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Council boosts local hiring and purchasing on major projects

Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) support development industry to ensure diverse communities benefit from large projects

September 18 2018 –

With a quarter of Vancouver's residents struggling to make ends meet, an innovative new policy approved by Council today will provide more jobs and training for local residents and ensure diverse local businesses see expanded opportunities.

“I’m thrilled that Vancouver is the first city in Canada to require local hiring and purchasing on major development projects – a big win for the diverse mosaic of people who live and work here,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “This new measure will help to ensure that Vancouver residents – particularly those who may face barriers to employment – and our local businesses will directly benefit from large scale developments in our city.”

Vancouver is the first major city in Canada to introduce a formal CBA policy, following community benefit frameworks introduced at the federal and provincial levels this year.

Agreement goals

CBAs must now be considered when rezoning applications are submitted for developments exceeding 45,000 m2. They are also available for developers of smaller sites (exceeding 9,290m2) who wish to opt-in to the policy to reach corporate social responsibility goals and access specialized support. With a CBA, developers of future large-scale sites (exceeding 45,000 m2) will commit to actions, targets, or outcomes on three main components:

  1. First source hiring - making 10% of new entry level jobs available to people in Vancouver first, specifically those who are equity seeking. This may mean they are treated differently because of their gender, faith, immigrant status, level of education, economic status or sexual orientation, for example.
  2. Social procurement - valuing the positive social and environmental impacts created by purchasing select goods and services, in addition to value for money.
  3. Supplier diversity - purchasing from organizations that are at least 51% owned by women, members of an Indigenous community, members of a visible minority group, members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, someone with a recognizable disability, or by an immigrant or refugee.

The procurement and supplier targets commit developers to sourcing 10% of goods, materials, and services from local Vancouver companies. The policy supports our work on poverty reduction and is a key action under the Healthy City Strategy Action Plan (2015-2018).

Mutual benefits for Vancouverites and industry

“With Council’s approval of this new policy, we’re taking a step towards providing more meaningful employment opportunities for Vancouverites struggling to make ends meet, both through construction and operations of new developments, and by sourcing local goods," said Sandra Singh, General Manager, Arts, Culture and Community Services, City of Vancouver. “The CBA policy is aligned with the City’s poverty reduction goals, and also aims to be mutually beneficial to the development industry who have been facing labour shortages and procurement difficulties when looking at large scale developments in Vancouver.”

The policy approved today builds on several existing CBAs, including a recent successful pilot with Parq Vancouver. Through partnerships with social enterprises including Bladerunners, Open Door Group and Embers, several hundred Vancouverites with barriers to work benefited from employment and skill development during the two and a half year construction period. More than 20% of the total labour force came from the inner-city, which was more than twice the 10% target agreed to in the CBA.

The project saw over $60 million in local spending on construction and other materials. The CBA continues to be in place following the resort's opening, with over 800 ongoing jobs created and more than $20 million invested in local suppliers, including Vancouver Farmers Market and Hives for Humanity.

"Working on Parq Vancouver was fantastic for Bladerunners, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. We had over 45 employees working on the project", says Garry Jobin, Senior Coordinator at Bladerunners. "Many were unskilled and had never worked before, so it's incredible that today, a lot of them have a career in the trades. One of the contractors, Lower Mainland Steel, has hired over 100 employees through us, and many have secured safe affordable housing."

Based on this pilot, three to four large development sites alone could create over 4,000 entry level positions, generating nearly $14 million of income which will be spent locally. This is in addition to procurement targets that will directly support a diverse range of local businesses.

Engagement and collaboration

We began consultation with community and industry stakeholders on the policy in 2016. Engagement sessions were held with The Urban Development Institute, The Urban Land Institute, The Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council, several social procurement and enterprise experts, the broader not-for-profit and social enterprise sector, local residents and equity-seeking groups, other Canadian cities developing CBA policies, and Vancouver Economic Commission.

The new CBA process will be a collaboration between communities, the development industry, and the City. A CBA working group (formed of all developers with a CBA) will be created. The group will work with a third-party implementation partner to assist with labour sourcing and material procurement. Every two years, the working group, third-party partner, and City staff will report to Council with updates on the progress and impacts of the CBA policy. A report will be prepared for Council detailing learnings and recommendations in 2022.

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