OECM Savings | Choice | Service

Savings | Choice | Service

Trade Agreements

OECM is a trusted not-for-profit sourcing partner for Ontario’s education sector, broader public sector (“BPS”), and other not-for-profit organizations. We contract with innovative, reputable suppliers to offer a comprehensive choice of quality products and services, to generate significant savings for our customers.

OECM conducts procurements in a fair, transparent and competitive manner, compliant with the newly enacted Trade Agreements as well as the BPS Procurement Directive.

The Canadian Free Trade Agreement (“CFTA”) has been in force since July 1, 2017 and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (“CETA”) has been in force as of September 21, 2017.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Click on the question to see the answer.


OECM conducts open, fair and competitive procurements and OECM has taken the following steps under the guidance of legal counsel:

  • All RFXs have been updated to include a statement that the procurement is subject to Chapter Five – Government Procurement of the CFTA and Chapter Nineteen of the CETA, if and when applicable;
  • Tender notices have been updated to conform to Article 506 of the CFTA and Article 19.6 of the CETA; and,
  • Award notices have been updated to conform to Article 516 of the CFTA and Article 19.15 of the CETA.

Buying Group

After consulting OECM’s legal counsel, it was determined that OECM may not necessarily fit the trade agreements’ criteria of a buying group because OECM does not:

  • Have a formal arrangement with its customers as a buying group;
  • Know the number of entities who will participate in any resulting agreement prior to conducting the competitive process as the use of OECM agreements is voluntary; and,
  • Provide a commitment of any value or volume during the RFX process as there is no prior commitment from its customers to procure the products and/or services from OECM’s resulting agreements.

Although OECM may not necessarily fall into the official definition of a buying group, OECM does comply with all relevant requirements. OECM lists all School Boards, Colleges and Universities in Ontario as well as the names of all of all Broader Public Sector (BPS) and Not for Profit organizations (NFPs) currently using OECM agreements as an appendix to our RFXs. OECM RFXs also includes links to eligible BPS and NFP organizations who may not yet be OECM customers. OECM continues to update customer information on a regular basis. Where applicable OECM also includes in its RFX’s, relevant historical spend and other business information.

OECM also lists customers participating in the development of RFXs where the customers have given permission to include their organization’s names – with a disclaimer that these customers are not obligated to use the resulting agreement.

Negotiations and Posting Awards

Yes, OECM’s standard practice is to publish an award notification on the electronic tendering system where the RFX was posted. OECM publishes award notices within seventy two (72) calendar days of award. This complies with the trade agreement obligations.

The award notification also includes all information required by CFTA Article 516 and CETA Article 19.15.


All bidders who participate in a procurement opportunity are offered a debriefing by OECM. Once the award announcement has been made, OECM allows bidders sixty (60) calendar days to request a debriefing (per the BPS Procurement Directive). During a debrief, OECM provides the name of the successful suppliers and the reasons why the proposal was not successful.

Bid Dispute

There are two important bid dispute resolution stages outlined in the Province's Bid Dispute Resolution Guide; Stage 1 Consultations and Stage 2 Formal Bid Dispute Resolution Process. The Bid Dispute Resolution Guide was developed in accordance with the bid dispute requirements in the CFTA and the CETA. The table below outlines how OECM aligns with the stages.


Guide Requirement

OECM Process and Alignment

Stage 1

Question and Answer Period

OECM engages suppliers early in the sourcing project process by conducting supplier consultations. The supplier consultation process provides OECM with knowledge, expertise, insight into market trends, and signals the industry that an RFX is being planned.

After issuing the RFX, OECM also holds an information session for suppliers which may provide an opportunity for the proponents to enhance its understanding of the RFX

In all RFX documents, OECM has two question and answer periods – where suppliers can ask questions on the RFX document. These question and answer periods provides ample opportunity for the suppliers to raise questions or concerns and address issues related to the procurement document.

Debriefing Meeting

Once the award announcement has been made, OECM allows bidders (successful and unsuccessful) sixty (60) calendar days to request a debriefing (per the BPS Procurement Directive). These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of a supplier’s submission.

Stage 2
Formal Bid Dispute Resolution Process

A supplier who is not satisfied after the stage 1 process should be provided with an opportunity to submit a complaint to the Review Body.

If OECM receives a bid dispute we will engage an independent and impartial third party should the need arise ensuring the process is consistent with the requirements of the BPS Procurement Directive and applicable trade agreements.

The Ontario government is currently developing a new Vendor of Record (“VOR”) arrangement for bid dispute processes whereby public sector organizations will have access to independent, third party review. The anticipated implementation date is summer 2018 and further details will be shared in the future, following which OECM will confirm if it will adopt the province’s VOR arrangement for bid dispute resolution.


The specific details of the reporting requirements and the manner in which data will be provided are still being worked out by the provincial government. However, we do know that annually organizations will be required to report on the number and aggregate value of the contracts (open and non-competitive) for goods, services and construction conducted above the trade agreement thresholds.

For the past five (5) years, on an annual basis OECM has provided customers in the education sector with collaborative spend data on each OECM agreement they are participating in. OECM can also provide other BPS entities utilizing the agreements with their collaborative spend data.

The province has indicated that it expects to start collection and reporting on the first set of data in early 2018. Once these details are finalized, OECM will assist customers with their reporting, related to OECM agreement use, to satisfy the new requirements.

Single Point of Access

The Government of Canada is required to develop and launch a Single Point of Access (“SPA”) within five years of the commencement of CETA and all entities covered by CETA will be required to make their CETA-related tender notices (not the procurement documents themselves) available on the SPA.

In the interim, the main platform that OECM uses to post its RFX documents is the Ontario Tenders Portal (“OTP”) as noted on the Secretariat’s website. Additionally, a tender notice is posted on MERX™ and Biddingo advising suppliers of the opportunity and directing them to OTP’s website for the RFX package.

Negotiations and Posting Awards

Yes, OECM primarily uses a non-binding procurement process for our sourcing projects. As such, part of the evaluation process may include concurrent negotiations and the details are published in the tendering notice and RFX document.

Prequalification of Suppliers

OECM issues an RFX document based on the requirements identified by customers and may award agreement to multiple suppliers. OECM signs a Master Agreement (“MA”) with successful suppliers, and OECM customers can sign a Client Supplier Agreement (“CSA”) with the supplier(s) and obtain products and/or services on the terms, conditions, and (maximum) rates set out in the MA.

A customer, however, may choose to engage a supplier to obtain a quote for their specific requirements ensuring alignment to the customer’s internal procurement policies and procedures.

Where procurements result in a multi-use list, OECM has updated the procurement process to comply with the requirements set out in CFTA Article 5.08 and CETA Article 19.8 including but not limited to:

  • Updating RFX documents;
  • Managing required notices during the term of the agreement post award; and,
  • Developing a process for supplier inclusion during the term of the agreement.

OECM will manage the evaluation of supplier requests for inclusion in a timely manner and may award agreements to additional qualified suppliers, as well as communicate with customers of any new suppliers during the term of an agreement.

Posting Procurement Opportunities

OECM ensures compliance with trade agreements by including the following information in its notice of procurement:

  • Contact information
  • Description of the procurement
  • Goods/services to be procured
  • Timelines
  • Address and final date
  • Date, time, place of the submission
  • Conditions for suppliers
  • Notice of compliance with CFTA and CETA
  • Procurement method (including concurrent negotiations, if applicable)
  • Language

Posting Procurement Opportunities

OECM posts RFX opportunities for at least thirty (30) calendar days on a public electronic tendering platform.

Under CFTA there is no minimum posting time required.

Under CETA open procurement opportunities must be posted for a minimum of forty (40) calendar days. However, in accordance with Article 19.10 - Time Period, OECM can reduce posting time by a total of ten (10) days as bids are posted electronically (5 days) and received electronically (5 days).

In addition, OECM engages the supplier market in the procurement planning stage via supplier consultations and issues a notice of procurement in advance of the upcoming RFX opportunities.