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.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

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

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, agreements on community benefits are definitely vectors of social and economic development at the local level. Today, it seems that creating such agreements is a progressive idea and an opportunity that we should seize.

I would like to say that I will be supporting this bill at second reading stage.

The NDP believes that we must promote local growth, training and employment by increasing investments in public infrastructure and promoting agreements on community benefits.

This government promised Canadians that there would be change. I am pleased to see today that they are finally getting down to work. The Liberals promised to make massive investments in infrastructure, among other things. We are still waiting.

Agreements on community benefits would stimulate growth, employment, and economic and social development not just in my riding, but in all ridings. In Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, there are a number of major infrastructure projects waiting for federal funding.

I want to talk about a large-scale infrastructure project, the Casavant Boulevard extension in Saint-Hyacinthe, that I would like to see covered by this kind of agreement. Having served six years as a city councillor, I am sure everyone in Saint-Hyacinthe knows what I am talking about. The project involves building a rail overpass. It is vital to the city's economic development because it will open up the industrial park. Believe it or not, we have been waiting for federal funding for this project for 10 years.

The Casavant Boulevard extension is critical to Saint-Hyacinthe's growth and development. The federal government must act quickly and decisively on this file so that we can build this road infrastructure. The Casavant Boulevard extension is well suited to a community benefit agreement. It would be an opportunity to create good jobs, make training available, and revitalize the local economy. It would certainly stimulate growth, help create wealth, and contribute to more responsible development.

While I have no doubt this would benefit my riding, I am skeptical about the implementation and the scope of such agreements.

I think that this bill could be improved in several ways. In my riding, it is important to support local businesses. Saint-Hyacinthe is known around the world for being an agrifood technocity. The development of its local businesses would definitely stimulate the economy, create jobs, and promote growth and innovation in my region. That would create a ripple effect. We all know that when our businesses are successful, our economy does well too.

What the NDP wants is to include local organizations, regional businesses, and members of the community in the planning process for infrastructure spending. We want to ensure that they enjoy the benefits and spinoffs that this spending creates. That seems like common sense to us.

However, this bill does not require bidders to provide all the information about the project to the various stakeholders. In my opinion, that is vital information. This bill also does not specify how the intended benefits will be calculated. It also does not mention the objectives of these agreements.

We believe that a targeted recruitment policy must be included in the bill so that members of the community and local organizations and businesses are not forgotten. What is more, as my hon. colleague, the sponsor of this bill mentioned, the purpose of these community benefit agreements is to “create community wealth, quality jobs, training, responsible growth, and a healthier environment”.

These are honourable goals. However, how can we be sure that they will be implemented if they are not even mentioned in the legislation? I suggest that the legislation include guiding principles that emphasize equity, community involvement, eco-friendly practices, and support for disadvantaged groups.

I would also like to come back to a small, but significant word. I am talking about the word “may” in clause 2 of the bill. This small word makes a big difference. Clause 2 of the bill reads:

The Minister may, before awarding a contract for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, require bidders on the proposal to provide information on the community benefits that the project will provide.

Why the word “may” and not the word “shall”? In other words, the requirement on community benefits that the project will provide is left to the discretion of the minister.

There is no guarantee that these agreements to include community benefits will in fact be implemented. I think if we really want to make a difference and generate wealth locally, we should not leave that to the discretion of the minister. If we truly wanted communities to benefit, we would establish clear structures and avoid the kind of ambiguity that we see here.

We want the goals of community benefit agreements to be an explicit part of the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities's mandate. Otherwise, there would be no requirement for the government to report on the success or failure of the policy.

I am trying to believe in the legislation, and I want it to become a reality for our regions. However, when I consider the conditions of the trans-Pacific partnership, I cannot help but be pessimistic about it. When my honourable colleague introduced the bill in the House, he said, “a similar piece of legislation in Ontario, Bill 6, has survived trade agreements.”

Bill C-227 must do more than survive trade agreements. Chapter 15 of the trans-Pacific partnership does not state whether bid criteria such as those in community benefit agreements would be considered a trade barrier. If that were the case, the bill could expose Canada to trade challenges

The government has bulldozed straight ahead to ratify this trade agreement. It is clear that the government will definitely limit preferences regarding government procurement at an international level. Let us also not forget that a similar piece of legislation in Ontario, Bill 6, has never been in force at the same time as the trans-Pacific partnership. It if survives, I have to wonder what will become of it once that agreement comes into effect.

It seems to me that the bill requires a number of changes before this initiative can become a reality, despite its goal to support vulnerable populations while working on development.

As I said, we do not want this bill to be a missed opportunity. These kinds of community benefit agreements need to become a reality. It is our duty to provide our regions and our constituents with meaningful social and economic development opportunities.

Let us work on creating jobs at a local level. Through these agreements, let us create a generation of qualified workers to build a talent pool for our industries, as recommended by Canada's Building Trades Unions and the National Construction Labour Relations Alliance. Let us stimulate economic growth in our regions. Let us encourage social and economic development in our ridings and our regions.

Let us work together to make our regional economies models of development.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

September 30th, 2016 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's speech on Bill C-227, the community benefits bill. Like my colleague, I too was a city councillor, having spent nine years with the City of Barrie before being elected to this wonderful institution.

It is my honour to rise on behalf of the residents of Barrie—Innisfil today and speak to Bill C-227, a bill brought forward with all the best intentions. In my opinion, and I say this with all due respect to the member for York South—Weston, it fails in the reality of what he may be trying to propose here.

The bill deals with federal infrastructure projects but does not stray far from the process for municipal projects that many here in the House are familiar with. There are 77 members of the House who have municipal political experience; 36 of those members are of the government.

The planning process goes through many different phases, from determining a need to the drawing up of an idea, the drafting of the building rationale, and the production of the plans. Each of my 76 colleagues who have served locally know that red tape cannot be added to ensure a community benefit.

In the process of a project, there's always the discussion of the benefit that a new project is going to bring to the community, and that really starts at the beginning. If it is a new LRT plan, it is to increase transit ridership, new roads mean goods move faster, waste-water systems mean safer water, and housing funding means affordable housing.

What does Bill C-227 mean for federal employees who fall under this? Has their work managing federal infrastructure projects been subpar? Have the women and men of PWGSC been operating under the guise that there's no such thing as a community benefit? There's always a community benefit, and our federal departments are always working with the needs and the benefits of Canadians.

When the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities announced funding for municipal projects, he stated on May 5, 2016:

...we also respect the ability of the local governments to make their own decisions.

Does the member for York South—Weston naturally assume that he does not feel the same for federal employees and our provincial partners? Let us be clear, the bill aims to add red tape and bureaucracy to a process that already has safeguards built into it.

The bill intends to add three new reporting mechanisms to every federal infrastructure project. The first stage of the new reporting will come in pre-attribution. This is a repetition of the work being done from the start of an idea: the determining of a need, the benefits of the project, and the benefits of the community the project will serve. Will these proposed projects not come under the watchful eye of the public during consultations? Is this step of a pre-attribution report nothing more than a repeat of the project application process?

I have been a part of many public consultations in the city of Barrie. The public in these consultations have a keen eye for the community benefit of each and every project. Our residents can see waste a mile away. There is no need for a new step in the beginning to determine if a funding project is a worthwhile endeavour by the government.

The second new mandated report will take place during a project, with ongoing reporting during the works of the project. The most common reasons for increased costs of construction are delays. Delays are deadly to the life cycle of a project. It costs the project manager, construction company, inspectors, and the federal government.

The life cycle of a project has milestones, and these milestones and the timeline in these milestones are watched and mitigated by the project handlers themselves. These milestone reports form much of the reporting after completion. It will be difficult to determine just how community benefits are being met during construction. Time is money. Bill C-227 will add time and money to the cost of every federal project at a time when many feel we take too long to complete a project today.

Let me now address the third proposed mandatory reporting requirement after the project is complete. This is perhaps the only real beneficial step in what is being proposed in this bill. We do need to find accountability in the work that is being done and funded by Canadians. Gaps found in a post-evaluation can be addressed for future projects. However, this does not need to be mandated. In the world of project management, a post-completion review is part of a current rigorous process. Why entrench it further when there is no need to?

This bill requires that we add some very important questions addressing red flag concerns. Where will the costs of the extra work be covered? Will it come from within the department's budget? Will the red tape be paid for by project funding received by the very same minister who is asking for the review? Will there be a need to hire to meet the new expanded reporting demands that this bill creates? The current government is starting to sound like the Government of Ontario and becoming a leading new hire employer. The private sector, not the government, should be leading with job creation. Will the government be forced to hire to cover the extra workload? These are all fair questions.

When the Prime Minister was gearing up for the election, he spoke at the FCM conference in Edmonton in June of 2015. He stated:

We will make it easier for municipalities to get shovels in the ground by removing the requirement that virtually every project must go through...that too often results in unilateral federal decisions.

The Prime Minister went on to say:

And we will make sure that that investment gets to you when you need it, not when it’s politically convenient for the federal government to send it your way.

He concluded his speech by proclaiming to municipal leaders:

I want you to know that with the right partner in Ottawa, you will have real partnership with Ottawa. A partner that respects your experience—

—that is, who respects municipalities' experiences.

Does this statement exclude federal departments? Does the trust the Prime Minister has in municipalities not extend to the hard-working men and women of our public service? Additional bureaucracy does not send a message of trust. Rather, it says that we need to watch you a little more closely.

As the member for Spadina—Fort York once wrote in a blog post in May 2015, when he was a member of Parliament for the old Toronto riding of Trinity—Spadina:

Unlike complex funding programmes, direct revenue does not require a new ministry or massive bureaucracy for oversight.

We believe in the transparency of government, but we do not believe that we need to add more regulations and rules to it.

In closing, I, along with 76 other colleagues in House, including 36 from the government side, know all too well the red tape and bureaucracy that exists in getting projects completed from idea to the completion of construction. The last thing needed is another level of red tape and the threat of a federal ministerial review for community benefits that have already been proven at their local level. We would not accept this at the municipal level.

As a resident of Ontario, I have witnessed first hand the wasted tax dollars and the effect of over 300,000-plus regulations by the McGuinty and Wynne Liberals. My fear is that the federal Liberals are taking us down the same path at the national level. Why should we accept that at the federal level?

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

September 30th, 2016 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Terry Sheehan Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I speak in favour of Bill C-227, the community benefits agreement.

As the member for Sault Ste. Marie, I campaigned on historic infrastructure investments of $125 billion over 10 years. I strongly believe that if the government wants to, investments will have important impacts on regions and communities, and the bill will have that effect.

Bill C-227 will amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to include provisions that will give the minister the flexibility to require bidders on federal projects to include information on community benefits of said projects for the local community.

For the purposes of the bill, the community benefit agreements are defined as social or economic benefits the community obtains from a public works project. These benefits can include local job creation and training opportunities, improvement of public spaces within the community, and any other specific benefits identified by the community.

It is a bill modelled on existing legislation in the province of Ontario, which was implemented earlier this month and is a great fit with this government's priorities.

In my riding of Sault Ste. Marie, the steel industry, including companies like Essar Steel Algoma and Tenaris Algoma Tubes are plagued with challenges. Global overcapacity and weak demand have put these domestic steel producers in jeopardy and are threatening the livelihoods of many people and their families. Many have already been laid off. Good-paying jobs in northern Ontario are hard to come by.

As a former city councillor and someone who has worked in economic development in Sault Ste. Marie and northern Ontario for many years, I know that economic development, diversification, and investments in key infrastructure projects are more important today than ever.

In fact, Sault Ste. Marie's unemployment rate over the last few years has been in the double digits. Investment in infrastructure in Bill C-227, in combination, will work to ensure that the historic investments our government is delivering have direct impacts that will leverage the existing skills and expertise of local businesses and individuals in my riding and in ridings across this country.

As someone who has worked in training and with the trades, it is my hope that, once passed, this legislation will also lead to more opportunities to train and develop a skilled workforce.

CBAs are a new approach to empowering local communities to partner with developers to respond to local challenges, and through encouraging activities like training, can lead to economic development and growth, poverty reduction, and environmental sustainability in neighbourhoods across Canada.

Canadians, in particular, are struggling economically and need a boost. Our government is working to deliver on a procurement and modernization agenda, and the constituents of my riding, like many others, want the Government of Canada to step up to the plate, after years of neglect, to ensure that Canadians are not left behind.

I think of an example in my riding of community benefits that our first nations partners put in place many years ago. We should look to our first nations as leaders in developing community benefits. When we added lanes to Highway 17 that ran through my riding a few years ago, the first nation of Garden River said they would like to see some community benefits, and they listed a number of things, including employment of Garden River people, training, use of local aggregates, and subcontracting with local businesses.

I think we could learn a lesson from our first nation friends that this is a good thing. It really helped Garden River. I know that Chief Paul Syrette is a leader in this area and will continue to be.

I have been able to speak with the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Christian Provenzano, and with many city councillors, and they believe that this is a good thing that will really help our economy, which has been struggling over the last few years.

The Government of Canada has an opportunity to work directly with many communities across this area to dictate these community benefits.

I will use the example of some tradespeople who came to my area to get certification so they could work. They were not from the community. They were not even from northern Ontario, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, or Alberta. They were from the United States. Sault Ste. Marie is on the border of America, and they had come to work. I have nothing against my American cousins, but when the government spends infrastructure monies, they should direct them to community benefits.

I said that the economy in my riding had been suffering over the last few years and it was an opportunity for other tradespeople from Sault Ste. Marie, northern Ontario, or across the country to work, but they did not. Those are just two anecdotal examples where community benefits in play have helped a community like Garden River and when community benefits were not in play, there was a bit of seepage, so to speak.

Our government has also invested greatly in infrastructure spending in my area, and there are many federal projects that could be invested in and expanded upon. This gives the minister the ability to work with local communities.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the member for York South—Weston for introducing this great bill and for his hard work. I know he has gone from coast to coast across the country, talking with many businesses, labour organizations, communities, community leaders, and organizations. I will not steal his thunder as I know he will speak later, but there were very positive results from those consultations and hard work. My hat goes off to the member for York South—Weston, who has been working very hard.

This is really important. It is a critical time for us to invest in infrastructure and get the economy going. It is of utmost importance, not just for my generation but our children's generation. My daughter Kate Sheehan is visiting Ottawa today on a professional development day. We have to think about what her future will look like in Sault Ste. Marie and Canada.

I am very pleased that we can dictate the community benefits that will help the riding of Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding area. The people from Batchewana First Nation are going to have opportunities, as well as Prince Township, Heyden, and Searchmont. There are untold opportunities, and this is just the beginning.

We could look at this to see how we could expand it to have more impact. Our historic spending of $125 billion over 10 years is absolutely remarkable. Of course, the spending is important to the steel industry because infrastructure projects use steel. Being the co-chair of the steel caucus, I recognize there are plenty of opportunities for us to have steel in our infrastructure program. I know it will be extremely beneficial for places like Sault Ste. Marie, northern Ontario, Ontario, and the rest of Canada.

I cannot stress enough that, after talking with local community leaders, they are totally looking forward to announcements. I am looking forward to making announcements in the future in my riding and working with community leaders to prioritize which infrastructure projects they believe are important. Not only that, but we should engage them again and ask how we can benefit their communities more, get people working, get people into the trades, and get local contractors working on these infrastructure programs.

I again thank the member for York South—Weston. It is an honour to co-second the bill.

The House resumed from May 11 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.

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

May 30th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to my colleague on the environment committee for bringing forward this initiative. I think he would admit that this legislation builds on our previous Conservative government's actions to control mercury within our environment in Canada.

A lot of Canadians do not realize that Canada does not mine mercury. Canada is arguably the richest country in the world when it comes to natural resources, but mining mercury is not one of those activities. Ninety-five per cent of all the mercury deposited in Canada comes from foreign sources, which is why our former Conservative government was active in negotiating the Minamata Convention on Mercury, an international convention that essentially calls for tough measures to reduce mercury emissions. That was in 2013.

In November 2014, we followed that up with the products containing mercury regulations, which essentially prohibit the broad import and manufacture of products containing mercury, with limited exemptions. These regulations are expected to reduce by somewhere in the order of 21 tonnes the mercury that will be emitted into our environment between 2015 and 2032.

I appreciate the member's effort to build upon our previous government's work. This is important. The work we do at committee is not only about the environment but about sustainability, the long-term balancing of the environment with our economic objectives. We want to make sure that, as the Liberal government has said so often and as we used to say, the environment and the economy have to go hand in hand.

Some of the measures we are undertaking at the environment committee include a study, which we have now completed, on the Federal Sustainable Development Act. We are undertaking right now a study on conservation, which includes parkland and marine conservation areas. We are also undertaking a review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. All of these serve Canada's interests to make sure that, as we move forward, we continue to make our environment safer, cleaner, and healthier for Canadians to live in.

Bill C-238, a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, contains three elements. The first would establish national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps. The second would establish guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal of these lamps. The third would create a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of safe disposal of these kinds of lamps. Right now these lamps end up in our landfills, and the mercury leaches into our soil and our water sources. Virtually all Canadians would agree that is something we do not want to see happen.

This bill attempts to establish a strategy. I would ask the member why we need a national strategy. As our former Conservative government moved forward to address the presence of mercury within our environment, we acted. We did not simply establish strategies and talk shops where we prolonged any action on these measures, but we acted. We signed the Minamata Convention. We moved forward with regulations on mercury and mercury emissions. We do not need a formal strategy to get this done. The Liberal government has within its full power the ability to move forward with its own legislation and to move forward with its own regulations and policies that would build upon the work that our former Conservative government did in this area.

Some national strategies that have been presented are worthwhile, especially the ones addressing many of the health challenges still present in Canada. However a strategy is simply a call to develop a plan, whereas moving forward with action goes to the very substance of what we hope to achieve.

The bill would also require this strategy to be tabled in the House within two years and then reviewed every five years to make sure it is in keeping with new strategies for the disposal of mercury-containing lamps.

By the way, I am going to support this bill going to committee, because I want to continue to build on the work that the previous Conservative government achieved, to make sure we continue to clean up our environment of mercury contamination. However, the challenge is to make sure any initiative or strategy is cost efficient and does not impose additional undue tax burden on Canadian taxpayers or red tape that ties up businesses, provinces, and municipalities.

The member actually admitted in his opening comments that the provinces and municipalities are implicated in this strategy. Much of the work and cost in implementing this strategy would actually be done at the provincial and municipal levels, which is where these recycling and disposal facilities would be located. Conservatives, of course, are always concerned with what kinds of additional costs will be imposed on Canadians.

As a Conservative government, we were very proud of a record of having reduced Canada's tax burden to the lowest level in over 50 years, and Canadians welcomed that. They do not want to pay more taxes, but they understand that we want to keep our environment clean.

I looked at a few pieces of legislation similar to this one that have already been presented in the House and to which I had a chance to speak. Motion No. 45 required that all infrastructure projects at the municipal level that are 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 for those projects.

The member who brought this private member's bill forward suggested that projects at the municipal level, chosen to meet the needs of municipalities and provinces, would actually be seen through a lens of climate change rather than for the purposes for which those projects were being built and planned. This would impose huge additional costs on our local governments, additional red tape, and delays, and it would discourage the municipalities from moving forward with critical infrastructure in their communities.

The same thing was true for Bill C-227, a private member's bill, which would place a requirement on contractors for projects within the federal realm. In other words, if a building contractor wanted to bid on a federal building project, the contractor would have to go through a community benefit analysis. On top of all the other red tape government has already imposed on those wishing to do business with government, it now wants an additional community benefit analysis, which again would add additional costs, more red tape, and increased costs of 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 and more red tape to the process, when in fact these projects should be bid based on best value for the taxpayers' dollar, or in other words, the best value for the best price. Therefore, Conservatives have a right to be skeptical about the bill before us. Is it going to be another example of Liberals' overreaching, adding additional cost to taxpayers?

In both of these cases, of course, as much as the motives behind these initiatives are laudable, the motion and this bill would actually pose additional regulatory burdens on Canadians, and that is my fear with this strategy. Quite frankly, the member could have moved forward with simply asking the government to move forward with regulations in 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.

Hopefully, this matter will be fully discussed at committee. I will certainly be asking the member questions about costs, regulatory burdens, and exactly what this would mean for Canadian taxpayers. I look forward to the discussion, and I know the member and I are going to work very closely to make sure this is done in a way that is respectful of taxpayers and also addresses the very real concerns of mercury within our environment.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

May 11th, 2016 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the bill.

I think we should start by understanding what Bill C-227 would actually do.

It is a classic case of the Liberal government getting its backbenchers to do its dirty work, because we know that the government has already betrayed small businesses in Canada by not reducing the tax rate down to 9%, and the bill before us would impose additional burdens on our small businesses across Canada. Therefore, the Liberals have a private member, one of their backbenchers, bring forward the bill. It provides the Liberal government with plausible deniability. The bill gets passed here in the House, and they blame the House for it rather than themselves. We know what is up.

Essentially, Bill C-227 would allow the minister to require bidders on federal projects to provide information on the community benefits that a federal project would deliver. We have no idea what benefits would be sufficient, which, of course, introduces greater uncertainty into the bidding process.

However, it is not just information that the minister would be able to require. The bill would also empower the minister to demand bidders provide a formal assessment as to whether community benefits have indeed been provided.

Who would conduct this assessment? Is it the minister at his or her discretion? Is it some independent party? What is the threshold or standard that must be met? Is there a value of contract that would be captured? We do not know. Would bidders compete with each other on who could best meet the community-benefit test, or is it whether the appropriate balance between community benefit and value for money has been met? Who makes that decision?

Bill C-227 would turn what is usually an objective process, which is value for money, in other words, getting a project, product, or service at the best price and the best quality, and turns it into a largely subjective determination by the minister. This is another example of a Liberal government overreaching and interfering in matters it should stay out of.

Last week, I spoke to Motion No. 45, which was another Liberal initiative that essentially interfered in the ability of municipalities to do contracting. Now the federal government wants to force every municipality to run every single infrastructure project over $500,000 through an assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions that will be caused both upstream and downstream. Again, it is a horrific cost to municipalities. There are 4,000 of them across Canada, multiply that by two or three projects a year, and think of how much money that is going to cost municipalities across the country.

This is all about layering red tape upon red tape upon red tape, and undermining and underappreciating the value of small businesses to our economy.

As I mentioned, the Liberals have already hammered Canadian small businesses by breaking their promise to lower the small business tax rate to 9%. That was a very clear broken promise. That decision alone is going to cost our businesses somewhere in the order of $2.2 billion over the next five years, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs across this country. Now they are hammering them with even more government red tape, increasing the cost of doing business, and further discouraging smaller businesses from bidding on government contracts.

The bottom line is that Bill C-227 would hurt small businesses. It would add a massive amount of additional regulation on top of the ones that already exist. It would dissuade small businesses from bidding on government contracts, and it would require small businesses to assess matters other than price and quality, which, of course, will drive up the cost of government and drive up the cost to taxpayers in this country.

Of course, these companies, if they are going to bid, are going to have to build in these additional risk considerations into the price that they bid. We are talking about additional costs to taxpayers across this country.

Then there are, of course, the additional powers that would be given to the minister under the bill. Bill C-227 would expand the minister's discretionary power and allow the minister to unnecessarily politicize the contracting process.

There is no clarity as to when an assessment would be required. It could be in the middle of the contract, after the contract had been let, or maybe after the bids have been received. There is no clarity in the bill at all. It is very broad in scope. It is highly ambiguous. It is vague. It leaves everybody here in the House, the contracting community, the sub-trades, and the workers in the dark.

I asked a question of the proponent of the bill earlier on. Given the fact that he claimed he had broadly consulted on the bill, had he at the very least consulted with the key business organizations across the country that represent small business? I am talking about the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters. The member said that he had consulted with unions across the country. Really. Why not with the businesses themselves that actually pay that price? He said that he had consulted with academics. What about consulting with the very Canadians who would be most impacted by the bill?

The bottom line is this. The bill would do a few things. It would impose an increased burden on our companies. It would impose additional costs on them and uncertainty for small businesses that have already been betrayed by the Liberal government. The bill would also replace what in the past was a clear process, value for money, ensuring we get the best quality at the very best price, with a process that would be unpredictable and highly subjective and dependent upon the discretion of the minister and his or her officials.

In his speech, the sponsor highlighted all of the things the bill intended to achieve. It is clear to anyone who heard the speech that this is about social engineering at significant cost to the taxpayer. The bill would drive up costs to taxpayers to try to achieve some social engineering goals that the Liberal government suggests may be reasonable objectives.

The best response we should have when businesses are contracting with the federal government is to ensure that they understand what the rules are, ensuring Canadian taxpayers get the best value for money.

Then of course the proponent referred to Ontario, of all places, as being the role model of these community benefit agreements. A Liberal government in the province of Ontario has mismanaged the economy so much and has driven that province into such debt that today it has the highest sub-federal cost, the highest sub-federal debt not only within Canada, not only within North America, but in the entire world. Is that a role model we should be following? Absolutely not.

No one should be surprised that the bill is coming from the Liberal side of the House. We can also be certain that Liberals' will find new ways of increasing costs to taxpayers, interfering with the private sector, and clearly giving themselves more and more power over time. On that basis alone we should reject the bill.

I ask the Liberal government, the Liberal members of the House, the NDP members who have highlighted significant shortcomings of the bill, to reconsider their support of the bill, let business do what it does best, which is provide contracts, services, products of the very best quality and at the very best price. By doing so, we would be serving the taxpayers of our country.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

May 11th, 2016 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill Ontario

Liberal

Leona Alleslev LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Madam Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-227, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit).

To put this bill in context, I would like to take a moment to describe the department governed by that act. Public Service and Procurement Canada serves as a vital foundation for the Canadian government. With the help of over 12,000 hard-working employees across Canada, the department acts as the government's principal treasurer, accountant, and real property manager.

The department's efforts ensure that the government buys what it needs and guarantees that resources are in place for the future. This includes big ticket items, such as military procurement and large information technology systems, as well as other goods and services, such as office supplies, fuel, and translation services.

In total, PSPC manages about $15 billion on behalf of other government departments and agencies. This amounts to over 80% of total federal government procurement.

Not only does this government department buy much of the goods and services for the Government of Canada, we also seek to make these purchases beneficial to communities and businesses across the country. For example, of the $15 billion in procurement the department manages each year, around 40% goes to Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises.

Canada's unprecedented, multi-billion dollar national shipbuilding strategy is also giving rise to accomplishments beyond procurement. In addition to re-establishing a world-class shipbuilding industry, the national shipbuilding strategy is growing our economy, creating jobs for Canadians, and generating apprenticeship programs for indigenous communities and women.

This bill is yet another example of our efforts to make government procurement work for all Canadians. The principles that underpin this private member's bill and its intended objectives are laudable and deserve further study in committee.

I would like to congratulate the member for York South—Weston for his work on this private member's bill. When he introduced the bill, he stated that he would like to empower communities to make development work for them. I think this is something every member of this House can support.

Bill C-227 seeks to amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to include a provision stating:

The Minister may, before awarding a contract for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, require bidders on the proposal to provide information on the community benefits that the project will provide.

The bill also requires that:

A contracting party shall, upon request by the Minister, provide the Minister with an assessment as to whether the project has provided community benefits.

The Minister must table an annual report in Parliament assessing whether construction, maintenance, or repair projects have provided community benefit.

Other jurisdictions are starting to move toward an approach that considers community benefits in the context of infrastructure investment. Such approaches generally involve the use of community benefits agreements, which are formal agreements between a real estate agent or infrastructure developer, and a coalition that reflects and represents people who are affected by a large development project.

Community benefit agreements are not in any way a new concept. They have been used for years in the United States, and they were used in the construction of the athletes' village for the Vancouver Olympics.

Last year, Ontario was the first province to include community benefits in provincial infrastructure projects under the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015.

If Bill C-277 is referred to committee, it would be advisable for the committee to examine the experiences of these jurisdictions in more detail and identify the lessons learned that could be applied to federal endeavours in Canada.

When he introduced the bill, the member for York South—Weston also said that community benefit agreements “create community wealth, quality jobs, training, responsible growth, and a healthier environment”.

Once again, these are objectives that every member of the House of Commons should support.

In fact, our government is already taking steps to achieve these objectives. To strengthen the middle class and ensure more inclusive growth for more Canadians, budget 2016 is making historic investments in infrastructure and innovation.

According to the budget, “investing in infrastructure is not just about creating good jobs and economic growth. It's also about building communities that Canadians are proud to call home.”

The mandate letter for the Minister of Public Services and Procurement requires that the minister, “Modernize procurement practices so that they are simpler, less administratively burdensome, deploy modern comptrollership, and include practices that support our economic policy goals, including green and social procurement.”

To achieve these objectives the Department of Public Services and Procurement Canada is working to simplify its contracts, templates, and business processes. This will make it easier for clients to buy the goods and services they need to deliver their programs to Canadians and for suppliers to sell to the government.

The department is acquiring and implementing a new web-based e-procurement solution, which will move the Government of Canada procurement function to an e-business model. This will leverage the best practices of the industry, which will reduce cost and process burden for government departments and agencies, and for suppliers.

Taken together, these initiatives will modernize the Government of Canada procurement function, foster competition, and allow procurement to advance social and green policies for the benefit of Canadians. With this private member's bill, we are taking another step to ensure procurement is socially conscious and community-focused.

To come back to the content of Bill C-227, the bill should be sent to committee, because several parts of it warrant closer attention.

First of all, we need to determine whether the scope of the bill will allow for its own objectives to be fully achieved. For instance, amending section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, in accordance with Bill C-227, would require that community benefits be taken into account for projects led by Public Services and Procurement Canada, whether on its own behalf or on behalf of another department.

Accordingly, the overall impact of the amendments would be limited, because approximately 30% of the federal government's real property is managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada.

Second, we need to look closely at any potential impact the bill could have on international trade agreements. International agreements often impose certain restrictions regarding the requirements that member nations can include in their bid solicitation process. The intentions of Bill C-227 are laudable. Let us send it to committee so that it can be examined in greater detail.

We want procurement to work for all Canadians and the bill would help us do just that.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

May 11th, 2016 / 6:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for York South—Weston, for his speech and presentation, and I would like to commend him for introducing his private member's bill, which is an important milestone in the life of a parliamentarian.

As he pointed out in his speech, this is one of the first series of bills being debated, so he had little time to draft it. As a result, I want to raise a few points during my speech today.

Maybe just to remind members, this bill is adding the notion of community benefit along with the already provided capacity to the minister by narrowing the definition of “community benefit” in the public works and government services department. It would expect the bidders to be fulfilling some additional requirements regarding community benefit, if the minister wishes to obtain this information before handing out the contract. It would expect that the minister could ask for a study to the contracted parties so that they can precisely scale of the community benefit generated by the project. There would be an additional step of a report to Parliament after each exercise that would evaluate if the work, repairs, or maintenance generated any community benefit.

Before I comment any further on the bill, I would like to comment on a poll that was done when we talked to businesses in this country. Basically, it says that companies felt that there is too much red tape in Canada already. Sixty-nine per cent of businesses in this country find that there is too much red tape and that it is not helping to create jobs, create wealth, or create a lively community. I think, in particular, of farmers who have to deal with red tape exactly in the middle of their high season.

It is very important, as parliamentarians, when we are tabling new legislation, although well intended—and I do not doubt in any way the intention of the member to increase the benefit of the activity of the government—to make sure that we are not adding an extra layer of administrative tasks to those who are actually responding to the need of the government.

Our party, the Conservative Party, certainly supports transparency within the government and in the federal contracting process. We believe that community interests must be served. We know that, naturally, when contracts are awarded in a region, there are automatically benefits to the economy. It is also important to support local workers. We believe in a neutral, rational contracting process that is advantageous to taxpayers.

That is my concern about Bill C-227 as introduced. It is a sort of double-edged sword, since it would give the minister discretionary authority in the contracting process. When we consider the tens of thousands of contracts that are awarded every year by Public Services and Procurement Canada, this will create a lot of red tape, which I think is completely unnecessary.

Paragraph 7(1)(a) of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act explains the framework and the various duties or functions of the minister, pursuant to the act. It states that the minister must “[increase] the efficiency and economy of the federal public administration and...[enhance] integrity and efficiency in the contracting process”.

Under these proposals, as we have seen and as I have mentioned, the minister would be able to ask bidders to submit additional reports and would be able to issue a report to Parliament. This translates into many different administrative tasks. It is another step for the bidder, but it also means additional tasks for our public officials, tasks that are unnecessary.

Therefore, in the interest of small and medium-sized businesses, we believe this is unnecessary. I invite my colleague to consider some of the initiatives in place to reduce red tape. Examples from the Government of New Brunswick and others from Quebec come to mind.

My colleague mentioned the Helmets to Hardhats Canada program, an initiative that was led by veterans themselves to facilitate veterans' integration into civil society. He could have mentioned a number of other initiatives that our government brought in to reduce red tape for veterans, including the veterans independence program. We also simplified the process for that program.

Veterans no longer have any paperwork to fill out for that program. In the past, they had to fill out forms and include invoices, whether it was for housekeeping, snow removal or window cleaning, and it all had to be reviewed by officials. There were over 100,000 transactions of that nature. We simplified the process so there would be only two payments, thereby making things easier for veterans.

Officials can now spend their time on more important tasks than reviewing housekeeping, snow removal and window cleaning invoices. Taxpayers also come out further ahead, as do veterans, most of whom are aging, we have to admit, and who benefit from the veterans independence program, also known as the VIP program.

I also want to applaud the fact that Public Works and Government Services Canada has already produced recommendations in response to the Red Tape Reduction Commission's work, which started in 2011. Led by the minister, the member for Beauce, our government consulted businesses across the country with a view to boosting efficiency and figuring out how best to reduce red tape and spare businesses from getting bogged down in bureaucratic processes.

Of the many recommendations, Public Works and Government Services Canada adopted two that zeroed in on improving the procurement process. In response to one of the recommendations in the Red Tape Reduction Commission's report, Public Works and Government Services Canada improved the famous MERX database. People who work for Public Works and Government Services Canada know it well.

PWGSC improved the procurement process by adopting a smart procurement approach that leverages digital technology to provide tools and information that enhance service delivery while cutting costs and reducing the operational burden for clients, suppliers, and procurement staff. That is my first example.

The department continued to create electronic tools for its clients, which helped the government to become more efficient and improve its services. That measure is related to another measure, the open bidding service. It was recommended that the program be improved and that is what PWGSC did. The government electronic tendering service was improved. There is now one-stop access to information on the federal government's procurement activities.

The people watching at home, whether they be entrepreneurs or suppliers, can go to the MERX website to see all of the federal government's procurement and leasing needs and determine whether they can meet those needs. This bill pertains mainly to property development projects.

The MERX website has become the Government of Canada's official website for tendering opportunities. This site provides one-stop access to information on the federal government's procurement activities. It contains useful information and it is easy to access.

Now, it is important for the government to simplify its processes and become more efficient by removing red tape rather than creating more.

We believe that today's bill will create red tape and concentrate powers in the minister's hands. Given the large number of transactions that are conducted, I worry that this bill will merely serve to create more red tape. That is why we cannot support this bill today.

Once again, we need to remember that if our companies have to deal with red tape, they will not be able to remain competitive. As a result, in order to create healthy communities, we need to reduce red tape. We do not intend to support this bill at this time.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

May 11th, 2016 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his support of the bill, as well as for his question.

The issue of procurement is important. My government has committed to modernizing the procurement process. In terms of Bill C-227, a similar piece of legislation in Ontario, Bill 6, has survived trade agreements.

I intend to continue to consult with Canadians. My understanding is that Bill C-227 would be enshrined in federal law if it passes. It would enable the federal minister to use a community benefits approach when a project requires it because not every project will have a community benefits outcome. There are projects that will not produce many benefits, but there are certainly some that will require community benefit support.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

May 11th, 2016 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

moved 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.

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

Before I begin, I would like to thank the residents of York South—Weston for giving me the confidence and the opportunity to be in the House of Commons to present this legislation.

Since I drew an early slot in the private members' lottery, I consulted widely, and I heard extensively from various stakeholders. I felt a special responsibility to put forward legislation that would greatly benefit all Canadians.

Bill C-227 would amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to include a provision that would give the Minister of Public Services and Procurement the flexibility to require bidders on federal construction, maintenance and repair contracts to include information on the community benefits that the project would provide.

Community benefits are essentially the social or economic benefits that result from a development project above and beyond the project itself. These include but are not limited to local job creation, paid training, apprenticeships, affordable housing, or any other benefit that the community identifies.

What are community benefits agreements? These are agreements between an infrastructure developer and the Minister of Public Services and Procurement that are developed after input from local community groups. CBAs are a new approach and a very important tool in empowering local communities to partner with developers in order to respond to local challenges. Essentially, CBAs maximize the local economic impact of publicly-funded development projects, producing quality jobs, training, and contributing to a responsible growth and development, and a healthier environment.

For example, my riding of York South—Weston has a section of the Eglinton LRT project, a project that has embraced a community-benefits approach, and is a great example of how a public works project can benefit a community above and beyond the project itself.

I will now present case studies. Before I do that, 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 alone have spent $23.5 billion per year procuring goods and services, including construction. Imagine how communities would thrive if even a portion of that expenditure had CBAs tied to it. We would have more local jobs produced and more opportunities for local businesses because big construction contracts would be chopped down to bite-size pieces. We would have more paid training and apprenticeships, and unions would have new blood inserted into their membership.

I held a round table in my riding of York South—Weston in the city of Toronto with the federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. We had over 20 stakeholders participate. The message was clear. They wanted the Government of Canada to leverage spending on federal projects by increasing the local economic impact of these projects. They wanted community benefits to result from these projects above and beyond the project itself. They wanted federal leadership to result from this.

Community benefits agreements are not new. They have been used for years in the United States and in many other parts of the world.

There are great examples also of community benefits agreements working in our country. These also highlight how they could work here.

Social networks and indigenous communities in Canada have signed community benefits agreements for various projects, including the 2010 Olympic Winter Games' Southeast False Creek Olympic Village, where a community benefits agreement was formed to create opportunities in the areas of training, and the acquisition of goods and services.

The second example is the Waneta expansion project. The Columbia Power Corporation signed a community benefits agreement with the Ktunaxa Nation Council for the Waneta expansion project in British Columbia, which included provisions for assistance to the community in small hydro development.

Finally, the Eglinton crosstown LRT project is set to provide benefits to disadvantaged communities through equitable hiring practices, training, apprenticeships, local suppliers, and social procurement opportunities, where possible. In addition to this, other provinces such as Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Manitoba are either exploring or have already implemented a formal community benefit agreement.

Since 2001, just south of the border in Los Angeles, one of the first successful pioneers of community benefit agreements, organizations have negotiated CBAs that range from living wage requirements to investments in parks and recreation.

In the United Kingdom in 2012, the Public Services (Social Value) Act was passed to promote social benefits through public sector procurement. According to this act a commissioning authority must consider how the purchase might improve the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the relevant area, so that everyone can get a slice of the development pie.

All of these case studies show very clearly that there is a growing realization that community benefit agreements are essential to public development projects.

Experience also shows that CBAs can bring historically marginalized or excluded groups into the construction industry. Women, for example, represent more than 50% of the population but just 2.6% of the construction industry labour force. Youth from underprivileged communities, veterans, and indigenous groups can also benefit from community benefit agreements and become more involved in the construction industry.

There are groups already addressing this issue and I will give three examples. The Hammer Heads program in the greater Toronto area is a skill and employment-based training program with the construction industry that provides youth from under-resourced and underprivileged communities with access to apprenticeship career opportunities. Helmets to Hardhats is a Canada-wide program that is designed to provide opportunities to anyone who has or is serving in the Canadian Forces.

Finally, “I'm Eglinton” is a pre-apprenticeship program in my riding of York South—Weston for Ontario Works recipients interested in a career in the construction and building trades industries. The program aims to provide participants with knowledge about the building trades and to expose them to working in the building trades and construction fields. By gaining real-life experience, networking with industry members, and gaining a secure foothold in the construction industry the community benefits in addition to these individuals.

My Bill C-227 would also allow for measures to ensure there is implementation of the community benefit agreements that are signed by developers and that there is also a measurement of outcomes.

If Bill C-227 is passed, it would empower the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to require bidders on government-funded projects to explain the community benefits that would result from these projects. The bill would also enable the minister to require these developers to provide an assessment as to whether the project has indeed provided community benefits. The bill would also require the minister to report back to Parliament at the end of every fiscal year to demonstrate what community benefits were delivered from the CBAs that were signed.

Community benefit agreements are inline with our government's priorities, such as procurement modernization. In addition to this, the largest province in the country, Ontario, has already set a precedent for community benefits. Ontario has successfully made community benefit agreements in the context of infrastructure planning and investment.

In conclusion, the community benefit agreements that would emanate from Bill C-227 are particularly suited to my riding and many other communities that would benefit greatly from local and increased economic impact from federal building projects.

Many communities in the U.S. and Canada have already had many projects with a CBA component but they have done this without a legislative framework. However, this is an idea that has passed the test in practical terms and in many communities. It has delivered.

My bill is about bringing CBAs into the federal realm, so that we can allow the Government of Canada to exercise leadership on community benefit agreements and take its benefits to all communities across Canada. If passed, we would have an amazing opportunity in which the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada would have CBA enshrined in law. This would create a model for the rest of the country. It is also about ensuring that future federal projects involving the construction, maintenance, or repair of federal projects would result in community benefits for millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

I am asking my colleagues on all sides of the House for their support for my private member's bill, Bill C-227, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit), so that we can have a community benefit approach enshrined in federal law. I welcome any amendments that my colleagues will bring forward at the committee stage.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActRoutine Proceedings

February 24th, 2016 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-227, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit).

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to introduce my first private member's bill, with support of the member for Scarborough—Rouge Park, on community benefit agreements (CBAs) and federal spending on infrastructure.

CBAs are a new approach to development and growth in neighbourhoods all across Canada. CBAs create community wealth, quality jobs, training, responsible growth, and a healthier environment. CBAs empower communities to make development work for them. CBAs are about fairness and broad community participation in the development process, resulting in everyone getting a slice of the development pie.

My riding of York South—Weston has a section of the Eglinton crosstown LRT project, a project that has embraced a community benefits approach and is a great example of a community that would benefit from CBAs being a component of federal spending on infrastructure projects.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)