Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pelham's "Buy Canadian" Compromise

Pelham Council recently considered a “Buy Canadian” resolution from the City of Thorold.

As you may have heard, members of the District Labour Council recently asked Thorold to endorse a resolution to “Buy Canadian.” Buying Canadian in this case would mean requiring a minimum of 50% Canadian content and domestic final assembly in goods purchased. Thorold accepted the challenge and circulated their declaration to other municipalities.

On September 2, Pelham Council cautiously referred the matter to staff for a report of the financial implications of the Thorold motion.

I am pleased to tell you that over the last year or so, the Town has made a concerted effort to become very supportive of local businesses and of “buying local.” Whether it’s paint for the arena, parts for the Town’s trucks, printed material, or food for events, Town staff now buy local whenever possible and practical.

Also, we work closer-than-ever with both the Chamber of Commerce and the Pelham Business Association. In fact, because of collaboration with these two groups, the Town is launching an internet-based Business Directory today. From the stack of cards already submitted, staff have learned about some Pelham businesses for the first time. I hope you will review the directory, so you can not only purchase the goods and services you require but also so you can support your neighbours. (Please go to the Town's website at and click on "Business Directory" in the lefthand column.)

So then, why not wholly approve Thorold’s resolution?

Well, the Town has a “best practice” procurement policy that seeks to obtain the “lowest costs consistent with the required quality and service” regardless of the location of the product’s manufacturing. That means that the Town tenders for all major purchases – and, now, consistently advertises in local media.

But, some items are simply not available in Canada or Canadian companies sell products with greater than 50% foreign content. The September 15 staff report outlined two recent examples – the purchase of a custom fire truck and of a vehicle hoist – that cost us $404,300 to purchase directly from foreign manufacturers. Had we totally abided by Thorold’s resolution, we would have paid 55% more – nearly $224,000 more – to buy the same products from Canadian sales agents!

Thus, Pelham attained a good compromise when Council passed the following: “Be it resolved that the Town of Pelham, acting in good faith and in accordance to the “Best Practices” policy enacted by the Town, will make every effort to ensure that all products and or services are obtained locally or within Canada where possible.”