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

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I have shares in Brookfield Asset Management, so thank you. I'll disclose that right now.

Dr. Abu-Hakima, you talked about Walmart, about their plans.

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

Yes.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Do you have any more details you could share with us? This came up this morning, and then with indigenous.... The private sector always does such a phenomenal job, but we as government just seem to stumble along.

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

I know we don't always like to praise them, especially these days, but one of the amazing programs the United States has had for a long time is the set-aside program. The set-aside program is really interesting in that there are companies that are designated as 8(a) programs, which then, if you are a woman- or a minority-led business.... Paul, you would qualify. I'm sorry, but—

12:35 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Spartan Bioscience Inc.

Paul Lem

Well, thank you.

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

—the rest of you guys would not qualify.

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

Anyway, if you're a minority-led business or a woman, then if IBM wins a major contract, or Lockheed Martin, or General Dynamics, or even any of the ones I was working with at Entrust—

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Walmart is not a big receiver of federal government—

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

No, wait; I'm going somewhere with this. I'm sorry.

Essentially, the set-aside is 20% for the federal government of the U.S. What the corporates have—we call them “corporates” in We Connect International now—Walmart, Pfizer, RBC, and TD, so some of the Canadian companies are in it now too—is also a set-aside of 20% to 30% of their procurement budget earmarked for women and visible minority procurement.

Walmart has said that women are going to be generating...I think the number I heard was $18 trillion, but you can't quote me on that; we can try to verify it for you. They're going to be generating that much money in terms of their buying power. Walmart decided they need to take a step to show that they as Walmart have a really good corporate hat on. Since women typically buy lots of stuff from them, they decided they should have a set-aside. They declared that set-aside to be.... It becomes $20 billion, so maybe that's 20% of their procurement budget.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Oh, excellent.

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

With respect to the Government of Canada, I think we have to start. There should be some sort of procurement policy that starts—

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I worry, though. I see Walmart doing it obviously for a return, but also it's smart business and smart governance. I'm wondering how they're able to do it. If you go through procurement, it's, as you mentioned, red tape, roadblock, red tape, blockage.

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

Don't forget that Walmart also sells retail products. They could buy—I don't know—maybe some of these DNA kits, then put them in their stores and make them available there.

Actually, that's not a bad idea.

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

They probably would go for it.

12:35 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Spartan Bioscience Inc.

Paul Lem

Probably.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

We hear about—I think one of you used the words—hitting a stone wall with government procurement.

How much is red tape? How much is it their just being risk-averse?

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

I'm going to just give a quick answer, because I would like my colleagues to answer as well.

For me, if we've done 50 responses, that's really bad, and it says there's something broken somewhere. We've been through the OSME training and still can't win a contract. The only way we can get our products in is through a BCIP-type program, and we're very innovative. We actually should be the poster child for—

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

It scares the hell out of me when you talk about being so risk-averse that you had to sell your company to a larger company for them to—

12:35 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

I did. That's what happened with the first company. It was an AI company that I spun out of NRC in 1999. I went to BDC, and they asked where AI was going to go. Everything is about AI now; that's a boat that sailed.

In this case, I'll do my best to just keep growing this company. The reason I went to We Connect International is that I saw that they have all these set-asides. This is a natural way to sell my product. It's great, because they have to buy not necessarily from me, but they have to buy from women. There are not all that many women in tech, so it's great. It should help.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

From talking to all the witnesses so far and from people I've talked to in Alberta, it's not a gender thing. It's difficulty with the procurement process, period.

12:40 p.m.

Dr. Suhayya (Sue) Abu-Hakima

Yes, maybe.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

A set-aside, then, will help, but it sounds as though we have a lot of other barriers—red tape and others—thrown up.

December 7th, 2017 / 12:40 p.m.

President, SageTea Software

Scott MacGregor

Have you seen the BCIP application?