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Inuit firms pushed to deal with Baffinland
Company hopes to help develop capacity

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, January 23, 2017

Workshops held in three Qikiqtaaluk communities this month introduced Inuit firms to the basics of contracting and procurement with Baffinland.

NNSL photo/graphic

Kakivak Association business services officer Chelsea Singoorie speaks about contracting and procurement with Baffinland at a workshop in Iqaluit Jan. 16. - Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

The team of Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. and Kakivak Association staff held two workshops in Iqaluit on Jan. 16, and were scheduled for Iglulik on the 17th and Pond Inlet on the 18th and 19th.

"There's an opportunity for firms, both Inuit and non-Inuit from Nunavut, to have access to contracting opportunities," said Becky Mearns, QIA's Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement (IIBA) manager for major projects. "Obviously Baffinland is not obligated to contract only with Inuit firms. They do need to be qualified, have the ability to deliver the product or service in a timely and efficient manner, and competitively."

Mearns offered a broad look at the opportunities and benefits the agreement with Baffinland, signed in 2013, provides Inuit firms. Contracts are one of the four areas the agreement specifically addresses.

Contracting benefits included in the agreement are: advance, direct notice of upcoming contracts; a pre-qualification process exclusive to Inuit firms; priority access and incentive, with bid adjustments related to Inuit content; and rewards for contractors who meet or surpass minimum Inuit employment or penalties for those who don't.

The goal, she said, is capacity-building and business opportunities for Inuit.

Another benefit is access to Baffinland's senior contracts specialist Song Yang, who spoke at the workshop. In the summer of 2016, Yang became involved with the IIBA and developing the company's contracting processes and procedures.

"For the past six months or so, I've been working internally with people at Baffinland, and also with the QIA, to further develop our contracting procedures to better enable and encourage Inuit firms participating in our contracting," he said.

With that in mind, the company developed a pre-qualification process for Inuit firms.

"One of the challenges on Baffinland's side is we haven't worked with many of the Inuit firms out there and we're not fully clear on what the capabilities and capacities of the Inuit firms would be," said Yang.

The questionnaire has 15 questions to provide "all the information important to Baffinland," such as previous projects, work experience, especially in Arctic conditions, health and safety management programs and statistics, organizational structure, and, for larger contracts, quality control and risk management programs.

The company then reviews the submission and the firm is added to the contractor register.

"If a contracting opportunity does arise, the 45-day advanced notification kicks in. Baffinland notifies the QIA 45 days in advance. The QIA distributes the notification to Inuit firms on the DIFL (Designated Inuit Firm List)," said Yang.

QIA launched the Mary River list in mid-2014.

All Inuit-owned businesses that are or may be interested in providing goods and services to the Mary River Project are encouraged to join the list by completing an application package. In order to be registered, businesses must be in the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. Inuit Firm Registry.

Kakivak, a subsidiary of QIA, co-administers the Business Capacity and Start-up Fund, which has $500,000 available annually, and was established in late 2015. The fund is intended to help with start-up capital and financing, management development, on-going business management, financial management, contracts and procurement or human resources management.

Kakivak can also help leverage funding from other programs, said business services officer Chelsea Singoorie.

"It's our hope and our expectation that as the project moves forward and we continue to work more and more with Inuit firms, that will naturally help develop the capacity of Inuit firms and provide Baffinland with a greater pool of Inuit firms to work with," said Yang.

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