Yukon government outlines plan to revamp procurement guidelines

The Yukon government has set out a list of steps it will take to improve how it designs and awards government contracts, in order to help local businesses compete.

The Yukon government has set out a list of steps it will take to improve how it designs and awards government contracts, in order to help local businesses compete.

The announcement comes in response to recommendations made by a procurement advisory panel in May. The panel suggested that local contractors would benefit from simpler bid requirements, more communication from the government and better training of government staff.

The government’s response lays out 37 actions it will take to improve procurement in the territory and includes timelines for each one.

One priority will be to approve a fall capital budget or a multi-year capital plan by the fall of 2017, so that tenders can be issued well ahead of the summer construction season.

Highways and Public Works Minister Scott Kent explained that when the main budget is approved in the spring, it’s a challenge to put out tenders before the construction season begins. Issuing a capital budget in the fall would give the government and contractors more time to prepare.

Kent could only point to one other fall capital budget, which was passed by Pat Duncan’s Liberal government between 2000 and 2002.

“It’s a significant departure from what we’ve been doing,” he said.

The government also plans to develop policy that will reduce barriers for local vendors. As an example, Kent said he was approached by a local business that wasn’t able to bid on a certain project because it didn’t have experience with other projects of that size.

“If there’s an opportunity where it makes sense for us to perhaps reduce those types of restrictions to make it easier for local companies to at least get a price in the game, essentially, those are the types of the things that we will look at,” he said.

The government will also create an evaluation program for the procurement process. Kent said the program will look at which contracts should be awarded solely based on price, and which should be “performance-driven.”

“There’s some concern in the local vendor community that not everything should necessarily go to the lowest bidder,” he said.

There are also plans to review the bid challenge process, which allows a business to challenge a contract it believes was awarded unfairly. The advisory panel’s chair has previously said that local vendors don’t feel certain their complaints will be heard under the current process.

But the Yukon government is somewhat limited in that regard, as the bid challenge process is governed by federal trade agreements. At the meeting of the Council of the Federation in Whitehorse in July, Canada’s premiers announced an agreement-in-principle on a new Canadian Free Trade Agreement, but few details about the agreement have been released.

“We’ve been waiting to update the bid challenge policy to see what the provisions to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement might look like so that they align,” said Catherine Harwood, director of the procurement support centre with Highways and Public Works.

The government will also improve procurement training for Yukon government staff, nearly 40 per cent of whom have some authority to purchase goods and services.

It may also update the definition of a Yukon business. Currently, at a minimum, Yukon businesses must employ Yukon residents, own property in the Yukon, operate a year-round office in the Yukon or be owned 50 per cent or more by Yukon residents.

Kent didn’t say how that definition might change.

The government also plans to require that most tenders be open for a minimum of three weeks, and it will take steps to ensure that “the 30-day timeline for payment is not exceeded.”

There are currently no specific targets the government is aiming for with respect to the number of contracts that are awarded locally. But Harwood said her department will be choosing “key performance indicators” to measure in the coming months and years.

Despite the changes underway, Kent insisted that local vendors are already doing very well in the Yukon.

“We do have a very good success rate on local businesses with government procurement,” he said. “Nineteen of 20 of the larger capital projects that have been released over the past number of years have gone to local companies.”

Yukon Chamber of Commerce president Peter Turner said the government’s response is “basically good news.” He believes the single most important change will be better training of government employees.

“There needs to be more consistency through the RFP (request for proposal) process, and that’s going to require specific training,” he said.

He did point to a few actions he would have liked to see that weren’t included in the government’s plan, including the possibility of breaking up larger contracts into “bite-sized pieces.”

He also said the government should include its budget information when it issues a request for proposals, so that contractors know roughly what it’s expecting to spend.

But overall, he said the plan is “a fairly bold and aggressive set of recommendations.”

He said if the changes work, they should result in a “measurable uptick” in the number of contracts won by Yukon businesses over the next five or 10 years.

Contact Maura Forrest at


Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the criteria the government uses to determine what qualifies as a Yukon business.

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

Just Posted

During our recent conversation, John Nicholson showed me snapshots of his time working on the Yukon riverboats 70 years ago. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: Yukon man relives the riverboat days after seven decades

John Nicholson took summer work on Yukon steamers in the 1950s

Whitehorse City Hall at its Steele Street entrance. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Change of plans approved for city hall

Project would see 1966 city hall demolished

A city map shows the property at 107 Range Road. The zoning is now in place for developers to proceed with plans for a Dairy Queen drive-thru. If plans proceed on schedule the new restaurant is anticipated to open in October. (Cyrstal Schick/Yukon News)
October opening eyed for Dairy Queen

Will depend on everything going according to plan

NDP candidate Annie Blake, left, and Liberal incumbent Pauline Frost. (Submitted photos)
Official recount confirms tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin riding

Both candidates Pauline Frost and Annie Blake are still standing with 78 votes each

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. At its April 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved a zoning change to allow a drive-thru at 107 Range Road. Developers sought the change to build a Dairy Queen there. (Submitted)
Drive-thru approved by Whitehorse city council at 107 Range Road

Rezoning could pave the way for a Dairy Queen

Joel Krahn/joelkran.com Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

Most Read