By TOM GODFREY
The City of Toronto is being urged to earmark more of the $1 billion spent yearly on goods and services to help immigrant or visible minority-owned or operated businesses, according to a new report.
A study by Toronto advocacy group Public Interest Strategy and Communications has found the City’s huge purchasing clout can be better allocated to aid struggling newcomer and immigrant-owned businesses.
The report, called Creating Immigrant Friendly Cities – A Program for Toronto, was compiled after two years of research and meetings with members of various communities.
The document was circulated to City Council for their study last week.
City officials award more than 2,000 contracts yearly for goods and services that are worth about $1 billion, according to the City of Toronto website.
The City already has a Diversity Policy for the hiring and procurement of goods and services, providing vendors meet certain guidelines.
Council in March 2012 directed staff to explore ways to use the collective buying power of the City’s 44 divisions to maximize its economic, workforce and social development goals.
“The City of Toronto has a long history of using its procurement to achieve strategic social development goals,” the website said.
The report, in one of 22 recommendations, called for the City’s purchasing, employment and financial processes to incorporate procurement policies that help the multicultural business community.
“Toronto can be a big player in how the economy affects the many different communities that make up our City,” it said. “That capacity for economic change should not exclude newcomers and immigrant-owned businesses.”
The report called on the City to establish supplier diversity clauses in contracts and procurement policies to create more opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurship, while promoting cultural and gender equality.
Public Interest president Sean Meagher said the City has a good diversity program in place that can be expanded.
“We are encouraging the City to expand the business experience as in the U.S. model to include minority-owned businesses,” Meagher told Share. “The City should be communicating better with the community it serves.”
The report, which was sponsored by CUPE Local 79 that represents 20,000 City workers, recommends that goals and deadlines be set to measure the results of programs.
It said it was a “bold and admirable move” by Toronto to declare itself a “Sanctuary City”, which means its services are accessible to all immigrants despite their status in Canada.
“Buses still make far more special stops at churches on Sundays than at mosques on Fridays,” the report said. “Toronto doesn’t have to be that way. Inclusion means this city belongs to all of us.”
It called on the City to provide sensitivity and anti-racism training to its staff and volunteers who deal with the public.
The nine-page document is also seeking for the City to broaden its partnership with the newcomer-serving community to include settlement organizations, faith and cultural groups.
“We are representatives of the nation’s largest community of immigrants and we should have a voice in the debate if not a seat at the decision making table,” the report urged.
Public Interest works with public, not-for-profit, and labour organizations to engage members of disadvantaged groups to improve their circumstances and gain a greater say in public policy decisions.
The group has worked on projects involving the Regent Park Redevelopment and Scarborough Community Summit.