The Municipality of Rhineland has to change the way in which it acquires goods and services in order to comply with the New West Partnership trade agreement.
Manitoba joined the already-existing pact with Alberta, Saskatchewan, and B.C. in 2016. The goal of the agreement is to reduce inter-provincial trade barriers by allowing the free flow of investment, labour, and business among Canada's western provinces. This requires municipalities, among other groups like school divisions and health authorities, to amend their procurement policies and allow companies from across the region to access tenders through a central website.
According to details in the trade agreement, municipalities are only affected if the value of goods and services exceeds $75,000. The threshold on construction project values sits at $200,000.
Rhineland reeve, Don Wiebe, said this process differs to the invitational and open tender processes the municipality currently uses, which he notes have historically worked quite well. For example, 9 companies were invited to bid on the Plum Coulee East Low-Pressure project and Wiebe said that yielded 4 very competitive bids. He noted the low bid for the project came in considerably lower than what engineers had estimated.
Going forward, Wiebe said this new process will require administration and council to be a bit more detailed in creating tenders.
"In terms of our specifications, the processes that we're interested in having, the timelines, and the penalties. We're going to have to up our game," he explained.
Council has also had some discussion on what this will mean for supporting local business as this central system will not only allow local contractors to bid on projects that are out-of-province but will open up opportunities in the area for other companies in western Canada.
"We have always enjoyed using local contractors whenever possible because they are part of the community and it's a way of building support and having good work done locally," said Wiebe.
The process for updating the Municipality of Rhineland's procurement policy is currently underway.