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

11:50 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

Paula Sheppard

Definitely.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

—in our rural communities to make sure we have the vehicles to provide those resources. The training and the encouragement is a lot of it, quite honestly.

11:50 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

Paula Sheppard

Absolutely.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mary, just top it off, but then I do want to get to the issue of federal procurements.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

You have one minute left.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Could I jump to that, then? Can you tell me what some of the biggest issues are? You're meeting municipal and provincial contracts. In fact, Mary, you talked about 100% success, but zero on federal procurement.

What are the barriers that are there and should not be there that are allowing your businesses to be successful in the lower-tier governments?

11:50 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

Some of them are to create innovative ways of tackling this. I would point out something like the City of Toronto and social procurement. They've just pushed ahead and done it. They've tried it, and they're working through the model.

One of the things that you asked about was training and making sure that people are confident. The city developed a diversity fair where they had their buyers come to meet with diverse suppliers a week or so ago, including women-owned businesses. They did this to create confidence that the businesses themselves are capable suppliers and to disprove the concept of ineligibility.

The federal government needs the same, and we've also been working with the federal government on online training. When they tackled the issues related to the new ideas around service procurement and really tailored that to our needs, there was a great deal of uptake in knowledge, so I think it's a matter of fine-tuning both to work together.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Thank you very much.

Our final five-minute intervention will go to Monsieur Drouin.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank all of you for being here today, and you who are live on TV from Newfoundland.

I have a quick question on the certification. The international standard is essentially that it has to be 51% women-owned. How do you see that?

Obviously we'd want to see that as a potential requirement in some of the government RFPs. Is that how you would see that we could measure success in government procurement?

11:50 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

I think it's good to have a standard that you're working with that is consistent. The standard is already there, so why not use it? It has already been established.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Okay. Is there anything to add in Newfoundland?

11:50 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

Paula Sheppard

No. I would agree. You know, Mary and I represent women-owned businesses, but we always say that because we're the strongest and have the largest groups, we also sort of sub-represent the other communities. That's what the other communities would use as well, so I definitely think staying with 51% is key.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Okay.

Obviously we have no idea how many contracts women-owned businesses have within the federal government. Do you have those statistics, or do we not track this, to your knowledge?

11:50 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

No, but I think we're working on that.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Yes.

11:50 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

OSME has been doing an outreach to capture that knowledge with the data that's available and we're certainly supporting outreach questionnaires related to the community, but we don't have the substantive information that's available in other jurisdictions. It's unfortunate, because it's really difficult to do policy without that data.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

We're doing policy in a blind world, right?

11:55 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

We have to work with what we have.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Yes.

December 7th, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

With more information, we'd be better informed and better able to do it.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Okay.

You mentioned that the City of Toronto is doing a good job at ensuring that they have a diverse supplier base. What are they doing differently from the federal government? Do you know? Are you aware?

11:55 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

Yes. They've only had a few months' practice, so they're just starting the journey, and it is a journey. I would say that corporations are probably your best bet, based on business, and they will share that knowledge with you.

In terms of the city, they worked on the Pan Am Games, which was a precursor to the program that has been developed there. A lot of that idea had already been developed, and it's still developing. The first part is to verify that you have diverse suppliers and to make sure of it, so they recognize certification councils and invite diverse suppliers to participate in groups of bids.

Interestingly enough, of our women-owned businesses, it's unfortunate, but not 100% want to do business with public procurement, so not all that are certified identify themselves to do business.

There's a secondary requirement. The city asks for a database, which we've developed and regularly update on a monthly basis, of those who want to do business. For any business between $3,000 and sometimes $100,000, depending on the division, one in three would be a diverse supplier that's presented for that procurement opportunity.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Okay, that's one in three.

You've talked about developing capacity for current and new suppliers. How would you develop capacity? What would be the advice that you'd give to government to develop capacity of current suppliers? Again, if the standard is 51% managed and controlled with current companies, are you talking about developing a higher participation of women-owned businesses or making sure that women have access to owning particular businesses?

11:55 a.m.

President, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council

Mary Anderson

I think we start out where we are. Right now there's a lot of government contracting that takes place. We need to make those who are already contracting with government aware of this goal of having a diversification of their supply chain. We need to enable them to recognize how to start it and how to implement it, and then reward them for doing it by giving them extra points on their procurement opportunity.

The second side is the diverse supplier. We must develop and engage them. Those who are already qualified use the resources that are available across Canada, like Paula's fabulous network, and those other women business organizations that do this.

We home in on one thing. We home in on a transaction. What we've developed over a period of time is knowledge related to those corporations that are buying. They share that insight to create better access and better acumen when you're doing business together.

There's a great deal of information out there. What we found is that our corporations are quite willing to share and there's no competition. RBC, TD, BMO, and CIBC all share how they're doing it.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Thank you very much for your comments. To all of our witnesses, Ms. Sheppard, Ms. Anderson, and Ms. Fontaine, thank you so much. It has been extremely informative and extremely helpful.

I would add that should you have additional information that you think would be of benefit to our committee as we conduct our ongoing study, I would ask you to please submit that information through our clerk, so that any of your recommendations or suggestions will ultimately end up in our final report. We thank you for presenting today. You've been great witnesses.

Colleagues, we will now suspend for just a couple of moments while our next witnesses approach the table. Thank you.