COMMENTARY: The political saviours of shop local

Cornwall city council will again go down the road of trying to circumvent or wiggle around rules in the name of shopping locally.

A report will come back to council in the coming weeks about whether it can give a contract to a company that is local, even it costs the taxpayer more money. In this case, the threshold would be five per cent or less. This latest idea is the brainchild of councillors Justin Towndale and David Murphy.

Cornwall city council can’t seem to understand when it’s told numerous times by lawyers that it can’t give a contract based on geographic location or have criteria on where a company is located.

Council nearly got itself in a legal quagmire after it tried to be smarter than the people it hired to do the work, and tried to give a drug contract for Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge to a local firm, even though the lowest bidder was a firm from the Ottawa-area. To top it all off, it didn’t make a lick of difference for the city’s bottom line because the province pays for the drug contract.

The only time we hear about this is when it doesn’t go to a local firm. But council silently awards contracts that go to local firms. Some big ones. Cornwall, Alexandria, Morrisburg, Winchester. But you never hear this until it becomes a case for political gain – for good optics when you can been the saviours of ‘shop local.’

A former boss of mine told me, “spend the money like it’s your own.” After two council administrations tackling this issue, maybe the focus should be on why local firms are not competitive. Is a single contract going to make or break a local business? I can think of some local businesses who threw in the towel on bidding on city contracts but are still flourishing with their own clientele. As for the city, is $50 on $1,000 worth a potential lawsuit?

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