WHISTLER, B.C. — Canadian municipalities hope they are helping the federal government make a case against the Obama Administration’s “Buy American” policy, passing a resolution Saturday that would potentially shut out U.S. bidders from city contracts.
Delegates at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference narrowly passed the resolution 189 -175.
Support from cities and towns will help strengthen Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hand as he lobbies the U.S. for relief from the “Buy American” provisions in U.S. President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill, said Sherbrooke Mayor Jean Perrault, president of the F.C.M.
“This U.S. protectionist policy is hurting Canadian firms, costing Canadian jobs and damaging Canadian efforts to grow in the world-wide recession,” Perrault said at the conference, held in this B.C. resort.
The resolution would have the F.C.M. support cities that want to develop procurement policies that would bar bids from companies whose countries impose trade restrictions with Canada,
In order to appease some members concerned about the impact of a retaliatory policy, delegates also voted to hold off on any action for 120 days.
The vote and the 120-delay were welcomed by the Ontario town that led what became a national effort to fight back against the Buy American policy.
“We did allow a little breathing room,” said acting Mayor Clark Somerville of Halton Hills, Ont., “It’s only fair to do that before slamming the hammer down.”
Halton Hills started beating the drum about the negative impacts of the Buy American policies about six weeks ago, after hearing from local companies that they were being shut out of American markets they had previously sold to. Its council passed a new procurement policy two weeks ago that essentially prohibited American bids on local work.
Media reports have said Harper and the provinces are working to present a united front in an attempt to get an exemption for Canada from the “Buy American” policies.
With Canadian municipalities already contracting for about $15 billion a year in capital projects and promises of significant federal stimulus spending on infrastructure to come, it could potentially have a significant impact on American companies if a lot of Canadian cities adopted anti-U.S. procurement policies.
Just sending a message through a resolution may produce action, some delegates at the conference hoped.
The “Buy American clauses in the U.S. stimulus package are intended to ensure U.S. taxpayer money creates jobs in the recession-ravaged United States.
But the provisions have raised the ire of international governments. They have accused the U.S. administration of preaching free trade, particularly during the current recession, but practising stealth protectionism.