Creating a culture of community benefit agreements
The opportunity to create social and economic impact by leveraging infrastructure projects in London is greater now than ever.
With hundreds of millions of dollars in new infrastructure spending expected to be invested in the London region in the coming years, the need for community readiness and advocacy for strong community benefit agreements is clear.
Community benefit agreements formally require construction projects to incorporate employment and procurement targets intended to build local economic resilience. This could include targeted hiring from groups experiencing barriers to employment or setting a goal of how much procurement would come from small- and medium-sized enterprises and social enterprises through infrastructure projects.
Through Inclusive Economy London and Region, we have been working toward a vision for community benefit agreements to play a deeper and long-lasting role in publicly funded infrastructure projects.
Creating community readiness
This winter we convened a four-part series of meetings with community benefit stakeholders across London. More 20 people/organizations participated, including representatives from all sectors that stand to benefit through the implementation of community benefit agreements.
Who benefits? It’s a big tent: the employment sector, small- and medium-sized businesses, social enterprises, construction labour unions and associations, municipal workers and, most importantly, workers who wouldn’t typically get access to good training and job opportunities. That translates into more good, local jobs—and that’s good for the local economy.
Our four-part meeting series focused on learning together. We brought in guest speakers from across Canada who have been working in this space for many years, including a speaker from Buy Social Canada, the Toronto Community Benefits Network and the United Way Windsor-Essex County.
We drew on our learnings to have discussions about how to move forward as a community. We explored London’s background and mapped out where the community benefits opportunities exist.
London’s $381 million rapid transit infrastructure project is a key example of how we can build something useful for residents—an accessible transit system—and use that build to create new job opportunities for workers who are marginalized. The federal government requires the municipality to embed community benefit agreements in this build.
The federal community benefit employment program requires municipalities to provide employment and procurement opportunities to trades apprentices, Indigenous Peoples, women, disabled people, youth, veterans, and recent immigrants. Over the course of the rapid transit project, it will create good local jobs; let’s ensure the most marginalized in our community get access to those good jobs.
London is also upgrading and renovating its wastewater treatment facility. The project is expected to create up to 80 jobs in the community. This is an excellent opportunity to attach community benefit agreement requirements to projects such as these, so that we yield as many benefits from public infrastructure renewal as possible.
But let’s be clear: community benefits don’t happen without community stakeholders. We need to create employment, trades and apprenticeships pipelines. We need to ensure procurement matching with local vendors, to keep those investment dollars in the community. We need to support those local vendors so that they’re in a position to respond to opportunities.
And we need strong community voice to create a vibrant, long-term culture of community benefits within all new infrastructure projects in London region.
Based on our four-part meeting series, there is great enthusiasm to continue working together to make community benefits part of our regions culture. Inclusive Economy London and Region will continue to make this a priority in our work.
Inclusive Economy London and Region is supporting the creation of the City of London’s appendix for Community Employment Benefits connected to the upcoming Rapid Transit project. Click here for the City of London's staff submission for the community employment benefit program related to rapid transit.
One presentation from Sarah Middleton, Director of Community Impact at United Way Elgin Middlesex and co-chair of Inclusive Economy London and Region's Community Benefits Action Table, applauded the city for starting the process of embedding community benefits in our municipality. She also emphasized the importance for community groups to be involved in the community benefit process.
In a presentation by Mike Courey, Director of the London Poverty Research Centre at King’s and lead organizer with Inclusive Economy London and Region, he encouraged the committee to set higher targets and increase the impact that we can have through the rapid transit project.