Saskatchewan NDP and unions want changes to gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment poli­cies

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG— mlieben­berg@prairiepost.com

Saskatchewan NDP and build­ing trades rep­re­sen­ta­tives feel the pro­cure­ment poli­cies of the provin­cial gov­ern­ment are not ben­e­fit­ting Saskatchewan work­ers.

NDP leader Ryan Meili and fi­nance critic Trent Wother­spoon held a press con­fer­ence out­side the Chi­nook Power Sta­tion con­struc­tion site near Swift Cur­rent, Oct. 5. They were joined by Saskatchewan Build­ing Trades Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Dion Malakoff and other union rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“If you look around the park­ing lot at this site, the prob­lem is easy to see,” Malakoff said. “This lot is filled with ve­hi­cles bear­ing out of province and even out of coun­try li­cense plates. Work­ers have come across Canada and the U.S. to con­struct this fa­cil­ity. All the while fully qual­i­fied skilled Saskatchewan trades­peo­ple are left off the pro­ject and ei­ther are not work­ing or have had to travel out­side of the province to find work.”

Ac­cord­ing to Meili the spend­ing of pub­lic dollars in Saskatchewan to build high­ways, schools and hos­pi­tals and to fund Crown cor­po­ra­tion in­fras­truc­ture projects need to cre­ate jobs for Saskatchewan work­ers, but in­stead the con­tracts are go­ing to out-of-province com­pa­nies.

Other provin­cial gov­ern­ments in western Canada have in­tro­duced mea­sures to en­sure that lo­cal work­ers will ben­e­fit from gov­ern­ment projects. The Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia gov­ern­ments have cre­ated com­mu­nity ben­e­fit agree­ments and the min­i­mum con­struc­tion wage sys­tem in Man­i­toba en­sures that lo­cal con­struc­tion firms can com­pete on pub­lic con­tracts.

“You see com­pa­nies in Bri­tish Columbia and Al­berta and out­side of the coun­try get­ting the work here in front of those Saskatchewan com­pa­nies,” he said. “You've got a dif­fer­ent ap­proach in Bri­tish Columbia and Al­berta, where they're mov­ing more and more to­wards a com­mu­nity ben­e­fit model that rec­og­nizes when you have the lo­cal con­trac­tors that has more lo­cal value for keep­ing peo­ple em­ployed, for hav­ing the spinoff into lo­cal ex­pen­di­tures, lo­cal pur­chas­ing of the ma­te­ri­als, and that is re­ally im­por­tant when you look at what is go­ing on in Saskatchewan's econ­omy to­day.”

He added that the provin­cial gov­ern­ment's pro­cure­ment model is fo­cused too much on the al­lo­ca­tion of con­tracts to the low­est bid­der.

“So you lose track of things like lo­cal con­tent in terms of the com­pa­nies that are work­ing and the con­tri­bu­tion beyond just the build and the larger com­mu­nity ben­e­fit,” he said. “That's part of the ques­tion that needs to be asked. You also need to be look­ing into qual­ity, and some­times you run into a si­t­u­a­tion where you get a low­est bid, but the qual­ity isn't as good. So you ac­tu­ally have to come in later, fix it, up­grade it fur­ther, and it ends up cost­ing more in the long run. So hav­ing up­front from day one a pro­cure­ment process that's go­ing to give you the best out­come, not only the very low­est price, is what needs to be changed.”

Wother­spoon noted that Saskatchewan com­pa­nies and work­ers need a level play­ing field, but they have been shut out of projects through the provin­cial gov­ern­ment's out­sourc­ing ap­proach to pub­licly funded de­vel­op­ments.

“Gov­ern­ment gave pass­ing at­ten­tion to the cre­ation of Pri­or­ity Saskatchewan, but they haven't im­proved pro­cure­ment to the point that we're get­ting the value that we should and hav­ing work­ers en­gaged,” he said. “There has to be con­tin­ued fo­cus here and the fact of the mat­ter is, the con­tracts were signed and the work is gone, whether it's the by­pass or the schools or this pro­ject right here, and those jobs have shut out so many within this province.”

Build­ing trades work­ers have worked 57 per cent fewer hours in 2017 than in 2012. Malakoff there­fore be­lieves it is im­por­tant that the provin­cial gov­ern­ment should do more to en­sure that Saskatchewan work­ers are em­ployed on con­struc­tion projects in the province.

“Let me be clear, we have no ob­jec­tion with the free move­ment of labour be­tween prov­inces and when there are more jobs than peo­ple, we wel­come work­ers into Saskatchewan,” he said. “That's what we did dur­ing the boom years, but the present re­al­ity is un­de­ni­able. There are cur­rently more work­ers than jobs in our province.”

Saskatchewan Build­ing Trades is also call­ing on Crown cor­po­ra­tions to en­sure that their con­struc­tion projects in­clude op­por­tu­ni­ties for new ap­pren­tices.

“Pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for our young men and women in the trades, es­pe­cially those from the in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, to work side by side with a vet­eran jour­neyper­son en­sure we will be able to meet the on­go­ing de­mand for skilled work­ers as the re­newal of our province's age­ing in­fras­truc­ture con­tin­ues into the fu­ture,” he said. “If we don't cre­ate these ap­pren­tice­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties at Crown con­struc­tion sites, we will only fur­ther un­der­mine our home­grown work­force.”

The provin­cial gov­ern­ment cre­ated SaskBuilds in 2012 as a Trea­sury Board Crown cor­po­ra­tion to mod­ern­ize gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment prac­tices and to take the lead on large pub­lic sec­tor in­fras­truc­ture projects. Meili be­lieves it is time to re­view the pro­cure­ment prac­tices that were cre­ated by SaskBuilds.

“We're de­sign­ing our pro­cure­ment process not just in a way that doesn't ben­e­fit Saskatchewan com­pa­nies, but that ac­tu­ally dis­ad­van­tages them and makes them less likely to get these con­tracts and that's what needs to be changed,” he said. “I think we go back to the draw­ing board and start look­ing at a pro­cure­ment process that is look­ing at what the com­mu­nity ben­e­fits are of the projects that we're build­ing, how do we make sure that they are when we're spend­ing pub­lic money, that we're em­ploy­ing Saskatchewan work­ers and do­ing that as a pri­or­ity.”

Ac­cord­ing to SaskBuilds spokesper­son Lisa Dany­luk the Saskatchewan gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that lo­cal com­pa­nies have the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete in and win con­tracts fairly, which was the rea­son for the launch of Pri­or­ity Saskatchewan in June 2014.

She said in an e-mailed re­sponse to the Prairie Post that Pri­or­ity Saskatchewan's pro­cure­ment trans­for­ma­tion ac­tion plan was re­leased in March 2015 af­ter broad con­sul­ta­tion with Saskatchewan’s busi­ness com­mu­nity, sup­pli­ers and in­dus­try, and the plan con­tin­ues to en­joy in­dus­try sup­port from var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“The ac­tion plan has im­proved how we award con­tracts, in­clud­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ' Best Value' in pro­cure­ment leg­is­la­tion, which en­sures that 'Best Value' is the new ba­sis for award­ing con­tracts (rather than sim­ply low­est price), which can take into ac­count fac­tors like qual­ity, sup­plier ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge of lo­cal con­di­tions,” she wrote. “Pri­or­ity Saskatchewan is ac­tively en­gaged with the Saskatchewan sup­plier com­mu­nity, and with Crowns to en­sure the Crowns are fa­mil­iar with the goods and ser­vices Saskatchewan sup­pli­ers can pro­vide, and so that sup­pli­ers are fa­mil­iar with pro­cure­ment needs of our province’s Crown sec­tor.”

Dany­luk men­tioned that the Chi­nook Power Sta­tion pro­ject has re­cently achieved a mile­stone of $125 mil­lion in Saskatchewan sup­plier con­tent.

“We con­sider 'lo­cal' com­pa­nies to be those that keep an of­fice, hire work­ers and pay taxes in Saskatchewan,” she wrote. “The lo­ca­tion of their head of­fice/suites is not the de­ter­mi­nant. This def­i­ni­tion was pro­posed by in­dus­try dur­ing con­sul­ta­tions.”

She noted that pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship (P3) projects in the province are sup­port­ing lo­cal busi­nesses and jobs. The dif­fer­ent P3 projects in the province have cre­ated more than 12,000 jobs.

A to­tal of 255 Saskatchewan-based com­pa­nies have been in­volved in four P3 projects, rep­re­sent­ing 70 per cent of all busi­ness. These projects are the Regina By­pass (106 Saskatchewan-based com­pa­nies), joint-use schools (73 Saskatchewan-based com­pa­nies), The Mead­ows long-term care cen­tre in Swift Cur­rent (54 Saskatchewan-based com­pa­nies), and the Saskatchewan Hospi­tal in North Bat­tle­ford (31 Saskatchewan-based com­pa­nies).

Photo by Matthew Lieben­berg

The Saskatchewan NDP and union rep­re­sen­ta­tives held a me­dia con­fer­ence about gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment poli­cies out­side the Chi­nook Power Sta­tion con­struc­tion site, Oct. 5. From left to right, Jef­frey Aust­man (Prairie Arc­tic Re­gional Coun­cil of Car­pen­ters, Dry­wallers, Mill­wrights and Al­lied Work­ers), Trent Wother­spoon (NDP fi­nance critic), Ryan Meili (NDP leader), Dion Malakoff (Saskatchewan Build­ing Trades ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor), Tom Wag­man (Prairie Arc­tic Re­gional Coun­cil of Car­pen­ters, Dry­wallers, Mill­wrights and Al­lied Work­ers), Lyle Daniels (Saskatchewan Build­ing Trades), and Chuck Rud­der (In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Heat and Frost In­su­la­tors and Al­lied Work­ers Lo­cal 119).

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