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

Second reading (Senate), as of Dec. 6, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-344.

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

June 13, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit)
March 28, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit)
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

June 12th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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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 third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, today is a proud moment for me, because my private member's bill, Bill C-344, is now up for third reading.

The purpose of Bill C-344 is to amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act. The bill would stand for community benefits, CBAs, and if passed, would give special power to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, with an authority to require assessment of the benefits that a community derives from a project in which federal investment is made.

I introduced the bill with the motivation that it would be beneficial for the community at large. The community benefit agreement is a new approach to development and growth in projects across Canada. CBAs would create community wealth, social values, quality jobs, and a healthier environment.

Bill C-344 would amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act by providing the minister with the authority and flexibility to require successful bidders on federal construction maintenance and repair projects to provide information on community benefits. At the behest of the minister, a successful bidder would be required to outline the benefits a project is providing to the community, whether those benefits be through employment, social infrastructure, or other means.

The minister would collect the data from successful bidders and use the same to help update further procurement modernizations. The bill would ensure that the government is receiving best value for Canadians. CBAs would enable the minister to formulate agreements with federal infrastructure developers, with added input from community groups. It would also require the minister to annually report to Parliament as to what community benefits have been implemented.

The mandate letter to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement asks that the minister make procurement practices simpler and less administratively burdensome, deploy modern comptrollership, and include practices that support green and social procurement. As legislators, it is our duty to work for the benefit and betterment of communities, towards inclusiveness and their participation in projects.

We all know that acquiring skills is a prerequisite for meaningful employment, especially for women and youth within our communities. The main result of meaningful employment is restoration of dignity and meaningful development for individuals. In other words, when we strive to build physical infrastructure, at the same time we must aspire to look at the development of social infrastructure, which leads to inner well-being and can be called the inner infrastructure of an individual. Federal infrastructure investments, when shared with communities, will foster ownership of a project and as a result create a sense of pride for the individuals who participated.

I have looked into the primary arguments brought up by some members that this proposed legislation may create additional red tape. However, let us not forget that the major benefits of CBAs are not only that they allow local communities to benefit financially, but also that they give them an opportunity to provide their input and innovative ideas as to how delays, if any, can be minimized.

No one is suggesting that the rules and regulations must be optional or should be ignored, but the CBA concept will give the opportunity to provide services efficiently. Comprehensive consultations with communities will reduce the red tape for small and medium-sized businesses and further accelerate the approval process. Local communities will work to enhance the process of a project because it is for their own benefit. Thereby, CBAs can result in services being delivered without delay.

I'm certain that all of us are committed to strengthening our communities, and one way of realizing this vision is to enrich communities through collaboration and meaningful participation. For communities, the opportunities to apply their skills in local projects will ultimately generate a sense of pride and ownership.

Our government has committed billions of dollars over the next several years to infrastructure investments. The primary purpose of these infrastructure investments is for jobs and economic growth for the middle class and for those working hard to join it.

I am convinced, and I am sure that members will be with me in saying that meaningful employment is one method to achieve this. That is the way. Now it is time that we see the importance of inclusiveness through skills training, meaningful employment, and communities taking ownership of these infrastructure investments as a step towards the eradication of poverty and the promotion of social harmony.

Some of us may think that we have placed added constraints on contractors by addressing community inclusion during the bidding process. However, this is false because this process is very simple. The successful bidder will be bound to provide information to the minister, and the involvement of the minister will make the process simple.

Furthermore, there will be more accountability for Canadian tax dollars. The minister will not only have more involvement in the project, but will also be accountable to Parliament and taxpayers.

From the consultation process in my riding, what I have gathered by speaking to members of the community and to contractors is that CBAs will be welcomed by everyone, because they will ultimately promote socio-economic benefits for communities. Needless to say, this concept has been tried and successfully proven in many cities, provinces, and countries, like Ontario and the United States of America.

Bill C-344 would require the government to implement the modernization of the government procurement process. It would state to businesses and communities that we are managing procurement effectively to achieve broader socio-economic goals, while making it faster to do business with the federal government.

Let it remain clear that the purpose of Bill C-344 is to better our communities by creating a sense of community participation. Motivation in the communities will come by way of collaboration and ownership in the project. Skill training opportunities, employment, jobs, and additional benefits to communities are all reasons for the CBA. It is a win-win situation.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 12th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act regarding community benefit. While this bill has commendable intentions, it is my great concern that it will actually have a negative impact on our communities and the small and medium-sized construction businesses that employ so many Canadians. In my opinion, this private member's bill continues the Liberals' assault on SMEs by adding another layer of red tape to federal government contracts.

Just last week, I spoke on Bill C-69 and the Liberals' changes to the Navigation Protection Act contained within that bill. Like Bill C-344, the changes to the NPA would add more red tape and cost for project proponents and the construction companies that do the work. While this private member's bill may be smaller in scope and thereby seen as less problematic for small and medium-sized businesses than the government's omnibus bill, Bill C-69, it still reflects a worrying trend by the government.

The Liberals' mentality seems to be that they can add any amount of new taxes on businesses and that it will have no effect on their bottom line or the price they charge their customers or, on this occasion, that they can attach any amount of red tape on businesses' activities and they will happily absorb the administrative burden. This is not the case. There are consequences every time a government does this, just as there are benefits every time a government reduces taxes or cuts red tape for job-creating small and medium-sized businesses. If passed, this bill would pertain to those projects and the subsequent contracts awarded by the federal Minister of Public Services and Procurement.

I will talk about the substance of narrow scope of the bill in a minute, but for the moment, I will speculate about why the Liberals, through this private member's bill, have limited the application of the bill in such a way. It could be that the Liberals actually know that applying these principles more broadly would generate a larger backlash among the construction industry and the many partners that often work with the federal government to fund projects. It could be that Liberals want to use this private member's bill as a virtue-signalling talking point in order to win over a certain segment of the population. It could also be that some Liberals actually realize that slapping this requirement onto all federally funded projects would have a negative impact on the construction industry, as I have already identified, and as a result, they have decided to limit the damage to a more narrowly defined category of projects.

As I mentioned earlier, this private member's bill covers a limited number of projects and contracts of which the federal government is a partner. This private member's bill would amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act and would not apply to the projects that the federal government supports through the department of infrastructure. Still, the government's support of this bill is something that the construction industry and the federal government's partners should be aware of and concerned about.

Looking at the substance of the bill in a bit more detail, I find the level of ambiguity contained in Bill C-344 troubling. In clause 1 of the bill, the section creating new subclause 20.1(2) states, “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 to be derived from the project.” First, this clause says, “The Minister may”. “May” is a small word, but it sure has huge implications. Right there, we have uncertainty. This rule will not be constant. How will bidders know if this requirement will be applied?

Next, the new subclause 20.1(3) 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.” Here we have more ambiguity, particularly in the needlessly vague and nebulous term “community benefit”. How is a bidder to determine what constitutes “community benefit”?

As we heard from the question I asked the sponsor of this bill, he could provide no definition. How is a bidder to know whether said benefit will meet whatever subjective criterion the minister choses to employ? When the bill states, “upon request by the Minister”, there is no certainty for the bidders or ultimately the successful bidder. This means that if this bill were to pass, people bidding on a contract will have to price into their bid the risk of being required to do or produce what the minister wants without knowing what that may be.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, I think the intent behind Bill C-344 is commendable. However, it leaves me wondering how the Liberals feel about charity and social responsibility, and whether they have considered the law of unintended consequences.

I would like to quote from Michael Atkinson, President of the Canadian Construction Association, who appeared before the transport, infrastructure and communities committee when this bill was being studied.

Regarding corporate social responsibility, Mr. Atkinson stated:

Corporate social responsibility is becoming something that we are looking at very earnestly in our industry. It's a very important part of doing business today. We have a how-to guide coming out for our contracting members in the industry, but CSR is not social procurement. CSR is a voluntary program that a corporate entity takes on to ensure that what it does as a company meets environmental sensibilities, good HR practices, etc. Social procurement is a government coming out and saying, “If you want to do business with us, then you have to have a CSR policy.” I think that's a very important difference.

Mr. Atkinson highlights a very important distinction. Businesses in general, and many companies in the construction industry, already make investments in their local communities as part of their commitment to corporate social responsibility. I believe that it is important that in this conversation about community benefit, we do not minimize the benefit that communities are already receiving from businesses of all sizes. The picture painted by those in the Liberal Party and the NDP is that corporate Canada simply takes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Corporations, big and small, give back to their communities. They provide jobs to families in the communities in which they operate. However, beside this very basic economic support, small, medium and large businesses sponsor community events, support local infrastructure, and provide support to non-profit community groups like sports teams. They do this not out of obligation or necessity but out of an appreciation for the community they work and operate in, and sometimes live in, because they know they are part of the community. They do not need to be told how to be good corporate citizens. Most already are.

Of the reasons that I will not be supporting Bill C-344, the most notable are that I believe it minimizes the support and benefits that already accrue to communities when a project is undertaken in their backyard, that it is needlessly ambiguous, and that it fails to consider the unintended consequences that may arise from its implementation.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 12th, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-344 about amending the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act regarding the issue of putting in community benefit agreements.

I am very interested in the proposal. I want to speak to it from a rural perspective, from a northern industrial perspective, and then from an urban perspective. We are dealing with differing issues.

In terms of rural issues, and I represent a region that is bigger than Great Britain, infrastructure investments by the federal government are extremely important. Over the last number of years, our region has been left to fall behind, as the government has not kept up its commitments at the federal level.

I am very pleased that since 2015, my region of Timmins—James Bay was the third-largest in the country in terms of the number of projects that were approved. These are good investments. Whether it was Timmins Transit or investing in local bridges, these kinds of investments have a clear community benefit. In a rural region, in some of our small northern communities, putting another layer on an analysis coming forward on why a project is important could be difficult. These are legitimate questions, because many of our small municipalities have to outsource. They do not have the in-house engineering. This would be a question.

In terms of when we do development in the north, we have a number of major infrastructure projects that require government investment. An example is the four-laning of Highway 11-17, which is the major trucker route across Canada. All goods across this country travel through northern Ontario on winding two-lane roads that are often very dangerous, particularly in winter. The federal government treats this as local. They treat it as provincial. However, this is part of national infrastructure, and we need to see an investment there.

I represent regions that are very involved in the mining sector. In the last 12 years, there has been a complete transformation of how mining agreements are put together. The mining sector understands that if it is going to have development in the north, it needs social license. It needs to have a clear commitment to indigenous communities, so impact benefit agreements have become the norm.

When I was working for the Algonquin nation in Quebec, in 2001-02, companies refused to meet. There was a lot of confrontation in the forest, because the right of communities to benefit from the resources on their traditional territory was a principle that had to be understood. I can say that from my talks with the mining sector and indigenous communities now, these agreements are starting to transform, economically, many communities that had been left on the margins.

My good friend, Chief Walter Naveau, of the Mattagami First Nation, said that the government always talks about their sitting at the table, but for all their lives, they were not even allowed to look in the window. That has changed, but government is still not at the table most of the time. I will say that industry will come to the table much sooner than government will ever come to the table in terms of developing a coherent plan for the development of resources and the development of communities in the indigenous territories in my region of Treaty No. 9.

I want to talk about the benefit of this in larger urban areas. If we are looking at major investments, such as in public transit, a community benefit agreement should be fundamental to the discussion. We can talk about the Eglinton LRT. That is a massive investment in a city that has been choked with traffic, where people are being forced out of neighbourhoods because of high prices. Many of the people I know who grew up in Toronto cannot even afford to live in the city where they work anymore. They have to commute back to their own cites, because they cannot afford livable neighbourhoods. My old neighbourhood of Riverdale, which was a beautiful mixed working-class neighbourhood, has become a neighbourhood very much for the super-rich, particularly closer to the Don Valley.

When we are looking at the government putting $1 billion or $2 billion into an LRT or a subway in any city across Canada, we can ask who is going to benefit. Right off the bat, real estate speculators will be along that line, because they know that if they have real estate there, that real estate will dramatically bump in value, because there is good access to good urban transit. We could say to a city like Toronto that we will invest at the federal government level in a plan like the LRT. However, there will need to be some set aside so that we can have community housing and mixed-income housing.

That would be a fair trade-off for the massive investments the federal government makes to ensure that there is some kind of quid pro quo so that it is not just the speculators and the real estate developers who are going to make out from this infrastructure. Working families could still have access to neighbourhoods that are liveable and have access to good-quality public transit. That is where a community benefit agreement would be a very reasonable thing to bring to the table. It would not be onerous, because we are dealing with urban areas and a much larger size, where this kind of planning could be done in a coherent manner.

However, I have a number of concerns about the bill in terms of the lack of clarity and where we would need much clearer reporting mechanisms and transparency. If we are going to have a credible community benefit agreement plan, it cannot be just tick the box. Whenever a company just has to tick the box, or a large municipality just has to say that it did it and it is done, we do not know what that benefit is.

If we are looking at economies of scale, such as for a major investment in urban public transit, we are going to need clear accountability mechanisms to say that it is a credible community benefit agreement. Part of that requires consultation. I am very worried about the lack of obligation for consultation, because the consultation process would involve a community. An investment in, say, a major bridge in an urban area may have an impact on the community. Does the community have a credible response? Can we do this in a reasonable manner?

I think we would be looking at much more progressive notions of urban development if we had a strong, transparent, usable community benefit system in place. That being said, we would have to also look at the economies of scale in terms of smaller communities. For example, the federal government may invest in the community of Iroquois Falls in changing its sewage and water. Would we need to put an extra level of negotiation on that? We probably would not, because the benefit would be clear. Building that community infrastructure would benefit that community.

The other argument we could bring to this, of course, is the question of whether communities need more control over how they utilize federal investment. Federal investment can be very limited and very targeted to meet federal criteria but not necessarily municipal criteria.

For example, in the city of Timmins, there has been a plan to build an aquatic centre to serve the needs of people who will move to the city to meet a growing city need, but there is no federal program to deal with programs like building an aquatic centre. All that cost would be put on the ratepayers, which is an enormous cost for a mid-sized municipality to undertake. There would be a clear community benefit. In the case of the city of Timmins, if the city believed that it was in the city's interest to build that aquatic centre, and it could work with the feds and the province on it, there would be a long-term benefit for the community. This is something we should look at.

Having looked at the bill, there are some very interesting aspects of it. I think we need to look at it going forward. We need to have a little bit of flexibility between rural and mid-sized communities and large, urban municipalities. We need to be able to put a lens on it in terms of whether it is an indigenous community or not.

Public works has been an institution that has been very reluctant to apply a community lens to projects that would have a major community impact. There are a number of projects that could move forward with new kinds of partnerships, such as indigenous and municipal, working together to build community infrastructure.

When we talk about community benefits, that lens should be applied to those kinds of federal projects. If they were under the municipalities, I would leave mid-sized and smaller municipalities to handle what they know how to do. For larger urban municipalities, if we were doing major investments, we would talk about how it would benefit the whole region, because that would be a major financial investment. How would we do this with indigenous communities? It is possible. I am very interested in this bill going forward.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 12th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to speak to Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act.

This private member's bill reminds me of a proverb, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. The saying is thought to have originated with St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote in 1150, “Hell is full of good wishes or desires.” An earlier saying occurs in Virgil's Aeneid. He wrote, “facilis descensus Averno” or “the descent into hell is easy.” This phrase has been used in the writings of Brontë, Lord Byron, Samuel Johnson, and Kierkegaard. For my NDP colleagues, Karl Marx used it in his writings. Even Ozzy Osbourne used it in his song Tonight and now we have it in Hansard.

I am sure the bill's author was well intended with this legislation. Who would not want a community benefit from government infrastructure or spending? In a way it is redundant. I want to read the definition as they have it listed: “For the purposes of this section, community benefit means a social, economic or environmental benefit that a community derives from a construction, maintenance or repair project, and includes job creation and training opportunities”, etc.

The very fact that government money is being spent in a community is obviously an economic benefit. The very fact maintenance or repair work is being done means that it is a benefit to the community. Government by its very nature does many things incorrectly but I am sure the government is not out there breaking up infrastructure, putting potholes in the road, or wrecking bridges with their spending.

Let us look at the two main problems of this legislation. Let me mention proposed subsection 20.1(2), under “Community benefit—requirement”:

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 to be derived from the project.

It does not state the minister “will” or the minister “must” or the minister under these circumstances does it. It states “may”. Why would we allow a minister to interfere when there is no criteria? Why would we give a minister the power to decide when he or she wishes to require the community benefits? Why would we allow this?

Here is a good reason not to. Two words that we are hearing in the House right now are “clam scam”. The Minister of Fisheries is being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner. The finance minister has also been investigated as has the Prime Minister. The member for Calgary Centre has been investigated for using office resources for his father's municipal election, and the member for Brampton East was investigated for the scandal in India.

Let me get back to “clam scam”. The Minister of Fisheries interfered with the awarding of a very lucrative contract to a company owned by a brother of a sitting MP, and a former MP is on the leadership team of that company, as is a member of his family.

Here we are allowing a minister to interfere at will for no defined reason in awarding a government contract. I wonder if the fisheries minister is going to stand up and claim community benefits as an excuse for directing a contract to be awarded to a Liberal family member.

Here is another way we are on the path of good intentions taking us somewhere rather warmer and muggier than Ottawa in the summer. Under "Report to Minister”, 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.”

Again, there is no metrics attached at all here. There is no trigger for the minister to suddenly demand more work to be added to the contractor. Why is this a problem? It is the added burden of uncertainty for our contractors, the added burden of red tape. Why is this important? We are studying the effects of the government's procurement process on small and medium enterprises right now in the operations and estimates committee, also known as OGGO.

We have heard again and again from witnesses, from indigenous businesses, small businesses led by women, regular everyday businesses, that they are drowning under red tape, that the way the government sets up its procurement process excludes a large portion of our small and medium enterprises that just do not have the money to jump through all the hoops that the government requires for bidding on its contracts. They also say the same thing. The red tape and the bidding process makes it difficult and costly to participate, yet here we have a bill that will add random ministerial interference and random uncertainty.

This is what the procurement ombudsman has to say about our current process. This is from his annual report, “Reviews of supplier complaints”. One of the complaints is, “The methodology used for calculating the bid did not reflect the true scope of the project”. However, here we have, under Bill C-344, that the minister “may” decide to change the bidding requirements, not “will” but “may” at his or her whim.

Another complaint is, “The [system] used to evaluate bids had a negative impact on the Complainant's bid”. Again, we could have a bidder being required to submit information on undefined community benefits. What if someone puts through the community benefit as “I am hiring two extra people” but the minister decides that the point system is going to be “I want the community benefit to show a park added”? The uncertainty of the bill will hurt small and medium enterprises.

Another complaint is, “The federal organization did not provide enough time for the supplier to prepare and submit a bid”. Here we could have a person bidding on Buyandsell.gc.ca who has a small company and just enough resources to bid, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, the minister requires them to provide community benefit information, barring them from bidding.

“There was an inappropriate allocation of points regarding the scoring of a rated criterion”. We often use the point system for how we are awarding the bids. Sometimes it is based on low cost. Sometimes it is based on costs plus the amount of indigenous benefits. Sometimes it is costs plus work experience. This adds a completely unknown factor in.

These are all items brought up by the procurement ombudsman, and there are many more.

We had a visit from a parliamentary group from Vietnam to the OGGO committee. This committee that came and visited us from Vietnam was its version of the operations and estimates committee. We were chatting through interpreters, and one of them asked me if we had ever passed legislation without considering the cost on taxpayers because they had not. Members should keep in mind that Vietnam is a communist country. They were dumbfounded that we would be considering a law before we measured the impact on taxpayers. Can members imagine that a communist Vietnam is more concerned about our taxpayers than the current Liberal government?

We would think that surely the government would take a look and do a study of what the added costs would be, perhaps emulating what the communist Government of Vietnam would do. We did an ATIP request and asked the government if it studied the issue. We were told, “I regret to inform you that a search of the records under the control of ESDC has revealed that no records exist in response to your request.” Therefore, the official version is that the government did not study it.

We had the minister of procurement, PSPC, at committee. We asked her repeatedly, and her deputy, if they had studied the effects of Bill C-344 with respect to added costs to taxpayers, or added costs or difficulties with respect to the people bidding. Would it add costs? How it is going to affect small business people? How will it affect taxpayers? The deputy minister told us, with respect to Bill C-344, that it was merely info gathering.

Here we have a private member's bill trying to change how we actually procure from small businesses, which we know is a mess. It is bad enough that we have actually spent about three months studying the issue in operations. Here we have a bill that will allow the government, the minister, to interfere at will without any metrics on why. Then we have her deputy minister tell us that it was merely info gathering.

Why would we need a bill for info gathering? If it is just a bill for info gathering, why would we add this burden onto our small and medium enterprises, why are there added costs, and why would we even need this bill at all?

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 12th, 2018 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and use the little time I have to address Bill C-344 with respect to community benefit agreements for certain infrastructure projects embarked on by the federal government.

Why is that a good idea? If we were to canvass most Canadians, they would say that when public money is spent, they are interested in accruing the maximum benefits for communities in Canada, whether that has to do with a focus on hiring local people, or having some of the funding and investment of projects going to local communities, or ensuring that local suppliers receive the work or that members of disadvantaged communities provide goods and services in accordance with the needs of those public investments. Canadians would be interested in that public money going to communities and people as opposed to going to companies that would release that money to other parts of the country or, indeed, other parts of the world.

Canadians understand that when they invest their tax dollars in a way that improves communities and keeps the money in their communities so that the spinoff from public investment is even greater than it would otherwise be, that is money well spent and the most efficient way to spend public money.

This bill is good in that it sets us down that road, but it is the most minimal of steps that one could take in that direction.

The language of the bill talks about how the minister may require a community benefit assessment, but it is not actually required. If the minister chooses not to apply that rubric, and it is completely at the discretion of the minister, then we will not see the benefits. The discretion of the minister is an important weakness in the bill.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

June 12th, 2018 / 6:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for their broad analysis and support for this bill, except for the few who are not ready to agree. It is clear that Bill C-344 would strengthen federal community investments delivered to constituents throughout the country.

Community benefit agreements are an innovative approach to empowering local communities to partner with developers in order to counter local challenges. CBAs can be used to address economic development and growth and environmental sustainability in regions across Canada. This includes local job creation, apprenticeships, affordable housing, education, support for seniors, and other vital benefits that communities recognize.

Bill C-344 would allow for broad consultations with communities across Canada, thus strengthening local infrastructure investments. The bill also aims to reduce delays for small and medium-sized businesses and accelerate the approval process for federal repair and construction projects. Moreover, the idea of community benefit agreements is supported by numerous business groups and organizations across Canada, including the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, etc.

Bill C-344 is about implementing community benefit agreements into the federal jurisdiction. This would ensure that the Government of Canada exercises leadership in implementing CBAs in communities across Canada. Ultimately, CBAs would create the foundation for communities to receive their fair share of federal infrastructure investments. This will ensure that communities have steady growth and meaningful employment. Furthermore, it is about ensuring that upcoming federal projects involving the construction, maintenance, or repair of projects will result in community benefits for all Canadians.

Bill C-344 would ensure communities across Canada can have access to enhanced infrastructure developments, thus creating opportunities for local economies to prosper. I therefore ask all hon. members of the House to let dignity take root. Let us work for the betterment of our communities. I humbly urge all hon. members to support Bill C-344.

Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 10:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight at this late hour to speak to Bill C-69, an act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, also known as an omnibus bill. I also like to call this bill the let us never build another pipeline or major energy project in Canada bill, or we could call it the labyrinth act, after the David Bowie movie Labyrinth, with its never-ending maze, which is what our regulatory process is going to be.

According to the Liberal government, the main purpose of this bill is to create an environmental assessment process that increases consultation, broadens a number of social economic criteria for approval, and decreases legislative timelines. At a lengthy 350 pages, this bill has so many proposed changes, it is tough to digest them all at once. Here is one clear takeaway. It will ensure the private sector pipelines will never see the light of day in Canada again.

This comes straight from the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association that these introduced amendments or “Regulatory 'poisons' are 'suffocating' oil industry by driving investors away”.

At committee we heard this from a witness, “The impact assessment does not address the pipeline sector's most fundamental concern: a process that is expensive, lengthy, polarizing, and ends with a discretionary political decision.”

Hence, the the labyrinth act.

I was pleased to quote Ozzy Osbourne in an earlier speech today on Bill C-344, which is another act from the Liberals that will create another regulatory burden. I am glad I was able to mention the late David Bowie as well.

We have seen the Trans Mountain pipeline put on life-support worth $4.5 billion because of the Liberals' action and inaction. However, knowing the Liberals' spin machine, they are going to say that this $4.5 billion life-support system is actually a health care investment.

The Liberals want to introduce this bill to ensure that we never see another pipeline built in Canada again. In this bill, we can clearly see that this regulatory process is designed for political influence and intervention. The minister can step in any time she wants and kill any major energy resource project at any time. This even includes the various stages where there is no formal ministerial approval required. It is going to be energy east all over again. It does not clarify or streamline an objective evidence-based process where decisions will be made by experts.

The Liberals can scrap entire pipeline projects for purely political reasons, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Of course members are sitting there saying that surely the Liberals would not kill something like an energy project, like a billion dollar gas plant for political reasons? I know that it was the Ontario Liberals, but where do people think most of the current Liberal PMO staffers come from? Of course, they come from Queen's Park.

Placing this kind of power in the hands of the minister will reduce transparency and give industry no guarantee that sensible projects will move forward. This planning phase is also concerning because, under the proposed bill, an environmental advocacy group from Sweden has as much right to be heard as a Canadian energy industry advocacy group.

I suppose we should give even more ministerial powers to the Liberals. After all, what could go wrong? We have had ad scam, the sponsorship scandal, the gun registry, Shawinigate, HRDC under the previous Liberal government, and of course the clam scam, where the fisheries minister personally intervened to give a lucrative clam fishing quota to, now get this, a brother of a sitting Liberal MP, a former Liberal MP, and a family member of the current fisheries minister. A Gordie Howe hat trick is described as a hockey game where one gets into a fight, scores a goal, and gets an assist. This is a Gordie Howe hat trick of corruption: a brother of a Liberal MP, a former Liberal MP, and to top it off, a family member of the deciding and interfering Liberal minister.

I could mention more Liberal scandals, but I should not talk about that if I want to finish by midnight. However, if people at home who are watching on CPAC are bored and want a more fulsome understanding of some of the Liberal scandals, they should take a look at https://www.mapleleafweb.com/forums/topic/4466-199-liberal-scandals.

I will return back to the bill. Steve Williams, the CEO of Canada's leading integrated oil and gas company, Suncor Energy, said that this legislation will effectively end his corporation's ability to invest in major Canadian projects. Suncor is worried about Canada's lack of competitiveness because, as he said, “other jurisdictions are doing much more to attract business”. The Liberal government just gave $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money to Kinder Morgan to invest back in the U.S. No offence to Mr. Williams and his comment, but he is incorrect. With the current government, other jurisdictions do not have to do more to attract business, because it will give money to companies to invest in other jurisdictions.

Canada's largest developer in the oil industry says it will not be able to invest in Canada, will not be able to create jobs in Canada, will not be able to pay more taxes in Canada, or create more wealth for Canadians. Suncor is a valued employer in Alberta, and provides thousands of well-paying jobs to indigenous people, youth, and new Canadians. Maybe if we change the name to Suncorbardier, then the Liberals would not try to phase out Suncor and our oil sands, but here we are.

We are talking about billions of dollars in investment going straight to the U.S. and other energy producing jurisdictions. This combined with higher taxes and more government uncertainty makes Canada a more difficult place to invest capital.

Bill C-69 completely fails to improve our ability to compete. In fact, it is only going to make matters worse. GMP FirstEnergy has also criticized Bill C-69 because it has “increased complexity, subjectivity and open-ended timelines”. The company sees “nothing in these proposed changes that will attract incremental energy investment to Canada.”

These statements do not exactly sound like a ringing endorsement for Bill C-69. We have some of the strongest and most stringent environmental regulations and standards in the entire world, so why are we introducing even more regulations when our system is world renowned?

We have seasoned experts telling us that over the years the ability of these major resource projects to get completed has become exceedingly difficult and is now almost impossible, and the Liberals want to introduce even more regulations to effectively put these projects six feet under.

Unfortunately, six feet under will refer to Alberta's economy and not the placement of a pipeline. Of course, the Liberals believe that adding increasingly complex legal frameworks and indeterminate regulatory methods will somehow expedite the process. The environment minister says we need a process with no surprises and no drama. I think what she meant to say is that she wants a process with no surprises, no drama, and no development, and perhaps no future for the young workers in Alberta.

I am sure members have heard this many times before. The Liberals love to talk about how the environment and the economy go hand in hand. However, Bill C-69 does not even live up to their own shaky standards in this regard. This policy puts red tape and the interests of foreigners first and the economy, jobs, and prosperity of Canadians dead last.

Energy development is crucial to jobs and economic opportunity in this country and Bill C-69 will only make it more difficult for private companies to receive approval for critical infrastructure projects.

I will remind the Prime Minister that many Albertans are still struggling to find work and pay their bills. His policies will only cause further harm to them and kick them while they are down.

Former premier Frank McKenna announced in mid-February that Canada has lost $117 billion due to pipeline woes. How does this legislation address that issue? I will answer that question: it does not. It does absolutely nothing. I would argue that the $117-billion loss is only going to climb higher in the future.

Bill C-69 will decrease Canada's economic competitiveness, without resulting in any meaningful environmental protection. While the United States scraps excessive regulations and cuts taxes for its citizens, the Liberal government has chosen to impose more unnecessary red tape, longer project timelines, and higher taxes for middle-class families. Bill C-69 will make it increasingly difficult to compete with countries around the world and grow our economy. The approval process will become even longer, more tedious, and completely unappealing to the private sector.

Seriously, what company wants to come forward and invest billions in Canada when they see the government actively kills energy projects and their only hope to get something done after the Liberal action is to nationalize it?

Venezuela is a mess right now because of nationalizing its oil industry. Experts are saying the way for Venezuela to get out of the hellhole it has created is to un-nationalize its oil industry. What are we doing? We are nationalizing our pipeline. We cannot afford to add uncertainty for companies who want to invest in Canada.

The Liberal government has managed to consistently decrease investor confidence with each and every passing day. It should be more cautious with its legislation. Liberals continuously outdo themselves and are setting the bar for failure as a government. We already have $20 billion in deficits every year, so what could possibly go wrong as investor confidence reaches new lows?

I cannot support a bill that would kill jobs in Edmonton, that would kill jobs in Alberta, and that would chase away energy investment at the same time as doing nothing for the environment.

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.