An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

Sponsor

Ahmed Hussen  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Dead, as of Jan. 31, 2017
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to provide the Minister with the authority to require an assessment of the benefits that a community derives from a construction, maintenance or repair project.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Oct. 5, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

November 1st, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Thank you, Mr. Atkinson.

Mr. Smillie, I am very interested in your comment about young apprentices. You said that only 19% of people hired on construction sites are apprentices. You seem to be basing this on a causal linkage when you say that you believe that Bill C-227 might improve the situation.

However, you noted that the government can dictate terms already in its calls for tender. So, without this bill, it could impose a certain percentage of apprentices or indicate its willingness for there to be one. The goal would be to prepare the next generation or the workforce and encourage young people. It might even want to target other community members.

Would you agree that the government can already impose these criteria if it wishes?

Mr. Atkinson can confirm that it would be just and fair to all the developers. Indeed, they would follow the same rules and would make their submissions on the same terms.

November 1st, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Good morning. I'd like to thank the three witnesses for being here today.

MP Hussen, who introduced Bill C-227, told us earlier that he did not think it would generate any cost in the system, simply because it would only require adding a line in the contracts. The developer would only have to indicate whether or not there would be economic and social benefits for the community.

Yet I think it's much more complicated than that. In fact, when I was mayor, I saw many contracts and analyzed many tenders. If the answer indicated on that line was “yes”, someone would still need to do a fairly rigorous analysis to ensure that the situation was fair and just for all developers who submitted a contract.

Mr. Atkinson, do you think my analysis is wrong?

Do you really think that if we ensured things were fair and just for everyone who submitted tenders, this analysis would not require public funds?

November 1st, 2016 / 10 a.m.
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Chief Executive Officer, Buy Social Canada

David LePage

Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee, for the opportunity to appear before you and support Bill C-227.

This bill recognizes that every government purchase has a ripple effect. Every infrastructure investment, whether intentional or unintentional, has an economic effect and creates jobs. Bill C-227 offers government the opportunity to add an intentional social value as well, leveraging greater value from existing spending.

Buy Social works with social enterprises, which are often the partner businesses in social purchasing agreements. Social enterprises are small and medium-sized businesses that have a social purpose and reinvest the majority of their profits back into their social purpose.

Let me give you a few examples of how social purchasing agreements have stimulated social impact through subcontracting work between the construction industry and social enterprises, supporting not only the successful delivery of construction contracts, but also enhancing the social impact of existing projects.

In Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, one of Canada's poorest postal codes, EMBERS Staffing Solutions is a social enterprise operated by a registered charity. Its business model is to operate a socially conscious and supportive workplace in a day-labour company. Their revenues exceed $5 million annually. This year, they will create over 1,500 jobs for persons with barriers. These are people leaving prison, people recovering from addiction issues, and others seeking day-at-a-time entry or re-entry into the labour market. They operate primarily in partnership with the construction industry, providing needed skilled and unskilled workers to support the industry's construction contract requirements. They recently opened an office in Surrey to expand their business services and social impact into that community as well.

In Winnipeg, BUILD, a social enterprise working with youth at risk, primarily aboriginal youth, helps with pre-employment and entry-level employment, often leading to full employment in the construction industry. Everyone admires and appreciates their impact once you hear the amazing stories of former gang members moving from crimes on the street to productive employment with companies such as PCL.

The Cleaning Solution employs persons with mental health challenges. A simple but creative supply-chain partnership between the construction industry and a social enterprise has the Cleaning Solution cleaning the EllisDon offices at a construction site in Vancouver.

In Toronto, the Learning Enrichment Foundation, LEF, has for many years been actively engaged in supporting social impact spending as a means to support immigrants entering the labour force. LEF is a community partner in the current Crosslinx CBA initiatives.

What's fascinating is that in 2013 Ernst & Young research found that for every dollar spent on targeted employment by Atira Property Management, a social enterprise, there was a return of $3.32 to government.

We're also pleased to see this bill under consideration while simultaneously the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, ISEC, and the Ministry of Employment and Social Development, ESDC, are engaged in developing a comprehensive cross-ministerial social enterprise strategy for Canada. Bill C-227 is an ideal way of integrating Public Works and Government Services into a larger cross-ministerial mandate focused on community, economic, and social development.

We believe that Bill C-227 will allow government to continue to create the intended economic stimulus that is created by government spending, but by adding a social impact element, that same money can be leveraged to address the most complex social issues our communities face. Community benefits agreements and social purchasing can include skills training and apprenticeships in the trades, as mentioned, and can create youth employment, address aboriginal economic challenges, and provide paths to integrate immigrants and new Canadians into the economy and social networks.

Without added costs or red tape, government can achieve a much greater return on the taxpayers' money: economic return, employment creation, and social impact. Adding intentional social value goals onto existing government construction and repairs spending will ensure our communities the greatest possible full-value return on taxpayer spending.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to the discussion and your questions.

November 1st, 2016 / 9:55 a.m.
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Senior Advisor, Government Relations and Public Affairs, Canada's Building Trades Unions

Christopher Smillie

Good morning, Chair, members of the committee and fellow witnesses.

Canada's Building Trades Unions represents 500,000 skilled trades workers across Canada working for construction companies large and small. We have 250 training centres funded by member and contractor contributions delivering provincial and industrial curriculum for contractors and the economy.

The average age of apprentices has changed over time. We now see apprentices who are on average 28, 29 or 30 versus a decade ago, when apprentices were coming to us straight out of high school. According to BuildForce Canada, over the next 10 years more than 250,000 skilled trades workers will be retiring forever, and industry will be short more than 25,000 workers. We need to capture that body of knowledge, and train young Canadians looking to enter the workforce. Canada's young people need some training.

Statistics Canada's labour force survey lists youth unemployment in the 13% range, certainly worthy of public policy attention. The component principles of Bill C-227 are an important step for Canada's infrastructure future.

Community benefits and, specifically, training on public infrastructure projects, in our view, are key components of Canada's workforce training plan. Large federal infrastructure projects present an opportunity to train young Canadians while stimulating the economy.

If we want apprentices for the new economy, we have to give them the opportunity to acquire the hours required for the practical component of their studies. As a purchaser of construction, the federal government has a choice of contractor, and can dictate the terms of proposals from trade contractors. If government wants apprentices on federally funded job sites, they are free to put it in the RFP requirements like the long list of other things Public Works requires of bidders.

The introduction of this bill gets us thinking about leveraging the upcoming infrastructure spend for a public policy purpose. In the energy sector in Alberta, there is a track record of hiring apprentices as part of the RFP process. Major players in Alberta have been doing it for close to 10 years on new construction.

The evidence from this process is strong. It has increased workforce loyalty, and increased propensity for large energy projects to have a ready-made workforce for subsequent maintenance of their multi-billion dollar facilities. It also helped hundreds of people become journey people. This helps the next project and helps the economy.

We think the government should set thresholds of projects wherein community benefits are required as part of federal funding. It doesn't make sense to apply the training community benefit filter to small micro projects. This can paralyze or exclude small companies from participating. There are plenty of large projects, and retrofit work where it would work well. Set a project bid minimum and go from there. We think the provincial governments and municipalities should get on board considering these issues.

The Province of Ontario will spend almost as much as the Government of Canada on infrastructure over the next decade. Imagine all the training opportunities if both governments worked together on this initiative. Ontario has Bill 6. We talked about that this morning. It's about a year old. So far, so good.

Encouraging construction companies to have a training plan, hire and manage apprentices, and in the end create jobs for people that need them makes good public policy sense. In industry, we struggle to get a majority of construction companies to actually train apprentices. The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum estimates only 19% of Canadian companies hire an apprentice. This has to change.

The graduation rate from Canadian apprenticeship programs is fairly stagnant, primarily because of a lack of work for apprentices who are actually trying to find work. The federal government has a chance to play a leadership role on this file.

I remain available to take your questions. Thank you for the invitation, and I look forward to our conversation with my industry partner.

November 1st, 2016 / 9:45 a.m.
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President, Canadian Construction Association

Michael Atkinson

Thank you, Madam Chair, and honourable committee members, for inviting the Canadian Construction Association to appear before you today on Bill C-227.

As those of you who were here last week know, CCA represents Canada's non-residential construction industry. I was before you on the navigable waters protection act.

We have 20,000-plus firms from coast to coast to coast across Canada. It is our members who will be most directly impacted by Bill C-227, because they bid on projects that are awarded or let by PSPC.

We appreciate that in Minister Foote's mandate letter, she was tasked with modernizing procurement practices to make them simpler, less administratively burdensome, and to include practices to support the government's economic goals, including green and social procurement. Clearly, Bill C-227 is consistent with this overall objective, so we are neither surprised by the bill nor opposed to its introduction.

However, our concerns deal specifically with how this is implemented, and, in particular, to make sure that any community benefits or social procurement objectives that are put into the procurement of a construction contract do not jeopardize the integrity of the competitive bidding system; or, put in another way that you might better understand, do not conflict with Treasury Board's own contracting policy guidelines with respect to tendering, etc.

For example, where an entity wants to have a certain public policy objective achieved through procurement of construction services, they must define that in the document that's soliciting bids. They must clearly define what it is they want the bidders to bid against, and to price. The opportunity has to be equal for all bidders competing. That's a very important point. The consultation process with respect to a local community, to define community benefits to go into a PSPC contract, would have to be done by the department prior to seeking bids. That's the only way that the procurement process would be in fact be complied with. That's an extremely important point.

I think, Madam Chair, I'm a little confused. I thought I was coming here to speak about Bill C-227, but I suspect we're going to get into a very good discussion about social procurement and community benefits. That, we're prepared to do, but it's important to understand that first point I'm making. Your own rules, right now, do not allow you to go to bidders after the bids have closed and ask, “What can you do for us locally?” We had a commission of inquiry in Quebec that frowned on that kind of approach. It's very important that those requirements be spelled out in the tender documents so that all bidders have an equality opportunity, so that it's transparent, accountable, etc. That's very important.

Let's turn to Bill C-227. As I said, we do not oppose the introduction of social procurement or community benefits into contracting. In fact, we see it all the time. It's the manner in which it's done that is so important, to ensure that taxpayers do get value for their money, and that it's done in a transparent way that supports the integrity of the bidding system.

Going to the specifics of what would be asked for in the community benefit agreement, our only question is on whether anybody has done their homework to determine whether in fact procurement is the best tool, or even an effective tool, to achieve that public policy objective. It may be a public policy objective that everybody agrees with—not a problem. Getting more employers to engage in apprenticeship is a laudable objective. We would absolutely support that. However, has anybody really done the exercise to determine whether that is the best means to do so?

Secondly, how do you measure it? How do you know, by putting this into the procurement of a particular construction project, that you are actually having an impact on the public policy objective you're seeking? With regard to the engagement, for example, of disadvantaged youth, is it happening only because it's a condition to get this particular contract? Is it really having an impact?

The Mowat Centre in Toronto did a study of the use of social procurement and community benefits worldwide in jurisdictions that have been doing it longer than Canadian jurisdictions. One of the things the study said was that it falls down if the conditions of the contract don't get enforced by the public sector contracting authority, or there's no metric to measure whether the use of those objectives in the procurement process is successful.

I guess we're here to say that, in general terms, we have absolutely no problem with the bill in what it's trying to achieve. The important point is the manner in which it's implemented. Public owners must define in their tender documents what it is they want the successful bidder to do. That's an absolute fundamental principle in competitive bidding. It's the only way to measure whether you're successful or not after the fact.

The worst-case scenario would be a situation in which, for example, a public sector agency said, “Give me a price on building the new hospital, but also I want to see another envelope as to what you're going to do for the local community.” That's the last thing we want to see in any procurement system. I think that's a key point. The only other thing I would close on is to say that this whole area is extremely important. Corporate social responsibility is becoming something that we are looking at very earnestly in our industry. It's a very important part of doing business today. We have a how-to guide coming out for our contracting members in the industry, but CSR is not social procurement. CSR is a voluntary program that a corporate entity takes on to ensure that what it does as a company meets environmental sensibilities, good HR practices, etc. Social procurement is a government coming out and saying, “If you want to do business with us, then you have to have a CSR policy.” I think that's a very important difference.

I'm going to conclude there, and I look forward to the discussion. Our biggest point is, and I'm repeating myself, but it is so important, that's how something like this gets implemented. When you read the bill, it's very clear we're talking about contracts that are awarded by the minister of PSPC. Those are federally funded projects that the PSPC would build themselves and would be the contractor on. Those projects, quite frankly, are fewer and far between than they used to be. It's not a huge area. Most of the infrastructure projects today are awarded or contracted by the municipalities or the provinces. It's important to keep that separation. Our speech is the same to municipal governments and provincial governments. If you're going to put community benefits or public policy objectives in your tendering, then define it up front. You want a building that is reduced in carbon emissions. You want a good environmental footprint. For Pete's sake, put that in the initial document, and allow all bidders an opportunity to come up with an innovative way to get you what you want.

Thank you.

November 1st, 2016 / 9:45 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you all very much for taking time out of your very busy schedules to join us and provide your comments on Bill C-227.

We will open up the floor to whoever chooses to go first.

Mr. Atkinson.

November 1st, 2016 / 9:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I have three questions that go in all different directions. First, it's my understanding that Bill C-227 is an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act. Why are we, the transportation and infrastructure and communities committee, hearing from the proponent of this bill on this particular act? Why has it not been referred to the government operations and estimates committee?

November 1st, 2016 / 8:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Good morning, Mr. Hussen.

Thank you for your presentation. I apologize for being late. I missed the first few minutes.

I have a few questions about Bill C-227, which I would first like to begin by noting is full of good intentions.

I'd like to know why you think a bill like this is likely to have local benefits in the various municipalities and communities across Canada.

November 1st, 2016 / 8:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

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.

November 1st, 2016 / 8:50 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair (Hon. Judy A. Sgro (Humber River—Black Creek, Lib.)) Liberal Judy Sgro

I call to order the meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. This is the 42nd Parliament.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, October 5, 2016, Bill C-227, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit), is before us, as referred by the House.

We will now turn it over to Ahmed Hussen, if you could please brief us on the bill.

October 20th, 2016 / 9:25 a.m.
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Ryan Gibson Board President, Canadian Community Economic Development Network

This summer the government announced its inclusive innovation agenda, and we're pleased to see that the objectives included making Canada a leader in promoting social enterprise. On that topic, I wish to recognize the report published last year by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities under the chairing of Mr. McColeman, which remains an extremely valuable road map for social finance and social enterprise in Canada.

We applaud Innovation, Science and Economic Development's recent creation of a directory of Canadian social enterprises and the definition they have established for that. Now specific measures related to social procurement and community benefit agreements, in addition to what is proposed in Bill C-227, could go a long way to creating a more favourable environment for social enterprises to develop, but our primary recommendation is to level the playing field for social enterprises when it comes to access to business development programs.

We strongly encourage the government to expand the capacity and access to existing SME services through the Canada Business Network and to other federal business development programs to enhance business supports and readiness for investment by social enterprises, co-operatives, and non-profits. This should be coupled with an awareness-raising effort for government officials to ensure a level playing field for alternative forms of incorporation.

The transition to a clean, low-carbon economy offers excellent local investment opportunities for urban, rural, and remote communities to enhance their resilience and contribute to economic growth that distributes socio-economic benefits. Community-based projects inspire a new kind of social entrepreneurship, building a strong social licence for clean technologies and empowering local citizens, especially indigenous peoples, with the opportunity to reinvest clean energy project returns into local infrastructure, education, and health. This would involve including criteria in new infrastructure investment that prioritize funding for clean energy projects in communities vulnerable to climate change and making affordable financing available to communities and project developers through the Canada infrastructure bank, including federal loan guarantees.

The Prime Minister's mandate letters instructed ministers Duclos and Mihychuk to develop a national strategy on social innovation and social finance. At the Global Social Economy Forum in Montreal last month, Minister Duclos announced the creation of a steering committee to guide that strategy. This is an excellent and essential first step. In dynamic, emerging fields like social innovation, an approach often called co-construction here in Quebec is the only way it can work. We encourage the government to adequately resource the development of the strategy and the sector partners that are required to participate in a meaningful dialogue.

It's fitting that this is the week of co-operatives and that we're sitting here talking about these initiatives.

Thank you very much.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2016 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-238, an act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, put forward by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

I was pleased to listen to the member for Hull—Aylmer, and I have had a chance to speak him on numerous occasions. He did bring back a few of the things that I remember when these light bulbs first started coming into discussion, and how we would have young children trying to sell these to their parents in a fundraiser so we could save the environment.

Of course, there are some unintended consequences that happen, and this is certainly one of those. We recognize what the base metal included in this can actually do. We have so many other issues with rare earth metals that are needed, for batteries, for windmills, and for solar devices. Again, there are unintended consequences, but we have to make sure we understand what all of that will do.

I am glad that the member has put forward a bill that builds on our previous Conservative government's actions to control mercury in our environment. I would also acknowledge my colleague from Abbotsford and the official opposition critic for the environment and climate change for his work on environmental issues. Bill C-238 would provide the opportunity for the House to work in a bipartisan manner, to not only pass the legislation but to kick-start the process of raising awareness and educating Canadians on the safe disposal of light bulbs containing mercury.

Most Canadians are aware of the dangers of not having a proper disposal procedure for the highly toxic substances like mercury. In 2010, our Conservative government put forth a strategy for proper mercury disposal, and, in 2013, we negotiated the Minamata Convention on Mercury, an international convention that essentially calls for tough measures to reduce mercury emissions.

Supporting Bill C-238 is in line with our previous Conservative government's approach to controlling toxic substances that pose a risk to human health. This same approach made me proud to stand with my colleagues when our previous government passed the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, in 2010, banning the use of bisphenol A in baby bottles. I want to stress the importance of all such initiatives.

In the bill, we discuss the effects of mercury, which has the ability, as was mentioned, to be spread between water, air, and soil. Contaminations can have a catastrophic impact on our environment, and the health of all Canadians. We know that mercury is toxic and that it is related to various health problems, including birth defects, rashes, and even death. Even in lower quantities, when mercury is accumulated, it creates a significant risk to our most vulnerable.

Products containing mercury are in our landfills. We know that through this disposal method, mercury has the potential to leak into our soils and water sources. Most Canadians would agree that it is something that must be dealt with.

We, as parliamentarians, have a duty to make sure that our work also creates the right circumstances for us to protect our environment for future generations and ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.

The bill calls for the environment minister to develop and implement a plan or proposal for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. I know that the people in my constituency of Red Deer—Mountain View, and all Canadians, will welcome our efforts to minimize the presence of mercury in our immediate environment and put a stop to the negative health risks that come along with it.

Bill C-238 contains three essential elements: the establishment of national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps, the establishment of guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal, and the creation of a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of those lamps being disposed of safely.

The bill also requires that the strategy be tabled in Parliament within two years of royal assent, and that a review and evaluation of that strategy takes place every five years afterwards. The Liberal government can implement, through regulation and policy, and by working with provincial counterparts, the three elements proposed in Bill C-238 at any time. There is a way to make things more efficient, but with a Liberal government in place, Canadians would not be surprised with delays and unnecessary costs being the result of its actions.

My colleague from Abbotsford has looked at a few similar pieces of legislation to this one that have already been presented in the House. Two such red-tape legislative instruments have been put forward. First, Motion No. 45 required that all infrastructure projects at the municipal level over $500 million in value would have to go through a full climate change impact analysis to determine what the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emission implications would be of those projects. Second, Bill C-227 would place a requirement on contractors for projects within the federal realm.

The member who has brought forward Bill C-227 suggests that projects at the municipal level originally chosen because they meet the current need of municipalities and provinces would henceforth primarily be selected through a lens of their climate change implications. This would impose additional costs on our local governments and additional red tape and delays. For example, if a building contractor wanted to bid on a federal building project, the contractor would have to go through a community benefit analysis, adding additional costs and more red tape for projects because that would have to be built into the bid price. On top of that, it would complicate the federal bidding process by adding more red tape to the process, when in fact these projects should be bid-based on best value for taxpayer dollars or, in other words, best value for the best price.

In a way, I am somewhat skeptical about Bill C-238. Would it be another example of the Liberals over-reaching and ultimately adding additional costs to taxpayers? As much as the motives behind these initiatives are commendable, they are duplicative and would pose additional regulatory burdens on Canadians. That is my fear with this and with most any Liberal strategy.

The member could have moved forward by simply asking the government to enact the necessary regulations through robust consultation with the provinces and municipalities to provide the appropriate recycling and disposal policies across the country. For whatever reason, the member did not do that. We can deal with dangerous toxic waste like mercury now. That essential task is something the government can do now even without this bill. The Liberal government can move forward right now with regulations that set the standards and guidelines for safe disposal of these lamps. The government has the ability to make the public aware of these standards and guidelines.

Our caveat about the bill is the fear that it would lead to the Liberals actually calling for a national strategy, which would take far too long to conclude and create additional initiatives that would come with higher costs, higher taxes, and more red tape. There are many provincial jurisdictions that have programs in place, and by simply working with them we can achieve great results without adding any unnecessary hoops.

When it comes to important issues like emissions targets, research and development investments, infrastructure, and increases in health care funding, the Liberals are quite content to use evidence-based policies from the former Conservative government. While we expect them to refresh these initiatives with some Liberal red paint, unfortunately the overall Liberal program also comes with a massive amount of red ink for future generations.

In this case, making sure that mercury-containing lamps are safely disposed of is something that everyone should support. We should also do the right thing and make sure that our proposed solutions are efficient and, most importantly, effective.

I support taking this to committee in the hope that it will establish national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps, guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal, and create a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of such lamps being disposed of safely. I look forward to a process that will be cost efficient and does not impose an additional undue tax burden on Canadian taxpayers, nor add additional red tape that would tie up businesses, provinces, and municipalities.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

October 5th, 2016 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-227, under private members' business.

The House resumed from September 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-227, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

September 30th, 2016 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-227, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, regarding community benefits.

Community benefits are defined as the benefits obtained by a community, above and beyond the infrastructure project itself. These include but are not limited to local job creation, paid training, affordable housing, green space, or any other benefit identified by the community itself.

My colleagues have brought forward some concerns regarding the bill in today's debate, and previously. I would like to address some of them.

It is, in fact, a myth that the bill would increase red tape and increase costs for small- and medium-sized businesses. It is not true. In fact, Bill C-227 would speed up the approval process, thereby, saving money for small and medium-sized businesses. When communities have been consulted on the kinds of benefits that they would like from an infrastructure project and can see those benefits being obtained from an infrastructure project, they are more likely to support the development process and speed up the approval process for new development.

It is also a myth that business groups and other organizations oppose Bill C-227. In fact, the Toronto board of trade, the Vancouver board of trade, the Montreal board of trade, and many other organizations have come out strongly for community benefit agreements as a good way, as a good economic policy, to tackle youth unemployment and to deal with the issue of including marginalized groups that are not included in the construction industry.

It is also a complete myth that Bill C-227 did not receive adequate consultation. The fact is that I have consulted extensively on the bill all across the country. The groups that I have spoken with include, but are not limited to, the United Way, the Toronto Community Benefits Network, the Atkinson Foundation, the Mowat Centre, Canada's Building Trades Union, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Carpenters' Union, the Province of Ontario, the City of Vancouver, and many others.

The Mowat Centre and the Atkinson Foundation have jointly published numerous studies that have stressed the importance of community benefit agreements for local economic growth. I have consulted all levels of government in the provinces across Canada. Having said that, my consultation process is ongoing. I have already planned many meetings across the country to ensure that I continue to consult widely on Bill C-227.

The bill is modelled on Ontario legislation, Bill C-6. The beauty of that is that we are able to now understand what has worked and what is not working with the Ontario legislation. As such, for example, Bill C-227 would address the concern about implementation and measurement of outcomes. It would do so in two ways.

First, the bill would empower the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to demand from contractors to demonstrate what they think the community benefits would be from an infrastructure project, and to demand an assessment after the completion of the project, to see whether those benefits were indeed delivered. Second, it would also require the minister to report back to Parliament once a year to show how the community benefited from various select building and repair projects.

Community benefit agreements are also in line with our government's priorities, including procurement modernization and social infrastructure promotion.

I am asking my colleagues from all sides of the House to support the bill, Bill C-227. Help me to enable communities all across Canada to benefit from building and repair projects.

I was elected to Parliament to represent York South—Weston, to push and propose legislation that would benefit my constituents. Bill C-227 would do exactly that, by dramatically improving the economic local impact that infrastructure has in local communities across Canada.

This would help York South—Weston and many other communities across this great country.