Starting this month, Saskatchewan Crown corporations are taking advantage of exemptions in the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) to improve procurement opportunities for businesses in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. These provinces fall under the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA).
Some Crowns are exempt from AIT provisions that otherwise require procurements to be open to businesses in all Canadian provinces and territories. The exempt corporation include SaskEnergy Incorporated, Saskatchewan Opportunities Corporation, Saskatchewan Power Corporation and Saskatchewan Transportation Company along with several others.
According to the province, the seven Crown corporations, which continue to be subject to the NWPTA, will primarily source from NWPTA provinces and from the rest of Canada and globally as warranted.
This new approach fulfills a commitment made in the Priority Saskatchewan Procurement Transformation Action Plan, which was announced in March 2015.
"We are committed to ensuring our Crown corporations comply with trade agreements and recognize there is room within those agreements for Crowns to source regional solutions," said SaskBuilds Minister Gordon Wyant said.
"Our government is very pleased to be moving forward with implementing the Procurement Transformation Action Plan and continuing to identify opportunities to improve procurement practices that create a level playing field for Saskatchewan businesses."
Saskatchewan Construction Association president Mark Cooper called the move an important step forward.
"The Saskatchewan Construction Association applauds the provincial leadership in tackling procurement transformation to ensure Saskatchewan businesses are treated fairly," he said.
Karen Low, executive director for the Merit Contractors Association of Saskatchewan, said she supports the government decision, but is eager to see what sort of impact it will have on procurement.
"Our concern has always been a fair and level playing field for all contractors," Low said, noting that due to the boom in construction activity there have been a number of out-of-province companies bidding on work.
However, Low also said members haven't been telling Merit they are feeling disadvantaged.
"At the same time, it was good that the government introduced Priority Saskatchewan to make sure nobody is disadvantaged in the process," she said.
"I don't think any of our contractors want an unfair advantage, we just want a fair and level playing field for everyone."
She said she hopes the government tracks the changes to see what sort of effects they have.
Priority Saskatchewan was established in June 2014 to identify opportunities to level the procurement playing field for Saskatchewan businesses. As part of its mandate, Priority Saskatchewan researched international best practices and led a review of government and Crown sector procurement practices.
The team also conducted a consultation with industry and the broader public sector to develop the action plan. The 13-point action plan is based on industry and stakeholder feedback. Priority Saskatchewan is consulting with industry and stakeholders on the balance of the action plan's initiatives. Implementation of the action plan is a priority for government and is expected to be largely complete in 2016.