Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech and for admitting that the government could invest in the economy.
Our government recognizes the importance of innovation as a critical tool for business growth. That is why, like many other industrialized countries around the world, we are offering a financial solution to companies that want to grow, access new markets, and develop technologies that will benefit an innovation-based economy.
Our innovation and skills plan establishes a long-term economic vision for Canada that is fuelled by innovation, strong growth, talent, and a collective will to ensure that no one is left behind.
In order to successfully implement the innovation and skills plan, we have to find new ways to reflect how governments support and stimulate economic growth that is inclusive through greater harmonization, better collaboration, and a strategic approach for supporting innovation in every region of Canada.
Let me be clear. This is not corporate welfare or subsidies for big business. This is smart investment in Canada's businesses, in Canada's people, and in Canadian ideas from coast to coast to coast. These investments will create thousands of middle-class jobs and, in particular, create the economy that we want to have both now and for our children and grandchildren. The support provided by government is done with a merit-based approach and focused on specific projects with results and goals set out clearly.
Members should note that this support is provided in an open and transparent manner, and in accordance with proactive disclosure requirements for grants and contributions that enhance the transparency and oversight of public resources.
Our government's proactive disclosure requirements already meet, and in many cases exceed, the requirements set out in Bill C-396. For example, the member for Beauce said that before, “...taxpayers could go to the department's website and find out which companies had received financial assistance [and] how much they received...”.
I am surprised that the member opposite is not aware that this has been the Government of Canada's practice since 2006, and it is still the practice. In fact, under this government, these requirements have been enhanced.
Since April 1, agencies, crown corporations, and federal departments have been following the new guidelines on the reporting of grants and contributions awards. The new guidelines set clear and explicit requirements for federal agencies with respect to the proactive disclosure of their grants and contributions, and these requirements largely exceed those set out in the bill before us. The guidelines take a whole-of-government approach instead of targeting a single federal department.
All information on federal government grants and contributions will be posted at www.open.canada.ca. Canadians will have access to a single site where they can better monitor how the government is using public resources.
The amount of information to disclose increased considerably, with respect to both the previously announced requirements and the requirements set out in Bill C-396. From now on, federal agencies will have to disclose much more information for each disclosure. This includes a more detailed section on the objective of the awards, the expected results, and the recipient. The bill we are debating today does not contain such explicit requirements.
In addition, if the bill is passed, these publication requirements will be strengthened and modernized by Bill C-58, an act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, currently before the Senate. Bill C-58 introduces the legislative requirement for the proactive publication of grants and contributions in line with the new guidelines that I just outlined.
I also want to clarify a few things regarding some of the statements made in previous discussions on Bill C-396. More specifically, I would like to revisit something the member for Beauce said, specifically that Industry Canada publishes individual loan agreements, or repayable contribution agreements, including the specific terms and conditions of repayment. That is one of the requirements that Bill C-396 aims to impose on Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
I want to make it very clear that ISED, the former Industry Canada, has never published the terms and conditions of individual funding agreements or the agreements themselves. The ISED website contains general documents on the terms and conditions as well as program guides that include information on the repayment of funding contributions. This gives Canadians some idea of the government's objectives and needs when public resources are used to support businesses and it gives businesses an overview of the kinds of measures that might be used to determine their repayment schedule.
By contrast, Bill C-396 requires the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to publish information on individual agreements, thereby forcing the government to publish sensitive, confidential commercial information on private Canadian businesses. That information could potentially be used by a domestic or foreign competitor to undermine the competitiveness of Canadian firms in the global innovation economy.
This would be of particular concern to smaller, privately owned businesses that are not already required to publicly report on things like revenues and expenditures in the same way as publicly traded companies. These are matters of privacy and security that we need to contend with as well.
In essence, Bill C-396 would place undue disclosure requirements on individual Canadian businesses, and compromise their competitive position in the market. I, for one, would like the member opposite to explain why he thinks it is okay to impose undue regulatory burdens on businesses, especially our small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, they are the largest receivers of government investment, which they using to try to scale up and grow their businesses right here in Canada, as opposed to moving elsewhere.
The newly implemented proactive publication requirements for grants and contributions, as well as Bill C-58, fully support the principles of greater transparency and accountability with respect to the use of public money, without unduly imposing transparency requirements on private businesses and organizations.
In summary, Bill C-396 would not improve the government's proactive publication practices as intended, and would undermine the government's efforts to collaborate with Canadian businesses that benefit Canada by generating investment, developing new technologies, and enhancing Canadian innovation capacity and expertise.
Since forming government in 2015, we have taken concrete action to ensure greater openness and transparency, without compromising business confidence. While the member for Beauce presents the bill under the veil of openness and transparency, we all know that its real purpose is ideological. That member is fundamentally opposed to the idea of taxpayer dollars going to Canadian businesses. His position is clear: he does not believe in investing in the people, ideas, and innovations of Canadian businesses. What is not clear is if he speaks on behalf of his party.
The member for Beauce also questions the relevance and importance of the work carried out by our regional development agencies and their support for small and medium-sized businesses across Canada, support that we have increased as a government. Of course, that is his prerogative, but it is also unclear whether that is the position of his leader and his party, which is especially interesting because he is also the Conservative Party's official critic of ISED and a member of the industry committee. Do they view investing in Canadian businesses as corporate welfare? Certainly we do not.
For all those reasons, our government cannot support this bill. We are going to keep supporting Canadians and Canadian businesses.