The New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA), among the Governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, was signed on April 30, 2010. In general terms this might be thought of as an expansion of TILMA to Saskatchewan. See the news release issued by the Province of British Columbia.
Will NWPTA change the procurement practices for British Columbia entities? Answer: no – so long as the entity is not trying to confer a procurement preference to British Columbia suppliers over suppliers in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
A key feature of TILMA and NWPTA is that these provinces have agreed not to give preferential treatment to suppliers within their home province. In my experience, procurement bodies rarely do so. It happens, but rarely. Instead – they just want to make the best procurement choice, regardless of where the supplier comes from.
In those instances where a local preference is stipulated, greater scrutiny will be paid to compliance with the requirements of TILMA and NWPTA. In addition (as procurement professionals will readily appreciate), the liability at common law that flows from the Chinook Aggregates case, and similar cases, will also have to be considered and addressed.
In order to try to ensure that the objective (no local preference) of TILMA and NWPTA is observed, the principle of “fair and open (transparent) procurement” is adopted. How strident do you have to be in the measures you adopt for “fair and open (transparent) procurement”? In my experience, this is addressed on a case by case basis. If in fact no local preference is being applied by the procurement body, then, since the spirit of the regime is being observed, that will diminish the degree to which you might feel the need to adopt “fair and open (transparent) procurement” measures. For example, if you have a public opening, do you have to read out the prices at the public opening? You might choose, for various reasons, to announce prices. But if you prefer not to, and the award goes to the lowest qualified bidder, then it would be hard for another bidder to complain too loudly (especially, of course, if the lowest qualified bidder happens to be from out of province)!
Note – as described in the news release issued by the Province of British Columbia:
- Under the New West Partnership Procurement Agreement, the provinces will work together to jointly purchase goods and services in order to achieve efficiencies and cost-savings.
- This could include joint purchasing of health supplies or common government supplies (e.g., paper or office supplies) and the standardization of procurement templates and contracts.
For more on this, see Journal of Commerce articles from May 10, 2010 and May 12, 2010.