Evidence of meeting #113 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was business.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paula Sheppard  Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs
Mary Anderson  President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council
Stephanie Fontaine  Vice-President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council
Suhayya  Sue) Abu-Hakima (Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Amika Mobile Corporation
David Long  Chief Executive Officer, SageTea Software
Paul Lem  Chief Executive Officer, Spartan Bioscience Inc.
Scott MacGregor  President, SageTea Software

11:25 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

It's been very valuable for us to look at, and to look at the rigour of it.

What we look at is that when there is ownership, management control, and independence, we are creating a business that has the philosophy of the owner and the manager who is controlling it, so there is value in those women's businesses being certified as such. That doesn't mean to say there aren't many we see in all the events we do who are men and who are in the business in different areas of the business.

I think the concept is that we are recognizing and focusing in on the lens of that leadership and management control, and 51% is a good place to begin.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Ms. Sheppard, would you comment?

11:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

Paula Sheppard

I agree with the 51%, because as Mary just said, it's an international standard. It's what everybody else is doing, and if you're less than 51% women-owned, you're technically not a diverse business. At NLOWE we do service businesses, of course, that are less than 51%, but when it comes to procurement and tracking, 51% definitely is where you need to go.

With the issue of male-owned and women-led businesses, I agree with Mary. I think that if we're going to go on the diverse business side, we don't need to include those male-owned businesses that are women-led. There's a leadership piece for that, and I think that's a whole other side of it. When we did our economic forums last year, we did talk about the leadership side.

I think right now, for our procurement side, we do need to focus on the 51% women-owned, managed, and controlled, because then we know that business is completely led and the decisions are being made by the women in that business.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Thank you.

Previous witnesses we had in the committee when we were with indigenous groups talked about issues similar to what you've had. They've had great success in the private sector, but difficulty in dealing with the government. They were having phenomenal success, holding up the oil sands and the energy industry as setting the gold standard without being required to, asked to, or forced to, providing phenomenal opportunities for indigenous businesses and indigenous leadership.

Can both of you give me feedback on who is setting the gold standard in the private sector that perhaps the government needs to look at closely to follow or copy their lead?

11:30 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

We have been fortunate to be supported by a number of corporations that have had a supplier diversity journey.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Can you give a couple of examples so that we can look at them?

11:30 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

We've worked with financial institutions. BMO, for example, has a very established supplier diversity program with a focus on women. It is an intentional program internally and at the leadership level to be able to implement that and track it and look at it over time.

The other thing that I would say is that in the manufacturing industry, I would commend the automotive supply chain for the kinds of things that it's doing.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I'm running short of time. Would you be able to provide to us later in email form some of these so perhaps we can follow up on them?

11:30 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

Absolutely. I'd be delighted.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Ms. Sheppard, could you do the same?

11:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

Paula Sheppard

I can try to do the same. I think, specific to my market, supply diversity in terms of the market is.... Mary's market is based in Toronto, so she has a lot of these larger corporations and head offices in her market.

What we found and learned from the Hebron project and all of these oil and gas pieces that came in is that the first thing we need to do is manage expectations. If the federal government is going to roll out a policy or anything like that, it needs to manage the expectations. What happened with the oil and gas industry here is that everybody thought that with the benefit agreements, they were automatically going to get some of this business, which they didn't get, so it set some things up. There was some mismanagement of expectations.

What I think we really need from a supply and service community is the mentorship and the communication. We recently talked to Nalcor Energy, which is the crown corporation here. What Nalcor did right away was bring its procurement people into our office to meet with some of our business owners one on one. They could just ask questions directly: what is this? What is that?

I know the federal government has some of that, but it's important to have that question-and-answer accessibility and training piece because what's holding a lot of people back is that they're just afraid of it. They're not sure what's happening with it.

Mary talked about this, and I talked about it as well. When you have a small business that has four employees and you're the person who's running it, and then you have to spend three business days working on a bid and you're unsuccessful, and you went out and purchased extra insurance or extra bonds or had a lawyer look at it.... I mean, in a lot of these instances, the requirements are way above what they need to be. If it's a $100,000 contract, really, what requirements do you need to have?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

That's my next question, but I'm out of time.

11:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I'll get back to you on the next round. Thanks.

11:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I would ask that if any local businesses are going above and beyond and we can learn from them, could you provide that information to our committee?

11:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Perhaps we can follow up and learn from them.

11:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

Paula Sheppard

Absolutely.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Thank you.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Thank you very much.

Mr. Weir, you have seven minutes.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Thanks very much.

Like my colleagues, I'm interested in knowing more about the certification process and criteria to determine that a business is women-owned.

Ms. Anderson, would you like to address this?

December 7th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

We've been following the protocol where it began, in the United States. We were mentored by an organization called WBENC, Women's Business Enterprise National Council, and were provided the documents to begin. We've customized that to the Canadian marketplace.

In our protocol, we look for documentation related to the business itself. Today, almost at this time, we're doing a certification audit, in which we ourselves capture data almost with 32 data points. Then we have an oversight committee of corporations that are leveraging the certificate, and they question us on our procedures to make sure that we've done our due diligence.

It's not meant to be overly onerous. It's meant to confirm that the business is what it says it is.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

I guess one reason I ask is that a lot of smaller enterprises are owned by families or by couples. I can imagine if there were a procurement preference for women-owned businesses that a family or a couple might decide to put the business in the name of the woman, but that's presumably not the goal. Do you have some criteria or process to prevent that type of approach?

11:30 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

Absolutely. More and more, when it becomes important to use the certificate, we're also finding that others are attempting to use it exactly as you've said. In the past, we've had assessors—now we call them site visitors—verify information and documentation and confirm that the women actually have a role, and their eligibility. This is to make sure that it isn't pink-washed and that they're actually who they are and what they're doing.