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

Sponsor

Ramesh Sangha  Liberal

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

Status

In committee (House), as of Oct. 25, 2017

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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. 25, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit)

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

October 23rd, 2017 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been a while since I began this speech, so we will pick up where we left off. It is great to stand to speak in support of Bill C-344, a bill that looks at the connection between social benefit and economic benefit. When we look at the triple bottom line, we like to connect social, environmental, and economic benefits. This bill addresses the social part of that equation, connecting to the economic benefits. Therefore, in cases where construction projects are being procured by the government, we want to look at how that project would benefit the community in which it is located.

In 2015, we campaigned on significant investments on infrastructure across the country. Now is a good time to look at how that investment would benefit communities socially, as well as create the jobs for which we are targeting those investments. It is an excellent opportunity to also look at the scope of supply that includes social innovation with SMEs. A lot of our construction firms already take this into account when they are working on projects, creating schools in neighbourhoods, creating infrastructure through roads. However, it is not the standard practice across the country. Therefore, through this bill, we want to encourage our contractors and other people who are applying for government funds to consider the direct and indirect impact they have on communities through the projects they are putting through. The government plays a significant role in providing opportunities for these firms. The bill looks at the opportunity the government wants to create in terms of a better society, to make sure that what we are investing in is going to reach our social objectives as well.

An excellent example of empowering marginalized communities has already been raised by my hon. colleague from Sault Ste. Marie. Highway 17 was being constructed in his riding, and it was going through the Garden River First Nation. They requested that there be a stronger community benefit in this investment. They listed a number of initiatives, such as including employment for the Garden River people, training, the use of local aggregates, and subcontracting to local businesses.

Another example, the Waneta expansion project, was highlighted by the now Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. This project has the Columbia Power Corporation signed on with community benefits, through an agreement it has with the Ktunaxa Nation council for the Waneta expansion project in British Columbia. Provisions of assistance to the community in this small hydro development included green projects, such as the Waneta power project, but it also looked at how it impacts the local community in terms of the triple bottom line approach, including education and social benefits for the community.

Another benefit that would arise form Bill C-344 is that it would ensure the whole community would benefit from the publicly funded initiatives. The bill would make sure that the proposed procurement initiatives would be of the most use to the community they are in, and would have the most lasting benefit for the people who live in those communities. Moreover, this bill would increase transparency and accountability in the procurement process, helping to prevent the use of public monies to cater to special interests. It is common-sense legislation, such as Bill C-344, that Canadians elected us to work on when we were elected in 2015.

We had an example in my community in Guelph. It was a cool highlighting of how projects have multiple benefits within a community. The Parkwood Gardens Community Church applied for and received some funding after its community benefit assessment was done. It was determined that the church members provide an estimated $2.1 million to our community in charitable donations and volunteer hours, resulting from a $50,000 Canada 150 grant to improve accessibility to the community space. Even smaller organizations like community churches that provide space for use by Brownies, Cub Scouts, and other community organizations show a huge impact on the community in terms of investment in kind through volunteer time, and other benefits to their community.

We need to look at the process that procurement provides, and the opportunities for us to reflect the values of Canadians. Alongside transparency and accountability, procurement can also fulfill economic, social, and environmental goals. Procurement can engage municipalities and community groups to understand what projects have the greatest impact and benefit to communities. It can hire local business and community members in need of an opportunity to get into the workforce. Procurement projects can also encourage social innovation, and even reconciliation with our indigenous peoples.

This bill is a great opportunity for us to get the most out of our tax dollars and benefit our communities in ways that go well beyond economic benefit. I am pleased to support this bill.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

October 23rd, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act.

I appreciate the intervention from my colleague, but I want to raise some very substantial concerns regarding this bill. It seems that this bill follows in lockstep with the Liberals' trend to make business in Canada much harder for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as small rural communities, to access government funding and assistance. To me, that is simply not acceptable.

An assessment of the benefits of a community would derive from a federal contract being awarded to an enterprise, and its incredible intentions should not be harder to access, but easier. However, how this bill is written would impose further red tape and burdensome bureaucratic work, causing undue hardship on small and medium-sized enterprises and small rural communities. This would certainly deter smaller enterprises that may not have the substantial staffing or budget to know the right legal jargon for otherwise doing business with the Liberal government.

Adding onerous layers to the paperwork process would exclude many small and medium-sized enterprises from being able to participate in the process. It would further promote an attitude where the Liberal government is emboldened to large and powerful businesses and enterprises, giving them a clear advantage to access government funding. This bill would essentially help the wealthiest 1%, support powerful corporations, and put a greater disadvantage on small and medium enterprises, as well as small towns, cities, and villages.

To help smaller enterprises be successful, we need less red tape and bureaucracy, not more. There needs to be more support from the Liberal government to make it easier for smaller Canadian enterprises, businesses with fewer resources and less manpower, to be able to participate in the procurement process. This would in fact help small businesses to expand, grow, and create jobs. However, for the Liberals, who continually profess to be trying to help the middle class and those working hard to join it, this bill is another example of how they are doing the exact opposite.

This bill would take away an entrepreneur's opportunity to grow their business. In effect, once again, the Liberals are purposely hurting the very people they claim to be helping. They would be hurting hard-working Canadian small business owners to ensure they are helping their wealthy friends. It does not make sense. When the government supports small and medium enterprises, local businesses, and local people, it is how a community benefits. It is the grassroots organizations that give back to their communities. It is the small and medium-sized businesses that support local charities, sponsor community soccer teams, and ensure there are labour and resources to help upgrade or renovate community parks.

That leads me to my next point. What additionally concerns me are the arbitrary and undemocratic powers that this bill would give to the minister. This enactment would amend 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 report. Based on the way this bill is written, it would be the minister who gets to decide how the community would benefit from a specific project. I can say that within my own constituency of Foothills, each community and municipality is unique in its own way. The people, the resources, and the things they need to benefit their communities are unique and very distinctive.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to get to know my riding of Foothills extremely well. I spend time there, live there, raise my family there, work there, and shop in the businesses there. I know the people and the area. Who else knows the people and the area? It is the owners of the small and medium-sized enterprises who work there every single day. It is the municipal councillors who have the passion for and dedication to their communities and know intricately what goes on day to day. For me, it is those people we should be listening to when it comes to assessing the benefits to a community of a construction project. Is a minister here in Ottawa truly claiming that he or she knows every community across Canada better than the constituents, small business owners, and municipal councillors who live there each and every day? It is those people we should be listening to when we ask about the benefits of a community project.

Large and powerful enterprises may have the best resources to fill out a report, the best vocabulary to make it sound compelling to the minister, and certainly have the lobbyists in Ottawa trying to woo the minister to grant procurement projects to their companies. However, what I believe is most important is listening to the local groups who have the pulse of their neighbourhood. It is these small and medium-sized enterprises in our small communities that understand the needs and the ways to best shape their municipalities. The communities' success leads directly to their success.

Unfortunately, this bill gives the minister the power to subjectively pick which report sounds the best without knowing or truly understanding the community, its needs, or what the people in those communities believe is best for them. Who gets to also define the term “benefit”? Is benefit a blanket definition, such that if a report uses specific terms it qualifies as a community benefit? Is it a set of boxes that gets checked by the minister or the minister's staff, ensuring it uses the right buzzwords in the report? We all know the Liberals' favourite buzzwords: “open, transparent, fulsome, robust, broken promises”. Is it arbitrary? Is it subject to the mood of the minister to determine how benefit is defined at a particular time?

There is no clearly defined mechanism to identify what specifically qualifies as a community benefit in this bill, or a scale to which the benefit is measured upon. Then it becomes nothing more than a game of who has more money and resources, and it is no longer about the community, the people, or what would most benefit them. That is truly another example of Liberal entitlement, scratching the backs of their Liberal friends on Bay Street instead of helping those on Main Street.

There also appears to be no exemption for municipalities within this proposed legislation. I can speak first-hand to my constituency of Foothills in southwest Alberta. It is largely made up of very small municipalities, towns, villages, districts, and rural communities. I understand how difficult it is for them to go through the application process when it comes federal procurement. They do not have the resources. They do not have the manpower to dedicate the kind of time needed to apply for many of these types of projects. They do not have the financial means or the staff.

What concerns me is that the proposed legislation would add a second layer of bureaucracy to the application processes. We have talked a lot about the impact it will have on small and medium-sized enterprises, but we also have to take into consideration the impact it will have on our municipalities. Many of them are already frustrated about having to go through various hoops to apply for government grants, funding, and infrastructure projects. For them to go through that application process, hopefully get to the next stage, and then have a minister in Ottawa, doing “Ottawa knows best”, say that they want an assessment on the benefit to the community would be heavy-handed.

If the municipality, in partnership with a small and medium-sized enterprise, had already applied for a procurement project, they already understand it has a benefit to their community; otherwise they would not have put all the resources, time, and effort into doing that application in the first place. For the government to come back and say they want them to prove how this is going to benefit their community is very heavy-handed. It is heavy-handed for a minister here in Ottawa to try to tell our municipalities across the country that they know what is better for them, or that they need to prove that it is a benefit to their community.

Communities already find it difficult. To add another layer of red tape and bureaucracy is going to force a lot of municipalities to have a second thought about whether they are going to apply for these projects at all. I do not think that is something that we want. We want to make it easier. We want to ensure that our small rural communities have every opportunity to apply for government projects, as with any larger municipality, which certainly has many more resources, more lobbyists, and many more man-hours to dedicate to these types of projects.

I urge, once again, that it is imperative for the members in this House to bring forward ways to support and encourage our small and medium-sized enterprises, and our rural communities, not make it more difficult and discourage them from participating in these types of projects.

It should be done in a way that lets the community itself decide what is best for that community. It should be up to the constituents, not a minister here in Ottawa.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

October 23rd, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this morning to speak to Bill C-344 at second reading. The House has already debated an identical bill introduced by another member who has other duties now and can no longer sponsor this bill.

I will not repeat everything that has been said on the subject in the past. I just want to say that Bill C-344, which would essentially give Public Works and Government Services some direction with respect to its building construction and repair contracts, is a good one. This initiative would give the advantage to businesses that have shown they can make a contribution locally or, as the bill puts it, provide community benefit.

This is an important and promising initiative. This issue has been coming up more and more in discussions and in lobby groups' proposals to the government. We want our procurement policies to be more progressive and more respectful of the environment and all communities. We want to make things easier for people for whom the job market may seem out of reach, who are at a disadvantage, or who are limited in their ability to participate in government procurement. We need to make our procurement policies more progressive and friendlier to more businesses and individuals. We have to leverage the power our government wields in terms of procurement policies because there are so many contracts. The federal government is not the only player. Provincial and municipal governments award contracts too. Together, these three levels of government inject a lot of money into the economy.

When we avail ourselves of procurement policies that are progressive and give more people access to these projects so they can take advantage of them and make a positive impact in their communities, in my opinion, that can only be a good thing. That is why we should support Bill C-344. That way, it can go to committee, where we can take a detailed look at its terminology. We will also be able to look at how to reach the goals we set. When studying legislation, the devil is always in the details.

There are a lot of questions about the terms used in Bill C-344. What we want in the NDP is to find a way to maximize community benefits. We are looking for a way to increase the bill's benefits, especially for those who, as I said earlier, might feel the job market is out of reach, and who might use government policies as a way to reintegrate the workforce.

It is certainly an admirable goal. For instance, with respect to the requirements around community benefits, this could be good for indigenous employment, in communities where that makes sense. This could also mean awarding procurement contracts to local businesses, when there is a construction project and the Government of Canada wants to build a new building in Sherbrooke, for example. In my region, we are pretty well served when it comes to Government of Canada buildings, but some maintenance and occasional repairs are needed in some of those buildings. If the Government of Canada plans to build new buildings, which does not happen quite so much anymore, the department responsible for government buildings should definitely encourage community benefits. Instead of hiring a huge maintenance company that would not be able to take care of every building in the country, why not hire local companies to do the job? This could be done on a case-by-case basis in each municipality or community that has government offices or buildings. This would support local suppliers.

The NDP has long been defending the idea of buying locally, especially when it comes to food for penitentiaries and government buildings, places that have cafeterias that serve hundreds of meals a day. This is another positive and compelling example of how the food supply to those buildings can benefit the local economy. This can be very positive, and the government is in a position to do even more.

Just two weeks ago at the Standing Committee on Finance, a group from Oxfam told us that our procurement policies should ensure that employees get a decent salary. That is what they were proposing. It is not necessarily what I am proposing today, but I think it makes sense. If a company wants to do business with the Government of Canada, then it has to at least pay its employees a decent wage, one that allows full-time employees to support themselves.

The government is increasingly getting this type of suggestion about its procurement policies. It is about creating benefits for the community and allowing it to flourish. There are other suggestions around construction materials, such as buying wood from communities where forestry is important or steel where that resource is more important. We must ensure that government projects benefit the greatest amount of people.

There is also an environmental aspect to this bill. The environment is an important consideration when it comes to government procurement. My colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert often talks about electric cars and the federal government's fleet. I think that all Canadians would be surprised to learn how many vehicles the federal government owns and has to service on a daily basis. A progressive procurement policy would allow the government to integrate electric cars into its fleet within a reasonable period of time. This would help fight climate change. Such a policy could make a big difference, given how many vehicles are in the fleet. It would also help the government to meet or at least come closer to meeting its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

We could also talk about insulation for government buildings and their heating and cooling systems. Earlier, I mentioned a group that appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance during prebudget consultations and what they said, but there was also another group that felt it would be a good idea to better insulate the heating and cooling ducts. It just takes a quick look to see that government buildings are not properly insulated. By making some inexpensive repairs, the government could improve its heating and cooling systems and cut energy losses.

There are many other examples of community benefits. We must encourage the government to go in that direction. Perhaps in committee, when we know more, we could even look at how to make this policy more binding on the government. For now, it is just empty words.

Business owners are asked to provide information and reports get written but things never go any further than that. We will see if more comes out of this.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

October 23rd, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to discuss Bill C-344, which is a private member's bill from a member of the government. I commend the member for Brampton Centre for his work on this bill, although I have some concerns that I want worked out.

I will first give a bit of context as to how the bill works. The bill is designed to create a framework for infrastructure projects by which the minister would gather information on what constitutes a community benefit associated with the construction and work around a project and take that process into consideration. The contractor would provide certain information with respect to the community benefit in that process.

This is one of those cases where we see what is probably a member's good intention expressed through a bill. We can all agree, in principle, that we want to see communities benefiting, however one would define that. However, as often happens with these sorts of things, the devil is in the details. We can say that we have a good intention, but we also want to dig into the substance, the actual practical effects. An intention is not enough. What would be the effect? Would communities actually benefit from building another layer of bureaucratic assessment into this process? Would it, in fact, have a negative impact on the communities we are trying to help, because the added layer of assessment would entail a cost that is not justified by the benefit, and there are other more effective ways of realizing the community benefit?

As colleagues have pointed out, when we require these additional assessments, when we have concepts that are relatively nebulously defined, and when the minister is given added discretionary capacity because of a concept of a community benefit, subjectively assessed by whoever the minister is, that creates some problems, some uncertainty, and some added costs. It would be much clearer if specific objectives were clearly laid out in the guidelines with respect to procurement. Those specific objectives can be assessed and realized, rather than the structure envisioned by the bill.

In general, I think the philosophy of members of the government, and probably of the NDP as well, is that they look at a good intention, such as creating more community benefits, and then say that they need to have the government do something. They need to add a government process or a bureaucratic mechanism. They recognize that there is a cost, but because they have good intentions, they want to proceed in that direction. The problem is that many of those who are proposing these ideas miss the fact that there is actually a negative effect. There is a cost that comes with that action that is not always taken into consideration. I remember watching an interview with Margaret Thatcher. She said they asked her to be more generous, and she said, with whose money? This is precisely the point. Any time the government is being asked to be more generous or asked to do more, there is a cost that comes with that action.

We on this side of the House do not believe that there is not a space for the government to be involved in infrastructure and to make rational, efficient, effective assessments of what the impacts and the benefits will be. However, the money and the resources the government uses do not come at no cost. The assessment processes involved along the way do not come at no cost. They come with a cost. That is why we oppose a bill that, in our considered judgment, on balance, when we consider potential costs and benefits, does not realize its lofty objectives.

I propose to the member who put this forward, and to the members opposite in general, that we think there are better ways of realizing benefits for communities. There are more effective ways of empowering communities themselves to build infrastructure to strengthen themselves. There are ways of ensuring that we have strong, vibrant communities, businesses, and economies that have the capacity to do what they want to do anyway, which is to provide benefits back to those communities.

This is why, on this side of the House, we favour an approach that does not involve an overly bureaucratic or interventionist approach from the government that would take resources out of communities. We have been very critical of the current government for what seems to be its desire at every turn to increase taxes and regulatory burdens, and the cost that comes with that. We submit that, if the government wants to achieve benefits for communities, it should be looking at cutting taxes. It should look at giving more resources back to individuals and let people keep more of their own money. This is a way of maximizing the benefits for communities.

One example that jumped out at me from the last budget was that the Liberals had a program that proposed to help low-income families get access to the Internet, which is a legitimate objective with good intention. However, the way the program was structured implied that the government would have a process. People would apply if they were not able to access the Internet. The government would assess the application, there would be a certain criteria, and it would decide when, how, and to whom to pay out that money.

It would be so much more sensible and much more efficient to provide tax reductions to people in that same income category so that they could make the investments themselves in accessing the Internet or other things that they consider a priority, which is reflective of our philosophy on this side of the House. If we have a government program, even with a good intention, but if we do not consider the cost, we may up hurting those we actually want to help. Whereas, if we empower those who need help through tax reductions, by letting people keep more of their own resources, by creating the conditions that allow businesses to grow, thrive, and succeed, that would actually do much more for the long-term well-being of communities and the economy.

We have been discussing a lot over the last couple of weeks the government's attack on small business and its plans to bring in substantial changes that would have effectively increased the burden on and taxes paid by small businesses. It is important to underline, in the context of our discussion about the bill before us, that many of these small businesses are, of their own accord, making investments and donations back into the community. They are supporting vital not-for-profit activities. When we cut the ground out from under small businesses that are doing those things, it makes it more difficult for them to exist and thrive, but also to be actively engaged in the well-being of their communities. If we want strong communities that benefit and are vibrant places, we need to have strong individuals and the economic capacity for businesses and individuals to be contributing to the development and benefit of a community.

To sum up, on balance, we applaud what is likely a good intention, which informs this particular private member's bill, Bill C-344. However, we encourage members, when it comes to consideration of the bill and perhaps if it goes to committee, to dig deeper than the intention and to consider the practical costs and the negative effects of the additional red tape, and the cost that would be built into these various projects. Would it reduce the capacity of the government to do more projects? Would it impose costs that would negatively affect communities more than they would benefit?

Rather than building in this nebulous discretionary concept of community benefit to be interpreted by the minister, is it not better to use the existing process? We move forward with projects that are in the interest of communities and we try to minimize the cost of those projects to ensure that everybody is prospering, that we can do more, and that we are building the capacity of communities. In the process, let us think about reducing taxes for individuals and businesses so that they have the capacity to invest in and benefit the communities themselves.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

October 23rd, 2017 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate here today on Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit). This is interesting because in my riding we are going through this exact debate now with regard to a new border crossing. The response of the government as bill goes forth to committee will be interesting. I hope the front bench does not switch its position on this.

It is interesting how the Liberals are approaching this issue with regard to community benefits. As New Democrats we will support this because we believe that government funds that are taxpayer funds should go to help people get jobs, for the environment, and for value-added employment and services, and are not expended on P3s or to Liberal friends. These can be defined as it is done in Australia and the United States, and as is being done by the government right now for Detroit, Michigan. Yes, right now the government is involved in a P3 process with in the Windsor-Detroit Gordie Howe International Bridge crossing process. Right now we are paying for the plaza on the Canadian side and on the American side, and the bridge and part of that are community benefits. We are also going to get some community benefits on the Canadian side, but they come a little after the fact as there have been negotiations going on in the U.S.

On the Windsor-Detroit Border Authority website we find community benefits listed and that Detroit will be receiving as part of this. They involve everything from community partnerships, mitigation of construction and operation issues for nearby residents and businesses, community safety and connections, economic benefits, aesthetics, and landscaping. These are just some of the things that are happening with this new border crossing that we desperately need in our community. It has been a long, thought-out, and agreeable process for all.

We are also waiting for community benefits to happen on the Canadian side. That is some work that needs to be done in Sandwich Town because it has faced a number of traffic issues and nightmare pollution and disruption, as well as losses of churches, schools, businesses, and homes, all related to the border. It desperately needs some type of support.

Ironically, there is a long, accountable process going on for community benefits that is getting support that is drawn out on both sides of this new Gordie Howe International Bridge. We have 30% of Canada's daily trade that takes place in my riding on two kilometres and we are finally getting some respect for that. What do the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport do? They approve, by themselves when Parliament is shut down, a new border crossing for the Ambassador Bridge through an order in council. If people are not aware of what is happening in regard to process, it is a logic-free zone and it takes a lot of work to make it that way. The reality is the order in council gives the Prime Minister and cabinet dictatorial programs, policies, and legislation that changes lives with no oversight.

We are getting community benefits for the Gordie Howe International Bridge and the Liberals approved a brand new border crossing for one private American businessman, who has actually served time in the United States because he did not follow some of the legal processes there. What did the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport give the community for this? Nothing. A private American billionaire was given a new border crossing and he has to do a few things in the community related to a request that may or may not have happened, but none of it was public, none of it was discussed with people. One was moving a fire station because we are going to lose fire services and security elements related to time and a whole series of things. The community received nothing for that.

The Minister of Transport was in Windsor meeting with the mayor this weekend and one of the things they talked about was the Ojibway Shores, which is one of the last remaining properties on the waterfront in the Windsor area and the Windsor great lakes, old forest growth that we have been protecting. As a community benefit, we could have seen that property returned to the people to be a gateway entrance for all of us. It contains endangered species. The port wanted to develop it and this is critical. The Minister of Transport is the minister responsible for ports across Canada. He is the one at the end of the day who is responsible for that.

Our community fought to make sure the government did not bulldoze that land. It tried to bulldoze it and clear-cut it for its own economic development but the community stood strong. The aboriginal community, the local community, everyone from social services to the environment, and our businesses, together stood strong. That property is still undeveloped but we are waiting for development to happen.

What has the port done? The port has asked for $10 million for this land to be taken from a community benefit fund that we are going to get from the border crossing. We did the research. The land owned by the port authority is actually owned by the people of Canada. Let us get that straight. Full stop on this.

The simple truth is that port authorities across Canada are the stewards of public land. The land belongs to the people of Canada. The port authority has asked for another $10 million. That money will go to the port instead of going to neighbourhood development, socioeconomic issues, environmental problems, or human health problems. Businesses and schools have closed. The port asked for that $10 million to be taken from taxpayers' money.

The minister could have given the deed to the mayor this past weekend. In fact, a transfer process could have taken place. This would involve a transfer from the port authority to the Minister of Environment. Management would be done first and then the real estate would be transferred to the actual department. It is a two-step process. It would not cost a dime and it would give the community what it needs.

We are talking here this morning about community benefits. Ironically, the area that will be affected involves 30% of Canada's daily trade, 10,000 trucks a day and 40,000 vehicles. Kids have had to go to school with Health Canada monitoring devices in their backpacks to see what type of carcinogens they are getting in their lungs.

My community has watched those closures. All it is asking for is a little something back. Yet the port authority wants to take $10 million from a community benefit fund for the P3 that we are getting for a new border crossing for land Canadians already own. Canadians would lose out on that money for all the necessary things I have noted.

It received nothing when an American billionaire received a brand new border crossing from the government. It received nothing at all.

The solutions are simple. I sense something is going on here. There are just too many things happening. The city has an appointee on the board of the port authority, as do the province and the federal government. Everyone is represented on the board.

Why can the people not get what they want? What they want is to maintain public land in good environmental stewardship that makes our international obligations stronger, our national representation to greenhouse gases and other types of environmental protection stronger. The community would bond together.

As this legislation goes forward I hope we get lots of witnesses at committee who will talk about what is happening. I hope officials from the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority will appear before committee and tell us about its open and detailed process on how community benefits are being used on both sides of this new international crossing. Detroit and its neighbourhoods are getting them and Windsor is supposed to get some.

Why is it that the Prime Minister and his cabinet decided to grant a brand new border crossing with zero community benefits? How is that possible?

I will be supporting this legislation as will other New Democrats. In the meantime, we have a simple request. Will the Minister of Transport transfer the public land that is so environmentally important and is a significant piece of our heritage and a significant part of the future we want for Windsor-Essex County? Instead of coming to Windsor to do a photo-op, will the Minister of Transport sign the one piece of paper he has to sign to start the transfer of the management? Will he sign the second document to give it over to the Minister of Environment?

We would be preserving one of the most important heritage environmental spots this generation will ever have.

What will the Prime Minister and cabinet do to rectify the problem? They gave an American billionaire a brand new border crossing with zero community benefits. It does not seem right. It seems upside down to me. We are going to turn it right side up.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

October 23rd, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their extensive analysis of and support for this bill. It is clear that Bill C-344 would strengthen federal community investments delivered to constituents from coast to coast to coast. Community benefit agreements, CBAs, are a new approach to empowering local communities to partner with developers to address local challenges. They have already been used successfully at the provincial and municipal levels to address economic development and growth issues and environmental sustainability in neighbourhoods across Canada.

Bill C-344 would encourage consultations with communities across Canada, thus strengthening federal infrastructure investments by showing how federal contracts would have knock-on effects in the communities where they are executed. Moreover, the idea of community benefit agreements is supported by numerous business groups and organizations across Canada. These groups see in practical terms how CBAs would speed up the work of implementing infrastructure investment by ensuring that there is community buy-in. By implementing community benefit agreements in the federal jurisdiction, the Government of Canada would exercise leadership in improving communities across Canada.

This leadership would be measured by the Minister of Public Services and Procurement having to table a report on the community effects of government investments. This process would allow Public Services and Procurement Canada to ensure that the Canadian public is getting the best value for their infrastructure dollars. Ultimately, CBAs would ensure that communities have consistent growth and meaningful employment while fostering a healthier environment.

Further, CBAs would provide the communities with a sense of motivation, ownership, accomplishment, and a quest for dignity and pride. With consultations in the communities and reporting by the minister in the House, CBAs would make clear to everyone how future federal projects involving construction, maintenance, or repair would result in community benefits for millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Bill C-344 would ensure that communities across Canada can benefit from enhanced infrastructure developments, setting the stage for local economies and communities to continue to prosper. Therefore, I urge members of all parties to support Bill C-344 so that communities across Canada would get their fair share of benefits.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

moved that Bill C-344, 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, I am proud to rise in the House with the support of the hon. member for Don Valley North to introduce my private member's bill, Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to introduce community benefits.

I would like to take this moment to thank the residents of my riding of Brampton Centre for giving me the opportunity to introduce the bill and for electing me as the first member of Parliament for Brampton Centre.

Bill C-344 would further strengthen the federal infrastructure investment in communities, such as in my riding, and throughout Canada.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the member for York South—Weston for his extensive work on his previous private member's bill. At the committee hearing, two amendments to Bill C-227 were suggested by the committee. Hence my bill, Bill C-344, is before the house today.

Community benefit agreements, referred to as CBAs, create socio-economic opportunities for local communities and neighbourhoods as well as environmental benefits as a result of federal development projects across Canada. These benefits include local job creation, apprenticeships, affordable housing, education, support for seniors, health care, and other key benefits for communities.

Bill C-344 would amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act. This would include a provision that would enable the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to require successful bidders on federal projects to report information on community benefits. This provision would ultimately create a platform to minimize possible delays and promote flexibility for community infrastructure development.

CBAs would enable the ministry of public services and procurement to formulate agreements with federal infrastructure developers with added input from community groups. These agreements would lay the foundation to encourage local communities to build partnerships with developers. Ultimately, CBAs would strengthen the socio-economic influence of publicly funded development projects.

For example, in my riding of Brampton Centre, federal investments into infrastructure have greatly contributed to social development in the community. The Züm bus rapid transit fund has revolutionized transit infrastructure across the City of Brampton and has attracted approximately $95 million of federal investment. Further, a federal investment of $69 million in a stormwater management project in Peel region has greatly contributed to improving the quality of life in the community. However, had CBAs been tied to these investments, the overall impact could have been much greater. Communities across Canada rely on federal investments to fund development projects, so if CBAs are tied to these federal investments, communities would thrive.

This was evident in the city of Vancouver, where the 2010 Olympic Village was built under a CBA. This initiative allowed communities to have a direct input on the project.

Bill C-344 would allow for comprehensive consultations with communities across Canada, consequently strengthening local infrastructure investments. It would also reduce red tape for small and medium-sized businesses and further accelerate the approval process for federal repair and construction projects.

Moreover, various business groups and organizations support the concept of CBAs. The boards of trade for Brampton, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, and various unions, have endorsed CBAs as strong economic policy and an optimal way to promote youth employment.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, referred to as HUMA, I have first-hand experience of the harsh realities of poverty in Canada. This committee has conducted a study with recommendations on a national poverty reduction strategy that was submitted to this Parliament. It is quite evident that CBAs will promote increased prosperity and drastically reduce poverty in communities across Canada.

Further, a joint report from the Mowat Centre and the Atkinson Foundation found that CBAs have the ability to promote a better environment for unique areas. In Ontario alone, the provincial government will invest $130 billion into public infrastructure over the next 10 years. The federal government has committed more than $180 billion into transit, green, and social infrastructures. As such, this is the time to collaborate with communities so they can also benefit from such lucrative federal investments.

CBAs will ultimately enhance the socio-economic development of cities across Canada. CBAs have already been implemented in Ontario with the enactment of the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act. This act aims to remove any red tape so that the approval process for provincial infrastructure investment projects can be more efficient.

Furthermore, a number of organizations, including Metrolinx and the Toronto Community Benefits Network, have signed a community benefits framework, the first in Ontario.

The U.S.A. and the U.K. have already adopted the CBA concept into their respective infrastructure investments. In the U.S.A., CBA success stories include the Atlanta Beltline project, the Los Angeles airport expansion, and the Los Angeles Grand Avenue project. One stipulation on these projects was the requirement to submit reports on the benefits derived for communities. Provinces such as Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Manitoba are also in the process of adopting the CBA concept.

Bill C-344 would authorize the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to require bidders to provide a detailed explanation of how government-funded projects will benefit the community. It would also require the minister to report to Parliament on an annual basis on what community benefits have been implemented.

Bill C-344 is about implementing CBAs in the federal jurisdiction. This will give added responsibility to the Government of Canada to exercise leadership in implementing CBAs across Canada. Ultimately, CBAs will create the foundation for communities to earn their fair share of federal infrastructure investment. This will ensure that communities have reliable growth and meaningful employment while fostering a healthier environment.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario to have CBAs preserved in law. This can serve as a model for other jurisdictions to follow. It is about ensuring that future federal infrastructure projects would generate community benefits for all Canadians coast to coast to coast.

I therefore humbly invite all my colleagues in this House to support Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit) so that communities across Canada can have access to enhanced infrastructure developments.

Besides the tangible benefits offered by CBAs, they will also serve as a vehicle for the pursuit of dignity and rebuild the core infrastructure of Canadian communities that are eagerly awaiting them.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will continue this debate in French. I wish to inform you that Her Majesty's official opposition will oppose this private member's bill and vote against it.

I hate to rain on anyone's parade, and I know the bill sponsor is not going to like this, but we will be voting against the bill for some eminently sensible reasons that I will explain.

I would like to comment on the member for Brampton Centre's speech. The government's role is to allow everyone to compete. When it grants contracts to third parties, parties outside the government, such as small and medium-sized businesses, big businesses, and organizations, it must ensure that RFPs are written so as to maximize everyone's opportunity. That means minimizing paperwork and constraints, which can be obstacles for some small and medium-sized businesses that want to bid. In Canada, such businesses have fewer resources than large construction companies, for example.

The member said the bill would provide flexibility in granting contracts. That is ironic, because the opposite is true. This bill will make the RFP process, which is open to everyone, more cumbersome.

He also said that this would help communities. I only wish that were the case, but after reading the bill, which contains almost no details and consists of only one page and three clauses, I can find no indication that any assistance will be provided to communities. What will happen, however, is that small and medium-sized businesses will be subject to greater constraints and more red tape. I would like to believe the member when he says he wants to help Canadian communities and municipalities, but that is not at all what the bill appears to do. I say this with some reservation, since that is my interpretation, although it is also how the opposition sees it.

In addition, speaking of economic benefits for local communities, the member referred to the Olympic Village in Vancouver. That was one of the largest projects undertaken in Canada in recent years, and it is hardly the kind of local benefits our colleague was referring to in his bill, in other words, infrastructure such as bridges and so on. The Olympic Village in Vancouver was a megaproject involving huge Canadian corporations that are accustomed to being very efficient and getting sizable returns. They have good relationships with the government and are capable of meeting project deadlines, as was the case for the Olympic Games.

Vancouver's Olympic Village was in fact the worst example that the member could have used to illustrate how his bill would benefit the community, or at least help small businesses.

The member said not once, but twice that this bill would cut down on paperwork and red tape and reduce the number of forms small businesses have to fill; that was the point of the question I asked him. In fact, the opposite is true. The specific focus of the bill is to now make small businesses fill out a form for the minister; the community benefits will therefore be at his discretion. The very purpose of the bill is to create paperwork. It is an incredible thing to say that it will cut red tape.

That was my introduction.

Last week, during my speech on the 2017 budget, I said that the purpose of most of the Liberal bills introduced over the past two years has been to benefit certain special interest groups.

These bills are not introduced for the benefit of Canadians in general, that is, all individual Canadians, but rather to help special interest groups. I believe Bill C-344 to be a prime example of this government’s legislative proclivity.

I would also like to remind members how the bill came to be. It was first introduced by the current Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship as Bill C-227. It was then dropped from the Order Paper a few months ago, after the member was appointed to cabinet, only to return to it later.

The member said that this bill was significant, fundamental and necessary for Canada in that it will allow communities to make their needs known given the expected benefits of a given project. If that were the case, why is this not a bill that the government would want to introduce? Why is it not a government bill?

While I can appreciate that this is not within the current Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship’s portfolio, why did he not bring this bill forward as quickly as possible? This could have been settled a few months ago. If this were such an effective and important bill, it could have been passed months ago.

The fact that the Liberals removed this bill from the Order Paper and then put it back shows that they likely thought it was inconsequential since there is not much to it. They probably figured that they would just hand it over to some MP so that he could introduce a bill. I know how it goes. It is good to give hon. members the chance to introduce bills, but this bill is essentially going to harm small and medium-sized businesses.

Let me get into the technical details of the bill before it is too late. We in the opposition have identified some problems. There are no criteria in this bill for how small and medium-sized businesses are to respond to the minister's mandatory assessment. There are no criteria, directives, guidelines, or substantive information in this bill indicating precisely how SMEs have to fill out the form.

There is no indication of the criteria, the length of the form, or whether anthropologists and sociologists will have to analyze every little spinoff from the project, whether environmental, economic, or social. What is more, subclause 21.1(1) of the bill states:

...any other specific benefit identified by the community.

I think we can all agree that this could have a major impact on what could be required of small and medium-sized businesses when they fill out the form. For example, if a municipality decides to assess the community benefits for a certain historic group, such as indigenous people, the input of anthropologists and historians will certainly be required. Just imagine if a small or medium-sized business in Toronto, for example, where the member is from, was required to hire anthropologists and sociologists before building a bridge. That is completely ridiculous.

Another problem is that it is left up to the minister's discretion whether a form explaining the community benefits will need to be filled out. The minister will also decide whether or not to present the report on community benefits to Parliament. The bill cannot be that serious if the minister can choose not to apply its provisions. The bill states:

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

I will close by mentioning the worst part, which is that the minister could request a report on the community benefits after the bids have already been submitted and after the SME has already finished the work. However, we know that contracting parties need to have a good idea of how much things will cost before work begins. What the government is telling them is that, after the work is done, they may have to meet other requirements that will cost them more money.

This is a truly a bad piece of legislation as it now stands. It must be sent to committee or even killed because it is just a source of red tape and does not contain any clear directions.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs Québec

Liberal

Marc Miller LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, community benefit.

Bill C-344 would amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to provide the minister of public services and procurement with the authority to require an assessment of the benefits that a community derives from a construction, maintenance, or repair project. Under the bill, the minister may require bidders on a contract to provide information on a project's community benefits. The minister may also request an assessment as to whether community benefits have been derived from a project.

Finally, the bill would require the minister to table an annual report in Parliament on community benefits provided by construction, maintenance, or repair projects.

In simple terms, the goal of the bill is to ensure that taxpayer money invested in the repair and construction of federal infrastructure is used to produce useful local benefits, such as training, jobs, and environmental benefits.

The goals of this bill are laudable and I encourage all members in the House to support it.

There are three compelling reasons for supporting this bill. The first is that the government should use its spending power to create jobs, promote economic growth, and foster a more prosperous society. Certainly, this is one of our government's priorities and is in keeping with the mandate of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.

The minister was mandated to:

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.

Bill C-344 aligns squarely with these objectives. If enacted, Bill C-344 would help support the government's effort in leveraging procurement to advance social and green policies for the benefit of all Canadians.

The second reason to support this bill is that the concept of community benefits is already well established in the United Kingdom and the United States and is gaining popularity at the local and provincial levels here in Canada. Bill C-344 is a perfect opportunity for the federal government to show leadership and adopt the concept of community benefits on behalf of the entire country. For example, the concept of community benefits was applied in building the athletes’ village for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

More recently, Ontario passed the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015 and became the first province to include community benefits in provincial infrastructure projects, putting emphasis on hiring, training, and buying local. An excellent example of the results of this approach is the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown light rail line in Toronto, a public transit project worth several billion dollars that now includes an agreement regarding community benefits.

As part of that initiative, provincial and municipal partners set the objective that 10% of trade and craft hours required for the project must be carried out by apprentices and journeypersons who live along the public transit corridor and who have had difficulty finding work. The cost is the same, but part of the cost of labour is better directed to advance things on the social front. That project has the possibility of changing the lives of young people, who will then be able to obtain training or a job.

At the same time, Bill C-344 would not impose much in the way of additional procedures on either the government or private sector suppliers. The bill does not call for changing the criteria in the tendering process. The minister's annual report to Parliament would simply provide an additional level of transparency and accountability to Canadians as to how their money is being spent and the positive impact it is having on their communities.

Third, this bill is consistent with the approach of the investing in Canada plan. The Government of Canada is making historic new investments in infrastructure, more than doubling existing funding to build the cities of the 21st century and provide communities across the country with the tools they need to prosper and innovate. Our historic investments are bringing about transformational change in our communities.

An example of a project that brings great community benefit is the Champlain Bridge, which crosses into my riding.

The new Champlain Bridge corridor is one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America. In addition to ensuring the safety of users, the proposed corridor will create thousands of jobs in the greater Montreal area and foster economic growth in Canada by improving the network's connectivity and the continuous and safe flow of people and goods.

Another great example is the Gordie Howe bridge. The Government of Canada is committed to the Gordie Howe international bridge, a strategic trade corridor with our country's most important economic partner. It is an example of the infrastructure investments being made to help grow the economy, create good middle-class jobs, and enhance trade and productivity in our local communities and across the country.

The Gordie Howe international bridge will encourage new investment between Canada and the United States and help to maintain and create thousands of jobs and opportunities on both sides of the border. The new bridge is of vital importance to the economic prosperity of communities and businesses on both sides of the border and is expected to create thousands of construction jobs in Ontario. In addition to the jobs created during the construction of the project, the new bridge will result in many permanent jobs for the future operation of the crossing. As well, it is expected that thousands of jobs will be created in businesses that will supply goods and raw materials for the project.

This is the opportune time to ensure that we are reinvesting in our communities. By investing in the things that help make our neighbourhoods better places to live, like affordable housing, cultural institutions, and recreational facilities, we can build stronger neighbourhoods and communities that we are all proud to call home.

I have had the opportunity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to go to different parts of the country and get full feedback from mayors and city councillors, some of the hardest-working people in the public service, and they tell me how important it is to get local feedback and talk about the expertise that exists in those communities and to reflect the needs in our infrastructure projects. We know that the federal government cannot just walk in and invest without consulting and without talking to the provinces. Frankly, the expertise lies in a number of these projects. We rely on them and we need them, whether it is talking to provincial governments, talking to community leaders, talking to individuals as to what their needs are, or talking to our indigenous communities. These are key things, and this is part and parcel of Bill C-344. It fits perfectly within the framework we are creating to build the 21st century.

By investing in infrastructure now, in the projects that Canada needs and in the men and women who can carry them out, we can strengthen and grow the middle class and make Canada a better place to live.

I see Bill C-344 as another way of ensuring that federal procurement helps the government obtain real benefits and results for Canadians and our communities.

I would like to take the time to congratulate the sponsor of this private member's bill, the member for Brampton Centre, for proposing a piece of legislation that is extremely difficult to argue against, particularly in light of his extreme advocacy in the community for the community benefits from any federal investment. The bill's underlying principles and objectives are laudable, and Bill C-344 warrants the support of the House.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2017 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-344, an act that would provide the minister with the authority to require an assessment of the benefits a community would derive from a construction, maintenance, or repair project. The bill's author, I am sure, has good intentions behind bringing the bill forward, but we all know where the road paved with good intention leads.

The practical considerations of federal procurement and the effects of more regulations on small and medium enterprises when entering into the federal bidding process cannot be ignored. The federal procurement process is one of the most complex processes in government. It takes months to finalize an RFP, solicit bids, modify the RFP, narrow down bidders, and negotiate a contract, all to finally accept a proposal that could very well be cancelled or delayed. I am not sure it would be possible to design a more convoluted system if we tried, although it appears that the government has been working very hard to ensure that nothing surpasses it.

For example, the bid from Alenia Aermacchi North America weighed some 2,700 kilograms, while Airbus Defence and Space needed a U-Haul to deliver 1,500 kilograms of documents to Public Services and Procurement Canada for the fixed-wing search and rescue bid. Even with such a detailed RFP process, the government has managed to get us sued for not providing proper information to the bidders.

One of the significant reasons federal procurement has become so complex is that politicians have seen fit to increase the number of conditions required before a contract can be awarded. Some of the conditions are to ensure greater financial transparency and are objectively good and practically necessary to prevent corruption. However, some conditions, like those proposed in Bill C-344, are well-intentioned but serve only to make a complicated process more complex. It is one thing to propose that companies submit a community assessment as part of their bid, as per proposed subsection 20.1(2) of the legislation, but it is completely another thing to allow such ambiguous power to sit with the minister. “The Minister may...require bidders...to provide information”, it reads. It is not “always”, but “may”. It is not if the contract is this size or that size.

What better way to open this up to lawsuits than to give the minister such an undefined power? Who is to decide what is the best social benefit? What parameters are to be used to decide if an environmental benefit from one bidder is superior to another but provides no social benefit? Who decides if a slight social benefit outweighs a much lower price and therefore gets the contract? What is to stop the government from using such vagueness for partisan benefit?

Here is a list of investigations of actual issues that have arisen and have been published on the website of the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman. There are 31 posted, and all but five concern issues that would be made worse by such undefined items in Bill C-344. They read:

1. Ombudsman recommends compensation to bidder who was treated unfairly

With Bill C-344, we would have an unclear process.

2. Request for proposal with unclear estimates impacts a bidding process

3. Departmental delays impede a supplier’s ability to submit a bid

4. Were contractual obligations met by the federal organization?

6. The onus to demonstrate how a proposal meets the evaluation criteria...

Again, that goes right back to Bill C-344 and its vagueness.

7. Organization properly awarded the contract, but may have unnecessarily limited the pool of potential suppliers

8. Compensation recommended for a supplier whose proposal was improperly rejected

10. Poorly written solicitations can cause confusion for suppliers

11. Department's approach to soliciting proposals was not consistent with government policy

12. Was a supplier disadvantaged by an unreasonable criterion?

13. A mandatory criterion questioned

15. Excessive criteria for the work to be done?

The list goes on. I am not even halfway through.

16. Department did not indicate the basis of selection to award a contract

17. Compensation recommended for supplier whose bid was wrongfully rejected.

This goes back to who is deciding on a social benefit versus an environmental benefit.

18. Did the department adhere to the terms and conditions of the Standing Offer?

19. Are subject-matter experts required to evaluate proposals?

20. Supplier's bid wrongfully deemed non-compliant on the basis of undisclosed evaluation criteria

21. Did a department act in a fair, open and transparent manner?

22. Were suppliers discouraged from bidding and others given an advantage?

23. Evaluation criteria not applied as stated in the bid solicitation

24. Did the department evaluate supplier bids using the same criteria?

Again, there are no criteria set out in Bill C-344.

25. Mandatory bid evaluation criteria not identified or applied appropriately: Supplier compensated

This goes back to the Minister “may” ask for such information but not always.

26. Did solicitation documents include contradictory wording?

27. Was there a conflict of interest or unfair advantage in the award of the contract?

30. Mandatory evaluation bid criteria based on operational requirements but the rationale not communicated

31. Department did not act in bad faith but need for better communication

What is the cost going to be for taxpayers? In the operations and estimates committee, we asked both the deputy minister and the associate deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada if an analysis had been done of the effects of Bill C-344 on costs from the added red tape and bureaucracy, etc. Shockingly, for a government that goes on ad nauseam about evidence-based decision-making, neither had heard of Bill C-344, nor could they say if any analysis had been done on possible effects on the procurement process.

Seeing as the minister is on leave and her fill-in has been AWOL on such issues as Phoenix, the fighter jet procurement disaster, and the Shared Services paper shredding scandal, it is no surprise to see that this bill has had zero investigation into the ramifications.

I am not the only who opposes adding bureaucratic red tape to a process that is already the gold standard for red tape. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says:

Attempts by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to access federal procurement are consistently hampered by a confusing application processes, excessive paperwork and a complex system of rules.

One of the CFIBs suggestions was, “Make the procurement process an integral part of any red tape reduction initiative.” Note that it did not say to please add to the red tape.

The practical considerations of more bureaucracy are very real. The procurement ombudsman states that one of the continuing problems is that the complexity of the system scares small and medium-sized businesses away from engaging in federal procurement. In his 2015-16 annual report on procurement, the ombudsman noted examples of complaints from suppliers:

Cumbersome and burdensome solicitations, more specifically the amount of paperwork and time required to respond to solicitations, act as disincentives for suppliers.

Short bidding periods make it difficult for suppliers to respond to the often extensive requirements in solicitations....

Communications barriers or challenges, including in obtaining debriefs from federal organizations on the shortcomings of unsuccessful bids after the award of contracts or concerns about a perceived lack of details provided through debriefs....

Delays in launching procurements, or lengthy procurement processes, are resulting in increased costs for suppliers and federal organizations.

Take each item and relate it to Bill C-344's effects on the process. I cannot see how the legislation would make RFPs less cumbersome, less expensive, or less extensive or provide more clarity. Again, Bill C-344 ignores the existing problems within procurement and will increase complaints from small businesses.

As mentioned, Bill C-344 is vague in that it does not clearly define what constitutes a social, economic, or environmental benefit a community derives.

This problem of disincentives touches on another complaint heard by the procurement ombudsman, who noted that new businesses are unable or unwilling to break into the procurement market because of the substantial knowledge barrier to entry.

I support small and medium-sized businesses and believe that the government should be doing more to encourage SMEs to submit bids, create jobs, and grow our economy. Adding more requirements, bureaucracy, and ill-defined powers are not ways to bring down costs, simplify the process, and address the consistent concerns brought forward by businesses on the procurement process.

The minister's own mandate letter states:

Modernize procurement practices so that they are simpler, less administratively burdensome....

Bill C-344 would move government procurement in the exact opposite direction. The government should read the Prime Minister's own mandate letter to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and reject this bill.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2017 / noon
See context

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Brampton Centre for bringing forward his private member's legislation.

I rise today in support of Bill C-344, which would require an assessment of the benefits that a community would derive from a construction, maintenance, or repair project. This common-sense legislation will have many benefits for Canadian communities.

In 2015, we campaigned on historic infrastructure investments. The bill would add community benefit to the our investment and construction goals. The ministry already receives submissions on cost and time of construction, however, there is no policy that requires contractors to assess what benefits a project would offer to our communities. Bill C-344 would address this gap in the current procurement policies.

Bill C-344 also speaks to the triple bottom line, which I have adopted, that emphasizes social, economic, and environmental innovation.

Community benefit agreements are a new approach to empowering local communities to partner with developers in order to respond to local challenges. CBAs can be used to address economic development and growth, but also poverty reduction and environmental sustainability in neighbourhoods across Canada.

The bill seeks to maximize the value of every public dollar invested in our communities. By requesting applicants to submit an assessment on community benefits, the minister can make a much more informed decision around community priorities.

Under this new system, the government can weigh the additional benefits each contractor will bring to the community, including additional information such as jobs created during and after, environmental benefit, and costs. The minister can move forward with greater confidence that money is being invested wisely in our communities.

The economic gains of procurement are clear. Public Services and Procurement Canada manages close to $15 billion in procurement on behalf of federal departments and agencies. These procurements multiply economic opportunities and community benefits across the country through direct and indirect effects.

Crucially, close to 40% of our overall procurement business goes to small and medium-size enterprises, which are almost always local. Using figures from the last three years, 98% of construction contracts awarded in Ontario went to suppliers based in Ontario.

This policy will also incentivize private construction firms to think more broadly about their role in communities, and is in practise already with many municipalities. This approach offers an excellent opportunity for businesses to increase the scope of their supply to include a focus on social innovation and environmental benefit. In addition, the platform includes a proposal for federal infrastructure projects as a means to ensure development of opportunities for veterans and other under-represented groups.

Bill C-344 also offers an opportunity for Public Services and Procurement Canada to engage in work with municipalities. No one appreciates and understands the diverse and unique needs of communities better than the people who live there.

Canadians require a procurement process that works for them and reflects their values. Alongside transparency and accountability, procurement can fulfill economic, social, and environmental benefits. Bill C-344 is an opportunity for Canadians to get the most out of their tax dollars, ensuring tax dollars work for them.

I again thank the member for Brampton Centre for bringing forward the bill.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActRoutine Proceedings

April 6th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit).

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely honoured to stand in the House, with the support of the member for Don Valley North, to introduce my first private member's bill, the community benefit act, or CBA, regarding the federal investment in infrastructure.

The CBA is the modern way of giving power to communities. This will benefit not only my riding of Brampton Centre but ridings across Canada. My bill will define what community benefits are and how government can collaborate with communities to obtain maximum benefits. The CBA will provide for community participation so they can achieve their fair share of the federal government's spending. The CBA will ensure reliable growth and meaningful employment while fostering a healthier environment.

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