Premier Brian Pallister assured he would work toward removing restrictive trade practices in Canada, including and most immediately those in Saskatchewan, a signatory to the New West Partnership Trade Agreement.
Pallister met with the MHCA, Merit Manitoba and the Winnipeg Construction Association on October 27, during a discussion with Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler at which the use of local preferences clauses by Saskatchewan in government tender and construction documents was on the table.
The premier has written to his Saskatchewan counterpart, Premier Scott Moe, pressing for the removal of the barrier to free movement of trade and labour across jurisdictional boundaries. The New West Partnership obliges the four Western Canadian signatories to ensure their procurement policies and practices give equivalent treatment to all companies.
Saskatchewan has written into its tender documents a system of awarding points when tabulating bid scores to companies that substantially hire local labour. Penalties are provided for in construction documents where companies awarded construction contracts fail to meet their agreed upon local labour obligations.
“We cannot allow trade barriers to stand, even when they are used by governments trying to kickstart economic revival and benefits to communities,” MHCA President Chris Lorenc said. “Once in, they are very difficult to remove and they are pernicious – other jurisdictions are equally as likely to take retaliatory action and include similar barriers.”
In one example, the three associations noted a Saskatchewan tender was awarded to a Saskatchewan-based company whose bid was $1.2 million, or 7%, higher than the lowest bid, from an Alberta-based company.
The MHCA has worked with counterpart associations across the West in pressing for elimination of the Saskatchewan local preference clauses.
Premier Pallister has been a strong proponent of eliminating trade barriers in Canada, voicing opposition to barriers at the federal and regional levels. One of the first priorities for his government upon election in 2016 was to make Manitoba a signatory to the New West Partnership.