Piece co-signed by Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Chamber, and Sarah Houde, CEO of Propulsion Québec, and published in La Presse+.
Over the past few months, many of us have begun to think about what kind of recovery we want. The case for creating a greener, more sustainable and more innovative economy is stronger than ever. The arguments amplify long-standing calls for an improvement in our environmental and social performance.
Many are proposing new green policies or initiatives, and rightly so, starting with the Plan for a Green Economy.
However, there is already an undeniable solution within our ministries and municipalities. This tool affects more than 13% of Canada’s GDP: public procurement.
Review the lowest bidder rule
When it comes to public procurement, the reflex of many public decision-makers is to state from the outset that we must follow the rule of the lowest bidder, for reasons of cost control, system probity or even to respect the spirit of international trade agreements which prohibit explicitly favouring local companies.
For example, when a department receives two service offers, one for a traditional product that is less expensive and the other for an innovative or green product that is more expensive, the department is obliged to select the first offer.
We can and must do otherwise!
A study unveiled last September by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal and Propulsion Québec shows that we can incorporate criteria into our calls for tenders that reflect our desire to achieve environmental objectives or to make more room for innovation—all while respecting international trade agreements.
A matter of political will
The first ingredient for this is a clear and determined political will.
This political will must take the form of a concrete gesture: the Conseil du trésor must abandon the systematic choice of the lowest bidder. Like many states around the world, our governments must give preference to the most economically advantageous offer that also offers the best value for their investment.
The government has shown an openness to move in that direction. Well, that’s good news. We look forward to seeing this intention translated into concrete action.
Modernizing the regulatory framework
The study shows that public purchasers have other means at their disposal that do not require major legislative changes. The framework and content of calls for tenders can be changed by regulation.
Criteria must be allowed to go beyond acquisition cost alone to consider life cycle cost or total cost of ownership instead.
Environmental and social performance criteria must be included in calls for tenders, which incidentally has the effect in many parts of the world of favouring the local economy.
Public bodies should be allowed to consult the market even before tenders are issued, for example when assessing needs.
Ultimately, a mechanism will need to be put in place to systematically evaluate public procurement to ensure that it supports the achievement of government objectives, while maintaining the full integrity of practices.
The study shows how our businesses can make a real difference in achieving our environmental and societal goals—but only if governments give them the opportunity to do so. Most importantly, it also shows how achieving these objectives can become the driving force behind a sustainable economic recovery for Quebec.
Our companies are ready to contribute
Québec has dozens of companies working in the fields of electric and intelligent vehicles, recharging infrastructure, mobility services, and so on. Their offering is competitive and relevant to our needs, but they are often excluded because of regulatory barriers that no longer apply.
Carrying out the proposed changes will mean these companies can benefit Quebecers with their technologies and services, rather than be forced to sell their expertise abroad because no doors are open to them here.
We must make the most of what the trade agreements allow by requiring the final assembly of rolling stock in Quebec and by ensuring that at least 25% of the content is Quebec content. We also invite governments to examine the possibility of aiming for higher local content targets, as allowed in the CETA.
In the long term, this will allow us to reduce our GHG emissions and strengthen our green economic sectors. In the short term, this will help get our economy back on track. The ball is in the court of our policy makers.
In the meantime, industry players as well as the general public are invited to mobilize for the revival of the sector by participating in the Strategic Forum on Transportation and Logistics, now being held as part of the Relaunch MTL movement. This virtual event, co-developed by Propulsion Québec, CargoM and the CCMM, will take place on November 20 at 8 a.m.