Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce chair Mike Pemberton, left, and past chair Stan Thompson, speak out against a new procurement policy draft proposed by the City of Whitehorse during a council meeting on Feb. 17. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Council sends procurement policy back to staff for more work

Whitehorse chamber of commerce says policy that was proposed won’t support local business

City of Whitehorse staff are once again back to work drafting a new procurement policy for the city.

A proposed policy came forward at council’s Feb. 17 meeting, but was sent back to administration for more work following presentations by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, local resident and former councillor Kirk Cameron and a lengthy discussion among council members.

The new policy would replace the city’s purchasing and sales policy, governing how the city goes about awarding contracts and making purchases.

The policy proposed by city staff to council would have given administration authority over awarding contracts as opposed to council itself. Council would receive a report on upcoming contracts to be awarded.

The proposed policy also offers a local preference component that would have seen the city award contracts to local firms if the bid is between one and five per cent (depending on the contract amount) of the lowest non-local bid.

Lindsay Schneider, the city’s manager of financial services, told council the proposed policy was “more comprehensive than the current policy, will enhance fairness in the procurement process, and is intended to improve vendors’ and tax payers’ confidence in the city’s procurement policy.”

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce chair Mike Pemberton argued the policy would not benefit local businesses. The one to five per cent price difference needed for a local firm to be awarded a contract is too low and he said the chamber fails to see how it will benefit the economy.

He pointed to Yellowknife’s procurement policy which outlines an 85 per cent local purchasing goal.

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, pointed out while Yellowknife has the 85 per cent goal, it does not specify how that might happen. The proposed policy administration brought forward outlined a way to support local business, she said.

It was also noted that 79 per cent of City of Whitehorse purchases in a year are made locally.

Pemberton also argued the definition for a local business (having a City of Whitehorse or inter-municipal business licence) isn’t clear enough.

City staff have argued there is a legal risk in having council award contracts rather than staff if council were to vote against a recommended contract award. They pointed to at least 27 other municipalities that put purchases in the hands of administration due to a number of court cases around the issue continuing to grow in other parts of the country.

Pemberton argued there isn’t anything substantiated showing the city is at risk. He requested the city get its own legal advice on the clause before pushing forward with it.

Local resident and former city councillor Kirk Cameron also took issue with the clause arguing there should be a more thorough examination of the risk of lawsuit and highlighting his concerns as a taxpayer with the proposal that city contracts be moved into the hands of administration.

Schneider and Constable said the proposed new process would see upcoming contracts ready to go out to tender or RFP come forward to council in a bi-monthly report.

It’s at that point council could consider any issues surrounding the contract and whether members want to proceed with it. There would also be semi-annual reports detailing contract awards and purchases that were made for $100,000 and over, single source contracts over $50,000, emergency procurements, contract extensions or renewals and any issues of non-compliance with the policy and actions taken around it.

Spending decisions on various projects are made by council during the budget process, it was noted.

The proposal, however, did not sit well with council members.

“I have serious problems with this overall policy,” Coun. Dan Boyd said, acknowledging extensive work has been underway for over a year to draft the document, but also stating the city “still has a long way to go.”

Along with taking issue with the awarding of contracts by city administration, Boyd also argued the city should have substantial support from the Whitehorse chamber before it moves forward with the policy.

He pointed out the policy is about the relationship between the city and those that provide goods and services. It’s the chamber that represents those providing goods and services, he pointed out.

Boyd also suggested that even if there are some risks in having council award contracts there are ways to manage that. He pointed out council members understand contracts must be awarded and purchases made according to the policy.

Others also questioned the proposed move, with Schneider pointing out that although the city has not ended up in court over a contract award, that could have been the case when council opted to cancel the beatification project for Alexander Street last year had the contractor that was set to be awarded the contract opted to argue in court.

A long list of other concerns also came forward during the lengthy discussion ranging from the use of the word “may” instead of “shall” throughout much of the policy to sustainability to the use of a fairness monitor on the award of certain contracts.

Eventually, the discussion culminated in Coun. Laura Cabott suggesting the policy isn’t ready for council to vote on as scheduled Feb. 25. With consensus among council members the policy was sent back to administration for more work.

Following that, Pemberton offered his thanks to council members for allowing the chamber to be part of the discussion and said he believes a policy can be drafted that will satisfy all.

“We believe collaboration is the key,” he said.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read