Are Community Benefits Agreements here to stay? Looks like it.

May 13, 2019

By Jack Runge, Contributor

Notwithstanding certain jurisdictions’ reluctance to add what some might consider an additional layer of “complexity” to infrastructure procurement, Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) are here in Canada and not going anywhere.  Look at Vancouver, BC where CBAs are now built into development ranging from projects like the 2010 Olympic Village to the $1.4bn Pattullo Bridge project. CBAs are designed so that, “... a developer commits to actions, targets, and outcomes relating to employment and procurement in a community where the development is occurring, or with equity-seeking groups in nearby communities.”

Simply put, CBAs are an opportunity for a developer seeking to make their mark on a project and compete beyond the simple metric of cost by providing “the greatest benefit to the greatest amount of people”. In addition to allowing the developer the chance to give themselves an edge on their bid, the community in which the project is slated to be developed is given the benefit of a focus on its needs, whether this is through traditional or modern means.

Ontario (Canada’s largest and wealthiest province) has considered the impact of CBAs on development projects since 2015, making it the province the first in Canada to recognise the effect that CBAs provide in “infrastructure planning and investment”.

In 2017 under the former Wynne Government Ontario went a step further and explicitly outlined the connection between infrastructure investment and “social initiative such as community benefits projects and apprenticeships that support more jobs and training opportunities” with the goal of creating several pilot projects for 2018, and most importantly, an entire Community Benefits Framework that requires all “major public infrastructure projects comply with a Community Benefits Framework for major infrastructure projects by 2020”.

Beyond the provincial level, on June 22, 2018, the federal government introduced an initiative that requires anyone applying for a piece of the $180bn in funding to be able to “set and pursue targets to provide training, job opportunities and/or procurement opportunities for identified groups. These include Indigenous peoples, women, persons with disabilities, veterans, youth, apprentices, recent immigrants, and small-sized, medium-sized, and social enterprises. The Initiative also outlines how recipients of federal funding for new major public infrastructure projects can establish their project targets and report on the results”.

The long story short is that the writing is more than on the wall, it’s on the books, and it’s saying that if you want to compete and receive funding for infrastructure projects in Canada, you had better be able to meet a wide array of CBA related criteria and compete beyond purely on price. This goes for the municipalities and provinces seeking federal funding, as well as developers looking to win the actual construction contracts.” (https://mowatcentre.ca/community-benefits-and-social-procurement-policies/

Constructive-Edge has been working with stake-holders on these types of projects for 30 years in the Defense and infrastructure business, and recently as well using Socio-Economic Advantage™ with major developers to give companies the edge they need to set themselves apart from the rest of their competitors.