Beyond the Headlines

The "buy-local" debate

Posted: Jan 23, 2012 11:25 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 23, 2012 11:25 AM ET

 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. 
Previous Post
Next Post

About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

Recent Entries

Falling through the cracks
Falling through the cracks
Apr 23, 1:32 PM

Nova Scotia's justice system is battered and bruised.  Two high-profile cases, both involving the alleged sexual assault of young people, have sorely tested the public's confidence in both the people... more »

Social media demands justice for Rehtaeh
Social media demands justice for Rehtaeh
Apr 10, 12:44 PM

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Ross Landry learned first hand the power of social media. It's a lesson he's learning the hard way.Earlier in the week, Leah Parsons turned to social... more »

Investigating the police
Investigating the police
Mar 22, 6:12 PM

Last April the province unveiled its brand new Serious Incident Response Team. The agency was established to conduct independent and transparent investigations of all serious incidents involving police officers.The idea... more »

View the Beyond the Headlines Archives »