Mayor, councillor clash during discussion about Calgary's social procurement program
Half a decade after it was pitched at city council, Calgary's strategy to partially evaluate suppliers on social policies is leading to a majority of contracts going to small or medium-sized businesses or groups that have diverse representation.
A report to a city committee Thursday showed the city purchases about $725 million of goods and services each year and 53 per cent of the contracts awarded in 2022 went to suppliers with the highest "social procurement score."
The policy, which was first presented in 2018, means the city doesn't just evaluate suppliers on cost and quality -- it also looks at whether a supplier has LGBTQ2S+, newcomer or racialized representation in its organization.
"Simply put, if a business meets the requirements for price and quality, its ability to receive additional points through the social procurement questionnaire could provide the advantage needed to win a competitive bid," reads administration's report to committee, in part.
Officials are now focusing on developing an Indigenous procurement strategy to be incorporated.
In questioning administration about the policy, Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Coun. Dan McLean sparred over comments the Ward 13 representative made about a bid process he was involved in 13 years ago.
"I was bidding on the Olympic bid for providing golf and utility vehicles in 2010. Lots of people competing against. They asked me if I had an Indigenous component and program. My daughter's boyfriend was a First Nations guy. So, I tick 'Yes.' What's your recycling program? What's your environmental impact? And you know, I took my bottles and I could (tick) 'Yes,'" McLean said.
"I mean, people can just tick the boxes and say a little story. I mean, is that where we're going? Is that where we're at?"
Gondek later referred back to the councillor's comments.
"I also need to point out that we just had a member of council openly admit that he scammed the system on a bid," Gondek said while McLean tried to respond.
"He openly admitted in public that he checked off boxes that shouldn't have been checked off," she said.
McLean countered that he did have Indigenous and recycling programs and nothing he did was illegal or a scam. He says he used the example to make a point about concerns he has about the effectiveness and efficiency of the program.
"I would just say that it was miscommunicated by the mayor. I did not say (that I scammed the system). A lot of people are worried about government programs that are put forth that people do look at as a ticking-the-box exercise," McLean told reporters later.
Administration told councillors there was no cost increase caused by the social procurement policy, but it allows the city to purchase with intent to add "positive impacts in social equity, economic growth and climate resiliency."