rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Economic study supports 'buy local' as Harper tries to ban it in EU trade deal

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

In a timely reminder of where the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement goes terribly wrong, a new report out of British Columbia explains the importance of "buy local" policies to the strength of communities. The report, The Power of Purchasing: The Economic Impacts of Local Procurement, is a co-production of the Columbia Institute, LOCO BC and ISIS Research Centre. Its astounding, though not surprising, main finding is that municipal purchasing from locally-based suppliers "creates nearly twice as much benefit to the local economy as buying from multinational chains."

"Canadians are concerned about sustainability, and governments and institutions are looking for ways to strengthen their local economy. Finding opportunities for increasing local procurement can address all of these goals," said Charley Beresford, executive director at the Columbia Institute, in press release about the report.

"When local purchasing dollars are re-circulated in the local economy they create good jobs and build local business," added Joanna Buczkowska, managing director at the ISIS Research Centre, part of UBC's Sauder School of Business. "It's a very meaningful way of growing local economies while supporting our communities."

The report uses the example of an office supplies company, Mills Basics, to show the benefits of local sourcing for municipalities, school boards and other public agencies. In B.C. alone, local governments and school boards spend about $6.7 billion annually on public procurement, according to the study. Mills Basics recirculates 33.1 per cent of its revenues to other B.C. businesses compared to between 16.6 and 18.7 per cent for multinational competitors.

"This presents a 77 to 100 per cent economic advantage for B.C. from buying local," the report says. "Using provincial multipliers to translate this into jobs shows that this leads to a 80 to 100 per cent increase in jobs per million dollars spent."

Trading away right to buy local

While trade agreements are not mentioned, the report explains that "the conventional wisdom governing procurement is that it should be unbiased toward potential suppliers and provide the best value for money, with value often defined narrowly in terms of the lowest price or bid for a contract." This is the CETA model in a nutshell. Any municipalities covered by procurement rules in the EU trade deal will have to treat bids from France as equal to bids from their backyard. If they don't, they could find themselves in court.

An editorial in the Powell River Peak thinks this is a problem.

"CETA, which critics contend has more to do with corporate rights and profits than trade, has the ability of prohibiting municipalities from supporting goods and services that favour Canadian producers," writes the paper this week, referring to the new B.C. report on the value of local spending. "European corporations want the same access to government business as local companies. This will only hamper the ability of municipalities to support the local economy."

On Monday, Canada's trade minister, Ed Fast, told municipal councillors attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in Vancouver that communities will retain the right to buy locally but only on small contracts (less than $350,000 for goods or services, or a low $8.5 million for construction projects). Above that threshold, CETA will permanently take away the ability of cities to get the most bang for their buck on the bigger purhcases, as the Columbia Institute, LOCO and IBIS paper shows.

(The Council of Canadians Vancouver-Burnaby chapter was at the FCM last Friday handing out hundreds of 'I Say NO to CETA' buttons to councillors on their way into the meeting -- see photo.)

Not too late to take cities out of CETA

Prime Minister Harper will leave Friday on a week-long trip to Europe, where he is expected to conclude (or very nearly conclude) the CETA negotiations and sign a deal in principle that no one will have seen. We have seen many leaked documents from the negotiations, however, so we know that municipal governments are covered by these procurement restrictions. What we don't know is how extensively their spending will be covered (e.g. if energy or transit purchases are included, or other big projects where buying locally makes a lot of sense).

If you have not yet approached your local councillor or mayor about the EU deal and your concerns about how it will ban buy local policies, it's not too late. You can find resources to help you do that, as well as a map of communities that have passed motions opposing CETA, on our website here. The City of Duncan, BC is the most recent (May 21) to vote for a permanent exemption from the Canada-EU deal. If Harper does conclude CETA negotiations (in principle) this month, it will be even more important for us to make sure that communities who requested to be excluded from the deal have that option.

To new report The Power of Purchasing can be read here.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.