The Yukon Liberals are promising to improve procurement practices if elected, to make it easier for Yukon companies to compete for government contracts.
The party is promising to tender construction projects that have to take place during the summer season no later than March of each year.
It also says it will implement the recent recommendations made by a procurement advisory panel by 2018.
Those recommendations include making bid requirements simpler, and improving communication from the government and training of government staff.
“We are all better off when a Yukon company wins a contract,” said Porter Creek South candidate Ranj Pillai on Tuesday. “The money stays here and circulates here.”
A number of the Liberals’ other commitments are somewhat vague. The party is promising to “ensure all tender submissions demonstrate measurable Yukon benefits as part of the evaluation process” and to ensure local contractors “have a level playing field.”
But the Liberals are also planning to double the exemption thresholds under the agreement on internal trade to $100,000 for goods, $250,000 for services and $500,000 for construction.
“Procurement under those thresholds should be through competitive bidding only for Yukon businesses,” Pillai said.
He also said locally manufactured products will be given preference for government procurement.
The Liberals also want to put in place a five-year capital plan “that will create certainty and inform the local business community.”
On Tuesday, Pillai criticized the Yukon government for awarding “more than $250 million in government contracts” to outside companies in recent years.
“When the largest projects underway are being headed by outside companies, you are not building local capacity or long-term economic sustainability,” he said.
Chief among those projects are the $150-million Whistle Bend continuing care facility, the $72-million Whitehorse hospital expansion and the $51-million F.H. Collins Secondary School.
But the Yukon government has argued that many of its contracts do go to local businesses. It claims that 75 per cent of services and construction contracts, by number and value, have gone to Yukon companies for the five years ending in 2014-15, the last year for which data are available.
It also says that between 2010-11 and 2014-15, 14 of 15 major capital projects were awarded to local contractors, with the exception of the F.H. Collins school.
But Pillai said those figures don’t represent what local contractors are experiencing.
“I think the Yukon Party can package the data in whatever way they want,” he said. “The Yukon people are saying there’s big problems.”
Lynn Hutton, president of the Yukon First Nation Chamber of Commerce, said the Liberal announcement shows the party is listening. The chamber will not be endorsing any political party, but Hutton is working on Liberal candidate Mathieya Alatini’s campaign in Kluane.
“I’m glad it’s a subject,” she said. “Let’s focus more on what we can control — local procurement — rather than fighting a federal-level (carbon) tax.”
The Yukon Party has also pledged to improve procurement in the Yukon. In August, the government announced it would approve a fall capital budget or a multi-year capital plan by the fall of 2017, to ensure tenders are issued ahead of the summer construction season.
It also plans to reduce barriers for local contractors, review the bid challenge process and improve training of government staff.
Contact Maura Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story has been updated to include Lynn Hutton’s involvement in Liberal candidate Mathieya Alatini’s campaign in Kluane.