Hay River, N.W.T., businessman calls for more Northern manufacturing support

A Hay River, N.W.T., businessman is calling on the territorial government to think differently about how it hands out contracts.

Kevin Wallington, part-owner of Polar Egg, says the government should consider whether a product is manufactured in the North when it issues a contract to a Northern supplier.

Under the government's Business Incentive Policy, N.W.T.-based suppliers that qualify can bid 15 to 20 per cent more than a southern company and still have a chance at winning the contract. 

For manufacturers, the Northern Manufacturing Policy provides invitation-only bidding, in which contracts are closed to the public and only a few manufacturers can bid. But that only applies to some specific products made in the North, such as steel girders, portable live bear traps, and fuel tanks.

Wallington calls it a "loophole" that companies qualify for BIP but don't manufacture their products in the North.

"Northern companies can make that bid and fulfil the procurement requirements, but that doesn't mean they're held accountable in terms of where they're buying their goods and products from," he says.

Polar Egg recently won a contract to supply eggs to territorial jails and other facilities, but Wallington says the company had to "shave down" its margins in order to bid competitively against southern eggs.

Producing eggs in the North, he says, is more expensive in terms of energy, land, labour and transportation, but eggs are not among the handful of products included in the manufacturing policy.

Wallington says a broader system could help include more northern manufacturers get established but says he's not trying to get government support for businesses that can't make it on their own. 

"There just needs to be a commitment from procurement to close up some of the gaps that are causing exclusion for Northern manufacturers," he says.