All questions

The bidding process

i Notice

Federal government entities advertise contract opportunities electronically on the Government Electronic Tendering System. Public provincial contract opportunities may be advertised electronically on the following websites:

  1. Alberta: Purchasing Connection and COOLNet;
  2. British Columbia: e-Procurement in B.C. (BC Bid);
  3. Manitoba: Government Tenders (MERX);
  4. Newfoundland and Labrador: the Government Purchasing Agency;
  5. New Brunswick: e-Procurement in NB (New Brunswick Opportunities Network);
  6. Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia Tenders;
  7. Ontario: Supply Chain Ontario;
  8. Prince Edward Island: Tender Opportunities;
  9. Quebec: Le système électronique d'appel d'offres (SEAO); and
  10. Saskatchewan: SaskTenders.
ii Procedures

Public agencies are generally permitted to use a broad range of approaches, provided they comply with the requirements of Canada's trade agreements, the common law, and the agency's own internal policies and procedures. Typically, a public agency will establish internal policies and procedures governing the circumstances in which procurement may be conducted and the manner in which such procurement is to be conducted. These policies and procedures often provide guidance on the procurement documents and procedures, including:

  1. a request for information, which is used as an information-gathering tool;
  2. a request for expressions of interest, which is commonly used to identify which participants in the market are able and willing to provide goods or services;
  3. a request for qualifications, which is used to pre-screen bidders based on a set of qualification criteria established by the public agency;
  4. a request for proposals (RFP), which typically prescribes the outcome desired but not how the successful bidder will deliver the goods or services. The terms and conditions of the RFP typically vary significantly, depending on the needs of the public agency. The proposals may be legally binding or non-binding, depending on the intent of the public agency; and
  5. tender, which is normally used when the acquired item is well defined (often a commodity product) and all that matters is price.

Electronic bidding is permissible and offered on selected tenders.

iii Amending bids

As public entities enjoy a significant amount of freedom to define the rules of the bidding process, bidders should review the terms set out in the tender documents to determine whether there are any limits on amending submitted bids during the bidding process.

Purchasers are generally not permitted to allow a bidder to rectify deficiencies in a bid after the deadline for bid submissions has passed. This flows from the obligation of purchasers to reject non-compliant tenders, which flows from the duty to run a fair competition. Where the rules of the bidding procedure permit suppliers to clarify aspects of their bids, this right should only be used in limited circumstances for the bona fide clarification of a genuine ambiguity in a tender.