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TTC puts the call out for new streetcars

Bidding manufacturers must have 25 per cent Canadian content

December 19, 2007 11:51 AM

Toronto Transit Commissioners voted to replace Toronto’s aging fleet of streetcars with a 25 per cent made-in-Canada solution, setting the wheels in motion for a competitive bid that could see low-floor streetcars on the tracks by 2011.

Commissioners approved putting out a request for proposal that will push the limit of Canadian content requirements and still keep bidding for the billion-dollar contract for 204 new low-floor streetcars competitive.

Pushing Canadian content much higher than 25 per cent, according to a report from consultants Booz/Allen/Hamilton, could leave the TTC open to criticism that it’s pushing firms other than the Montreal-based Bombardier out of the running.

The commission faced sharp criticism from some members of council for sole-sourcing a massive subway car purchase contract in 2006 from Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant. This process will allow other manufacturers to submit proposals for the process.

Toronto Transit Commission Chair Adam Giambrone said the TTC needed, however, to make sure as much of the expenditure as possible went to Canadian jobs.

“We’ve had a long look at this, and there’s a desire to use Canadian taxpayers’ dollars to actually benefit Canadian workers,” said Giambrone. “While it’s not the TTC’s job to consider job creation in Ontario we have to recognize there’s a link, and begin to pressure the province and the federal governments.”

Giambrone and several deputations from organized labour noted that the United States employs a Buy America policy, that requires 60 per cent of any large project to be manufactured in America.

But as the consultant’s report noted, Canadian manufacturing capacity is not as mature and a 60 per cent requirement would leave many companies out in the cold.

The commission approved the 25 per cent requirement for the initial order of 204 streetcars - but left the door open for higher requirements on additional orders - to purchase cars for use on new light rail lines constructed under the Transit City program.