Opposition joins companies in calling for overhaul of government procurement policies
The NDP wants the government to change its procurement policies so Saskatchewan businesses do not keep losing out while work is continually handed to companies from other provinces and countries.
The steel fabrication industry is one sector that has had enough of the government's policies undermining businesses in our province. For over 17 months, the industry has been pressuring the government behind the scenes for changes to its procurement policies, but the government has failed to act on their repeated calls.
"Local steel businesses tell me they're in lay-off mode because of a lack of work and a big part of the problem is that this government keeps giving contracts to companies from Ontario, Quebec, California and Texas. That's frustrating and it's not right," said Broten. "This should be a loud wake-up call for this government. We shouldn't have to wait until these businesses shut down or leave the province before we see some real action from this government that finally starts putting Saskatchewan's interests first."
Currently, government procurement focuses exclusively on lowest initial price, but fails to take into account a variety of factors that often lead to higher final prices, reduced quality, and a hollowing out of industry here in Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, other provincial governments have more sophisticated procurement policies and also have measures in place that ensure their local businesses benefit from government procurement.
"This government's approach is not getting the best value for Saskatchewan taxpayers," said NDP Leader Cam Broten. "Instead, the government is selling out Saskatchewan businesses, undermining good jobs here in our province, and shipping a whole lot of money right out of Saskatchewan."
He added that for every dollar of a government manufacturing contract that goes to a Saskatchewan company, $3.15 in economic spinoff benefits the province.
Broten said it's not good enough for this government to simply claim that it's going to fix internal trade within Canada, because those discussions are complicated and lengthy.
"What I'm hearing from many Saskatchewan businesses is that it's fine for the premier to talk with other premiers about trade barriers and trade-distorting practices – as long at the final outcome of those discussions actually amounts to truly fair trade – but what Saskatchewan businesses need right now is a level playing field," said Broten. "All these businesses want is for the provincial government to develop a fair procurement policy that promotes the interests of the people living and working here and the businesses that employ workers and pay taxes here."
The NDP says government procurement policies should include clearly defined requirements which take into account the following factors:
- Initial price;
- Product history;
- Supplier experience;
- Delivery schedule;
- Final total price;
- A vendor/supplier performance review program; and
- Some limited consideration of local knowledge and local net benefit.
Because similar policies are in place in other provinces, Saskatchewan companies aren’t getting work there – where the criteria favours companies from those provinces or where other government policies give local companies a competitive advantage – and Saskatchewan companies are not getting work here either, where companies from other provinces or countries are continually given the jobs.
The premier has criticized local knowledge provisions in other provinces, but has indicated full support for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, which includes a clause allowing local knowledge provisions, such as the one included in Ontario's procurement policy.
"I think it's just basic common sense that governments should be able to use taxpayers' dollars to support businesses that have chosen to provide local jobs and pay local taxes," said Broten. "It's a lazy and insufficient procurement policy to only look at the initial price on these bids. You have to look at a variety of factors, and frankly some allowance for local knowledge makes sense, especially when other provinces are doing it."
Broten pointed to several out-of-province contractors that have used cold weather as an excuse for project delays or cost overruns, and said that wouldn't happen with Saskatchewan companies and workers.
"Businesses and workers in our province are second to none and they know how to get the job done and done well. They won't use cold weather as an excuse for failing to meet deadlines or budgets," said Broten. "In every way, this is about common sense and it's about standing up for Saskatchewan. It's time for this government to stop making excuses."