Ryan Turnbull speaks in the House of Commons

Sustainable Public Procurement – Using Government Purchasing Power to Transform Markets

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many issues to the surface and changed all facets of our lives. Early in the pandemic the vulnerabilities present within our supply chain became quite clear. Access to essential goods such as personal protective equipment, food, lumber, and many other items became difficult to come by. Government and the private sector were forced in a short timeframe to produce many essential goods domestically.

In my opinion one of the most promising and timely policy directions that we as a Federal Government can take is to ensure that we are buying goods and services according to our values.  This is referred to as Sustainable Public Procurement.  The Federal Government spends between $10-20 Billion annually on goods and services and wields considerable buying power.  As a customer, we are one of the largest in the country, which means we have influence to help send a clear market signal with our purchasing decisions.

In speaking with many constituents, I have heard over and over the need for Canada to refocus on rebuilding its domestic supply chains and ensuring that they are resilient and sustainable. Given the shocks that we have endured and likely will endure again, this is even more pressing.  This is not out of a protectionism that sometimes plagues these dialogues, but genuinely out of concern for being able to secure essential supplies in times when borders may be shut down or international trade relationships become strained due to scarce supply.

We all have seen the calls for an equitable society and racial justice. The inherent differences experienced by racialized people, and people of colour have been brought to the forefront of all our consciousness. Many other equity seeking groups, such as the LGBTQ2S+ community, and persons with disabilities find themselves excluded from the labour market or experiencing barriers to employment, challenges in upward mobility through no fault of their own.

Another looming crisis that has been approaching for generations that scientists and researchers have been clear is not a figment of the imagination, but instead is based on a body of evidence that is undeniably solid is Climate Change.  The potential for disruption to our daily lives of global climate change far surpasses that of the current global pandemic, and in many ways environmentalists, scientists and world leaders rightly perceive COVID-19 as a wake-up call or even a final alarm bell.  Seeing governments respond with such urgency during COVID-19 has been encouraging and many would welcome a similar response to the bigger impending crisis of climate change.  One of the main impediments to addressing global climate change is the private industries that continue to spew GHG emissions into the atmosphere contributing to our national emissions total.  As a government, we are committed to reaching Net Zero as a country by 2050 but this requires unprecedented and transformational shifts in all aspects of our economy, our purchasing decisions and behaviour as consumers and creating of new norms within the lives of Canadians.

All these concerns are at the forefront of people’s minds today and provide context for why I believe now is the time to introduce a Federal Government commitment to Sustainable Public Procurement.  We can achieve outcomes in all three of these key areas through adopting a sustainability framework into how the Federal Government evaluates bids and makes decisions on who we do business with.  By thinking about our purchasing decisions as a massive market force, we can introduce a new sense of social and environmental responsibility into the marketplace.  This means that through a competitive process we would favour businesses that are of different sizes and that operate domestically, that provide the most employment opportunities to equity seeking groups, and that reduce GHG emissions and their overall carbon footprint.  Changing the nature in which we do government purchasing will provide a shift in the market to enable Canadians to have more domestically sourced options while also lowering barriers to employment for equity-seeking groups and demonstrate a firm commitment to action on climate change.


Ryan Turnbull

Member of Parliament for Whitby

Posted in Blog, News.