A local First Nations educator is pressing the City of Mississauga to set up a new hiring and buying policy to back native-owned companies.
Ojibway/Cree-Mississauga resident Eddy Robinson, says such a move would help native businesses get access to numerous contracts the city tenders for hundreds of goods and services every year.
At a recent council meeting, Robinson made the pitch for such a policy. Mayor Hazel McCallion said city contracts are available for all businesses and asked Robinson for a list of companies run by Aboriginal people in Mississauga.
Robinson, who moved to Mississauga from Toronto just a year-and-a-half ago, said he is unfamiliar with the local business community here, but he says the city has an opportunity to set an example.
“There’s currently a federal procurement policy that specifically deals with services and vendors that are first-nations owned,” he told YourMississaugaBiz.com. “But there’s nothing at the provincial or municipal level.”
The 38-year-old member of the Crane clan said a specialized policy would also be an incentive for native entrepreneurs to work in or move to the city.
“They’re going to open the door to more funding,” he said. “Because if they set something like that up federal government, other governments, other native people are going to see that and it’s going to go on their radar.”
Robinson also noted that all the major Canadian banks have senior staff with a full-time focus on native banking.
City manager of materiel management Marlene Knight said section five of the city bylaw prohibits local preference. She also said, in terms of supporting local businesses owned by Aboriginal people in Mississauga, this was the first time in her 23-year career the topic of a native-specific buying policy had come up.
“Certainly they could be put on a list when we put out quotations and they could put in a bid,” she said.
Due to the bylaw, Knight said she would have to investigate further if the Aboriginal-owned businesses desired a preference. “I think that would have to come from Council,” she said. “They would have to say, ‘We want this’ and give me some parameters.”
However, Knight said if Robinson just wanted opportunities for himself or other Aboriginal-owned businesses on a single-source basis, provided a reasonable price and asked for a contract, she wouldn’t have a previous experience to reference. “No one’s asked me that question before.”
As for the local community, the 2006 census noted 5,500 Peel residents who identify as being First Nations, Métis or Inuit, with 11,750 people identifying themselves as having aboriginal ancestry.
There is also a Mississauga-based Peel Aboriginal Network, but the organization focuses on education, awareness, culture, affordable housing and social activities.