NS: ‘We can’t move forward on this:’ council nixes buy-local policy

Ruth Davenport, Metro Halifax
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Worries over retalitory actions biggest mark against formal policy

Councillors Waye Mason, left, and Jennifer Watts during a council meeting last year. 

[HALIFAX, NS] – Halifax regional councillors have reluctantly agreed with a staff recommendation to keep a “buy local” provision out of HRM’s procurement policy.

“It’s extremely disappointing, however after reading the report, I understand why we can’t move forward on this,” said deputy mayor Darren Fisher.

A staff report on the pros and cons of scoring bid submissions for “local benefit” noted that doing so could violate trade agreements, but more worryingly, result in reciprocal practices that would hurt Nova Scotia-based businesses seeking contracts in other markets.

“Most of our most successful businesses in HRM… are exporting,” said Coun. Waye Mason. “If every city had the same kind of setup, we would lose more than we would gain out of the local purchasing policy.”

The report also noted that 87 per cent of HRM’s expenditures under the procurement policy in 2012-13 contributed to the local economy.

Councillors David Hendsbee and Matt Whitman both voted against the motion.

Whitman was especially animated after procurement manager Anne Feist told council that HRM staff will work with certain sectors to help them be prepared to respond to opportunities .

“So we spend 87 per cent of our dollars locally, we work with local suppliers to get them ready,” he said. “It’s sort of like wink wink, we don’t have a policy, but we do all that stuff locally. Everyone else is doing it another way, this is the chance for HRM to say this is the way that we do it.”

Feist said that “local preference” is not a “well-endorsed principle” in other Canadian jurisdictions.

Organizations: Metro inc.

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  • Tom Rose
    March 05, 2014 - 10:37

    What a tragic decision based on uninformed opinions! Does Coun. Waye Mason really believe that "most of our successful businesses in HRM.....are exporting." Look around and I'm sure we all know many successful local businesses that are not exporters. As I travel promoting my business I run into many situations where there is a preference to buying local. It may be done in a subtle way taking service, lead times and other items into consideration...... but let me assure you it is done. A little imagination by HRM purchasing in implementing a buy local policy would go a long way in quelling any reciprocal practices or trade agreement violations. Do the staff of HRM who wrote the report recommending against a buy local policy recognize that these local businesses pay considerable taxes that support HRM and the wages of HRM staff? Are they aware that buy local trends (eg. food) are becoming huge both locally and internationally? Economic development, much like charity and love begins at home......... it's unfortunate the people we pay to run our city don't realize this.