Winnipeg city council approves 'buy-local' purchase policy proposed by mayor

City hall will spend three months developing a "buy local" city procurement policy that would cover city contracts valued under $100,000.

City staff to take 3 months to develop policy; no concerns raised by council about protectionism

Mayor Brian Bowman has proposed a 'buy-local' procurement policy similar to one raised by former mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis in 2010. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Winnipeg city hall will spend three months developing a "buy local" city procurement policy that would cover city contracts valued under $100,000.

Council voted unanimously Thursday to support a proposal by Mayor Brian Bowman to ensure the city spends money on local firms more often.

The plan calls for the city to consult with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council of Manitoba and the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association. The latter organization expressed concerns about the plan.

"I just think it's bad public policy, period," said Chris Lorenc, the association's president, who is worried about the effects of protectionism on trade.

"It doesn't do local businesses any good if we put up barriers, however high or low, to businesses who flank the city of Winnipeg just because they have addresses that aren't in the city of Winnipeg."

Bowman raised the idea of a buy-local policy during his State of the City address in March. 

His 2014 mayoral-race opponent, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, proposed a similar idea during her unsuccessful campaign against Sam Katz in 2010.​

No members of council expressed concerns about a buy-local policy, which some economists consider a form of protectionism.

Whether Winnipeg's policy will in fact create trade barriers for businesses located outside the city will depend on whether the city departments will be required to purchase all services under $100,000 locally, or whether such purchases are simply encouraged or made part of a weighting system when contract bids are evaluated.

Bowman said local business will still have to compete for city work.

"We ultimately have to ensure we're getting good value for tax dollars so they'll still have to earn those contracts, and bid on them as they do right now," he said.

Council voted unanimously Thursday to support a proposal by Mayor Brian Bowman to ensure the city spends money on local firms more often. 1:28