Cost, Quality and Accountability
Public tendering versus self-performance
for municipal infrastructure delivery in Canada
For more than 200 years and with few exceptions, Canada’s
municipal infrastructure has been built and maintained
by private contractors through the public tendering process.
As our cities and towns have been established, so to have the local
civil contractors that have supported their development, whether
through building and maintaining roads and bridges, installing sewer,
water and hydroelectric systems and generally delivering the core
infrastructure that enables growth and economic prosperity.
The time and legal-tested public tendering system that has
evolved in Canada ensures the lowest cost for taxpayers and enshrines
the principles of fairness, transparency and accountability
in the municipal procurement process. The system has supported
the development of a highly skilled and efficient civil contracting industry
– small, large and specialized contractors that, in turn, are
cornerstones of local economies. They employ local workers, produce
or source materials locally, provide considerable local tax revenue
and invest heavily in local economic development.
QUESTIONING MUNICIPAL SELF-PERFORMANCE
Where a municipal council might consider self-performing infrastructure
construction and/or maintenance, it must weigh any perceived
benefit to their constituents with any negative impacts that
such a decision might entail.
The broad question facing elected municipal officials must
always be: “Does self-performance, or ‘in-house’ performance,
of infrastructure construction work meet the imperatives
of cost, quality and accountability?”
This document presents some of the specific questions municipalities
should consider when assessing the potential risks and
benefits of self-performing their infrastructure construction and
maintenance. The costs and risks identified are all reflected in private
contractors’ bids for tendered work. It does not suggest definitive
answers to these pertinent questions, but rather provides
some useful context and perspective to assist councils in analyzing
The following pages detail a list of questions developed by SHCA that
every municipal council – urban or rural – should ask themselves
before tackling their infrastructure needs.
thinkbigmagazine.ca | Quarter 3 2019 | Think BIG 5