Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

TAXPAYERS’ MONEY GOES SOUTH – Fay Branigan, who owns The Greenhouse At Cliffside, has been left wondering about the City of Whitehorse’s commitment to supporting local businesses. Coun. Laura Cabott was the only member of council who responded to Branigan’s concerns about the city’s decision to award a bedding plant contract to a B.C. company.

Business owner ‘floored’ by contract award

Not being awarded a city contract for the supply and delivery of bedding plants means one less person a local business owner will be hiring this summer.

By Stephanie Waddell on March 13, 2019

Not being awarded a city contract for the supply and delivery of bedding plants means one less person a local business owner will be hiring this summer.

And it’s all because of a price difference of just over $250.

In February, Fay Branigan, who owns The Greenhouse At Cliffside, received a letter from the city informing her she would not be awarded the contract.

Instead, the city had chosen to go with the only other company to put in a proposal: Devan Greenhouses Ltd. of Abbottsford, B.C.

Devan had the lower price, coming in at $14,574.38 compared to the $14,827 price tag Branigan had submitted.

“I was a little floored by that,” Branigan said of the city choosing an Outside company over a local company – when there was such a trifling difference in price.

Branigan told the Star Monday she had worked to find efficiencies and get the price on the proposal as low as she could while still making a profit.

Following up with officials, she was told the city doesn’t take into account local preference when looking at such bids.

As it was outlined in a follow-up email from the city to Branigan:

“The results of the procurement was that your price quote was higher than another company who happens to be external to the Yukon. Under the terms of the Policy and competitive bidding law, the City is obligated to accept the lower price bid regardless of the location of the supplier.”

As Branigan pointed out though, there are also sections of the city’s purchasing policy that the city will consider, among other factors, the reduction of greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting emissions when it looks at purchases.

Wouldn’t purchasing locally, Branigan questioned, mean fewer emissions?

She also highlighted past events where city officials – including Mayor Dan Curtis and councillors – have promoted shopping local.

“It’s like they don’t support local business,” Branigan said.

She has also taken the issue to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and city council members.

Coun. Laura Cabott was the only member of council to reply to Branigan.

Cabott noted in an email: “... I was surprised and disappointed as you were to find out that the City’s current policy does not have a provision for local procurement. The policy is about eight years old. This issue has now come up twice since being elected.

“I have asked for a formal update from sr. management as well the City will be reviewing and revising our Purchase and Sale policy this year (I have asked that we do this as soon as possible).”

In an interview Monday, Cabott noted that while administration had awarded the contract in accordance with the city’s purchasing policy, it’s clear the policy has to be looked at.

“Buying local is just good all around,” she said.

She has asked for administration to bring forward the policy shortly so council can look at changes to help ensure there’s a provision to factor in local procurement.

In this case, Cabott said, the price difference was negligible.

The councillor said she would like to see a policy where local preference is factored in if there is little difference in the price.

As for what the price difference would be, Cabott said, “It’s something you would weigh,” and that could be looked at as part of the review on the policy that’s set to happen this year.

Comments (38)

Up 4 Down 2

Francis P. on Mar 19, 2019 at 4:26 pm

This is a travesty of tax dollars. This is akin to the sole sourced contract of over $1,000,000.00 (one million) dollars being awarded to Total North for the Teslin Network by the present acting leader of the opposition Mr. Hazard! How did that deal ever fly?

Up 4 Down 2

At Xmas the mayor said buy local on Mar 19, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Now he is wanting not to buy local. City of Whitehorse and Yukoners do not be mislead by politicians who have no background in any kind of business or economic development which this does not have.

Up 3 Down 1

City Mayor did not do cost benefit analysis of buying local on Mar 19, 2019 at 2:27 pm

So if we spend 14,000 outside Yukon it cost us 30% of a part time job at $7000 per year and 2 other part time job salaries. No understanding of economics.

Up 7 Down 13

Wilf on Mar 16, 2019 at 3:32 pm

What about the 10% bid difference for local firms.

Up 12 Down 35

David on Mar 15, 2019 at 9:07 pm

They lost out fair and square, I don't see what the big deal is, they knew the rules when they submitted their bid and now they're claiming it was unfair? Why is this a story?

Up 16 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Mar 15, 2019 at 5:49 pm

The two envelope bidding system should be used in tenders like this one where a local firm has the opportunity to bid. Envelope A has the technical evidence to demonstrate they meet the terms of the tender and points are awarded for each criteria; if all criteria are met to the specifications, then Envelope B - the price gets opened. The winner has the best score from both the technical and price point.
It's not a new system, it has been used for many years, but somehow it wasn't applied this time.

Up 19 Down 3

subsidies on Mar 15, 2019 at 5:27 pm

Without a transfer payment The Yukon wouldn't exist as it is.

Up 10 Down 15

Tater on Mar 15, 2019 at 4:40 pm

Hmmm, everyone else seems to be missing an interesting side issue. If you buy your bedding plants from CTire, Walmart, Superstore and so on, they all come from the south.
And as Brian said, if the company from the south has to pay half the contract in transport, which the locals don't, so I think the local should be able to substantially underbody the southerners.

Up 44 Down 4

Head Scratching on Mar 14, 2019 at 6:25 pm

Some of the comments on this makes a person wonder if they think before they comment. Maybe the person that mentioned all the subsidies that businesses get from the city should maybe tell all of us what these are. I know I’ve never received one. Maybe when you think that the city should ignore buying local and we should just “get over it”, check and see if this Abbotsford company is going to sponsor your kids sports teams, or donate to every Tom, Dick and Harry that has their hand out for support. Nope, this is just an order to be put on a truck and no strings attached. Maybe businesses should put their tax bill out for tender and pay the cheapest one. Maybe they could save a few bucks too.

Up 41 Down 26

Yukon Justice on Mar 14, 2019 at 4:13 pm

Why the hell is the City or YTG buying plants. The rose bushes on Hamilton Boulevard should be enough of a reason to never buy anything again. I love it when the weeds and plastic bags get hung up on the thorns. Dig them out and pave them over.

Up 54 Down 3

Watson Lake resident on Mar 14, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Totally off topic but some of the Whitehorse greenhouses should load a trailer and haul to the communities. Stay a few days and your trailer would be empty. Our local greenhouse closed a few years ago and most of the products brought in to the stores here are in terrible shape, have plant bugs and are pretty dead by the time we purchase it. Some beautiful lush hanging baskets would be wonderful.

Up 9 Down 13

could you clarify; on Mar 14, 2019 at 2:36 pm

I don't have the tender either. I'd be surprised if a local company was using nurseries for a tendered contract. There has to be quality control and guarantees on the "life" of the flowers.

Apparently, the flowers from cliffside for this tender were not going to be "seeded" here, but were to be shipped in from outside.
So at that point it's just which ever person wanted more pennies on the petal

Up 26 Down 1

Marianne on Mar 14, 2019 at 1:48 pm

@could you clarify?
I don't know the specifics of the tender, but I do know that this business gets annuals from local nurseries every year, though she might bring in some from down south as well. It makes sense to me that the bid could have been counting on being able to source locally, maybe from more than one firm. The contract seems to have been awarded in time for them to grow the required species. Of course, I don't know if Fay was planning on that, but I wouldn't assume she didn't, either.

The price difference is so negligible that it's easily offset by other factors.

Up 26 Down 12

weird on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Natives write right in the contract;
"If a native sub contractor is within 10% of another non native sub contractor ... the sub contract must be awarded to the native sub contractor

Up 23 Down 4

could you clarify? on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:19 pm

My understanding is that you ship your flowers from B.C. So basically they just got their flowers at a cheaper price.

2nd; it's most likely they'll just subcontract to someone else anyways.
Since we can't see the tender amounts... I'm going to guess on the volume of flowers you were less than a penny difference per flower.

So it was a close bid.
I dislike the Yukon business argument when their is zilch for local procurement.

Up 23 Down 9

Thinking out loud on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:06 pm

Any chance we could go back to paper tenders versus electronic?
That way requests have to be made in person.

Up 57 Down 6

Gwynneth Kroeker on Mar 14, 2019 at 10:57 am

This is absolutely ridiculous and so typical of both the Whitehorse City and Territorial governments. Viability of plants shipped from the lower mainland of BC will not be nearly as good as those purchased locally. The cost of shipping that huge distance is environmentally prohibitive. The policy of always taking the lowest bid almost always ends up costing more in the long run. We saw this over and over when my husband worked for the Yukon govt, years ago. The fact that the city would take the bid from Abbotsford over a local one for a lousy 250.00 is ridiculous and poorly thought out to say nothing of the negative message it gives to their own local people. SHAME ON THEM!

Up 42 Down 4

jessica on Mar 14, 2019 at 8:24 am

Typical Yukon, city and government, local business should be chosen, too many contracts taken by this exact reason by non Yukon businesses

Up 40 Down 4

Brian on Mar 14, 2019 at 8:21 am

Not sure how a company from Abbotsford BC can compete on such a minimal contract. Am sure the quality won’t be there, or anyone to answer why the plants died a week after being delivered. That’s 2330km one way, so 4660km at 62.5 cents a Kilometer, that’s $2900 just in road travel, plus it’s 2 days, like half the bid is travel expenses.
There's lots of Tenders on the TMS system right now and people from even New York are getting Tender Packages.
It’s hard enough as a small business owner to operate here, so they throw a few more hurdles at us and call it “Competitive bidding” to an outside company with no care, connection or contribution to our home.
I am all for competition, but that’s a small contract and should stay in territory. $10,000 isn’t what it used to be. Not with average sale price of homes at over $500,000 in Whitehorse.

Up 52 Down 7

Lizz Wort on Mar 14, 2019 at 8:17 am

What happened to supporting local business!!!! This is dreadful. Local should ALWAYS take precedence unless the difference in quotes is ridiculous. Very disappointed to see this happen.

Up 40 Down 5

Badattitude on Mar 14, 2019 at 8:10 am

I agree with Politico - we should outsource our mayor and council. We could get much better value and the city would be run just as well with teleconferences to India, Vietnam, etc. Yes, we'd lose all those great photo ops with Dan, but...

Up 19 Down 52

greed corruptz on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:09 am

So with all the subsidies you get in the Yukon, you couldn't compete?
Lower your own margins and voila, you'd win.
Liberals killed economies, everyone fights for the $50.00 now.
Before under conservatives, nothing like this.

Up 19 Down 62

timesall on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:06 am

Your price was too high. you lost. Move on.

That's been the Yukon for awhile.

Up 41 Down 6

Dave on Mar 13, 2019 at 11:49 pm

I doubt that the city is properly awarding this contract. If price is the only consideration then it is broken. Badly. Especially that close.

Up 15 Down 31

Six gunz on Mar 13, 2019 at 9:56 pm

The posters below would all be first in line to whine if their taxes went up to support local bidders. It’s irresponsible and likely against COW procurement regs to go with a higher bidder regardless of who it is based on a price driven tender.

Some people, especially Wilf, will complain about literally everything. Just imagine complaing that COW spent LESS money than they could have. Now imagine why he failed miserably running for office.

Up 57 Down 4

Lucho on Mar 13, 2019 at 9:30 pm

The COW bid winners do not pay one cent of property tax or business license fees in the city yet the COW gives them the contract, that in itself is totally absurd. What city officials are behind this ridiculousness. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Up 54 Down 4

Ross Burnett on Mar 13, 2019 at 8:41 pm

Memo to COW council -- it's a policy, not the law!!!!! Be wild and crazy and think outside the box (and for yourselves), apply some common sense.

Up 45 Down 4

jean on Mar 13, 2019 at 7:13 pm

Let's see the CoW's "sustainability" & "reducing carbon emissions" justification for trucking plants from Abbottsford, B.C. instead of growing them locally.
Once again the CoW makes a decision that is not at all "sustainable", and shows how they only pay 'lip service' to the idea of reducing emissions.
Stop the bogus "sustainability" campaign foisted on taxpayers since it's obvious that the CoW does not hold itself to the same standards it expects of us.

Up 38 Down 1

Jim on Mar 13, 2019 at 5:50 pm

Sorry Wilf Carter; City has never had a local purchase preference policy. For years businesses have lost contracts by similar amounts and no mayor or councillor has made this a more public issue. Also not sure why the Whitehorse and Yukon chambers sit on the side lines as well. Although spouting how supportive the City of Whitehorse is to small business, this is when they show their true colours. But let’s keep in mind that it’s not all on the shoulders of elected officials. Administration could make this a priority as well and choose not to.

Up 17 Down 20

Brad C. on Mar 13, 2019 at 5:44 pm

This is what you get with an NDP dominated council. This has me wondering??, what more can we expect? The Liberal did reply to Ms. Branigan.

Up 37 Down 10

drum on Mar 13, 2019 at 5:43 pm

So much for supporting Yukon businesses and Yukoners. Just like YG hiring from the south instead of Yukon Residents only. What will this place look like in 5 years. Northing but strangers who do not care for this wonderful land.

Up 31 Down 2

JC on Mar 13, 2019 at 5:35 pm

I understand gov’t trying to get value when they purchase, but the tender system is not always sustainable for business in the long term. It basically comes down to who is willing to cut their own throat the most in order to be awarded a contract. There’s no customer loyalty from gov’t purchasers, and, unless very specifically worded in the contract specs, no regard for quality & service. It gets very discouraging for business.

Up 14 Down 14

Simoni on Mar 13, 2019 at 4:50 pm

I’m not defending the government’s choice of choosing the external vendor, but I imagine the evaluators were stuck with the only final decision tool they have: lowest price wins. It’s a lousy way to evaluate and award contracts when it gets that tight, but they have to follow (lame) policies.

Up 26 Down 2

BB on Mar 13, 2019 at 4:36 pm

Once again our expensive Sustainability Department is asleep at the switch. An eight year old policy that they haven't gotten around to looking at, which puts price as the only factor in awarding this contract. Perhaps price within 5%. This was less than a 2% price difference, and that money leaving the territory means less economic activity in the Yukon, so it negates any savings from a policy point of view.

I really am glad that Laura Cabbot got elected. This is exactly what I expected she would be like. Smart and motivated, and willing to work. Thank you for being there Laura and I know you could have made more money doing other things as a lawyer. We need you!

Up 124 Down 4

Marianne on Mar 13, 2019 at 4:28 pm

Wow, that is excellent estimating on Fay's part. Hopefully, the result is so stark that the city will be motivated to look at value-added aspects of a local bid, as she suggests. That contract could make a significant difference to local growers, and the quality of their product is very high.

Up 52 Down 41

Wlf Carter on Mar 13, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Here we go. LIberal controlled council does it again. What happen to the 10% difference from outside bidders.

Up 68 Down 11

J on Mar 13, 2019 at 4:00 pm

YTG is the same. I've lost by $10/unit which is less than 1% difference, but it still goes somewhere else in Canada for the contract.

Up 100 Down 11

Politoco on Mar 13, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Gotta love Government purchasing policies. Let's out source the Governments, it would save us some money!

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