The importance of keeping employment and businesses local

Connecting Council – Public Letter

By COLLEEN TATUM, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Council

Dear Citizens of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo,

Colleen TatumI started my first ever elected position with Northeastern Aboriginal Business Association (NAABA). I credit them, and specifically Chery Alexander with me ever considering a seat in this chair.

I felt strongly about NAABA’s goals of creating opportunity for Aboriginal business in our region. At the time, getting the NAABA RED Link (www.redlink.ca) integrated with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) procurement process was a priority, as was creating more opportunity for locals to do business with the RMWB.

This is part of the reason I stepped up to run for municipal council. This is my home. It’s my children’s home. And, I am honoured to be a part of making it even better.

In 2015, I was shocked to see Suncor Energy posting jobs for their Firebag location, which excluded the local workforce. I pushed hard to change this, and Suncor altered their position to allow local workers to compete for these jobs, while remaining at their Fort McMurray home.

At the January 26 meeting, council passed a change to our purchasing policy.

After feedback from council about the need to create more opportunity for local business, and the RMWB to shop locally; the purchasing team came back with an outstanding option.

We will be the first city in Alberta to have a ‘Social Value’ portion to our bidding process. This will have companies bidding on work with the RMWB, and commit to what they will do specifically to help our community.

We will be the first city in Alberta to have a ‘Social Value’ portion to our bidding process. This will have companies bidding on work with the RMWB, and commit to what they will do specifically to help our community.

This can be done using local workforce and companies, as well as, provide funding for community needs and help any disadvantaged residents gain employment. It is innovative and it goes to the heart of why I love the ‘Shop Local’ movement.

As a remote community, we must pay special attention to this, or we lose businesses and become our worst fear – a place to work and nothing else. We fight the work camp stereotype – over and over. But, without the things that make us a community – retail, services and amenities – we will become just that. We have a need for this policy to go beyond simply words on a paper, or an idea that remains in a silo.

We must have this trickle down to everything we do: to every purchasing decision any RMWB staff member or subcontractor spends. We cannot discount the economic impact our own RMWB spending has on our local economy.
We must lead by example, and hold ourselves to the same standard we are asking industry to adhere to.

This is why I am so passionate about being fully committed to local shopping both for the municipality, and in my own home. The money we collect from taxpayers should firstly, and wherever possible, be spent locally.

Every dollar spent locally keeps local services open, and their employees in a job. We talk a lot about livability, and creating a home for families in our region – Having services and retail is a huge part of that.

This is why I am so passionate about being fully committed to local shopping both for the municipality, and in my

own home. The money we collect from taxpayers should firstly, and wherever possible, be spent locally. The addition of creating a social benefit policy is even a ‘one-up’ on that idea, and will allow even bigger ripple effects.

Our community is facing an economic crisis. We are boots trappers, we are a Northern community and that means working together to get through this. We will survive.

Thank you to everyone who worked to make this policy amendment possible. The effect it will have and the value it will add to our community is truly immeasurable.

 Colleen Tatum is a RMWB Councillor for Ward 1, and has submitted an open letter to the public as part of Connect Weekly’s Connecting Council feature. On behalf of the Mayor and Council, more letters will be published on a weekly basis. Councillor Tatum can be reached by email at tatum@rmwb.ca or by phone at 780-880-0757.

– Connect Weekly –