Thank you, Madam Chair, and members of the committee.
It's quite an honour to be here in front of you to present my private member's bill, Bill C-227, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit).
Community benefits are defined as the social or economic benefits that a particular community obtains from a federal infrastructure project above and beyond the project.
Now that I've defined that, the next step I'd like to take is to address some of the myths that have emerged regarding this bill.
It is a myth that my bill will increase red tape, and that this will be borne by small and medium-sized enterprises. Bill C-227 speeds up the approval process. Once the community is engaged, and it can identify the benefits emanating from an infrastructure project, then they are more likely to get behind the project, thus speeding up the approval process.
It is also a myth that business groups and organizations are opposed to Bill C-227. The Toronto board of trade, the Vancouver board of trade, and the Montreal area board of trade have all identified and endorsed community benefit agreements as good economic policy and as a great way to tackle youth unemployment, as well as to include marginalized groups that are not included in the construction industry.
It is also a myth that there was no adequate consultations regarding Bill C-227.
I consulted extensively across Canada. The groups and stakeholders I talked to include, but are not limited to, the United Way, the Toronto Community Benefits Network, the Atkinson Foundation, the Mowat Centre, Canada’s Building Trades Unions, Hassan Yussuff and the Canadian Labour Congress, the Carpenters Union, the Province of Ontario, the City of Vancouver, the British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba building trades, and many others.
The Mowat Centre and the Atkinson Foundation have jointly published numerous studies that stress the importance of community benefit agreements.
I've also consulted other levels of government in many provinces across Canada. Having said that, the consultation process is ongoing, and I have already planned many meetings to continue to consult widely on Bill C-227.
It is also a myth that this bill will make it an obligation on provinces to include community benefit agreements in their infrastructure plans. This bill only applies to federal construction and repair projects. Furthermore, Ontario has already enshrined community benefits in their provincial legislation, namely with Bill C-6, and other provinces have had community benefit projects on an ad hoc basis without a legislative framework.
It is also a myth that this bill will introduce delays in the approval process for new development. This will just be another box on the form that asks, “Will this project have community benefits, and what will they be?”
Now I will give you some case studies. According to a joint report from the Mowat Centre and the Atkinson Foundation, the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, and the City of Toronto, for example, together have spent over $23.5 billion per year procuring goods and services, including construction.
Just imagine, ladies and gentlemen, how communities would thrive if even a portion of that had community benefit agreements tied to it. We could deliver more training, apprenticeships, and local jobs. Local businesses would thrive.
Community benefit agreements have been used for years in the United States and in the United Kingdom. There are great examples in our own country that highlight the benefit of community benefit agreements.
In Canada, there is the 2010 Olympic winter games' Southeast False Creek Olympic village. This community benefit agreement was formed to create opportunities for local low-income residents and businesses over the inner city in the areas of training and acquisition of goods and services.
In the Waneta expansion project, the Columbia Power Corporation signed a community benefit agreement with the Ktunaxa Nation Council for this project in B.C., which includes provisions for assistance to the community in small hydro development.
In my own riding of York South–Weston, and in many ridings across the city of Toronto, the Eglinton crosstown LRT project has a community benefit agreement to provide benefits to disadvantaged communities through equitable hiring practices, training, apprenticeships, and local supplier and social procurement opportunities, where possible.
Other provinces, such as Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Manitoba, are either exploring or have already moved towards implementation of a form of community benefit agreements.
In the United States, Los Angeles was one of the first successful pioneers of incorporating community benefit agreements. Since 2001, organizations in this city have negotiated several community benefit agreements, which range from living wage requirements to investments in parks and recreation.
In the United Kingdom, in 2012 they enacted the Public Services (Social Value) Act to promote social benefits through public sector procurement. According to the act, a commissioning authority must consider how the purchase “might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the relevant area”, where everyone can get a slice of the development pie.
Madam Chair, this bill is modelled on existing legislation of the Province of Ontario, namely Bill 6. The beauty of this, though, is that through our consultations, we were able to see what is working and what is not working with this Ontario piece of legislation.
Bill C-227 addresses the concern regarding implementation and measurement of outcomes, in two ways. First, it empowers the Minister of Public Works and Government Services to require bidders on government-funded projects to explain the community benefits that the project will provide and deliver an assessment as to whether that project has indeed provided the community benefits. It also requires the minister to report back to Parliament every year on what community benefits have been delivered. Community benefit agreements are also in line with the government's priorities and mandate items, such as procurement modernization and promotion of social infrastructure.
I'm asking my colleagues on this committee for their support of my private member's bill, Bill C-227. Help me to enable communities across Canada to benefit from federally funded infrastructure projects.
I was elected to Parliament to represent my riding, and my role is to ensure that I propose and push for legislation that will benefit my constituents. Bill C-227 does exactly that, by dramatically increasing the local economic impact of federally funded infrastructure projects.
Colleagues, let us move forward on this initiative that will not only benefit my riding, your constituents, but communities all across the country. Thank you.