Cumberland leads Canada, uses existing purchasing to impact society

Cumberland leads Canada, uses existing purchasing to impact society

PHOTO: Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird at Tarbells on Dunsmuir Avenue

 

Around the world, the criteria for how to spend public money has shifted toward achieving a community’s social and economic values, in addition to getting the best value. The Village of Cumberland is leading the way for Canada, along with Comox resident Sandra Hamilton 

 

Comox Valley governments spend more than $100 million every year to purchase goods and services. The criteria for deciding from whom to make those purchases has been historically based on the most fiscally responsible option.

But in other parts of the world that way of thinking has shifted toward spending taxpayers’ dollars more strategically. Specifically, to not only get the best value, but to also provide social benefits.

It’s a concept called social procurement, using dollars the government was going to spend anyway to drive social change and economic development.

Canada has lagged the rest of the world in adopting social procurement, but not the Village of Cumberland.

Cumberland is the first Canadian municipality to incorporate a social procurement framework into its purchasing policy.

And it’s the first Canadian government body to receive certification from Buy Social Canada, an organization devoted to “bringing socially driven purchasers and social enterprise suppliers together … to generate social benefits to communities across the country.”

The village can already point to several community improvements directly attributable to social procurement. And Cumberland’s success has reverberated up and down Vancouver Island, across the province and into eastern Canada.

But for Cumberland Financial Officer Michelle Mason the blessings of leading a nation have come with a bit of a burden. Since the Village Council adopted social procurement in November of 2016, she has been inundated with calls from other B.C. and Canadian cities, including Toronto and Vancouver, seeking information about the policy.

“Most often, the first question is: What is this?” she said.

To answer that question, Mason has also travelled widely around the province making presentations about Cumberland’s nation-leading policy as more communities start to realize the benefits of social procurement. She recently addressed the annual convention of the B.C. Government Financial Officers Association.

The importance of Mason’s role in educating other municipalities about social procurement has inspired a group of Island mayors to envision a Social Procurement Hub that would take her work to the next level.

FURTHER READING: Island mayors work together to create Community Benefit Hub

Cumberland leading Canada

While living in Scotland in 2012/2013, Cumberland Councillor Jesse Kelter observed the Scottish government wrestle with the idea of leveraging public spending to create community benefits. She was there with her husband, who had a temporary work assignment, and her children.

She remembers reading the newspapers about the debate and thinking, “this is about building better relationships with our suppliers, making it more than just a business transaction about price,” she said. “It’s about building a better community together.”

Her understanding of how social procurement could work for local government came from a conversation she had at a Christmas party with Sandra Hamilton.

Councillor Jesse Kelter

After Kelter was elected to public office in the fall of 2014, she posed the idea of adding social values into the village’s purchasing policy during the council’s 2015 Future Priorities session.

“It was an easy sell to council,” she remembers. “And staff were very receptive.”

Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird was on board immediately. She had taken a similar idea to an unreceptive council in 2011 .

It took another year and some outside expert help from Comox resident Sandra Hamilton to help draft Canada’s first social procurement framework, but it all came together when the village updated its purchasing policy in November of 2016.

“Sandra played an initial role early in the development of her social consulting business,” Baird said. “And we were fortunate staff was so supportive. It took all of us coming together to make it happen.”

Hamilton, a United Kingdom native now living in Comox, is Canada’s first social MBA and a public sector social procurement consultant working with all three levels of government.

Scotland has since become the world’s first country to make social procurement a law.

What is social procurement?

The Village of Cumberland has a special page on its website devoted to its social procurement policy, where it introduces the concept this way:

“Social procurement leverages the public procurement process for goods and services, to advance positive economic, workforce, and social development outcomes. Social procurement blends financial and social considerations in public sector purchasing ….”

That’s a lot of words, but the rationale is simple: provide social value for the money a government spends. It’s an invitation for suppliers to advance a community’s social and economic goals through the tendering and procurement process.

FURTHER READING: Village of Cumberland’s social procurement website page

Mayor Baird puts it more directly.

“Our major suppliers are not from Cumberland, so our village doesn’t benefit from the volunteering, sponsorships and all the other wonderful community services they donate in their hometowns,” she said. “So what we’re doing is leveraging our spending to receive some of that community benefit.”

How it works in practice

When evaluating bids for a Village of Cumberland contract, staff and elected officials consider the usual criteria of quality, price and environmental issues, but now add a fourth component: social.

Bidders must meet certain social values determined by the Village Council. They include a living wage evaluation and apprenticeship opportunities for residents of the village who are at-risk youth, aboriginal people, women, newcomers to Canada or retiring veterans and people transitioning into new careers.

Community Benefit Clauses (CBCs) valued at between 5 percent to 15 percent of the total contract may also be added. You can read the list of goals that a CBC should address here.

The Sutton lane multi-use path project

When the local J.R. Edgett company won the contract for separating wastewater and stormwater pipes along Dunsmuir Avenue, it discussed possible CBCs with village staff.

At the time, the village was trying to build a BMX bike jump park next to its skate park. Edgett offered to utilize anticipated down time of equipment and labor already onsite for the pipeline project to provide the fill and finish the jump park.

When Edgett was also hired to build a new bike lane for mountain bikers to travel safely from the Cumberland Recreation Institute parking lot down to the main entrance into the MTB trails, they also contributed to the building of trails in the Cumberland Community Forest.

Councillor Kelter and CFO Mason point out that the policy is not prescriptive to suppliers. They are allowed autonomy to be creative about offering a community benefit, but must meet at least two goals to be considered.

“It’s like we say, here are our goals, tell us how you can help us achieve some them without affecting your price,” Mason said. “Vendors know their business better than we do, and they’re creative.”

Mason said sometimes a company needs temporary employees for the job, so they offer to hire qualified Cumberland residents. Or, the company is from Vancouver and they have to rent apartments for their workers, so they get credit for what they’re already doing.

Benefits for community and contractors

Council members and staff worried that fewer vendors would bid on Cumberland projects after the social procurement policy was adopted. It turned out to be a needless worry.

The village’s last tender for its new water supply UV treatment plant attracted eight bidders, considered a healthy number by Operations Manager Rob Crisfield.

The main concern expressed by the construction industry is for consistency in the Request for Proposal process. Adding a social component to the RFP means a five to 10 page document, which can be daunting to suppliers.

The Island Social Procurement Hub would address this issue, and Financial Officier Mason has been working on creating competitive bidding templates to make it easier on vendors.

But Mayor Baird says social procurement policies are really protections for local contractors against globalization.

“All governments are open to global bids when the spendf reaches a certain dollar level,” she said. “But what will a vendor from far away do for our community?”

Baird speculates that social procurement policies have spread so quickly throughout Europe and Australia because it’s a “means of protecting our own workers.”

Sandra Hamilton

Before helping Cumberland write its policy, Sandra Hamilton worked as the director of marketing for The Vancouver Sun, and owned and published BC Woman Magazine.

Sandra Hamilton

But when she later acted as the business manager for John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, her mind was opened to the potential for social procurement. She was engaged in the Vancouver Olympics effort to include social criteria into its purchasing policies.

“For example, we awarded the floral contract to a company that offered to train inmates at the Women’s Transition Society Prison as florists during their contract period,” Hamilton said. “Half of them are still working as florists today.”

That’s when it clicked for her. Why not add social values into all taxpayer contracts, and align procurement with each government body’s policy objectives?

Hamilton has since earned the nation’s first social MBA and has helped draft both B.C.’s (Cumberland) and Alberta’s (Fort McMurray) first social procurement policies.

FURTHER READING: Sandra Hamilton’s website

She now speaks across the country, and is recognized as one of the nation’s leading social procurement experts. She was Canada’s nominee to speak about social procurement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) symposium in Geneva last February. In March she spoke on the topic at the Canadian Construction Conference in Mexico.

On a local level, Hamilton was the project lead for the FEED initiative through North Island College to get food grown by Comox Valley farmers into local institutions, such as the Comox Valley Hospital.

“Tax dollars drive our economy and shapes out communities,” she said. “But governments are still procuring and buying like they did 30-40 years ago — that’s the change I’m driving for.”

What’s next

The City of Victoria, Town of Qualicum Beach and City of Campbell River are working together on a pilot project to design and develop a standardized approach to adding social value into infrastructure projects.

The Social Procurement Hub will soon solicit for an employee to travel the province sharing information from Cumberland and other governments and helping municipal governments to establish their own policies.

FURTHER READING: The United Nations global review of sustainable public procurement

 

Cumberland UBCM resolution set the stage for a social hub

Cumberland UBCM resolution set the stage for a social hub

PHOTO: Jesse Kelter presents resolution B76 at the 2017 UBCM conference.

Vancouver Island mayors are working together and with the construction industry to ease the transition to a new local government procurement process that includes the achievement of a community’s social and economic goals with a community benefit hub

 

While the Village of Cumberland was the first Canadian municipality to implement social procurement, the program is spreading quickly to other BC cities.

The City of Vancouver expects to adopt its policy before the end of this year, and the City of Victoria has been moving toward full-scale social procurement since 2015.

And Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has been a major player in a group of eight Vancouver Island mayors who have been meeting every quarter for the past two years. And they have worked closely with the Vancouver Island Construction Association.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps

One of the results of their work was to develop a proposal for a Social Procurement Hub.

“What we’ve heard from industry is that they want a coordinated approach (to social procurement),” she told Decafnation in a telephone interview. “They want predictability and consistency in the tendering process.”

The hub would provide templates for municipalities to use in their procurement process, as well as education and expertise for municipal staff as the public sector pivots to community benefits.

The hub got a boost when Cumberland Councillor Jesse Kelter put forward a resolution at the 2016 meeting of the Association of Vancouver Island Coast Communities to advance social procurement in the local government sector, and to create a hub for education and expertise. It passed overwhelmingly. And was subsequently supported at the province-wide Union of B.C. Municipalities.

Victoria has commited $50,000 for two years to fund the hub and the town of Qualicum Beach is applying for a $50,000 provincial grant.

The idea behind the hub is to prove the concept of social procurement works in a wide variety of geographic locations.

“It’s a two-year incubation period,” Helps said. “We’ll find out what’s working, and what’s not working with industry, and adjust.”

The hub would be administred and located in Victoria, but with satellite offices in Qualicum Beach and Campbell River.

Helps said the mayors group hopes to put out a contract for one hub employee who will work with industry and local governments to learn, share experiences and move social procurement forward collaboratively.

The group’s next meeting is in July at Qualicum Beach.

Comox resident Sandra Hamilton, one of Canada’s leading experts on social procurement, has been advising the mayors group.

FURTHER READING: Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps’ task force action plan on social procurement; City of Vancouver working paper on social procurement

 

Bob Cain: Hornby Island’s photographer laureate

Bob Cain: Hornby Island’s photographer laureate

PHOTO: Sand castle building, Tribune Bay, circa 1978. For a gallery of Bob Cain’s photography, click here.

Photographer Bob Cain has documented life on Hornby Island for nearly 50 years, capturing the people, events and rituals of island living in black and white, and going mostly unnoticed. Now he’s sharing his voluminous archive with the world.

 

The advent of the 35mm camera in the 1940s and the ensuing popularity of documentary photography that followed inspired a whole generation of baby boomer photographers.

For example, Bob Cain, of Hornby Island.

But like most who found a creative outlet in photography during the ‘60s and ‘70s — thanks to smaller and more affordable high-quality cameras — Cain’s work never attained the notoriety of well-known photographers like William Eggleston or Annie Leibovitz.

He was never published in (the now defunct) Life Magazine.

Nor was his archive of ten thousand photographs discovered posthumously in a storage locker, as happened to the work of Vivian Maier, a Chicago and New York City nanny.

No, Cain’s photographic work has mostly gone unnoticed by the world, as have the millions of other images recorded by the big wave of baby boomer photographers.

Unnoticed by the world, but not on Hornby Island, where Cain, now 74 and retired, has spent the last 46 years documenting the lives of his friends and neighbors and the ordinary rituals of life on a small island. On Hornby, Cain is famous.

Cain is Hornby’s de facto Photographer Laureate.

But now, the rest of the world can view and enjoy Cain’s photographic collection in its entirety.

At the prodding of his son, Fraser Cain, and a growing sense that something must be done with his large and still growing archive of prints and negatives — for historical reasons if nothing else — Cain has created a website filled with his photographs, writings and other memorabilia.

FURTHER READING: A Bob Cain gallery; Photos from Hornby Island

Photos from Hornby Island is an expansive and rambling website, and low on graphic design glitz. It feels more like a personal album of memories spanning nearly 50 years of life on one of British Columbia’s most eclectic Gulf Islands than a high-falutin attempt to scream “fine art.”

Helliwell Park, 1972

As it turns out, that’s one of the whimsical charms of the website and also of Cain’s photographs.

The website spans an impressive 1,114 pages (as of May 22) and nearly 10,000 photographs broken up into 69 categories. Not even the famous Henri Cartier-Bresson consumes that much cyber real estate.

Cain photographs show the people of Hornby Island and how they live in glorious black and white, captured in a deceivingly simple style, as if the viewer was peering in, unnoticed.

But in every image there’s also a sense of the photographer.

Cain’s unique vision subtly makes his presence felt in every image. It might be a touch of humor created by how the scene was composed or the reality of a tableau completely unaffected by the existence of Cain’s camera.

Photos from Hornby Island also includes images from Cain’s travels and much of his early work around Vancouver in the 1960s. There are also writings, postcards, advertisements and cartoon strips that he has created.

The early years

Growing up in the small community of Marpole — a city squeezed between Kerrisdale and Richmond, near the Vancouver airport — Cain took his first pictures with his mother’s Baby Brownie camera, and later with the more advanced Brownie Hawkeye given to him as an inducement to keep delivering the soon-to-be-defunct Vancouver Sun-Herald.

When the family moved into a new house in Marpole that had a fully functional darkroom in the basement, he started to get serious about taking pictures. He and his brother taught themselves how to develop film and print photographs, as well as 8mm and 16mm reversible movie film.

Young Bob

His first real job in the photographic world came in 1967. He worked at Focus Prints in Vancouver making azos, which are black and white line negatives of copy sent over by a number of ad agencies.

But when, in his late teens, Cain discovered celebrated photojournalists such as Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, he moved beyond amateur photography.

“One of the most stunning photo books was by Larry Clarke, “Tulsa,” which greatly influenced my direction,” he said.

But it’s hard to put Cain into any specific category.

“If I take your passport photo, I’m a passport photographer. If I do your portrait, I’m a portrait photographer. Wedding photographer? Fine art copier? If I spot a tree I like I’m an Artist photographer,” he said.

“I’m just a photographer who can take photos that an insightful editor might publish or I see recordable images on the street.”

Moving to Hornby

“I moved to Hornby for a variety of reasons. I didn’t need to get out of the city,” he said. “What I did need was to get away from my job.

“I was managing a photographic outfit (Focus Prints) and we were getting very successful. I was working 12 to 16 hours a day and beginning to dislike photography. I owned a house in North Van and hardly got to see my wife and new baby (Fraser),” he said. “My marriage was suffering. I had to get away to renew my marriage and renew my love of photography.”

After spending a year building his house on the island, Cain worked for the highways department for five years, then spent many years operating a backhoe business, all the while doing passport photos or shooting weddings for Hornby residents.

FURTHER READING: How I discovered Hornby

Bob today

“I moved here in 1972 and used all my learned skills to try and capture whatever I could of this island society,” he said. “I wasn’t the only photographer here but I was the one that pursued the craft (and the art) the most. So, in effect I became the island photographer.”

Cain also started submitting news photographs from Hornby to the Comox District Free Press in the late 1970s.

(Disclaimer: I was the editor of the CDFP, the “Green Sheet,” and published Cain’s first photo of an airplane crash in 1978. And I encouraged him to send more, which he did for many years. Cain has included on his website some of our often humorous correspondence — sent via snail mail and written on manual typewriters.)

How he does it

Cain’s first serious camera was a Nikon F and three lenses brought back from Japan by a former girlfriend who was Japanese. He has continued using this camera for weddings and portraits until just a few years ago.

His favorite camera, however, is a Leica M6, which he still uses today.

“I have two exquisite lenses for this beautiful camera,” he said. “I also still have a Rolliflex, a 4×5 camera and a 6×9 camera. The darkroom on Hornby is still functioning … but not for long, as I’m slowly accepting the transition to digital.”

But Cain is unlikely to give up the wet darkroom, with its smell of Kodak chemicals, anytime soon.

“There is something restful and comforting about working in the darkroom with the dim light of a safelight,” he said. “I still get delighted when the image in the developer starts to appear.”

Can always carried a camera bag, and says he still does, so he’s ready to shoot anything that interests him.

“I think my eyes have turned into viewfinders,” he said. “I see compositions everywhere.”

What’s next for Bob Cain

When he turned 65, “and the government started sending me money,” Cain notified the Island that he was no longer doing passport photos, portraits and “most of all, no more weddings.” Too many family dynamics, he says, that bordered on assault.

Cain says he will continue to take new pictures until his last breath.

“I’ve already begun to distribute the negatives and contact sheets of any personal and private work to the people involved,” he said.

He hopes his remaining Hornby Island photos will find a home in a museum’s archives.

“Although I’ve had an offer by a collector to appraise my collection,” he said (perhaps whimsically). “Could be worth a lot of money.”

FURTHER READING: The Photography of Bob Cain 

Which 2018 municipal candidates value sustainability?

Which 2018 municipal candidates value sustainability?

Comox Valley governments agreed to follow the Sustainability Strategy in the Regional Growth Strategy, but some are doing better than others. Learn the pertinent questions to identify candidates that value sustainability at a public forum this Thursday, May 24 in Courtenay.

 

Not all Comox Valley voters know about the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy (CVSS) that our four local governments adopted in 2010.

The CVSS provides a detailed framework to meet eight important goals that reflect the visions contained in Official Community Plans and the Regional Growth Strategy.

To make sure voters know about these goals and the pertinent questions to ask candidates seeking office in the Oct. 20 municipal elections, three community organizations have teamed up to stage a public forum at 7 p.m. this Thursday, May 24, at the Rotary Room of the Filberg Center in Courtenay.

The Comox Valley Council of Canadians, Imagine Comox Valley and the Global Awareness Network hope the forum will raise the profile of sustainability in this fall’s elections.

Some Comox Valley governments have done better than others in following the CVSS. Some haven’t done well at all.

The public forum on Thursday will remind candidates (incumbents and announced candidates have been invited) of the CVSS goals.

And it will also arm voters with the right questions to identify candidates who value sustainability and are committed to working toward the CVSS goals.

REGISTER TO ATTEND: Click here, because space is limited

Helen Boyd, one of the forum organizers, said voters should ask for more accountability on sustainability from their elected officials.

“We want to empower voters on the (Comox Valley) Sustainability Strategy,” she said. “And we want candidates to champion some of these issues.”

The eight goals of the CVSS address housing, ecosystems (natural areas and parks), local economic development, transportation, infrastructure, food systems, public health and safety and climate change.

Kathie Woodley, of the Council of Canadians, said sustainability and climate change should be major factors in government planning.

“We have a clear, integrated, long-term plan already designed,” she said. “If elected officials commit to following it, there’s a clear path to a prosperous and sustainable future.”

At the forum, five local speakers will make presentations on a range of issues that relate to the CVSS, and then answer questions from the audience. There will also be an overview of the sustainability goals in the Regional Growth Strategy.

Admission is free, but the organizers ask people to register through Eventbrite because space in the Rotary Room is limited.

FURTHER READING: Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy

 

Will Cole-Hamilton would promote “available” housing

Will Cole-Hamilton would promote “available” housing

For Will Cole-Hamilton, local government is something people do together, not something that is done to them. He hopes to join the Courtenay City Council on Oct. 20 to address “available” housing and other issues.

 

Will Cole-Hamilton remembers when he first realized that local government isn’t “something that happens to you.”

Cole-Hamilton, who will seek a Courtenay City Council seat in the upcoming Oct. 20 municipal elections, was a teenager in Newmarket, Ont. when his parents and friends opposed a city plan to widen their street for better traffic flow. It meant cutting down many beloved maple trees that lined their street.

After his dad made a presentation at the city council, the city made the street less wide, saved the trees and traffic flowed better than it had before.

“That’s when it hit me, government is something you do with other people,” he said from the board room of his wife’s family law practice on Fifth Street. “It’s not something that’s done to you.”

Cole-Hamilton is a lawyer himself — a graduate of Dalhousie Law School — but he hasn’t practiced in several years. Not since he left his Vancouver research practice to start an arthouse video store and an organic grocery store.

Cole-Hamilton moved to the Comox Valley in 2012 with his wife, Shannon Aldinger, and their two children for a less stressful quality of life. They reside in the Puntledge Park area.

“We had two criteria, close to a courthouse and a ski hill,” he said.

He now prefers to run his wife’s office, which leaves him time to coach soccer, run a elementary school chess club, serve on the Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association, volunteer for Imagine Comox Valley and Elevate the Arts and engage with Comox Valley Families for Public Education.

He’s running for election this fall because the city is at a point where many large, and long-lasting decisions have to be made, and half of the council is leaving — three incumbent council members are giving up their seats to compete for the mayor’s chair.

FURTHER READING: 2018 municipal elections, who’s in, who’s out; Cumberland mayor encourages citizens to seek public office

“It’s a change election,” Cole-Hamilton said. “Courtenay is growing fast and the decisions we make in the next few years will determine the shape of the city for years to come.

“And it just happens to be the right time in my life.”

Cole-Hamilton ranks “available” housing as the most serious issue facing the city.

“The city obviously needs more affordable housing, and the recent announcement for supportive housing is wonderful,” he said. “But there is a dire need for simply available housing.”

Out of control housing prices in the Lower Mainland and Victoria, along with the Comox Valley’s natural attributes, has created an influx of population greater than our capacity to build housing.

He said School District 71 has trouble hiring new teachers because of the housing shortage, and some of his wife’s family law clients who are separating are strained going from one house to two.

Cole-Hamilton sees part of the solution in creating higher density within the city, building more compact housing on smaller lots, especially around the downtown area.

To achieve that goal, he would remove some of the barriers to building.

Among them: allowing a higher ratio of housing square footage to lot size, more compact houses, varying the rule of two parking spots per housing unit, smaller set-backs and reducing development cost charges to drive the range of housing types the city needs and where they need it.

He sees an examination of putting four houses on a lot instead of three, and using vacant lots, carriage houses and all other available space to create housing.

Cole-Hamilton believes that a higher density in the Courtenay core is a better deal for taxpayers.

“It makes sense to in fill and plug into the existing infrastructure; that’s less infrastructure required per housing unity,” he said. “And if more people live closer to downtown, that supports safety on the street and business vibrance, and perhaps they’ll only need one car, which supports public transit.”

Cole-Hamilton is also targeting transportation as one of his campaign issues.

“Where we live and how we move around must dovetail together,” he said. “Transportation is normally thought about in terms of cars, but some are too young, too old to drive or suffer a disability and can’t drive.”

For those people, the motor vehicle is not their first choice of transportation, or even an option.

But people who have to drive for work also benefit from more frequent and accessible public transit and more widespread and interconnecting bike lanes.

“It’s a connection that’s not always drawn,” he said. “But when there’s fewer people in cars, it makes it easier and more efficient for people who have to drive to get around.”

He also supports raising the profile of sustainability in this election, and promoting the idea of leveraging tax dollars to create social benefits. His sister works on social procurement issues for Oxfam in England, and he sees the work that the Village of Cumberland has done in this area as a positive benefit.

Cole-Hamilton believes the existing City Council has been moving in a good direction on housing, transportation and other issues. But with so many councillors running for mayor, “someone has to step up.”

Like his parent, Cole-Hamilton sees local government as something people do for themselves.

“I believe that I have the skills, experience and dedication to make a lasting contribution,” he said.

 

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