Exploring the millions of dollars the Orbán government has spent in Canada

In 2020, Vinum Tokaj Canada Inc., owned by Sándor Balla, was awarded nearly C$4 million (944,880,000 forints) from Hungarian public funds to operate an office and warehouse in Toronto, as well as provide marketing services for the promotion of Hungarian businesses and products. Of all the funding envelopes allocated by the Orbán government to Canada since 2010, this was the largest.  The contracting authority was the Hungarian Export Promotion Agency (HEPA Magyar Exportfejlesztési Ügynökség Nonprofit Zrt.), which funds the establishment of partner offices in foreign countries. The Canadian partner office funded by the Hungarian government is located at 8750 Jane Street (Unit 12), in Toronto. Three Canadian companies are also registered at the same address, namely Vinum Tokaj Inc., Northstar Wall Systems Ltd. and CanImpEx Marketing Inc. All three companies are the business interests of Mr. Balla and Northstar Wall Systems is a construction firm focusing on drywall and ceiling installation.

Consul General Valér Palkovits (middle) awards Sándor Balla in 2020.

In many ways, Mr. Balla has become the face of the Hungarian community in Toronto, thanks in no small measure to his unparalleled success in winning tender upon tender from the Government of Hungary, particularly for major capital projects. Since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán came to power in 2010, Mr. Balla’s company was tasked with managing the construction of the new Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre at 141 Sunrise Avenue in North York, which included $600,000 in Hungarian government funding, as well as the construction of the new First Hungarian Baptist Church at 7379 Islington Avenue, in Woodbridge. The Government of Hungary provided more than C$210,000 in funding to erect the new church.

Mr. Balla’s de facto leadership of the Hungarian community in Toronto extends beyond winning Hungarian government contracts for capital projects. For instance, he launched the Magyar Élet online news site (the successor to the now defunct print publication) with the financial support of the State Secretariat for National Policy of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office. Despite receiving government funding, the website has not been updated since December 29, 2020 and includes only about a dozen articles published through all of 2020. In 2019, Magyar Élet published only two print issues of a community magazine.

The Toronto businessman, originally from the Transylvania region of Romania, also works closely with Hungarian diplomats serving in Canada. In around 2014/15, Hungarian diplomats in this country actively promoted, at any opportunity, the Dry By Tokaj label, distributed by Vinum Tokaj Canada Inc. Today, Consul General Valér Palkovits has built a relationship with the businessman that seems far closer than that of any prior consul general in Toronto.

Valér Palkovits awards Mr. Balla in 2020

Nationally, Mr. Balla has been involved in the leadership of the Kanadai Magyar Kulturális Tanács, as Vice President. This organization has been both a regular beneficiary of Hungarian government funding, and has also been tasked with distributing Hungarian public monies to politically loyal diaspora organizations.

At no time since the transition to parliamentary democracy in 1989-90 has the Hungarian government transferred such lavish funds to local Hungarians and their businesses. And at no time has direct foreign government intervention in the life of the Hungarian Canadian diaspora caused such acrimony as in the past decade. In many ways, Viktor Orbán and his diplomats in Canada have returned to the tradition established under the Kádár regime of dividing the diaspora into two camps: those who are “loyal” and those who are “enemies.” Loyalty bears fruit.

13 Comments

  1. Avatar Peter I. Hidas says:

    Are they making money?

  2. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Why not ask, if they’re having sex, Mr. Hidas?

    The Hungarian ruling party is making money by screwing Hungary’s taxpayers and spending the money on Canadian prostitutes. Get the picture?

  3. Avatar György Lázár says:

    It is important to mention that Mr. Attila Balla is the President/CEO at Vinum Tokaj International LLC located in Cerritos, California. His brother, Sándor Balla runs Vinum Tokaj Canada Inc., in Toronto, Canada.

    These companies market and sell Hungarian wines produced by vineries owned by Fidesz leadership and loyalists. E.g. Viktor Orbán’s wife (Anikó Lévai) owns a big piece of land in the Tokaj wine region in Hungary.

    Stop drinking Hungarian wine! ..especially Tokaj wine…

    • Wow!!! Those wine sales contribute to Hungary’s economic well-being. It provides jobs to Hungarians in Hungary. At least some people try to be subtle. But you are anti-Hungarian to your bone marrow and you simply have no capacity to conceal it at all!

  4. Avatar Dr, FODOR ANDRÁS says:

    Dear Friends, Gyurka and András, please do not leave me in the darkness.

    What do you think that the Hungarian (Orbán) Government should have done?

    To help the ALTUS Company of Mr. and Mrs. Gyurcsány to conquer Canada?

    • Avatar Christopher Adam says:

      Although this question is not directed at me, let me provide a quick answer. Perhaps the Hungarian government could refrain from using the carrot and the stick approach in its diaspora policy. There’s much that the Hungarian government could do to support its diaspora communities that would not involve funding individuals and businesses based on an ideological loyalty scale. Sending Hungarian-language school textbooks to diaspora youth organizations, offering resources and support for Hungarian as a second language testing, professional development and training of volunteer educators, recognizing the work of grassroots volunteers in diaspora communities (they are the ones who do the heavy lifting, yet are often forgotten) are some ideas. A guiding principal should be that money does not change hands.

      • I know of a Canadian-Hungarian folk dance group that benefited from a partially paid trip to Hungary where they participated in Tanchaz type activities meant to improve their skills. The group is overall left-leaning. I am not aware of them having been put to a loyalty test of any kind.

        I think you are making more out of it than reality allows for.

  5. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Fodor András

    Lets start by cutting the crap doc. You are not a friend of mine. I don’t know you from a hole in the ground. Judging by the stupidities you post here, I would not be caught dead in your company. You are an embarrassment to anyone who has a brain bigger than Donald Duck. That Dr before your name must be made of rubber.

    As for that dumb-ass question of yours: Mr Orbán should not help any corporation to conquer Canada. That’s not his job. He should help Hungary’s long-exploited working men and women instead to have access to justice, equal rights under the law, and the opportunity to move TOWARDS rather than AWAY from an ecologically sustainable future. In other words, he should stop pissing away the money he’s stealing from the poor on his corporate cronies and try to follow the path of Jesus. Got the picture doc?

    • “and the opportunity to move TOWARDS rather than AWAY from an ecologically sustainable future.”

      We discussed this subject before. Since 2010, Hungary’s emissions levels are down 3% since Orban took, as of 2019. Canada’s emissions on the other hand are up 4% since 2010, going to 2019. Keep in mind that Hungary’s economic growth pace has been significantly higher than Canada’s for the period. If we look at Hungary’s decline in emissions since 1990, i’d say Hungary is near the top of the list of countries that contributed to the global sustainability blah, blah. Canada on the other hand has perhaps one of the worst records since 1990 within the OECD group. This is perhaps a very good example where leftist rhetoric and perceptions do not match facts. Obviously, facts don’t matter! Facts are oppressive, racist, …..

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKcWu0tsiZM

      I think this video is a great comical way to capture your ideological culture.

  6. Hát igen, és a tavalyi évben a nagy jótékonykodás közepette olyan cégek “jótékonykodtak” parasztvakításképpen, amelyek a közel 1 milliárd forintos megbízásból” kiveszik a részüket, Balla Úr alvállalkozóiként. Vagyis tudatos a “visszaosztás”, mert hát ki mer szólni az ellen, ha valaki jótékonykodik, nem igaz? Balla Úr bőkezű amikor a magyar közpénzről van szó. De hol voltak a jótékonykodások pár évvel ezelőtt, amikor Balla úr még nem volt a kormányzat zsebében, de már közpénz és NER lojalitás nélkül is nagymenő vállalkozónak számított? Sehol, mert a saját pénzt na, az nem alkalmas jótékonykodásra. A könnyen jött közpénzből már sokkal simábban működik ez.

    a Tokaj Canada facebook oldalon leginkább kormányzati és nemzetpolitikai posztokat, főkonzulátusi események promóit találjuk nagy számban, A Tokaji Wine boutique étterem facebook oldalán több mint két éve nincs új poszt, a hivatalos weboldaluk a tokaji.ca 2018 óta nem üzemel a
    webarchívum szerint.
    A lojalitás milliárdokat ér, Balla úr ugyanolyan oligarchája a NER-nek Kanadában, mint otthon Mészáros, Garancsi, és a többiek.

    Az irányított közbeszerzésről bővebben: http://kanadavilaga.com/2020/05/12/a-torontoi-tokaji-ceg-kapta-az-1-milliard-forintos-magyar-exportfejlesztesi-kozbeszerzest/

  7. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Dear HunCanada

    Fully agree. I only wish you had posted your contribution in English, since this is an English speaking site expressly for those who do not speak Hungarian but wish to be informed about how a Hungarian autocrat and his corporate cronies in Canada are spreading the virus of the predatory state outside the territorial confines of Hungary through a publicly financed campaign of disinformation.

  8. Avatar George Lazar says:

    Dear Joe, I’m anti-corruption not anti-Hungarian. It seems that Hungary’s wine business became the hotbed of political favoritism in the last decade. Most Hungarians would agree with me that it is very patriotic to demand the cleanup of this industry.

    • Dear George, “corruption” has been a blunt tool meant to bludgeon governments that fail to comply ideologically with the current leftist ideological tyranny. Hungary is “corrupt”, Poland was “corrupt”, Trump was “corrupt”, but of course the Bidens were so clean that big tech had to censor the story about Hunter’s laptop, together with MSM, and a bunch of spooks who came out with the claim it was “Russian disinformation:, in other words, they were spreading fake news.

      Just out of curiosity, did you also go “patriotic” when the Socialists were in power in the 2002-2010 period? I doubt it!

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