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Councillors support, but also criticize new social procurement policy for HRM

Councillor Lindell Smith expressed some concern that the optional nature of the policy means it will largely be ignored
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Halifax City Hall (Meghan Groff/

Regional Council passed a new social procurement policy at their meeting Tuesday, but some councillors are frustrated with the 'loosey goosey' nature of the framework.

This new policy is the result of a three year old motion from Councillor Lindell Smith.

Councillor Shawn Cleary was one of those who both supported, and criticized the new policy, saying if it requires managers, and department heads to consider applying it where appropriate, that's pretty vague, and he's worried it won't be followed.

Smith also expressed some worry that the optional nature of the policy means it will largely be ignored, and he says the policy should hold HRM to requirements for supplier diversity, and payment of a fair and living wage to contractors.

"For me, the most important piece is that we are not only saying we truly value social procurement, but we're doing the work in the back end, I feel that this is a roadmap, and we need to make sure it's paved for the future," says Smith.

Mayor Mike Savage is pleased to see the policy, and believes it is very timely, if not a little late, saying we have a long way to go in fully building trust with many communities.

"It's fine to put up, you know, monuments to the local community, and the Indigenous peoples of that community, but a greater tribute is including them in the building of the new community, and allowing them to extract some economic benefit," explains Savage. "So I'm excited about that, I see that as part of our mandate as well in responding to Black Lives Matter, as well as holding Indigenous lives to be sacred, and respecting people with disabilities, and others."

He adds when it comes to contracts, it's important to consider more than just the bottom line cost, and that's where the social procurement policy comes in.

Savage also acknowledges some business groups might be a bit anxious about this procurement policy change.

"I think we have a responsibility, and an opportunity to talk to folks at CFIB, the Chamber of Commerce, and other business associations to say, look, this is going to be good for everybody," says Savage. "And I think we all have a responsibility to carry that argument, and make that argument so it actually brings people together in terms of building communities."

Cleary introduced an amendment, that passed alongside the original motion, asking city staff to bring forward a supplementary report on when, and how the new social procurement policy would be used. That report is not expected back before council until the Fall.


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