Councillors in Sechelt are recommending the district join the Coastal Communities Social Procurement Initiative (CCSPI), which already includes Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast Regional District among the 14 local governments taking part.
In a presentation to council’s committee of the whole July 22, Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Organization executive director Colin Stansfield said getting involved in the social procurement initiative “has transformative potential as a strategy for regional economic development and recovery.”
CCSPI project manager Kristi Fairholm Mader said joining the initiative would give the District of Sechelt access to training, resources and other support.
She said local governments on Vancouver Island and the Coast spend about $1.8 billion a year on goods and services and targeting that spending so it does the most good for the local economy has the potential to make a positive economic impact, especially in the COVID recovery.
“Looking at how procurement can play a specific role in terms of the stabilization, resilience and recovery of your local economies, the question really is are the dollars you’re spending anyways being extracted from your local economy or are they supporting your local economy,” Fairholm Mader said. “Being able to look through that and think about how you can contribute to your local economy in an intentional way is a really critical question.”
Fairhold Mader also said a social procurement approach does not mean locking out non-local companies from bidding on a project, which can violate interprovincial and international trade rules.
“You can’t restrict competition, you can’t say local only, but what you can do is say, what is the impact on our local community that you bring and what are you going to do for our local community?” she said.
She also said “unbundling” big contracts is another strategy CCSPI members use, and that can support local businesses who “don't bid [on big contacts] because they’re intimidated by the process.”
Committee members were in favour of joining the initiative and Coun. Matt McLean said he was particularly interested in learning from a regional joint purchasing group set up by the member governments in the Victoria area.
“That’s something that I could see have great value here. We’ve tried it a little bit in the past to limited success. So I’m wondering what is the secret sauce in Victoria to bring all these people together,” he said.
The committee’s recommendation to have Sechelt join the initiative still has to be endorsed by the full council.