‘Cheapest isn’t always best’ when choosing city contractors, Motkaluk says

Mayoral candidate says city should consider the merit of bids, not just bid price for infrastructure projects

Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk wants the city to select planning, design and construction contractors based on qualifications, not on price. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk doesn’t want the lowest-bidder-wins standard to decide who designs and builds major infrastructure projects in the city.

In a campaign announcement Tuesday, Motkaluk said the lowest price should not be the sole qualification when selecting contractors for designing, planning and construction work. She said the city should consider the merit of each bid.

“The current and past administrations failed to recognize that cheapest isn’t always best,” Motkaluk said during a news conference.

The City of Winnipeg uses the request-for-proposals model to award most infrastructure projects, where firms list their qualifications and plans to complete the project.

Price is just one of the categories evaluated, but Motkaluk argued the bid price tends to be the deciding factor.

She said the current model the city employs is adversarial, resulting in confrontations with bidders, project delays and cost overruns. She argues the city would save money and time by choosing the most-qualified contractors.

“We’ve had way too many experiences as taxpayers where we’re on the hook for millions and millions of dollars, and I can’t think of a single reason why we shouldn’t consider industry-wide, best purchasing practices.”

Incumbent mayoral candidate Brian Bowman’s camp dismissed Motkaluk’s assertion that price rules all.

Under the request-for-proposals model the city uses, the bid price receives anywhere from 10 to 40 per cent of the points available to bidders.

“Price still matters. Mayor Bowman does not support the candidate’s desire to ignore price by giving construction companies undefined ‘flexibility’ to win public sector contracts at any cost to taxpayers,” said a statement from Bowman’s campaign.

The Manitoba Association of Architects and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities are among the organizations endorsing the qualifications-based selection, or QBS, process for awarding engineering or architecture contracts.

This process has been adopted in other cities, including Calgary, Coquitlam, B.C., and London, Ont., Motkaluk’s campaign said.

Winnipeg’s election is on Oct. 24.