Get to know the Government of Canada procurement process
The Government of Canada purchases approximately $22 billion worth of goods and services every year on behalf of federal departments and agencies, making it one of the largest public buyers in the country. Learn more about the Government of Canada’s procurement process.
The Government of Canada is one of country’s largest public buyers of goods and services, purchasing over $20 billion annually on behalf of federal departments and agencies. Shared Services Canada and Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) handle more than 75% of the value of these purchases and play a key role by helping federal departments and agencies to scope their requirements and ultimately help them get what they need at the best value possible.
There are five key steps for Canadian companies to successfully navigate the Government of Canada procurement process:
1: Understand Government of Canada procurement process
In keeping with the Government Contracts Regulations, PSPC carries out procurement through either a competitive or non-competitive process, usually dictated by the amount and type of expenditure. Competitive processes account for most contracts awarded to small and medium enterprises in Canada. The goal of the competitive process is to get the best value for Canadians taxpayers while enhancing access, competition, and fairness.
Most requirements above $25,000 for goods or over $40,000 for services and construction contracts are published on CanadaBuys. The solicitation of bids and quotes from potential suppliers is usually done via an Invitation to Tender (ITT), a Request for Proposal (RFP), a Request for Standing Offer (RFSO) or a Request for Supply Arrangement (RFSA).
Requirements valued below $25,000 are considered “low dollar value procurement”. In these instances, contracting officers may request quotes directly from suppliers, through either a competitive or non-competitive process. Often, suppliers may be selected from the Supplier Registration Information (SRI) system.
Standing offers and supply arrangements
Standing offers and supply arrangements are two types of non-binding agreements between the federal government and potential suppliers of specified goods or services. A standing offer is an offer from a potential supplier to provide goods and/or services at pre-arranged prices, under set terms and conditions, when and if required. It is not a contract until the government issues a “call-up” against the standing offer.
Supply arrangements include a set of predetermined conditions that will apply to bid solicitations and resulting contracts. They allow client departments to solicit bids from a pool of pre-qualified suppliers for specific requirements. By contrast, standing offers only allow client departments to accept a portion of a requirement already defined and priced. Current standing offers and supply arrangements are posted and updated weekly on the CanadaBuys website.
2: Get registered
Registering with the Government of Canada allows businesses to bid on opportunities and receive contracts.
- Get a CRA business number – If you win a contract, you’ll need a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) business number before it can be finalized.
- Register in SAP Ariba to bid on opportunities posted by PSPC.
- Register in Supplier Registration Information (SRI) – To obtain a procurement business number (PBN) to bid on contracts that are not posted on SAP Ariba.
- Join Indigenous Business Directory if your business is fully or partially Indigenous-owned.
3: Find tender opportunities
Canadian government tender opportunities are published on CanadaBuys (previously BuyandSell) if they are subject to one of Canada’s trade agreements and their estimated value is equal to or above the agreement’s dollar thresholds. Search and filter by keywords, category, notice types, status, location, published date, and closing date. You will find opportunities from many public sector entities including federal agencies, provincial departments, cities, hospitals and universities.
CanadaBuys also includes opportunities from the NATO Support and Procurement Agency. All solicitations with an estimated value above CAD $120,000 that are not for a restricted distribution are published on the NSPA eProcurement portal and are available through CanadaBuys. Note that to work with the NSPA, a business must first be registered. Register for free on their website.
To make searching and identifying potential NATO and Canadian government contracts easier, consider subscribing to email notifications from CanadaBuys.
Procurement of Professional Services
There are various other databases that allow Government of Canada contracting officers to purchase up to $100,000 of professional services and real property consulting services and up to $100,000 for construction services without publishing on CanadaBuys.Canada.ca.
- ProServices is a mandatory method of supply for professional services valued below the Canada Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) threshold. They include services like IT, web, geomatics, business, project management, cyber protection, and telecommunication services.
- SELECT is used to invite suppliers to bid on real property consulting services (including architectural and engineering consulting) and construction services valued below CAD100,000.
To access either of these databases, you will first need to first register in the Supplier Registration Information (SRI) system and then request a procurement business number (PBN).
For those offering translation and linguistic services, register with PSPC’s Translation Bureau to support the Government of Canada’s efforts to communicate in both official languages, Indigenous languages, foreign languages and sign languages.
4: Bid on opportunities
Once you have found a tender opportunity, the next step is to prepare and submit a bid. Before you start:
- Read descriptions, clauses, general conditions and standard instructions carefully.
- Refer to the Standard Acquisition Clauses and Conditions Manual.
- Confirm you meet all mandatory criteria so your bid is not considered incomplete.
Once you start writing, don’t forget to address every section including delivery, security clearance, technical, managerial and financial requirements. Remember that the contracting officer specified, not the buying organization, is your only point of contact during the bidding process.
Military contracts in Canada
PSPC is also responsible to acquire military goods and services, including ships, aircraft and supporting services on behalf of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). The department is leading many initiatives including:
- Air procurement initiatives: Procuring complex aerospace systems and equipment, as well as related training and maintenance services.
- National Shipbuilding Strategy: Renewing Canada’s federal fleet for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard while rebuilding the Canadian marine industry.
- Land procurement initiatives: Procuring land-based vehicles and equipment, as well as related systems and maintenance services.
- Marine procurement initiatives: Supporting marine requirements outside of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.
- Electronics, munitions and tactical systems: Procuring a wide range of electronics, systems, weapons and munitions.
Contact PSPC defence procurement to learn more about how to participate in Canadian military contracts.
5: Promote, promote, promote
Promoting your business as a capable government supplier is a must when trying to sell your goods and services to federal departments and agencies. With such an abundance of available opportunities, it can be daunting to even determine where to focus your time and energy, but here are few keys to success when starting out:
Target requirements under $25,000: Because they are considered “low dollar value” procurements by PSPC, suppliers have a better chance at bidding on requirements valued at $25,000 or less, which can be selected on a competitive or non-competitive basis.
Do your research: This can be tricky, as bidders are forbidden from speaking with department and agency end users, but PSPC contracting officers are able to field questions about requirements.
Focus: Do your research and focus your efforts by only targeting departments and agencies that need your specific goods and services. Use the GCdirectory of federal government employees, to find procurement personnel including materiel managers responsible for purchasing planning and tasks related to procurement.
Differentiate: Make sure that departments and agencies understand what sets your goods and services apart from the crowd. Focus on important factors such as your team’s level of education and experience, as well as real world examples of successful applications.
Go Green: Departments and agencies are increasingly being encouraged to “buy green”, so consider drawing special attention to anything that makes your products environmentally friendly or neutral.
Selling to the Government of Canada is not just for large companies. Small businesses in Canada were awarded the majority of contracts from 2017 to 2020, including 74% of contracts valued at $1 million or less.
PSPC offers several resources to help more businesses bid on Government of Canada contracts and here is a sample of some of the resources available:
- CanadaBuys resource guides
- Checklist to prepare to register on SAP Ariba
- Registering on and logging in to SAP Ariba: A guide for businesses
- Procurement information for Indigenous business owners
- Regional information sessions for Indigenous businesses (CanadaBuys)
- Download the mobile app for SAP Ariba (Apple App Store, Google Play)
- CanadaBuys email help
Another important resource is Procurement Assistance Canada (PAC). This department within PSPC is available to make it easier for smaller businesses to bid on federal contracting opportunities. They host many virtual and in-person seminars and events to help educate companies on how to do business with the Government of Canada. Check out their event calendar!
Let’s talk government procurement
If you currently have products and services that governments buy and you are looking to sell to foreign governments, contact CCC to learn more about how the Government of Canada can support your efforts.
Whether preparing a bid for a competitive process or a proposal for a sole-source arrangement, here are some tips to boost your chances of success
While CCC’s government to government (G2G) contracting approach provides a direct, unsolicited proposal route to seize on international opportunities, it’s helpful as an exporter to have an understanding of government procurement processes.
Let us help you explore ways that the Government of Canada can help you win more international deals.