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February 24, 2014 – Daily Commercial News
Though the government of Ontario’s aboriginal procurement pilot project has come to an end, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) expects that it will be extended in order to continue reaching out to aboriginal businesses.
The pilot began in March 2012 to help aboriginal businesses connect with opportunities to become a supplier of goods or services for the provincial government.
“The purpose of the aboriginal procurement pilot is to enhance the participation of aboriginal businesses in public procurement, advance aboriginal economic business development and promote partnership opportunities between aboriginal and non aboriginal businesses,” explained Bruce Leslie, acting director of the aboriginal relations branch at MTO, while speaking at the Ontario Road Builders Association’s (ORBA) 87th annual convention recently.
Businesses were eligible for the pilot if they were 51 per cent or more owned and controlled by aboriginal people or a joint venture or consortium, controlled and owned by an aboriginal business or businesses.
In the case of a joint venture or consortium, one-third of the total value of the work must be done by an aboriginal business, either by the aboriginal partner/contractor or by an aboriginal sub-contractor.
One procurement opportunity through the pilot was known as aboriginal business set-aside where the procurement for goods and services was reserved for competitions among eligible aboriginal businesses.
Another opportunity was known as aboriginal business participation where a vendor was encouraged to partner or sub-contract with a qualified aboriginal business to complete a portion of the contract.
The evaluation criteria opportunity allowed ministries to consider a non-aboriginal vendor’s track record when selecting a supplier if the vendor partners with aboriginal businesses and communities, employs aboriginal people or trains aboriginal people.
“The pilot project provides a mechanism for all Ontario government ministries to step aside their normal procurement rules and work more easily with aboriginal communities,” explained Leslie.
Contracts eligible for the pilot included construction activities, environmental and archaeological assessment services, land surveying and mapping services, mining exploration and development, and catering services.
As many transportation construction projects are getting bundled, the projects need to be a different scope in Northern Ontario, said MTO aboriginal liaison officer for the northwest region Real Bouchard.
“What we need to look at in the north is to unbundle some of those bigger projects and get some of the first nations to partner with ORBA members on some of the…smaller bits of those contracts,” he said.
When the pilot first began, it was important to MTO to tap into ORBA’s expertise and determine how to promote it as well as foster better relationships between ORBA and aboriginal businesses and communities.
“First Nation businesses and Metis businesses are eager to work with ORBA members. The mentorship that takes place in those projects is immense and impacts communities,” said Bouchard.
One of the projects under the pilot was an aggregate crushing project on Highway 69, which was awarded to a partnership between Magnetawan First Nation, Shawanaga First Nation and Miller Group Incorporated.
“The two first nations and Miller were very successful and the project was completed last fall,” said Bouchard.
MTO is responsible for 29 remote airports in the far north of the province. A runway lift at the Kasabonika Airport required 35,000 tonnes of aggregate.
“We were able to negotiate with the community a sole source contract through the pilot to have the community haul that material for us. Their equipment is not the best equipment, but it’s enough that we got a fair price,” said Bouchard.
The pilot has already ended, but Bouchard said it is expected to be extended. Right now the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs is conducting a review of the pilot project.
Follow Kelly Lapointe on Twitter @DCNKelly.
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