CLAC Submission Advises Clarity as Brampton Establishes Community Benefits Policy
/ Author: CLAC Staff
/ Categories: Policy Briefs /
322 Rate this article:
4.4

CLAC Submission Advises Clarity as Brampton Establishes Community Benefits Policy

Thank you for the opportunity to engage on the important topic of community benefit agreements (CBAs). CLAC is pleased to participate and offer comments on this draft of Brampton’s Community Benefits Policy. We have been active on this issue for many years, helping municipalities across the province understand the opportunities and challenges around CBAs. In 2022, CLAC hosted a panel session at the AMO conference to explore the practical challenges and policy considerations for municipalities to consider.  

Brampton, Ontario, like many other municipalities, seeks to ensure that the benefits of public spending on infrastructure are shared with the whole community. Having the best possible framework prevents the policy benefits from being lost during implementation. Too often, a weak framework can undermine a policy that seeks to promote fairness and equal opportunity, transforming it into one that benefits only a select few groups in the community and labour spectrum. 

Several aspects must be present in any successful community benefits policy: 

- Support women and other underrepresented groups in construction. This includes in the hiring process and awarding contracts to diverse-owned businesses. 

- Incentivize viable long term employment of individuals involved in CBAs. 

- Preserve the value for taxpayers. CBAs should not inadvertently make publicly funded work the exclusive domain of certain labour models, as these often exploit, rather than support, underrepresented groups. The attached framework has a “fair and open process for establishing achievable targets within the community,” and a “requirement for tracking costs to ensure transparency.” 

- Reduce barriers for small subcontractors that may be owned or operated by equity-deserving groups, but do not employ underrepresented people in sufficient number or proportion to qualify. The CBA framework needs “targets appropriate to the circumstances and needs of the municipality, including

  • overall targets for the community as a whole;  
  • project-specific targets, insofar as they are practical;  
  • flexibility based on labour needs and labour supply."


- Avoid new layers of administrative burden, making it more costly and unmanageable. The CBA framework needs a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that procurement requirements (insurance, bonding, diversity goals) are appropriate, avoiding unfair obstacles to participation for owner-operated businesses.

- Include robust evaluation measures, which help to offset the risks associated with goals that are not easily quantified.

- Learn from other municipalities, specifically evaluating which CBA models in other jurisdictions have succeeded or failed. CBAs are a fairly new experiment, and it is crucial to learn from the limited cases we have. The attached framework presents London’s rapid transit CBA as a model to consider. They consulted widely, cooperated with community agencies to identify equity-deserving workers, and developed a handbook for contractors to set expectations. 

Brampton’s Draft Community Benefits Policy 

There is a great deal to like in Brampton proposed policy. While seeking to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion, the policy wisely avoids the urge to “set quotas or prescribe practices.” Instead of these blunt, restrictive tools, the policy encourages employers and unions to be creative in designing appropriate strategies to meet these important goals.  

Also laudable is the recognition of how difficult these efforts will be to quantify. It is not only difficult to demonstrate success, it is actually difficult to articulate what success would look like. The policy frankly acknowledges that success cannot be guaranteed and wisely refrains from penalties and sanctions. This will help avoid attempts to game the system, which distracts from the actual goals of the policy. 

This flexibility in evaluating success has a downside, and here we at CLAC have some concerns. At the RFT/RFP stage, vendors will be required to submit a thorough Community Benefits Plan, covering outreach, recruitment, training, and community partnerships. While submitting a thorough plan does incentivize vendors to seriously engage the policy goals, the concern is that these plans will be scored as part of the procurement process. Since there are no penalties for failure, or even clear metrics for success, this risks a promise-the-world approach, with no real intent to follow through.  

The recommendation to Brampton from Prism Economics and Analysis advised that the community benefits plan should be 10 percent of the score for contract. CLAC would strongly advise against using these plans as a criterion for awarding contracts.  

At the other end of the process, the policy justifiably requires a report covering how the vendor implemented their plan and what the results were. This seems also to be following the recommendations from Prism:  

To ensure accountability, contractors that fail to meet their commitments would be subject to a negative evaluation which could lead to a restriction on their future bidding rights. 

While the draft policy explicitly states that there are “no penalties or sanctions for failing to achieve targets,” it goes on to say that the city “may take this evaluation into account when awarding future work.” Restricting a vendor’s future bidding rights is not only a penalty, but one of the most severe penalties that can be imposed. Given the absence of clear evaluation criteria, this policy would be ripe for abuse. CLAC strongly advises against any penalties or sanctions, particularly in the absence of specific evaluation criteria. 

Conclusion 

CLAC is greatly encouraged by the thoughtful and measured approach Brampton is taking to formulate a community benefits policy. To the extent that there are best practices for such policies, creating trust among all stakeholders is key. We encourage clarity and transparency at each stage and ask to be involved as the policy and application of community benefits in Brampton evolves.

Thank you again for the opportunity to participate. 

Previous Article Workplace Stress Takes a Toll, Especially in Healthcare
Next Article The Danger in Success
Print

Archive