Ministerial Question Period: Awarding of Contracts

By: The Hon. Amina Gerba

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Maman statue and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Hon. Amina Gerba: Welcome to the Senate, Minister Duclos.

Studies have shown that Black entrepreneurs have to overcome a large number of obstacles and face systemic discrimination when developing a business venture.

One of the main obstacles they face is access to the federal public procurement process. Having been an entrepreneur myself for two decades, I’ve seen how important it is to have access to the public market. In particular, we know that public procurement can make the difference between staying small and going multinational.

Minister, your department has put initiatives in place to diversify its suppliers. Can you tell us what has been done specifically to ensure that Black entrepreneurs have access to government contracts?

Mr. Duclos: Thank you very much, Senator Gerba. This gives me the opportunity to complete my answer to the previous question posed by another senator.

To answer quickly, you seem to be familiar with the plan to increase the diversity of supply chains in Canada. This plan was launched about two years ago, and one of its sub-components focuses on support for businesses owned or managed by Black entrepreneurs in this country. The plan also includes a pilot project through which a dozen or so procurement opportunities have already been created.

As you correctly stated, this initiative is designed not only to help these entrepreneurs participate fully in growing the economy, in a dynamic perspective that prepares them for larger contracts down the road, but it also brings greater competition to the procurement process, which you alluded to earlier. The more competition there is, the more diversity we have among suppliers. The better the government’s terms of reference are, the higher the quality of the services offered to Canadians will be.

Senator Gerba: Thank you, minister.

The government set a mandatory minimum 5% Indigenous procurement target.

Are you considering a similar target for Black-owned businesses?

Mr. Duclos: That is a very good question. You correctly referred to the 5% target for contracts offered to Indigenous-owned or -led businesses. We know that Indigenous Canadians make up about 5% of Canada’s population and that they are often underemployed. They also often live in areas where considerable investments are needed to improve the quality of life of the Canadians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who live there. We are inching closer to that target. Official numbers will be out in early 2024, and we will see what they look like. We might extend these targets to other groups who are too often excluded from procurement processes.

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