New Program to Give BC-Based Biz a Fair Shot

Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo 
CHETWYND – Peace River MLA’s, Pat Pimm and Blair Lekstrom are putting forward a tactic to ensure that BC-based businesses have equal opportunities to fill contracting tenders in the region’s highly competitive resource sector. 
A BC-based business criteria would certify businesses as community-friendly if they have met certain measures put forth by local and provincial government’s. This in turn, would help these businesses obtain a “social license” to operate within the provinces natural resource sector.
“Local hire has been an issue for many years here. The companies have made an effort to [conduct] business locally whenever possible, but there still seems to be some missed opportunities for local contractors,” Lekstrom said. 
Municipal governments in the north and south Peace as well as in the northern Rockies were slated to head to Alberta to meet with and oil and gas producers at a gathering chaired by the two MLA’s in Calgary. The Calgary meeting was originally planned for early February but has been rescheduled to March and moved to Dawson Creek so that “the people that have to be involved in this meeting can put it in their schedule,” Lekstrom said. The decision to pursue a BC-based business criteria was made at a meeting between Pimm, Lekstrom, and these local governments held in Nov. 2012. The conference will determine the criteria for certifying businesses and explain to oil and gas companies how they can be involved to deliver equal competitive assurance in contracting tenders for BC companies. 
Mayor Darwin Wren is planning on attending the meeting for the District of Tumbler Ridge. 
Lekstrom explained the initiative by saying, “the BC-Based Business platform we are working on – it isn’t established yet, hopefully in the near future we’ll have it signed onto by the companies that operate in the area – it really outlines what a BC business is. “So then, when companies go to tender their work for instance, we expect [BC] companies to get a fair shot at bidding on this work. I have spoken with the Premier about this proposal, [and] to Rich Coleman, the Minister of Energy and Mines. Everybody is on side, and they think it’s a good idea.”
Lekstrom said that, early on, when the two MLA’s approached oil and gas companies about the platform, they had expressed concerns that the initiative would force them to hire solely from BC while working in the province. “We’ve never said you have to hire BC-based business because our guys in BC work on both sides of the border too. What we don’t want is a continued system of, somebody out in the field has used ‘Joe’ out of Red Deer, for example, for 20 years and nobody’s going to force me to offer [to a BC business].
“You know what, it’s our resources here in BC and I want it to work for all British Columbians and at the same time I know the companies have to have a return on their investment. We just think [this is] a good way to go.”
MLA’s and local governments are working with two companies, Community Futures and Audit Tree, to develop the criteria and the programs to run the BC-based business platform.
Lekstrom hopes the combined efforts of local government, industry and these two community based companies will result in assistance for local businesses seeking contracting tenders. 
Community Futures is a joint initiative of western provinces helping create diverse, sustainable communities by supporting local, community based economic development.
 Audit Tree is an Alberta company that uses audited corporate social responsibility information to ensure hiring companies have the ability to meet standards in health, safety, environment, pubic safety and make sure they take part in Aboriginal consultation, local hires and other social responsibility standards on industrial projects.  
Audit Tree currently provides the software for a local business platform in Fort McMurray and a national Aboriginal business platform.