On Tuesday, Halifax city councillors will vote on a motion requesting staff to design a "buy local" policy for HRM.
On the surface, it sounds like a no-brainer. When the city buys good or services from local businesses, the money stays in Halifax, more people are employed here, who in turn spend their money in the city.
The buy local motion was brought forward by District 12 Councillor Dawn Sloane.
Sloane took up the cause after a Dartmouth firm, Intelivote Systems Inc., lost the bid to provide telephone and e-voting for the next municipal election. A Spanish firm said it could to the job for $553,007, a full $330,000 less than Intelivote's bid. Although Intelivote had done the work previously, the Spanish firm won the contract.
Dawn Sloane says the city should have a scoring process that gives extra points to local companies, but given the huge difference in price, it's hard to think of any buy local policy that would have awarded this contract to the local bidder.
But what if the difference isn't as pronounced? Recently a local company lost a bid to provide work boots to the municipality. The Halifax-based firm put in a bid of $72,431. The contract was awarded to a New Brunswick company that bid $69,801 - a difference of just 3.76%.
The question is - where do you draw the line? Should the local company win the bid if its price is 5% higher than the lowest bid, or 10% or 15%, or in the case of Intelivote 60% higher? And what about the quality of the goods and services being offered? Should the local business win the contract even if its product is slightly inferior?
When Intelivote lost the e-voting contract, Councillor Gloria McCluskey said HRM needs to find the best bargain for taxpayers.
So that's the debate facing city councillors this week.
What do you think? Should the municipality give preference to local businesses even if it will cost taxpayers a premium on some contracts, or should the city always choose the lowest qualified bid, regardless of where the company is located?
Have your say in the comments section at the bottom of the page.