An aboriginal advertising firm has launched a civil suit against a firm it had entered into an Elections Canada contract with two years ago.

In August of 2013, the Ottawa-based businesses Spirit Creative and Acart Communications agreed to work together to advertise for Elections Canada. According to Spirit Creative’s lawyer Sarah Clarke, that partnership never would have happened without Spirit Creative’s track record in marketing within Canada’s aboriginal communities.

“Elections Canada, in its request for proposals, was clear that whoever was gonna win the contract needed to have a demonstrated experience in working with and for an aboriginal audience,” Clarke said.

The contract revolves around providing election and election education materials to the general population, and the targeted aboriginal population, through marketing and advertising, Clarke explained.

But once that contract was secured for the next seven years, Clarke said her client was cut out – both financially and in business planning. The legal action launched by Spirit Creative names Acart as well as Al Albania. At the time of the contract agreement, Albania was a director of Spirit Creative and the president of Acart.

He later resigned with Spirit Creative. Through his role with Acart he has been “continuing to profit from this contract that Acart never could have won its own,” Clarke said.

“It is unfair, we allege, that Acart got this contract using Spirit Creative as the quote on quote ‘aboriginal ad agency’ and then once things start moving along nicely, starts to cut Spirit Creative out.”

Meanwhile, Acart’s defence says Spirit Creative was only ever meant to provide aboriginal elections services, which totaled only $100,000 of the much larger seven-year contract rather than profit sharing.

“That had not been the agreement” presented to Elections Canada, Clarke said.

Acart’s statement of defence claims both Acart and Spirit Creative had agreed in the early stages of putting together a proposal, Spirit Creative “would be limited to providing the aboriginal service that may be required by Elections Canada from time to time.”

The statement of claim launched by Spirit Creative lists more than $2.5 million in damages from what it claims are breaches of the Elections Canada contract and other expenses.