July 19, 2018

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Buy local plan fails to gain traction

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.

WINNIPEG Mayor Brian Bowman’s drive to give local suppliers an inside track on small civic contracts has officially hit a dead end.

An administrative report proposes streamlining the city’s bid process and improving communications with the business community, but makes no mention of giving a preference to local suppliers bidding on contracts.

“If the wheel’s not broken, you don’t have to fix it or reinvent it, but if you can make it more efficient, do that,” said Don Leitch, president of the Business Council of Manitoba.

Acting on the proposal from Bowman, city council in April directed the administration to amend its bidding policy to “implement a buy local procurement procedure,” for contracts valued at less than $100,000.

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WINNIPEG Mayor Brian Bowman’s drive to give local suppliers an inside track on small civic contracts has officially hit a dead end.

An administrative report proposes streamlining the city’s bid process and improving communications with the business community, but makes no mention of giving a preference to local suppliers bidding on contracts.

"If the wheel’s not broken, you don’t have to fix it or reinvent it, but if you can make it more efficient, do that," said Don Leitch, president of the Business Council of Manitoba.

Acting on the proposal from Bowman, city council in April directed the administration to amend its bidding policy to "implement a buy local procurement procedure," for contracts valued at less than $100,000.

Bowman said at the time that of the 21,000 suppliers to city hall, almost half are located in Manitoba, with the city spending almost $600 million in local purchases in 2016. He said he wanted to see those numbers increased with the adoption of his proposal.

That raised concern from the business community that local suppliers could be awarded contracts even if they weren’t the lowest bid — which they feared would have a domino effect if adopted by other municipalities, which in turn would hurt Winnipeg-based businesses trying to win contracts in other cities and other jurisdictions.

Administration discovered through consultations with business groups there was no support for the plan.

"At the session I was at, there was no support for a (buy local) preference," Leitch said. "It was all about, ‘How do we make the process better?’"

The administration concluded city hall is constantly refining how it deals with the local business community and is recommending several moves that do not require council approval, including:

● establish better communication with potential bidders;

● further increase transparency;

● review contracts that may be suitable to be awarded in smaller contracts.

"The changes being implemented will maximize the opportunities for local bidders to compete for contracts by increasing participation and improving the quality of local bids," states the administrative report, which will be presented to Wednesday’s meeting of the executive policy committee, before it goes to the July 19 meeting of city council.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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