Open contracts with private firms


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Submitted By
Martin Sarabura
Votes: 53

The quality and fairness of contracts and agreements awarded to private firms will be improved by ensuring that the key terms of the contract be made available to the Canadian public. A law preventing contracts from being sealed from public scrutiny will help ensure that fiascos such as the Highway 407 ETR contract being awarded to a Spanish consortium for 99 years under terms that I can't see, or the agreement that allowed US Steel to buy Stelco that they are now in the process of walking away from leaving pensioners high and dry. As a citizen of Canada, I also signed that contract! Why can't I see the terms?

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Submitted by Lindsey Marchessault on May 15, 2016 - 10:52 PM

The Open Contracting Data Standard ( guides publication of data and documents about the planning, procurement & implementation of public contracts. Planning information may be particularly helpful to facilitate public consultations and for bidders to plan for upcoming opportunities. There is a related submission here:

Submitted by Claire Woodside on May 13, 2016 - 7:34 PM

As the director of PWYP-Canada, I must stress the importance of contract transparency. Contract transparency allows citizens to monitor and provide oversight for the implementation of contracts between private firms and governments, particularly in the natural resource sector, but also in other sectors. When we speak of contract transparency, we are referring to the disclosure of the original contract in full. Provincial securities laws in Canada already require the disclosure of material contracts for mining companies, without significant concern for commercial sensitivity. In addition, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, of which Canada is an important supporter, also includes requirements for contract disclosure.

Submitted by Bruce Cuthbert on May 13, 2016 - 8:06 AM

Private Sector companies should be able to register to have their products and services available to all 3 levels of government. The current process is far to labour intensive. Get products and services registered, at low to no cost, so that the Public Sector is aware of what is available so they can buy vs. build. Once products are in a government catalog, departments can sue various criteria to develop their short list.

Submitted by James McKinney on April 12, 2016 - 1:29 PM

Hi Helen, I think Martin is requesting the actual text (terms) of the contract, not the metadata about the contracts which is what is available via the open data. I imagine the terms would be made available in PDF format. There may be commercially-sensitive reasons for not disclosing the contracts, but I think it can be explored how such details can be omitted or redacted from the disclosures, how much those redactions would cost, whether procurement processes can be changed to reduce those costs, etc.

Submitted by James McKinney on April 12, 2016 - 3:02 PM

If this idea is developed into a commitment, then with respect to the disclosure of oil, gas and mining contracts, I recommend consulting with Publish What You Pay Canada and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (see For disclosure of contracts in general, I recommend the Open Contracting Partnership. To document concerns of commercial sensitivity, I recommend the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which is already familiar with open data.