Jayson Myers —
Infrastructure spending is a priority issue for every community across Canada. Whether you are preparing to assume new responsibilities or continuing your tenure in municipal office, how you spend taxpayers’ dollars on what infrastructure projects will be at the top of your agenda.
Investment in new infrastructure is important for the jobs it will create and because transportation, communications, energy, water and waste management systems are the arteries that make local economies work. They need to be healthy, modern, and efficient.
You will need to make some important decisions – which projects to fund; how they will be financed; who will carry out the work; and what processes need to be put in place to ensure expectations and quality standards are met and projects are completed on budget and on time.
It will be your responsibility to ensure that procurement procedures remain open and transparent. Good governance demands nothing less. When procurement decisions are based on competitive choice and open communications, local governments benefit from better value for money and timely delivery while local economies benefit because work goes to those companies that can best do the job. That’s a pretty good deal.
It’s a lesson that has been lost on our neighbours south of the border – and in many other countries as well – where the use of restrictive procurement policies have complicated tendering and supplier qualification procedures, led to unnecessary delays and cost overruns, and killed jobs by artificially limiting business opportunities.
Buy America has been bad for the United States as well as for Canada because of the integrated nature of our manufacturing supply chains. The very image of tearing out pipe from a city water system or steel that has been used in a bridge simply because it was made in Canada should tell us how crazy Buy America actually is – although wildly popular among American politicians. Please avoid following their misguided lead.
But do help send a message to Ottawa and to Washington that enough is enough. Canadian manufacturers are at a particular disadvantage as a result of Buy America, locked out of their major export market while U.S. based suppliers are welcome to compete for Canadian taxpayer funded projects right here at home. Jobs in your communities are at stake.
Free trade should work both ways. It should be reciprocal. Canada’s municipal procurement markets should remain wide open to suppliers as long as their own governments keep their markets open to Canadian manufacturers.
A reciprocal procurement policy would send a powerful message that free trade also has to be fair. It would go a long way in helping Canada level the playing field with the United States – not in a retaliatory sense, but because it would accelerate agreement between Ottawa and Washington that open procurement markets are good for manufacturers on both sides of the border.
Jayson Myers is the president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Canada’s leading industry association representing more than 10,000 businesses nationwide.