Regina– In question period on June 29, NDP critic for finance and economy Trent Wotherspoon took the Saskatchewan Party government to task on companies based outside Saskatchewan being awarded provincial contracts.
Wotherspoon said, “Why won’t the Sask Party take the damaging PST off construction labour? And why won’t they fire up our economy with a Sask-first procurement plan to get Saskatchewan workers back to work?”
He added, “Talk is one thing, Mr. Speaker, but where the rubber hits the road you only need to read the Carlyle Observer this week to see that the highway upgrade of $2.4 million is being done by another Alberta contractor.”
Minister of Education and SaskBuilds Gord Wyant said, “Over the last year, 90 per cent of procurement that has been tendered by executive government, Mr. Speaker, has gone to Saskatchewan companies.”
He added, “This morning I got a report that with respect to Crown corporations over the last year, again over 90 per cent of procurements that could be procured within Saskatchewan went to Saskatchewan residents, Saskatchewan companies.”
Saskatchewan is a signatory to the 2010 New West Partnership Agreement, which was meant to reduce hurdles working between provinces. Asked about this outside of the chamber, NPD Leader and Leader of the Opposition Ryan Meili said, “We've seen under this government is the vast majority of major projects, the top 10 projects of all lots of companies don't have their head offices here. We saw SaskPower boasting about 44 per cent of the workers on the recent power plant project as being from Saskatchewan as if that were a measure of success.
“We've been failing when it comes to making sure Saskatchewan companies get the word here and its discussion of workers getting a job here. We think there's a ways within the system to introduce the benefits, as has been done in other parts of the country, to actually get us to a place where we can make sure that Saskatchewan companies are considered where they are now, which is not able to compete at the factory.”
Meili said in the Carlyle example, there are Saskatchewan companies that could have done the work.
Wyant said outside the chamber, “Because we introduced community benefits into some of our procurement now that doesn't restrict or prevent Alberta companies from bidding into Saskatchewan contracts, just like it doesn't prevent Saskatchewan companies from bidding into Alberta contracts. What we're saying with community benefits, for instance, like we're doing with the with vendor performance, some of our other procurement transformation pieces, is that we're going to give points. And so what we've said is that there'll be a certain amount of points that are allocated in a tender if you're engaging Saskatchewan workers, Saskatchewan companies, Saskatchewan suppliers to provide to the contract. So we're not saying you can't tender, we're just saying that if you want to be able to bid, we want to be able to know how much the scheduled procurement is going to be part of your bid and we'll give points for that.”
Wyant said the government has “some opinions” that this process is within the bounds of the New West Partnership Agreement. He pointed out that one of the key points in the recently announced $2 billion infrastructure plan is to “make sure that Saskatchewan people were working.”
He concluded, “I've met with the building trades last week. I met with the plumbing pipe fitters, for instance, we've talked to them about our plans we're already incorporating community benefits into some of our highways contracts. So we think there's going to be some great benefit but as far as compliance with the New West Partnership, we believe it's onside.”