A city councillor is calling for a “firm commitment” from the Giant Mine Remediation Project Team to ensure northern contractors are benefitting from the clean-up effort set to begin this summer.
Coun. Cynthia Mufandaedza said that she recently had been led to believe that a representative from Parsons – the main Giant Mine cleanup manager – had said that, generally, Parsons does not engage local contractors because of a lack of capacity.
“Nor do they hire local labour, because of capacity and that, in most cases, the point of hire for the team is Calgary,” Mufandaedza said during Monday’s Governance and Priorities Committee meeting, adding that other contractors during the meeting received the same information.
Natalie Plato, deputy director of the Giant Mine Remediation Project, and her team said this messaging came as a surprise given the team’s overall commitment to NWT business.
“Our number one goal is to maximize local, regional Indigenous capacity,” Plato said. “So we already have set our key performance indicators and targets to reflect that.”
Andrei Torianski, socio-economic manager with the Giant Mine Remediation Project Team, said it was the first he had heard of the information. He had explained the team’s socio-economic strategy and implementation plan during the meeting and added that Parsons has two offices in Yellowknife – one on the Giant Mine site and one downtown Yellowknife – where staff members are tasked to try to enhance socio-economic benefits for northern businesses.
“They’re responsible for reviewing contracting performance and putting together work packages to make sure they incorporate the procurement tools,” Torianski said.
Coun. Niels Konge, who owns Konge Construction, provided a different perspective. He said he had been contacted by Parsons to ascertain what kind of services his company could offer at the site.
“I appreciated that phone call for sure,” he said. “Hopefully, Parsons can continue to reach out to local businesses to see what types of services that they offer and see whether or not there’s anything that I can help out with over there.”
Konge agreed that northern residents do need to benefit.
“What is a local company? A local company is somebody who has local people who work for them,” he said. “And those are the companies that I would hope can have the most benefit over at Giant Mine.”
Mayor Rebecca Alty said the question raised is an important one for the city.
“I know the socio-economic benefits are a key thing we all want to see, and because Giant Mine has a pretty tough environmental legacy, we want to make sure cleanup, at minimum, brings benefits to Yellowknife,” Alty said.
“I’m hoping the team will follow up to get more information on that comment and make sure that all RFPs (requests for proposals) are really actively getting to northern businesses and aren’t written off where anybody can be doing any of this work.
“I’m glad Coun. Mufandaedza raised it and it is important the project team follows up on it, based on their comments that they hadn’t heard about it. Because that is not the direction that the project should be going.”
Renée Comeau, executive director with the NWT Chamber of Commerce, said she believes there is some capacity for smaller contracts if some of the large ones are broken down a bit more.
She added that Parsons could take advantage of the GNWT’s Schools North Apprenticeship Program (SNAP) to “start creating capacity as the remediation sector has the ability to grow significantly, not only in mine remediation but also the clean up and remediation of the DEW line and military sites.
“This all being said, Parsons has participated in our Reverse Trade Shows, where businesses are the attendees and they meet with companies such as Parsons to introduce themselves and see what procurement opportunities there are with Parsons, and other companies,” Comeau said.