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

Report stage (House), as of Dec. 6, 2017

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Summary

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

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

Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 6th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in relation to Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, community benefit. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

December 5th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Chair, if, after Mr. Badawey has reviewed clause 1 of Bill C-344, he has a specific amendment that he wishes to move, perhaps he could move that amendment so that we're all working off the same page.

December 5th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

On a point of clarification, you're working from an old document but I think that's already in Bill C-344. I think it's in the new bill, if you look at clause 1, the exact thing you were suggesting.

December 5th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

That's 0-2. I'll try to be more convincing, but since I've already presented these amendments, I won't believe in miracles.

We are proposing that, to be more specific, clause 1 be amended by adding the following after line 17:

(2.01) The Minister shall, 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 measures considered to:

Then, it describes what those measures would be:

(a) reduce the environmental impact of the work, property or immovable; (b) ensure respect for the biological diversity and ecological integrity of the surrounding ecosystems and contribute to their maintenance; and (c) ensure that the work, property or immovable is adapted to the effects of climate change.

During the study of Bill C-227, the committee wisely insisted that environmental issues be added to the elements it had to consider. That is exactly what NDP-3 is about.

In my opinion, the importance we are placing on the milieu, the environment and climate change is better defined by this addition than by clause 1 of Bill C-344.

December 5th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I will speak briefly about each of the amendments, since the ones I'm presenting are basically the same as those presented in the context of Bill C-227 and have been discussed. Since a new wording of this bill has been presented, I'd be out of my mind if I didn't try to push it a little further.

We all know that Bill C-344 is largely inspired by a similar Ontario bill. Although it is inspired by it, it stops very shortly after the starting point.

In proposing these amendments, I am trying to give a little more importance to this bill, which contains four or five clauses and is interesting in spirit, but which gives the minister the power to require an assessment of the local benefits without making him do so. That seems a little contradictory to me.

NDP amendment 1 proposes adding this paragraph to clause 1:

(1.1) Before awarding a contract for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, the Minister shall consult the public in order to assess the local need for community benefits.

Remember that the bill only deals with buildings that are financed or belong to the federal government. If we want to promote local benefits, the least we can do is go to the communities and ask them what their needs are, which could be filled by this bill once it's passed. This could be taken into account in a possible call for tenders.

I'll stop there.

December 5th, 2017 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.

Mr. Parent, thanks for taking time out to beam in.

I want to follow up on Mr. Christie's comment about OSME. It is a phenomenal resource. We used it in Edmonton just last week for a town hall on how to sell to the government. A lot of the feedback we received that day directed toward OSME was concerning, as Mr. Parent mentioned—and it came up a lot—the difficulty of dealing with business, the complexity. I love the quote here: “Dealing with federal tenders is too painful to bother.”

That, of course, comes up in the procurement ombudsman's annual report. I think 25 of the top 32 issues were all concerning red tape.

I want to wrap it around to a couple of government initiatives. One is a private member's bill, Bill C-344, which is about community benefits. It provides the minister with the authority to require an assessment of community benefits as part of an RFP process. To me, this adds a huge level of red tape and also a large amount of uncertainty because it does not define what a community benefit is, but does allow the minister to demand that a small business provide an assessment.

I wonder if I can get feedback from CFIB and from you, gentlemen, about this possible bill coming down.

November 30th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

I understand that completely, but it does say “whether community benefits have derived from the project.” So the word “whether” will disappear when it is next rewritten.

That leads me to talk to you about the report you have just mentioned. Bill C-344 provides no guidance on the matter. Perhaps we cannot talk about all the rules, but, in your opinion, should the bill specify the factors that the reports should contain so that they all have some semblance of a standard format?

November 30th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Welcome, Mr. Sangha.

Thank you for being here with us and for introducing Bill C-344, which, for the most part, is the old C-227. You do not need me to tell you that this is largely inspired by a similar bill in the Ontario legislature. I have to confess that I have a soft spot for bills that have only a few clauses and one main idea, bills that try to go right to the point.

In that spirit, may I ask you for some clarification about proposed paragraph 20.1(2)? It reads: “The Minister may, before awarding a contract for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works…”

Why do you not feel the need to say “the Minister shall…”? If the Minister “may”, he also may not, in which case, the entire spirit of the bill and all the results you are hoping for will never come to pass.

November 30th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

I can tell you two things.

First, our government has decided to spend on green infrastructure and social infrastructure. The money will be flowing to different cities from the federal government. Plans are going to benefit the community, creating infrastructure in the community, but Bill C-344 looks to the further benefits we can get out of the federal investments as proposed to be given to the communities.

Whole local communities can get benefits out of those federal infrastructure projects, or we can enrol them.

November 30th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Madam Chair, it's my pleasure to come before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity.

My private member's bill, Bill C-344, is an act to amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to introduce community benefits. This committee has already done an extensive study on a similar bill, Bill C-227, which could not go through due to administrative reasons, as the chair has already mentioned. You conducted your study on Bill C-227 and suggested a few amendments. Now I am here with my private member's bill, Bill C-344, with your suggested amendments.

Let me congratulate you all for the great work done on the previous bill, Bill C-227.

Community benefit agreements, CBAs, are tangible socio-economic opportunities for neighbourhoods, local communities, and the environmental benefits that result from federal government projects across Canada. This includes local job creation, apprenticeships, education, and affordable housing. By giving more power to the minister of public services and procurement, Bill C-344 would make sure that the minister plays a leadership role towards the betterment of communities. This bill would empower the minister to ultimately create a platform to minimize delays and produce flexibility for communities' infrastructure development.

CBAs would require bidders on the proposal to provide information on the community benefits that the project would provide. CBAs would enable the minister to formulate agreements between developers and local community groups. CBAs would create a foundation to encourage local communities to form partnerships with developers and address local challenges.

My private member's bill, Bill C-344, would require the minister to report back to Parliament every year on what community benefits have been enacted.

We notice that the federal investment funds are making significant improvements in all the ridings across Canada, even in Brampton. We have federal funds of approximately $95 million for Züm bus rapid transit and $69 million for stormwater management infrastructure for the Peel region. Similarly, every riding across Canada is getting funding for federal projects. It is obvious that if CBAs were tied to these federal investments, communities would thrive.

Bill C-344 would allow for comprehensive consultation with communities across Canada, consequently strengthening the local community infrastructure for the residents. Moreover, various business groups and organizations support the idea of community benefit agreements. The Toronto board of trade, the Vancouver board of trade, and the Montreal board of trade have already recognized community benefit agreements as a strong economic policy and an optimal way to confront youth unemployment.

Furthermore, a joint report from Mowat Centre and the Atkinson Foundation found that community benefit agreements have the ability to adopt a better environment for impoverished areas.

Ontario has already enacted CBAs, and other provinces such as Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Manitoba are also following suit. Moreover, other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have already implemented CBAs in their respective infrastructure funds. Ultimately, CBAs would create the foundation for communities to achieve their fair share of federal infrastructure investments. Furthermore, it's about ensuring that future federal projects involving construction, maintenance, or repair would result in community benefits for millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

I also put it to the committee that besides the tangible benefits of CBAs, they are a vehicle that would create an opportunity for the pursuit of dignity, and build the inner-being infrastructure of Canadians.

That is my submission. Thank you very much, and I'm prepared to answer any questions.

November 30th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much.

Sorry, Mr. Aubin, we're over your time.

Thank you very much to all of our witnesses. We appreciate very much your taking the time to provide us with sufficient information as we do this study.

We will suspend for a moment and then resume shortly.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, October 25, 2017, we are examining Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit). For those of you who were on the committee before, we dealt with this issue before under our current Minister of Immigration. He was hosting it. It subsequently was approved with two amendments from this committee. Then Mr. Hussen ended up being the minister and couldn't carry the bill any longer. Mr. Sangha picked it up. At that time it was Bill C-227. It is now Bill C-344.

Mr. Sangha would you like to speak to the bill, please?

November 28th, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much.

Just before we adjourn, our meetings will be Mondays and Wednesdays in our next segment coming at the end of January.

On Thursday we will be dealing with Mr. Bratina's water quality motion and Bill C-344 and anything else we can add to that meeting.

Thank you to the departmental staff for coming and for all of your assistance.

The meeting is adjourned.

November 2nd, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I'd just thought I'd correct the record in case you were disparaging our oil.

When we were studying procurement on Tuesday, we chatted about Bill C-344, a private member's bill that was going to introduce community benefits into government procurement.

How might that affect the procurement process with regard to our trade relations in terms of fairness, and so on? Have you looked at that, or has that been considered yet?

Part of the issue is that it's a well-meaning bill, but it's quite obscure and gives great latitude to the minister, with very undefined powers. When there are undefined powers and uncertainty in a procurement contract, we've seen that we can put out a 30,000-page RFP and still get sued on it and have companies misinterpret to a point where they misbid by $1 billion.

I'm curious about whether you've looked at that yet and how it will affect procurement trade if this uncertainty gets added. Are we opening ourselves up to having the same issue in the States and maybe block Canadian business down in the States?

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I know that the member also supported Bill C-344.

He is absolutely correct. When we look at the effects of transportation, no place knows it better than Sandwich Town. This place was the home of the underground railroad. It was the destination for freedom. In fact, bounty hunters used to come to this area to grab Americans fleeing slavery to bring them back. We used to fight against that. That is the culture and heritage of this location.

The member is correct about the Gordie Howe International Bridge. It was a compromise. In it was the concept of community benefits. Imagine the perverse ending this would be if the port authority took the money that was supposed to go to uplifting children, persons with disabilities, education, housing, and community capacity development and wanted a 30-year lease on a piece of property. It would go against the Prime Minister's arguments and objectives on greenhouse gas emissions reductions and would increase the Canadian footprint on environmental standards.

All we need now is the courage of the Minister of Transport to simply transfer the management to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. A two-signature process would guarantee an environmental footprint for our legacy, and most importantly, would provide justice, hope, and opportunity for people who deserve it.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to raise issues on Bill C-49, the transportation modernization act, which is a long bill with many different components in it. I am going to focus on one important component. There are a number that speak to all Canadians and communities, but one specifically speaks to an issue in my community that is very troubling, very sad, and very disturbing. This bill would give the powers that be, those who are appointed, who lurk in the shadows, and who do not have to have accountability, the strength and more empowerment to do what the public does not want. Specifically, Bill C-49 would allow port authorities to have more clandestine borrowing practices through the Canada infrastructure bank and allow the ports to do more environmental and other community damage with less accountability.

People at least appreciate the context of what a port authority can or cannot do. Port authorities across Canada are stewards of the land of the people. That is, first and foremost, what we need to get straight, especially for the people who feel they do not have the power to speak against the powers that be. The reality is that ports, with their control and their power, at the end of the day, are responsible to the Minister of Transport, the Prime Minister, and cabinet, full stop. The use of the lands and relationship with communities are still, at the end of the day, controlled by the Prime Minister, the cabinet, and the people of Canada. They are not private businesses or enterprises that have no responsibility or no moral compass as they go about their business. They are, in fact, having to answer accountably to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport.

In my situation, what is very peculiar is that the bill would create additional powers that cause me concern related to a place called Sandwich Town. It is basically the oldest European settlement west of Montreal. It was settled by the French, then the English, and now is the home of many immigrants, new Canadians, students, populations that, quite frankly, have challenges because of the geography. For those out there who feel compelled to understand the story of the underdog, this is it in Canada.

Imagine living in an area where Canada was defended during the War of 1812. This was where it happened on the front lines of southern Ontario. This was where the decisive battles occurred that formed this nation. Aboriginal communities, the British at the time, the militia, and the local populations bonded to defend Canada. Since that time, we have seen the most unusual of circumstances for this small settlement that eventually became part of the City of Windsor, which marks its special foundation today.

I am talking about a small community being trapped next to the Ambassador Bridge, which is owned by a private American billionaire, who in his operations on the U.S. side actually went to prison because of practices related, ironically, to government contracts on the U.S. side, where homes were being bought up, boarded up, and eventually demolished or left to decay. People have lost businesses, schools, and places of faith. All of those things have happened in the shadow of an empire that has 10,000 trucks per day, 40,000 vehicles in total, of pure profit. Some 30% to 35% of Canada's daily trade with the United States, nearly $1 billion, is within earshot of some of the people most disenfranchised because of the repercussions from what has taken place.

Why Bill C-49 is important is that most recently there has been hope, an extended opportunity, with the fight for this area, for a new border crossing. It took place over a decade and a half. The original idea was to allow the development next to this place to destroy it.

However, we have a new border crossing, the Gordie Howe international bridge, which will be built as a result of a compromise among the community, the environment, business, and two nations to finally add border capacity. In this capacity, there will be a community benefit fund. We actually voted for that in Bill C-344, a Liberal member's bill that the House recently passed at second reading, including with the support of the Minister of Transport and the Prime Minister, to at least send it to committee. The community benefit fund is for infrastructure projects such as this to get some relief, planning, and opportunity. That bill, in spirit, is what is taking place. We are finally getting some community benefits to come to this area.

What has happened, and why Bill C-49 is so important, is that the port authority wanted to develop a piece of its property, called Ojibway Shores, against the wishes of the community. This port authority property is pristine environmental acreage, 33 acres in total, with endangered species, flora, fauna, species at risk, amphibians, wildlife, birds, and all of those things that are so important. It is right on the Great Lakes, and one of the last places on the Great Lakes that is undisturbed in this era.

The port wanted to bulldoze Ojibway Shores, it wanted a way to clear it, and it actually got at one time a private partnership that would have done so. The private developer with the port at that time, despite knowing they would have made a lot of money, said no, because it was the wrong thing to do. When they backed out, the port no longer considered Ojibway Shores to be developable. However, the port has asked for $12 million from the community benefit fund to not develop Ojibway Shores for 30 years. They do not just want the land to remain undeveloped, in terms of turning it over to the public in perpetuity, but have asked for $12 million for a 30-year lease not to bulldoze it.

It is almost unconscionable to think that a board member would request this of the public. By the way, board members are representative of the city, province, federal government, and the users. They are citizens like anyone else. Part of people's education today, including the the people of Sandwich, Essex, and beyond who care about the environment, is to understand that people are paid to represent them on these boards and to make decisions. They need to understand that power and their ability to connect with those individuals, and not just in Windsor, but in other ports across this country. This is the first step in actually taking back land and stewardship for the people, which should belong to them.

Bill C-49 now proposes to give more power to the infrastructure bank to allow the ports to develop things. We are concerned about that, because it would potentially open up another revenue source for the port to go ahead and bulldoze the property.

It is interesting right now that when we think about this situation, a choice has to be made for the people. A simple clause would allow this property to be divested to Environment Canada. It is a simple thing that we have asked for. It would just take a two-signature process, and has been done before. We have done the research, and it is actually part of a legislative process, and part of what I think was drummed up with regards to the transfer of properties for situations like this in the public interest.

As I conclude today, we have a choice on this. Right now, Bill C-49 would give more powers, but in the meantime, let us save this situation. Instead of the port getting that $12 million, it can go to poverty reduction, students' education, housing, or employment in one of the most disadvantaged areas of Ontario.