Evidence of meeting #85 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was line.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sal Iannello  General Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services, City of Welland
Stephen Craik  Director, Water Quality Assurance and Environment, EPCOR Utilities Inc.
Marie-Claude Guérin  Specialist in drinking water, Public Works, Ville de Trois-Rivières
Michèle Prévost  Professor, École Polytechnique de Montréal and Industrial Research Chair, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, As an Individual

November 30th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Sangha, I understand the intention is that when the federal government spends infrastructure money on projects there should be some additional considerations that add benefits to the community. In your view, are these federal projects or federally funded projects? In other words, if we were working on a federal installation, that would be one thing, but, for instance, if we have money to give to a municipality through a province to build a rapid transit line or something else, would you see this requirement applying to that project as well?

4:55 p.m.

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.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

So it's federally funded projects, not simply federal projects.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

It's federally funded projects.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Okay.

Give us examples of what you would see as primary benefits, things we should require versus things that are nice to have.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

That is a good question.

If we see a project that is going to be built in the community and that area is going to get the benefit of the project's federal investment, the minister would be given the power to ask the bidders on the contract what benefits they propose to provide to the local community, maybe in employment, apprenticeship, education, training, affordable housing, or some other thing the local community decides on. Those are the further benefits the CBAs are planned to get.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I've heard you talk about employment possibilities that could extend to indigenous people. You could also look at opportunities for people to upgrade their capabilities through apprenticeships or you could be looking at additional amenities that could go along with the project such as the creation of a park or a bike path. Could it cover that whole range?

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Yes, it covers everything the local communities would decide on with government and the contractors. Communities would now be partners in the project. They would be given opportunities to explain their positions as to what they are looking for to have further improvements in their local community.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

That would need to be disclosed to potential bidders before they make their bid, clearly.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

They will disclose because.... For example, there may be an over-rail bridge that is required to be built in the community and some $2 million is going to be spent federally. In that area where the bridge is going to be built, the community would have the opportunity, or the community groups would have the opportunity, to get involved and see what else they are looking for, what other improvements for their community they are looking for, which a contractor would have to negotiate with the local community.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

So—

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

I'm sorry, your time is up. Thank you very much.

We will move to Mr. Aubin.

4:55 p.m.

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.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Yes, actually this bill provides an amendment to section 20 by giving authority to the minister to intervene, and really it is rarely used. The minister would ask the local communities and the contractors to build a new agreement, which we call a CBA, a community benefit agreement. That would be for the benefit of the community, so communities would surely look into what they are going to gain out of it.

I don't think, as you are saying, that the minister may not ask, but that is there so communities would be educated and they would come forward to ask what they are going to get out of it.

5 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Okay. Thank you.

I confess that I would prefer to read “shall require” more than “may require”.

In the same spirit, proposed paragraph 20.1(3) reads: “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.”

In your opinion, are there situations where the federal government could invest major amounts of money and not derive community benefits?

5 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

The money that is going to be spent on the local infrastructure, once it is agreed by the contractor and the community, then the minister shall, after that, see how the contractor has provided to the community benefit fund. That assessment is done by the minister, which is then required to be reported to Parliament every year.

5 p.m.

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?

5 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

I think the CBA is very exhaustive. It's not right to limit a CBA's terms and conditions. The terms and conditions will be agreed to by the community and the contractors. If we limit it at this stage with terms and conditions, that every.... The situation would be different from one project to another project, from one community to another community. I don't think it's the best solution to limit the CBA.

5 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

So, at the beginning of the project, if the developer and the government are in agreement that each of the projects is different and may require a different report, the conditions that were proposed or hoped for at the beginning of the contact are those that should find their way into the report, together with an assessment of the results that may be positive or may be negative, depending on the results.

Is that what I am to understand?

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

It's correct that there's no rule, that for every community it would be different, but the results would also be different because it would be the need of the community that they're looking for. In some communities they may be looking for the contractor to employ all the employees from the local community, so there would be a condition in that CBA. There may be something saying that you have to build a wall by the side of the community, between the railway line and the.... It would be different. It would depend upon the situation, where it is, and what type of CBA would be required to be agreed to between the contractor and the local community.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much, Monsieur Aubin.

Mr. Fraser, and then Mr. Chong.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thanks very much, Mr. Sangha, for being here.

As a preliminary point, I think you mentioned at the outset of your remarks that this bill is in the identical form it was at the stage we passed it at this committee, with amendments. Is that accurate?

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Yes, it is.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Why is this an important one for you to pick up? You obviously would have supported it when it was under now Minister Hussen's initiative. Why was this important to you and for your community?

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

My feeling is this bill is a good bill. It's good for communities. It's good for everyone. It's a bill that gives power to the community to get involved. It's a bill that makes communities feel proud and dignified that they are taking part in projects. Projects are being built with the consent of the communities.

My feeling was that when I first read this bill and saw what type of bill it was, I was really convinced by that, so I took that bill.