House of Commons Hansard #157 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.

Topics

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

November 23rd, 1998 / 3:15 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I suggest that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-53, an act to increase the availability of financing for the establishment, expansion, modernization and improvement of small businesses, as reported (with amendment) from the committee; and of Motions Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Oak Ridges, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-53, particularly because it improves existing loan guarantee programs that effectively stimulate economic growth. It helps to create jobs through small businesses. It encourages the kind of economic activity and entrepreneurial qualities among Canadians that can ensure our prosperity in the coming century.

There is no question that the proposed Canada Small Business Act would continue the existing act's history. That act's history over the last 37 years has been to support innovation. It has been there to support risk taking, a significant element of the government's investment for Canada's future. Most important, it is meeting the demonstrated needs of our small business community throughout Canada.

For example, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business released its survey of small businesses this past January, “Credit where credit is due”. Nearly 30% of the business owners who were surveyed listed availability of credit among their most serious business concerns. They need financing for buying and modernizing their equipment, for renovating, for purchasing premises and for buying land.

Two kinds of businesses face especially difficult problems in securing financing. These are very small and very young firms. It happens that these are also the financing gaps that the current act has been especially designed to help.

On the issue of size, nearly three-quarters of the firms taking out a loan guaranteed by the existing act have fewer than five employees, far more than regular bank borrowers who are of the same size.

On the question of the age of firms, the difference is even more striking. It is important to note that almost 38% of small businesses with a loan guarantee under the act are less than one year old. By contrast, among small businesses with ordinary financing from banks only 5% are younger than one year.

It is important to note that last year over 60% of loans under the act went to firms that had been in business for three years or less. The entrepreneurs who start these small firms and the spirit that drives them and moves them to succeed are Canada's economic hope for the future.

Small and medium businesses are the anchor of our national economy. They made crucial contributions to our collective economic well-being over the years. This is an important reason why we should be supporting the bill.

Even giant multinationals started in a niche market, and some quite literally in the corner of a garage. I can point out that Magna International started in Richmond Hill over 30 years ago. Today Magna International is one of the leading, if not leading, international automotive part manufacturers in the world. That environment is exactly what is proposed in the bill to help create those kinds of opportunities. Small business people need the federal government to appreciate and encourage entrepreneurial spirit, the willingness to take risk, which has been the hallmark of our country.

Canada needs over 2.5 million small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs. They account for approximately 40% of the gross national product. Small businesses are responsible for the overwhelming portion of new jobs, 70% to 80% over the past three years.

The loan guarantee program is more than an investment in small businesses. It is an investment in jobs and an investment in job opportunities. We have to do more than talk about it. We have to provide those opportunities. We have to be able to act. The bill addresses those issues. In the last year alone borrowers expected to create an additional 74,600 jobs as a direct result of the loans. That represents more than 2.5 jobs per loan in just one year.

During the last five years borrowers anticipated creating over 480,000 jobs. We consider that the average loan guaranteed last year was approximately $68,000 and that the loan guarantee program is moving toward cost recovery. This is a remarkably cost effective way of expanding the nation's economy.

Governments, financial institutions and private lenders will certainly continue to come up with new ideas and plans for financing small business, innovative services, products and delivery channels. However it is important to note that none of them is primarily targeted to the young, small firms.

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe we are debating the amendments and the hon. member is speaking to the bill.

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

At this point I would ask the hon. member to focus his comments on the amendments.

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Oak Ridges, ON

Madam Speaker, I was highlighting the changes that were made in the bill. Perhaps the hon. member thinks it is a bit of history. It is also helpful to put the amendments in some context, which I was doing, and to address those concerns to members of the House.

As I said, it is targeting the young, small firms whose needs are served by small business financing programs. There is no question that the bill will help assist in that regard. The measure of success of the program is the extent to which small businesses would have had to borrow money without the program being in place.

I would like to point out some key provisions the member was asking about. The bill would provide authority to the Department of Industry to conduct audits to ensure compliance with the act and regulations. It certainly will provide authority to create limited pilot programs, something that we need on a cost recovery basis, on capital leasing and lending to the volunteer sector.

The government's contingency liability would be capped at $1.5 billion over five years. This means again, regardless of the dollar value for the loans made under the act, the taxpayers would never have to cover more than $1.5 billion on loans during that period.

It is clear that economic impact studies also show that the program has been successful in providing funding to firms that predominantly would not otherwise be able to obtain it. The amendments in the bill, as pointed out, would strengthen the capacity and the ability of small business entrepreneurs to provide necessary jobs, to develop necessary technology and to expand their businesses.

Small business is the engine of the country. It is important that all members note that in giving support to the amendments and to the bill we will have a stronger small business community across the country, thereby creating the kind of economic output necessary to continue our strong recovery.

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-53 and the various amendments that are before the House.

Some of the amendments, if I am not mistaking, are enacting amendments or enabling amendments. I would like to focus on the substance of the bill, which is to provide access to capital to small business. The Small Business Loans Act has been an effective tool for helping small businesses access financing over the past 37 years.

Bill C-53 was designed to meet three objectives: to continue helping small young businesses access financing, to increase program accountability, and to move the program toward cost recovery. Bill C-53 contains no changes to the basic program parameters. The new provisions it contains are aimed at ensuring the program's long term viability, cost effectiveness and stability to better meet the needs of small business.

The recent and quite unexpected volatility in currency and trading markets that we have all witnessed confirms again the importance of sound, consistent public policy. Small businesses need stability, even more so at a time when we face the prospect of restructuring in the financial services industries.

Decisions related to the recommendations of the MacKay task force and the proposed bank mergers will have a direct bearing on the well-being of small business, which is the source of economic and job growth in every region of the country.

Small and medium size businesses are the cornerstone of our economy. Their contribution is vital to our economic welfare. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to support the bill before us.

In Canada, there are over 2.5 million small businesses, if we include the self-employed. They account for 99% of all Canadian companies and for between 70% and 80% of all the jobs created in Canada in the past three years.

The SBLA has been serving Canada's small businesses since 1961 and is widely recognized as a necessary and effective program. Last year it helped some 30,000 small businesses across the country to access nearly $2 billion in financing from Canadian lending institutions.

These firms acquired necessary financing that might otherwise not have been available to them for the establishment, expansion, modernization and improvement of their businesses. Some 9,000 of these firms were in rural communities and the majority of loans averaging nearly $68,000 went to firms less than three years old.

Bill C-53 results from a comprehensive program and policy review conducted over the past year in consultation with both private and public sector stakeholders. It takes into account recommendations of the auditor general and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

The Canada Small Business Financing Act will keep the basic parameters of the Small Business Loans Act: loans granted by approved lenders for a maximum of 10 years; possibility for businesses of borrowing up to $250,000; requirement that lenders pay only once the 2% registration fee, which the borrowers can absorb; and requirement that lenders pay an annual administration fee of 1.25%.

Bill C-53 is a step forward in streamlining, improving and stabilizing the Small Business Loans Act. The key provisions are as follows.

First, the bill will provide authority for the Department of Industry to conduct audits to ensure compliance with the act and regulations.

Second, it will provide authority to create limited pilot programs on a cost recovery basis on capital leasing and lending to the voluntary sector.

Third, we are also proposing to replace the current sunset clause. Every five years Industry Canada will conduct a comprehensive review of the program. The resulting report on the program's performance would be tabled in parliament for committee consideration.

As a means of maintaining and ensuring cost recovery, the governor in council through regulation would have the power to restrict eligibility criteria for access to program loans.

The maximum amount of the government's potential liability would be set at $1.5 billion over five years. This means that, regardless of the monetary value of the loans granted under the act, the taxpayer would never be required to cover more than $1.5 billion of the loans granted during that period.

That $1.5 billion figure would only be reached in the highly unlikely event that all loans were defaulted on. Historically, the loss rate on loans is 5.6%, which means that over 94% of all loans were paid back without incident.

This potential liability would be renewed automatically every five years. Loans could therefore continue to be made while Parliament carries out its in-depth investigation.

Since 1961 the SBLA has served the small business community well. The Canada small business financing act will provide an even more effective mechanism for the government and financial institutions to share the risks of lending to small businesses to help them grow and create jobs.

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Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, I will not be using all the time available to me. I would simply like to take a few minutes to speak against Motion No. 3 in particular.

The purpose of this motion is to reduce the maximum available capital from $250,000 to $100,000. My main argument can be found in the title of the bill, which reads “an act to increase the availability of financing for the establishment, expansion, modernization and improvement of small businesses”.

When the stated goal is to increase financing, I have difficulty going along with cutting back on what was previously available to small businesses.

I would like to take advantage of the presence in the House of the Secretary of State for Regional Development for Quebec to point out that this particular program of small business loans is important precisely because of the shortcomings in the programs under the secretary of state's responsibility. Because of the absence of good regional development measures, businesses need access to such a program.

There are the CFDCs, of course, but they are of no help to small businesses wishing to expand. The emphasis is often on new small businesses, which are very important, and capital funding.

The amendment moved by the Reform Party member would not create problems for those wishing to start up a business. However, existing businesses sometimes need loans to consolidate their activities, to expand, to develop and to create jobs.

I often criticize the government's prime interest in big business or high tech companies. I have nothing against them, they are extraordinary. However, these businesses set up primarily around big cities and centres. This is unfortunate for businesses in rural areas, in the regions that want to keep their young people and staunch the flow to the major centres. This program will help local businesses create jobs or keep them. Businesses sometimes modernize to keep jobs. If they do not, they could have to close.

This program then makes this possible, and we in the Bloc Quebecois support it. Though sovereignists we may be in the Bloc Quebecois, we are not always negative, we do not always oppose government measures, although this measure, in our opinion, should have been improved. This bill should have been improved. We would have hoped for a broader vision for all government programs, not only those of the federal government, and that they would have been compared to those of the provinces, especially Quebec, and the financial opportunities offered by such organizations as the CFDC.

Failing the best, we will have to be satisfied with what is not too bad. This is why the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill. Obviously, however, we oppose any attempt to limit the availability of funds to small businesses.

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Pursuant to agreement made earlier, all motions in Group No. 2 are deemed put, recorded divisions deemed requested and deemed deferred.

The House will now proceed to the debate on the motions in Group No. 3.

Pursuant to order adopted earlier today, the motions in Group No. 3 are deemed to have been moved and seconded. This group contains Motions Nos. 6 and 11.

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

moved:

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-53, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing line 26 on page 5 with the following:

“(a) 50%, or any prescribed lesser percent-”

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-53, in Clause 15, be amended by replacing lines 20 to 22 on page 9 with the following:

“15. (1) The Minister will routinely conduct an audit or examination of the”

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to lead the debate on the Group No. 3 motions. Before I do that, I would like to show my disappointment and that of other opposition members. We had an agreement that we were going to move to Group No. 3. The government knows there are more members who want to speak on this bill, however the government has put time allocation on this bill.

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Walt Lastewka St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We were going to spend time discussing the motion directly. This was put by the member from the Reform Party. If my memory serves me right, the previous 25 to 30 speakers did not speak on the motion but decided to speak on the whole general bill.

Canada Small Business Financing Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

We are getting into debate now. I would ask the hon. member to please focus his remarks on the debate.