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Procurement Perspectives: The simplest fix for Ontario’s Bill 66

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: The simplest fix for Ontario’s Bill 66

After all the articles and time spent reviewing this topic, the term “Occam’s razor” comes to mind. The meaning of this term is a scientific or philosophical rule that favours the simplest explanation.

Therefore, the simplest explanation for Bill 66 Section 9 is as follows.

The government wants to cut through red tape and at the same time develop a procurement process that would allow a completely open bidding system for everyone to participate in. I don’t believe for one minute that the intent was ever to create larger problems to a government procurement process that is already fraught with skepticism.

Let’s fix the problems of the past while developing a new procurement proposal that will have a positive impact on everyone.

For many years, I have written columns for various papers and magazines with the ultimate intent of bringing attention to a specific problem and then offering a solution.

The simplest fix for Section 9 of Bill 66, as I see it, is to create a completely new system that is built from the ground up.

The province now has an opportunity to address procurement practices broadly at the municipal level. It always creates dissension among industry partners when the government decrees an unpopular regulation. This is even more difficult to accomplish without the acceptance from the vast majority of participants that will be adversely impacted by the changes.

I am sure everyone would want to see the facts in this case verified first, related to such a tremendous savings by making this dramatic change by introducing this bill.

If the savings are legitimate, and this groundbreaking endeavour can be spelled out in great detail on paper, most people would have a higher confidence level in the rollout.

The only way to stop the onslaught of dissention by several sectors of the construction industry, and others directly involved, is through the development of concise policies and procedures without sacrificing any positive aspects of the present system.

My personal philosophy has never been to blatantly slam any process without offering a solution first.

Should the government choose to be forthright on the assessment of how they are moving forward considering all aspects of the changes to the current laws, I would be receptive to listening.

I would probably be the first one to step up to be part of the team that helps the government write the procurement policy changes concerning all the purchasing related matters.

This cannot be accomplished without a wide range of consultation with union and non-union contractors as well as anyone else that will be put in harm’s way by the passing of Section 9 of this bill.

Without a rigorous review prior to implementing it, I don’t feel any good can come from ramming this through, then worrying about the details later. I am not trying in any way to undermine the government with my viewpoints.

However, I have worked for the government for many years both as a purchasing manager for a very large municipality and as a consultant for countless municipalities over the last decade. This approach that the government is talking about in this bill is simply not how the process should be conducted.

Instead of countless lawsuits that will take years to work their way through the courts, let’s get it right from inception.

No one will benefit from an ongoing war of words with no action items to resolve our differences. The simple solution is a consensus among the largest stakeholders and the parties that will be negatively impacted by this bill in its present form. I will continue to have faith in the government to do the right thing, until proven otherwise.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at swbauld@purchasingci.com.

Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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