FEDERAL GOVERNMENT POLICY POSITION
WHAT IS IT:
Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) — are agreements between developers and coalitions of community organizations, addressing a broad range of community needs designed to ensure that affected residents share in the benefits of major developments. They allow community groups to have a voice in shaping a project, to press for community benefits that are tailored to their particular needs, and to enforce developer’s promises. CBAs are only one aspect of a growing new movement towards community benefits in land-use planning, taking shape through labour-community partnerships around the country.
CBA’s can be used to address economic development and growth, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability in neighbourhoods across Canada.
Bill C-227, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit), will:
1. Empower the Minister of Public Works and Government Services to require bidders on government funded projects to explain the community benefits that the project will provide
2. Requires the Minister to report back to Parliament every year on what community benefits have been delivered
An effective CBA is grounded in four core principles:
1. It is negotiated by a coalition that effectively represents the interests of the impacted community
2. The CBA process is transparent, inclusive, and accessible to the community;
3. The terms provide specific, concrete, meaningful benefits, and deliver what the community needs; and
4. There are clearly defined, formal means by which the community can hold the developer (and other parties) accountable to their obligations.
Job creation, training opportunities, improvement of public space within the community and any other specific benefits identified by the community
1. Small group of community signatories handpicked by developer.
2. Conflicts of interest between community signatories and broader community.
3. Terms of agreement aspirational, broad, with few details on execution and funding.
4. Lack of enforcement mechanisms and independent compliance monitor requirement never fulfilled
5. Increased Red Tape
SURREY BOARD OF TRADE PROPOSED POSITION ON BILL C-227:
The Surrey Board of Trade does not support Bill C-227.
The rationale for non-support lies with the following concerns:
· The onus is on bidders (not confirmed contractors) to develop CBAs with various local stakeholders for publicly funded projects
o The cost in time, human and financial resources will increase substantially in just preparing a bid with no guarantees that the development of a CBA will assist in a bid’s potential success
o Unclear in the legislation as to who is responsible for identifying the community organizations – local government?
o Unclear in the legislation how extensive the inclusion of community organizations need to be
o All public projects currently have open houses, outreach sessions, and online feedback mechanisms hosted by the relevant government agency (the procurer) – is this a means of off-loading that responsibility and cost onto developers?
· The process is vulnerable to well-organized community groups that may oppose a potential federal project
o Legislation is not clear on whether community groups have the ability to veto projects if their agenda or particular list of benefit wants are not met
o E.g., Tsawwassen groups, such as APE, will not support a terminal 2 expansion project regardless of how many benefits it will bring to the community
· Conversely, community groups, if any, may not have the capacity to work with potential bidders in a meaningful way that would develop real benefits
o This is a concern in smaller communities, and as with First Nations, outside consultants could be contracted to review proposed bids and assist in developing the CBA – who would bear the cost of the consultant? The bidder or the local community?
· Once contracted, the developer is then required to supply annual extensive reports to the Ministry on how well the project is meeting a set of criteria as determined by the CBA process
o Again, is this a means of off-loading the responsibility and cost onto the builder from relevant public agency/ies?
o The level of Red Tape such reporting engenders will be costly and may have to be incorporated into the cost of the overall project, thereby increasing the flow-through costs on to taxpayers
The Surrey Board of Trade, in this industry space, already work with local communities to provide amenities such as green spaces or higher standard of buildings than the building code requires after working with government representatives and community organizations. However, with few details in the legislation to protect bidders from cost-overruns on preparing bids and the requirement to provide evidence of benefit annually, the team is not willing to recommend support at this time.