New Brunswick

Procurement bill gives N.B. companies leg up in bids

The Alward government is overhauling the way the province awards tenders and contracts to give New Brunswick companies priority in bidding on some government work.

Liberals warn rules could pose problems for international trade

The Alward government is overhauling the way the provincial government awards tenders and contracts to give New Brunswick companies priority in bidding on some government work.

"We still want to make sure there's competitive bidding going on," said Government Services Minister Craig Leonard, who introduced the new procurement bill on Tuesday.

"But if New Brunswick companies are within an acceptable range, we want to be able to make sure that economic development benefit stays within the province," he said.

The provincial government’s existing procurement legislation is 40 years old and badly out of date, said Leonard.

Could end up costing businesses

But the new bill could prompt accusations the province is closing the door to interprovincial trade, said Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau.

"New Brunswick-first" laws are risky, he said.

"We can't be building walls around the province of New Brunswick because if other jurisdictions see what we're doing and do the same, our businesses are going to pay for it at the end of the day."

Many New Brunswick companies hope to bid on subcontracting jobs with the big shipbuilding contract in Halifax, said Boudreau.

The provincial government’s economy also depends on exporting products to other provinces.

Leonard contends there are ways to give New Brunswick companies an advantage in bidding on provincial government work, while avoiding restrictions on open trade between provinces.

"We have to make sure that we're respecting the other jurisdictions, but at the same time we can't let them have an advantage over our companies in terms of that type of procurement, which is where we find ourselves now," he said.

Not all products and services are covered by interprovincial trade agreements that require open bidding, said Leonard. He could not, however, say which ones are exempt.

 Many of the details of the new procurement bill will be established by regulation after the bill passes.

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