According to a memo obtained by The Canadian Press, the government is looking to create procurement policies that support women entrepreneurs.
The November 2016 memo was prepared for Patty Hajdu, who was then the Minister for the Status of Women. Hajdu is now Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.
“The Treasury Board of Canada is currently looking at opportunities to better link federal procurement practices with the broader socio-economic objectives of the Government,” said the memo. “It is recognized that women and other under-represented groups should be considered in a renewed federal approach to procurement.”
Last year, Status of Women Canada asked the Conference Board of Canada to draft a report for why using more diverse suppliers makes good economic sense. The report defined “diverse” suppliers as businesses majority-owned, operated, and controlled by women, visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples, members of the LGBTQ community or others facing discrimination.
A draft of the report released alongside the memo said benefits can include higher profits, greater employee retention, and access to new markets. The US has had supplier diversity policies at the municipal, state, and federal level since the 1960s, and the report pointed out that while many businesses had adopted such policies, public institutions were falling behind.
The report also looked to alleviate any potential concerns that a procurement policy focused on underrepresented groups would decrease quality. “Corporations with an effective supplier diversity program do not compromise on the quality or the cost of the services or products they supply, nor do they change the service requirements for all suppliers,” the report said. “The program is simply a market access opportunity for both the corporation and the diverse supplier.”
The memo urged Hajdu to use the report to convince fellow cabinet ministers to enact a policy for the roughly $15 billion to $20 billion in annual federal procurement spending.
When 2017 budget was revealed in March, the federal government announced a $50 million commitment towards its Innovative Solutions Canada procurement program, which will set aside money for early-stage research and development and late-stage prototypes under this program. The government noted then that there would be a particular focus on procurement from companies led by women and other underrepresented groups.
Philippe Charlebois, a spokesman for Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef, said department officials are examining key issues and potential strategies to “advance the participation of women-owned enterprises in the federal procurement process.”
Photo via Sean Kilpatrick of Canadian Press