Provincial government has to end restrictive tendering

An issue that persists for all levels of government across Canada is the provision of infrastructure and the ability to plan for future population and economic growth.

The infrastructure portfolio is large and includes roads, transit, educational institutions, health care and many structures that are below ground — such as sewers and water mains — and not visible, but nonetheless extremely important for growing urban centres.

In a number of columns over the past five years, I have explicitly addressed the problem of closed tendering — a process where the bidding on public projects is restricted to construction companies connected with designated unions. In many cases across Ontario, local companies and their workers are prevented from working on new courthouses, schools and a wide range of municipal services, such as transportation and water treatment.

Clearly, the current process of restricting bids is driving up the cost of projects at a time when municipalities and school boards cannot afford it. It is our chamber’s position that all qualified union and non-union companies should maintain the right to bid on publicly-funded projects. Fair and open tendering is the only method for giving all taxpayers the right to work in their own communities and achieve maximum value.

In Toronto alone, it is estimated that $174 million could be saved annually by opening the bidding process. The savings could be directed to social and other essential services that municipalities are struggling to deliver.

Ending closed tendering has widespread public support as well. A forum poll conducted last summer indicated that 85 per cent of respondents agreed that the Ontario government should end the current tendering policy that makes construction projects 30 per cent more expensive. It is now time for the provincial government to make tough choices between efficient allocation of taxpayer dollars and labour unions reaping the benefits of outdated and ineffective legislation.

Our chamber has identified the tendering process as a major issue for the upcoming provincial election. We will be hosting a panel discussion with construction and business executives from across the province, and I would encourage all municipal representatives and businesses to attend.

A recent report with new information on the impacts of closed tendering will be provided. The event is scheduled for noon on Dec. 6 at the Holiday Inn on Fairway Road in Kitchener, with registration on the Greater Kitchener Waterloo chamber website. Hope to see you there.

This article was written by Ian McLean for the Waterloo Chronicle. Read the original article here.