I was nodding my head while reading the March 9 commentary by Liz Hanson, leader of the NDP. Unfortunately, if you substituted “NDP” or “Liberal” for “Yukon Party,” you could make the same comments.
No political party has supported locally owned businesses to any significant extent. I’ve been in the room when the NDP government of the day promised what was the mega-project of the time to a proponent that was going to use 90 per cent Outside contractors. No matter what the bid was, a winner had been pre-established. I’ve seen the Yukon Party do the same thing.
Political parties have different attributes and supposed principles, but the practical outcome ends up being who their friends are. Who will be rewarded, and who will be punished? No party has a gold standard of honesty and ethics that they hold to, no matter how it might affect their election chances.
The people that enter politics seem to do so with good motives, but quickly get subsumed by what they believe is necessary or “right” by their own lights. Justification then enters the room, and impartiality and integrity leave by another door.
As for awarding contracts, such as the current Faro reclamation work to Parsons Corporation from California? Does Ms. Hanson think that company is going to bring all their equipment and crew from elsewhere? Or are they going to be buying and leasing equipment in Canada, and hiring as many local operators as possible? That’s only good business sense. Maybe a Yukon general contractor isn’t getting the profit, but workers still benefit, as does the real estate market and other businesses.
If we assume that the job has a base cost to operate, the difference in bids is largely profit. Companies like Parsons didn’t get to be that size by doing loss leaders everywhere. They probably do have the expertise to pare the bid to just what it needs to be, and the experience to perform a somewhat complicated endeavour successfully. Does the local contractor really need to buy a bigger yacht to anchor at Hoonah? Damn, I just sounded like the NDP used to!
It’s been a basic question in the Yukon for some time. Which is more important, universally fair competition, or some bias towards locally based business? It’s a can of worms. What is local? If you’re owned by Yukoners, is that local? If you’re a national chain with a local office, is that local?
I completely agree with Ms. Hanson’s call to compare original budget costs versus completed costs for capital projects. It’s a call she’s made before, and such information should routinely be compiled and available. A history of success could feed into the procurement process and might favour local contractors, but governments have been reluctant to go there, as it’s a different can of worms.
However, apparently the NDP are too lazy to look up the answers on publicly available sources, or use access to information, so have asked the Yukon Party to hand over the loaded gun to shoot them with. That might be a bit optimistic. With a territorial election looming, the party that makes an effort and has some facts may gain some votes.