Creating community benefit agreements
Community Benefit Agreements and social procurement policies are a way to increase the social impact of government procurement and infrastructure spending by aligning them with broader social, economic, and policy objectives.
Community benefit networks are forming in cities across Ontario, including in Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, and Ottawa.
The opportunity for Community Benefit Agreements, Community Employment Benefits, and social procurement is ripe: enabling policy at the federal and provincial levels encourage local governments to articulate how large infrastructure projects will create benefits for equity-seeking communities and local businesses.
Federal funding requires transit projects larger than $10 million to incorporate social procurement targets as part of the request for proposals (as per Community Employment Benefit legislation). Effectively implementing community benefit agreements requires strong municipal leadership to promote agreements that involve accountability to ensure local job and training opportunities are created for marginalized and disadvantaged workers and to set conditions that incentivize bidders to create innovative community benefit programs by rewarding points to them in the request for proposal evaluations.
Another opportunity lies in food policy: significant progress has been made on the formation of a local food procurement policy driven by the Middlesex London Food Policy Council. As an agricultural anchor, the London region is well positioned to solidify its role in creating sustainable food systems that serve the city and the region. Capitalizing on this opportunity requires vision and leadership from the municipality.
A municipal community benefit framework and strong Community Employment Benefit programs will increase the ability of local businesses to bid on government contracts—to keep those benefits within the region. Community benefit agreements in Ontario have resulted in 10% to 40% of new hires for people with barriers to employment and apprenticeship opportunities in infrastructure projects.
Engaging in such work would encourage traditional businesses to develop social programs and
apprenticeships that would be intentionally inclusive of equity-seeking communities. Connecting
purchasing to social enterprises will help stabilize small and medium-sized businesses in the London region.
Community benefits can incentivize private sector innovation to contribute to social outcomes
and to address challenges in the labour market and business development areas. Municipal leadership on this strategy would make the London region a leader in inclusive economic development and community wealth building.
Learn more about community benefit agreements by reading this definitive Atkinson Foundation|Mowat Centre report.