Pan Am Games diversity push raises questions
Scott Anders, owner of Scooters Group of Companies, with his truck in Milton. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun)
Scott Anders, of Scooters Catering, had hoped to be able to sell his hot dogs, gently smoked pulled pork and St. Louis style ribs at some of the venues during the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Anders thought himself a perfect fit.
After all, events like this are bread and butter for his Milton-based company. When I spoke to him earlier this week, he was just winding down from a busy summer operating his food trailer at the Honda Indy, the Live Nation tour at Ontario Place, as well as a variety of weekend festivals.
But when he went online to the Pan Am website in the spring to register as a supplier with the games' database, he was shocked to see that he had to declare whether his is a diverse business.
That meant reporting whether it is 51% owned and operated by females, visible minorities, Aboriginals, disabled people or by people who identify as LGBT.
He also had to indicate whether his business actually has a "diversity certification."
Anders told me he'd never seen anything like it and that the most he's ever been asked in an application is to send a picture of his booth.
"They never ask what colour you are or whether you are owned by a woman," he said, noting he's been in the business for 18 years. "What does this have to do with being a food vendor ... I just want to sell hot dogs."
He decided not to continue with his application figuring his company "would never ever have a chance" of being selected.
Another gentleman, who did not want to his name or company used, went to a presentation early this year which included a talk by someone from the TO2015 organization.
He heard the presenter say that when two companies are competing for a particular contract, they will lean towards companies with Aboriginal, LGBT and other minority employees.
"It drives up costs and it makes people frustrated where they won't bid," he said. "I've never seen these social biases put into a purchasing requirement ... it made me feel sick."
Anders and our unnamed gentlemen felt strongly that this was a case of reverse discrimination.
What they didn't realize is that they are victims who have run into CEO Ian Troop's vow to make "multiculturalism" to the TO2015 games what "green" was to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
These were to be the People's Games.
Announced with great fanfare in March 2011, Troop pledged to "adopt diversity as a standard practice" in their day-to-day business to apparently harness the economic impact of the games for those segments of the population that have been under-represented up to now in these kinds of massive projects.
"All of our procedures and decision-making criteria will embrace diversity from how we purchase goods and services to how we hire employees and recruit volunteers," he said at the time.
And we don't yet know whether taxpayers are getting value for their money in this initiative.
The Diversity Business Network News quoted CFO Barb Anderson saying in March 2012 that $350 million in procurements were up for grabs and that diversity communities will be "given priority" in the selection process.
But 2015 spokesman Teddy Katz told me Thursday Anderson was misquoted and that they must always ensure they are "receiving value for money" through a competitive procurement process. He added that 90% of the rated criteria during the evaluation of any tender is based on value for money.
According to figures posted on their own website, the TO2015 team reports that about 19% of the nearly $4.5 million of the third-party supplier contracts awarded to date -- out of a total of $23.8 million -- were to firms owned by minorities.
Even large companies engaged in construction of venues like the athletes village and other large infrastructure projects will have to demonstrate a willingness to "include diversity candidates" on their teams and will be expected to regularly report the progress of such initiatives during the construction process, Troop also insisted when he made his 2011 announcement.
In addition to endeavouring to flood the supplier pool with visible and other minorities, the TO2015 team boasted by November of last year and continue to boast that 25% of their workforce are visible minorities, 7% are gay, 3% are those with disabilities and 49% are women.
Asked whether diverse companies and employees have been hired, Tourism Minister Michael Chan listed the same figures provided by the Pan Am brass, adding that they are working to ensure these games are the "People's Games."
But two years after Troop's announcement, we don't know how many have benefited from this lofty, likely overambitious attempt by the Pan Am brass to make diversity the theme of the 2015 games.
It seems the execution has been a problem. People on both sides of the equation don't seem to be happy. Firms owned by white men like Anders are giving up in disgust and diverse firms are not getting much more than a limited number of jobs. Monitoring of large infrastructure projects has been sketchy at best.
Diversity Business Network founder and lawyer Courtney Betty was one of the "catalysts" in the development of the original diversity policy -- based on what the London 2012 Olympics did with its multicultural communities.
But somewhere along the line "that got lost," Betty told me Thursday.
"I don't think there was a real commitment for this to happen ... it was great publicity," said Betty, who stepped back in disgust nearly a year ago.
PC MPP and Pan Am critic Rod Jackson said it is important that games tenders be as "inclusive as possible" to all populations.
"To have a policy that excludes people based on their race ... whether white males or any other group ... is appalling to me," he said. "It's actually reverse discrimination ... we should getting the best people to do the best work."
Jackson said he's already "skeptical" about whether the Pan Am folk are getting the best value for the projects underway and this just adds to the suspicion that all but a select few are getting the work.
"I would really be curious to see if they're (the successful suppliers) just in the Liberals' pockets," he said. "Is this just another case of patronage ... are they taking care of each other?"