In a sad sign of the free-market times, Toronto is using a mix of rationalizations and fudge words to justify shelving its own Canadian content requirements for purchasing. Under the current system, Canadian companies are given special consideration, even over foreign companies whose bids are up to 10 per cent cheaper.
In all, six companies (staff won't reveal which ones) have received contracts with the city thanks to their higher Canadian content since the policy was adopted in July 2000. The six contracts were awarded to the second-lowest bidders at a total cost of $43,395.42 more to the city than if it had gone with the lowest bids.
According to a report of the administration committee, set to go to council today (Thursday, January 29), "the rationale for the Canadian content preference is to stimulate and encourage Canadian manufacturing activity and to assist Canadian suppliers in competition for the supply of goods and services to government."
The policy implemented by the amalgamated city was a harmonization of Canadian content policies adopted by the former municipalities more than 20 years ago.
Now it seems city staff are fed up with trying to figure out what qualifies as a Canadian company, Canadian materials or Canadian products. Leaning heavily on the siren call of free trade to somehow support their complaints that Canadian content is hard to verify - and an even bigger headache to administer - staff are calling for repeal of the policy.
"You have to understand the volume that we deal with," says Victor Trill of the purchasing and materials management division. "It's a hard thing to get your head around."
He speaks in tongues for a couple more minutes before hanging up. About a week later, I get Lou Pagano, director of the purchasing and materials management division, on the line.
"I think you really have to take a look at how useful these policies are to business," Pagano argues. "I don't really think they serve a useful purpose. Everyone's trying to open up trade."