Thank you very much.
Good morning everyone.
The Atkinson Foundation has been concerned about social and economic justice for more than seven decades. We put our resources into the people, organizations, and networks focused on decent work for all, including narrowing the income gap, creating employment, and building wealth for low-income communities.
Since 2013, Atkinson has been investing its own resources and working with partners from across sectors to advance community benefits in policies and practice. We believe Canada has a tremendous opportunity to make progress on social policy goals by improving its procurement processes. By requiring community benefits as part of certain government spending, it's possible to increase the impact of these dollars: more decent work, less precarious employment, great career ladders, fewer dead ends for workers, renewed public infrastructure, and stronger and more resilient communities.
I want to make four key points related to our support for the passage of Bill C-227. First, we believe community benefit policies enable a more strategic approach to procurement when linked to federal priorities of economic growth, social inclusion, poverty reduction, and environmental sustainability. For example, by targeting training opportunities for those who have difficulty accessing the labour market, such as youth at risk or veterans, community benefits target those hardest hit by the economy. By being deliberate about opportunities for local suppliers, in particular small and mid-sized ones, and social enterprises, community benefits build local economies, and attaching goals around GHG reductions helps reduce our carbon footprint.
To do this, the Government of Canada can build upon its own experiences, in particular, the procurement strategy for aboriginal businesses. Since 1996, the program has awarded more than 100,000 contracts to aboriginal firms totalling $3.3 billion in value. There are also potential synergies with Bill C-227 within the federal family. In addition to Public Services and Procurement Canada, other departments such as Infrastructure Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada and Veterans Affairs, which already have community benefits in their ministerial mandate letters, are likely strong contributors to a Government of Canada community benefit strategy which passing the bill would help advance.
Community benefits also provide measurable results, which is important to policy-makers. The University of Glasgow reviewed 24 public contracts with community benefit clauses in Scotland and found they had exceeded job opportunity targets, with more than 6,700 individuals from priority communities receiving training and 1,000 individuals from priority communities recruited for jobs. Community benefits associated with the Vancouver Olympic Village placed 120 disadvantaged workers in construction and led to $24 million in procurement for inner-city businesses, thereby surpassing targets.
Second, Canadian provinces and municipalities are already moving to adopt community benefits policies and practices. Federal requirements to include community benefit clauses in procurement would be consistent with these goals and changing practices. For example, the Ontario government has recently promulgated the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, which calls for community benefits, and mandates apprenticeships and training opportunities for targeted communities and public infrastructure projects. The Yukon government recently announced it will establish resources, policies, and processes to support the strategic role and importance of procurement.
Third, this is a value-for-money proposition. The cost is low in comparison to the returns. Embedding requirements for community benefits into procurement requires a change of approach, but it need not be costly either to government or to private contractors. It helps ensure public spending meets a range of policy objectives rather than treating those expenditures as one dimensional.
Capacity building resources will be needed for implementation, but current government programs already funded to support such things as workforce development, SMEs, or social enterprises can be leveraged and I'm happy to give examples of how this is done in other jurisdictions.
Finally, community benefits in procurement is a significant policy innovation. It needs to build upon good practice in how to do this successfully. Luckily we have excellent examples in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and other jurisdictions of how to create effective community benefit policies and implementation practices. They share several traits. We have research reports that outline them, but I'll just flag one for you in closing.
Mandatory language is critical. Policies that require only that community benefits be considered seldom have impact compared to those that require action. Passage of Bill C-227 will help realize our ambition for Canada to be known as world class, because its economy is equitable, inclusive, and prosperous.
Thank you very much.