MLA, the PC party deferred to GoodLocal.
In response to questions from the Free Press, GoodLocal provided a statement previously sent to customers.
“Consumer habits are changing and due to the lifting of restrictions and the resumption of in-person shopping, the e-commerce landscape is changing — with a dip in sales being experienced throughout North America,” the statement reads in part. “This means we are needing to pivot our operations to better serve our vendors who continue to consistently use our services.”
According to the chamber, GoodLocal had 388 vendors and almost $850,000 in sales, plus $147,000 in gift card sales, during the grant’s reporting period.