What is a Community Benefits Agreement?: A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a mechanism to secure and ensure that local communities and equity seeking groups impacted by development projects can get access to desirable social and economic benefits/outcomes. These benefits can include, jobs, apprenticeships, training and other forms of social procurement that directly benefit the community.
Examples of CBA’s in Toronto:
- Eglinton Crosstown LRT - The first large scale infrastructure project in Ontario to include a Community Benefits program. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT will run across Eglinton Avenue between Mount Dennis (Weston Road) and Kennedy Station providing fast, reliable and comfortable transit for communities including eight Neighborhood Improvement Areas. The goal of the CBA is to promote economic competitiveness, productivity, job creation and training opportunities for local communities and priority groups.
- Rexdale Casino Woodbine - Expansion project on the existing Woodbine Casino to include the addition of hotels, restaurants, retail stores, training centre, a 5 million dollar commitment to the building of a child care centre and an expectation to generate 4600 new jobs. Other commitments won include: Community and labour involvement in the oversight and monitoring of the success of those projects, along with more frequent and detailed public reporting to ensure that the targets are met; Hard targets requiring that 40% of new hires come from the local community and equity-seeking groups from across the City, that 50% of the new jobs created will be full time, and that 10% of the apprentices and tradespeople working on construction come from local and diverse communities; Requirements for a minimum 10% of annual operational procurement will be through local suppliers or diverse suppliers, in order to support local businesses.
- Further examples of CBA’s include: York University School of Continuing Education and Markham Campus, Finch West LRT, West Park Healthcare Centre, MacDonald Block Reconstruction Project and TCHC Regent Park Revitalization Phase 4+5
Importance of CBA’s & how to get involved: Community pressure, advocacy, and getting voices heard are key with any ask of benefits in relation to a proposed development. For example, when looking at the Rexdale Casino Woodbine CBA, it took 10 years of community pressure and advocacy work for the agreement to be created and implemented.
Getting involved also advocates for supporting good jobs local to the community, provides first access for some to good-paying jobs in the skills trade and professional industries, it also allows those who have a difficult time in accessing good jobs to get first-hand access to jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities. Getting involved and advocating for CBA’s also reduces poverty and increases social inclusion in communities.
For governments and developers, CBA’s should be at the forefront of economic development, as governments are already investing in development projects and by including CBA’s, it allows for an equitable approach that invests in community first while also reaching other governmental objectives (poverty reduction, affordable housing, etc.) For developers, negotiating a CBA with a local community puts forth a commitment that the developer is committed to ensuring that the local community and residents benefit from the development and also that concerns and feedback are addressed first avoiding negative delays down the road.