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Councillor says local firms deserve chance to bid on subcontracts

PICTOU – A county councillor wants local companies to have the ability to bid for subcontracting work on large construction projects.

Coun. Robert Parker asked council during Monday’s meeting if there was any way that local companies could be given the chance to bid on work for large projects rather than just have the contractors pick their own subcontractors.

“Our taxpayers’ money goes to build places like the Wellness Centre and the jail,” said Parker. “Some local people get work there, but a lot of local companies are shut out of opportunities. When they put the contract out, a large company from away usually gets the contract and they have their own subcontractors that are there on every job. I am not saying they (local companies) should be given preference, but they should be given an opportunity to bid.”

The discussion came up before county council adopted a new procurement policy that brings it in line with provincial standards. The major difference in the policy is the spending threshold for the municipality, meaning that if it spends more than $25,000 on goods, $50,000 on services or more than $100,000 on construction it has to follow provincial guidelines regarding opening bids for work.

Anything under these amounts, the municipality can dictate which company gets the contract, meaning local companies could pick up some work.

County CAO Brian Cullen said the county doesn’t have any legal right to dictate under provincial procurement standards who works on what project.

Parker stressed that he is not asking that local contractors be given contracts because they are from the area, only that an open process is in place so they have an opportunity to bid on the work. He said the local truckers association has a policy that ensures that so many Pictou County trucks are at a job site.

Deputy Warden Andy Thompson said they aren’t being shut out of work in Pictou County and mentioned that the county has done some extensive sewer work in recent years that went to SW Weeks Construction. 

He also pointed out that many local contractors get work outside of the county and they want to continue to be able to be involved in such projects.

“There is a little bit of give and take with this,” he said.

Coun. Randy Palmer said contractors hire subcontractors they know will get the job done and on time, because if the work isn’t done by deadline, they could be penalized. He added that there is no way to police which companies the subcontractor hires.

“Who would supply the list to the contractor?” he asked. “And even if it was the low bid, maybe the contractor wouldn’t even take them. These companies bid on these projects and there are only a few companies that can do these projects. They have their subcontractors because they know what they are capable of.”

In the end, council adopted the changes to its procurement policy, agreeing to follow the new spending limits that are in line with the province’s policy.

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