05/15/2012 03:38 EDT | Updated 07/15/2012 05:12 EDT

New Act would give N.B. companies preference on government contracts

FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government has introduced a bill that would allow the government to give greater preference to provincial companies when it buys goods and services.

Service New Brunswick Minister Craig Leonard said the proposed legislation would allow the government to award contracts to New Brunswick firms even if they aren't the lowest bidder.

"It's not always about the lowest price which is the best value for taxpayers," Leonard said Tuesday.

He said interprovincial trade agreements don't cover all products and services, so there are some areas where New Brunswick firms can be given a preference.

Leonard said a higher New Brunswick bid would still have to be within a certain price range in order to be accepted.

New Brunswick's existing procurement legislation was drafted in 1974.

Leonard said other provinces have already updated their legislation, and the changes would bring the New Brunswick in line with trade agreements that are now in place.

But Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau said he's worried that other jurisdictions could see New Brunswick as being protectionist.

"We are a province that exports 90 per cent of our goods, so anything that could be perceived as putting up walls around the province to try to protect New Brunswick companies from outside bids ... could be very devastating," Boudreau said.

But Leonard says the final legislation will find a balance that puts New Brunswick companies on a level playing field with competitors in other provinces.