N.B. legislature debates hiring American company
Governments are supposed to get good deals for taxpayers. But what happens when the cheapest price is being offered by an out-of-province company?
That’s what politicians in the New Brunswick legislature were discussing on Friday, after a recent tender went to an American company over a local one.
Soleno, a company that builds storm water solutions, has had a facility in McAdam, N.B. since 1994.
That facility employed 33 people, until last month, when it lost out on an almost $720,000 contract from the N.B. government.
A spokesperson from Soleno, which has its headquarters in Quebec, confirms they had to lay-off four employees after losing the contract to an American based company.
On Friday, that story was a hot topic at the N.B. legislature.
“Soleno is only one example,” said Kris Austin, leader of the N.B. People’s Alliance. “Awarding tenders to other provinces and countries, even though New Brunswick companies are bidding on those tenders and coming extremely close to the winning bid.”
Soleno says they had the contract for the last three years. According to their spokesperson, the difference between the two most recent bids was just 7%.
The company that won the bid is American based, but does have a presence in Petitcodiac, N.B.
Austin says he’s hearing frustration from several companies on this topic.
“Some of them have said they’ve even stopped bidding on projects because it seems fruitless to do so,” added Austin.
It’s something that Premier Blaine Higgs campaigned on during the 2018 election.
“We’re losing a lot of contracts, and when I’m travelling around the province, I’m hearing that from everywhere,” said Higgs on August 23rd, at the kick-off event for his election campaign.
On Friday, Higgs said he didn’t have much information on the Soleno contract, but promised to look into the issue.
“We’ve started looking at the procurement act, and so where are the nuances there? We’re looking at other provinces and what they have in place,” explained Higgs on Friday. “I don’t want to get in a trade war or a work war across provinces, because that hurts companies here, but I do want to make sure it’s fair.”
“Having access to other markets will help New Brunswick companies to grow even more and to get even more competitive, and to actually grow our provincial economy,” added Liberal MLA Roger Melanson. “We cannot forget that free trade goes both ways.”
For its part, Soleno says it’s disappointed about this latest loss, mostly for its employees.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.