Governments spend a lot of money. Our federal and provincial governments spend in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Even the City of Peterborough spends hundreds of millions.
A lot of that spending goes directly into government resources like staffing, but a significant amount goes to outside purchases through the procurement process for everything from major
construction projects to catering.
How we see the value of that spending is changing as the governments move toward social and sustainable procurement processes.
The government procurement process typically follows a very direct set of evaluation criteria that seeks the best value-based price and the bidder’s previous experience with similar projects. It’s a process designed to minimize costs and maximize output. For the most part, it’s what people expect our
government to do with hard-earned tax dollars.
But there’s a growing movement that the value of our spending isn’t just dollars and cents. Changing how we spend can increase our quality of life and address social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues. It’s not a new concept. However, it’s not so simple for governments to pick and choose who they buy goods and services from. We have strict rules for government spending that take into account international trade agreements, interprovincial agreements, industry regulation, and government policy.
It’s encouraging to see the City of Peterborough hosting public engagement sessions on a new social procurement process. The next information session is online on Aug. 16 from 11 am to 12:30 pm (more details at connectptbo.ca).
The City invites people to:
Join the conversation on how the City of Peterborough can use social procurement to
leverage its existing purchasing activities to contribute to the success of the community’s economic, environmental and social goals.
Social procurement can help shape an inclusive, vibrant, and healthy community. Social procurement can create new revenue streams for local businesses and social enterprises, leverage local know-how and assets, and facilitate new ways of
working together for
The federal government has been exploring options for years, including a
comprehensive study to look into its own opportunities for socially responsible
procurement launched last year. The Government of
Ontario launched its own
Social Enterprise Strategy back in 2016. Municipalities across the country have begun to follow suit.
It’s not about charity. It’s about taking a good look at the current “lowest bidder” system and realizing that we can do things better.
For local businesses, this offers a new opportunity to compete on municipal contracts. No one knows our community like its locals when it comes to addressing specific needs and
opportunities. The City of Peterborough is not able to legally prefer local bidders — government policy dictates this, plus we have trade agreements that require a level playing field for
everyone. But those local businesses who are willing and able to adapt can get a leg up on the out-of-town competition by either taking on social enterprises
themselves or partnering with our vast network of local non-profits and charities.
It’s important that we engage with the City to provide meaningful input. Efficient and effective spending should be the priority for government — but it’s time to re-evaluate and expand our idea of what that means. We can build a stronger, more vibrant community when we use our resources to work toward a more inclusive set of goals, aspirations, and ambitions. It’s time to include social procurement in government policy.