Victoria getting $500,000 to expand 'social procurement' program

The City of Victoria is getting $500,000 from the province to expand an initiative that encourages participating local governments to pool resources and gives them the tools and training to make purchasing decisions that focus on best value rather than only the lowest price.

Under the “social procurement” program — which is being expanded from its roots on Vancouver Island to the rest of the province — local governments selecting companies for purchasing goods and services can look at criteria ranging from whether the business pays a living wages and supports local charities, for example, to whether it provides training and work opportunities to Indigenous youth.

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The funds will support training for governments and large purchasers across the province on how to implement social procurement best practices, which in turn will allow more opportunities for local businesses that can demonstrate social values to compete for and potentially win contracts.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said social procurement is a new approach to economic development.

“Public-sector spending represents a very large portion of Vancouver Island’s economy, and how we spend those funds matters,” said Helps. “Social procurement enables public-sector entities to procure goods and services in line with the values of their communities and to the benefit of their local economies.”

Colleen Evans, a Campbell River councillor and and co-chair with Helps on the B.C. Social Procurement Initiative steering committee, said the initiative’s resources and policies are “changing the culture of public-sector procurement.”

Josie Osborne, minister of municipal affairs, said the B.C. Social Procurement Initiative supports a community-focused approach to procuring equipment, supplies and services for local governments in small and large centres, unique to each community’s needs.

The program also opens up opportunities for community organizations and smaller local suppliers to better respond to contract opportunities.

“This initiative is a great example of local governments working together, learning from each other and sharing common regional resources to turn their purchasing dollars into benefits that support local businesses, create an inclusive workforce and build a strong recovery,” Osborne said Wednesday.

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