House of Commons Hansard #249 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.


The House resumed consideration from October 26, 1995, of the motion that Bill C-99, an act to amend the Small Business Loans Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me, as the member for London-Middlesex, to address the House of Commons this morning on a very important subject, Bill C-99.

I am very pleased to speak on Bill C-99 this morning as the member for London-Middlesex. We like to think that London is the unofficial capital of southwestern Ontario. Our business community is quite diverse, with small business being an important part of it.

With Your Honour's indulgence, I must confess that as you called for a moment of silence this morning my thoughts then and even now are with people from all across Canada and many people from the London area. I know my staff worked very hard to organize 11 buses from London and area. They are on their way to la belle province of Quebec to tell the people there how much we understand that they face a very crucial decision and that our prayers and our hopes are that they will remain a part of Canada.

It is with some mixed thoughts that I stand this morning to speak on the subject of Bill C-99 when frankly I would like to be with friends and fellow Canadians from all parts of Canada who are on their way to Quebec to make it clear to our fellow Canadians in Quebec that we sincerely hope they will continue the partnership and the great country we have built together. I did not feel that I could launch into debate on Bill C-99 without sharing a few personal thoughts.

Bill C-99 is very important. It continues the process of modernization and improvement that has moved the Small Business Loans Act program to a full cost recovery. We could ask ourselves what is so important about the bill since we deal with so much legislation in the House and most of it, if not all of it, is important and significant. I believe it is particularly important given that we are discussing it at the end of 1995 and as parliamentarians we face the enormous challenge of trying to help the country prepare for the 21st century. As I have already said, we certainly hope it will be a united country that heads into the 21st century with all members of the family intact.

We obviously need an economic recovery. We have made some steps in the right direction toward it over the past couple of years. Quite candidly, we have had some backward steps in that regard. It has not been a steady progression forward as we would all like. It has been a two steps forward one step back process. However we must continue and we must persist in an economic recovery as we prepare the nation for the 21st century.

There is no area of greater importance in my mind as a Canadian and as a member of Parliament than the area of small business. In times past we would lure a large employer to a community who would create 1,000 jobs. It seems appropriate to use a baseball analogy with the World Series going on. We used to look for the grand slam home run in economic terms in wanting a major employer. I have several in my riding such as General Motors Diesel and 3M, to name two.

The days are gone of attracting major employers to our cities, except for rare circumstances. We will not see situations in which we instantly gain 500, 1,000 or more jobs. It seems evident that our number one crisis is the job crisis. The debt and deficit are very crucial. My colleagues opposite certainly know that, as they speak to it all of the time. While we may differ on the pace of the deficit reduction as part of economic recovery, I do not think we differ on the goal.

In spite of the importance of the debt and deficit, the number one crisis in the country we all love is the inadequate number of jobs. The best way to solve that crisis is through encouraging small business. It will be through new small businesses starting up and employing three, five, ten or twenty Canadians that we will create

new employment. We would love to see the large corporations coming in and suddenly creating 1,000 jobs, but I do not think we will see that happen too often.

The evidence is clear that Canadians can succeed in small businesses but they need help. That is what the act is specifically designed to do. In my riding many women, for example, have shown great entrepreneurial spirit, have launched small businesses, have been successful in that regard and have employed three to five people who before were unemployed.

There is a fairly significant immigrant population in my riding. There are many Arab Canadians and a large Polish Canadian community, people from all parts of the world. I see evidence time and again of how immigrant Canadians come to Canada and successfully launch new businesses. Despite the xenophobia Canadians are from time to time perhaps prone to engage in, I can give many examples where new Canadians have come to Canada, started businesses and employed three to five Canadians who were born here in their quite successful businesses. The evidence is there that small business will really be key to economic recovery and to solving the jobs crisis in Canada. That is not totally new but it is much more obvious to us now that it will be the case.

Since 1961 more than 400,000 SBLA loans totalling close to $16 billion have been made by financial institutions to small businesses. The SBLA helps entrepreneurs whose firms have less than $5 million in annual sales.

I should like to speak about that number for a moment. Within my party there has been considerable discussion about this subject. None of the businesses that I referred to earlier do $5 million in annual sales. Some small businesses of three, four, five or ten employees do not do $5 million a year in business. We might have to look at that number as we fine tune. What is a small business? Does it need sales of up to $4.5 million to $5 million to be considered a small business? I think not. We should have a look at that definition.

The program success both as an economic development tool and as an example of public and private sector co-operation has inspired similar guaranteed programs at both the federal and provincial levels. The program will engender new approaches to encourage small business in Canada. That will be one of its most important purposes.

I will share with my colleagues in the House today-we are not as numerous as normal because many of our colleagues are on their way to or already in Montreal to make their feelings known about Canada-that the city of London has two important initiatives in the area of small business worth mentioning. The first is the advanced manufacturing technology centre that we hope will soon come to fruition. The groundwork has been laid. It is our government that announced it. It looks like we might have to scale it back somewhat because of the economic times we face.

However, at the research park at the University of Western Ontario in the city of London we are awaiting very anxiously, along with municipal and provincial government officials, the completion of the advance manufacturing technology centre. It will be located in an existing research park and will be a very important part of helping to encourage innovative technologies and business opportunities as it combines with research opportunities available at the university right now.

There has been quite a bit of time spent on the project. It will come to fruition soon and is anxiously awaited in London. I have been very pleased to spend quite a bit of time working on the project along with my colleagues in London. It will be a big benefit not only to London, Ontario, but to the whole region of southwestern Ontario.

In southwestern Ontario the agri-food industry is a major industry. We ought not to forget there are many opportunities in urban centres and in the agri-food industry for small business. The centre is awaited with anticipation.

The second successful venture that has been under way for several years in the riding of London-Middlesex is a small business centre just inside the eastern part of the city of London. It is a converted plant that closed some years ago. It was formerly called Prototool. I remember it well, being that it was my first summer job. I was there recently for a ribbon cutting ceremony because they had refurbished and expanded the centre. I made the point that every time I went there, as much as I enjoyed it, it seemed as if I was going back to work. In sense I was that day.

The small business centre is located in the George Stewart building which was named in honour of a well known Londoner who has poured many, many years into the facility. It is a business incubation centre. The centre helps those people who are starting up a business with one or two employees. These people need mentors. They certainly need start-up capital. They need the help which is available to them largely through the voluntary efforts of London's successful business people who are now mostly retired and are willing to help younger people launch small businesses. The small business centre in my riding of London-Middlesex has been very successful. It is an example of the type of program the SBLA meshes with very nicely.

I look forward to the visit of the industry minister to this centre in November. He will see firsthand the success we can have with this kind of program. It is an excellent example of why our government must continue to consider small business as a key part in our attempt to get the economy moving again.

In recent years the SBLA program had been running at an annual government cost of some $20 million to $30 million. Significant changes were made in April 1993. There was a major increase in activity from some $500 million to over $4 billion in 1994-95. In historical loss rates, this increase in lending was projected to cost over $100 million which was obviously a threat to the program in these economic times.

It is a very correct change to the program and a wise move by our government to move to full cost recovery on this program. We might say it is a bit of a user pay concept, which I think we are seeing more of at all government levels. My previous government experience was at the municipal level in London, Ontario for 13 years. There is certainly a call for more of a user pay concept at all government levels.

I would never subscribe to the user pay concept for things like health care. Certainly we on this side of the House would not subscribe to the user pay concept in health care and in certain other fundamental core services which as Liberals we believe must be available to all Canadians regardless of their ability to pay. There is however a place for the user pay concept in our society.

Moving the SBLA program to full cost recovery is employing that concept. I applaud the effort of the government in that move. To this end, the government initiated a review of the program which included extensive consultations with major stakeholders representing both borrowers and lenders. Likewise we heard from the Standing Committee on Industry and the small business working committee. All of these groups were unanimous in recommending to the government that we proceed on a full cost recovery basis which is exactly how the government has responded.

Two major changes have been made through regulatory amendments which came into effect on April 1. First, a new 1.25 per cent annual fee was levied on each lender's average outstanding balance of SBLA loans made after March 31, 1995. Second, the maximum rate a lender can charge under the SBLA has been increased by 1.25 per cent to the prime interest rate plus 3 per cent for floating rate loans and to the residential mortgage rate plus 3 per cent for fixed rate loans.

Bill C-99 will continue the process of renewal by putting in place additional changes to the Small Business Loans Act. As I said at the start of my remarks, if we are to make a serious attempt at solving the job crisis and getting the economy moving again on a steady basis, we will have to focus our efforts on small business.

I applaud the government for the changes in the bill. It clearly indicates the intention of our government. That is what I am hearing from Canadians. In all parts of Canada people are speaking out with that kind of message. Certainly in my riding of London-Middlesex new business opportunities and job creation are happening in the smaller micro-firms with one to four employees. The government is moving in the right direction.

We need to consider what is a small business. Five million dollars strikes a lot of people whom I know in business as a pretty big number to achieve. They would be thrilled with that, but they do something like $750,000 or $1 million worth of business each year. We have to continue to look at that number to determine exactly what constitutes a small business.

I want to say very clearly that this bill is a major step in the right direction. I am pleased as a member of the government to be part of the team which recognizes that we have to make this a priority.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking the hon. member for London-Middlesex for expressing these thoughts inspired by our prayers this morning. I share them. I think the people of Quebec are focused on this crucial moment in their lives and accept the mark of affection shown by anglophones today.

We are sure that this demonstration of affection, friendship and even love, as some were saying, will last more than one day. Indeed we are confident that this demonstration of love and friendship will last for more than one weekend and that the best way to ensure that it does is to accept and respect the decision of the people of Quebec and thus transform these marks of friendship into acceptance of a rewarding and effective partnership between our two nations.

As far as the bill is concerned, I must deplore one thing. It is true that the bill raised the maximum for small and medium size businesses. However, one of the main problems for job creation, especially in Quebec, is the fact that very small businesses do not have access to these loans because the criteria have become more restrictive.

We must not forget that nearly 90 per cent of all new jobs, according to the figures for Quebec, are created by very small and medium size businesses. They should be helped. These are not businesses that require start up capital in excess of $250,000, $500,000 or one million dollars.

Last month, I witnessed the birth of thirty or so very small businesses in my riding, started by people who were on unemployment insurance, people who had decided to take the initiative and create their own jobs, set up their own business. In the process, they created some forty new jobs, and they were able to get started thanks to loans which, in most cases, did not exceed $10,000.

In other words, what we need to help these small businesses is not a higher maximum. There was nothing wrong with the maximum. The problem is a lack of more flexible criteria that would

give these very small businesses access to more readily available venture capital.

I do not think the bill makes any provision for this, although in some respects it is well intentioned. I think the bill will not do anything to promote very small businesses. I would appreciate the hon. member's comments.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.

He addressed my remarks about the outpouring of affection-I think that is the right word-and concern of other Canadians that Quebec remain part of the Canadian family. He spoke about his wish that this would continue. I fully support that. I fully and completely support that as a francophone who for most of my life has understood and appreciated the importance of Quebec in this country.

Every chance I get I emphasize to people in my riding that we need to make clear that we understand and realize the importance of Quebec in this country. I can assure the hon. member that if the vote is a no vote, as I hope it will be, I will continue to say that after Monday. I applaud that sentiment.

I disagree with the hon. member when he spoke about the need to forge a new partnership. I simply ask him and all Quebecers to reflect on the fact that we have had a successful partnership in Canada for a long time. Yes, we have had our problems. We have had our quarrels as families will, but we have been able to work through them. We have worked them out. It was not lightly or easily that Canada was recognized as the best country in the world in which to live.

I ask him and all Quebecers, as the Prime Minister has done much better than I can do, to reflect very carefully on the fact that together we have built the best country in the world. It would be a tremendous risk and gamble to vote to break up our family. I sincerely hope Quebecers will not do that when they vote on Monday.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member for London-Middlesex speaking on Bill C-99, an act to amend the Small Business Loans Act.

I conducted a survey of my constituents. In my householder I asked questions about increases in government spending. There were some increases in the area of regional development loans, particularly western diversification which affects my part of the country and also FORD-Q and ACOA.

People in my riding were very opposed to these loans being offered to regions outside of our area of the country. Even on loans granted through western diversification which affected them, there was about a 50-50 division on whether it was the right procedure.

I would like the member to comment on the problems loans based on regional development are causing in the country and perhaps some of the divisions we are dealing with in the referendum campaign which perhaps have been caused by the regional development approach. Maybe the better route would be to put more of our eggs into this type of basket, a national program. This would affect small business right across the country on the same basis with the same rules rather than dividing the dollars into regional development programs, often loans, particularly to Atlantic Canada through ACOA or to western Canada through WED.

Those programs are causing hard feelings. Western Canada has looked at ACOA and said it has not worked. We have been pumping regional development dollars either through grants or loans into Atlantic Canada and unemployment is rising in Atlantic Canada. We have been pumping dollars for regional development into Quebec and some Quebecers want to separate. We are hoping less than 50 per cent want to separate, but it is not creating national unity by putting dollars through grants or loans into regional development.

Would it not be better to put money into loan guarantees for small business on national programs? It might make us feel as if we are all playing on a level playing field rather than making people angry by dumping some money into western Canada, some into Atlantic Canada, some into Quebec and some into the north.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's questions and comments on this program. I do not think he used the phrase but I think he is questioning the efficacy of the whole concept of regional economic expansion.

I come from southwestern Ontario, which is a rather successful part of Canada when we look at the full nation, although we certainly have some problems to solve such as unemployment. We are doing our best in that regard.

My colleague opposite comes from the province of Saskatchewan and he understands that his part of Canada is quite successful. However there are some problem as well.

The question my colleague puts is an either/or. Should we put all of our attention on to the small business loans approach or should we continue with the concept of sharing economically through a regional economic sharing of resources? Frankly, as a Canadian I reject the choice. I do not think it is an either/or. The answer to my colleague is that we should do both. I believe there is a place for both.

The people I represent by and large understand and appreciate that they are economically in an advantaged part of Canada. They are quite prepared and magnanimous enough to share with other Canadians as part of the price to pay to have a nation from coast to coast.

I will be candid and say that we had a little dispute recently about the idea of some workers coming from Cape Breton. The question was never where the people came from. We have thousands of Atlantic Canadians and Canadians from all other provinces living and contributing to the community. The only question was to what degree the trip would be subsidized.

As far as the concept of sharing and being open to Canadians to come to our city or sharing our resources with people from coast to coast, the people I represent endorse that. They see it as an important part of being a Canadian. It is a small price to pay to be part of the great nation we all live in.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Speaker

That concludes the portion of the debate of 20-minute speeches and 10 minutes of questions and answers. What we are going into now-

From now on, those wishing to speak will have ten minutes, but there will be no questions and comments.

Resuming debate.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to support Bill C-99, an act to amend the Small Business Loans Act. This legislation is just part of the whole Liberal approach to government.

Members may recall the current Liberal government was elected on a jobs and growth agenda as promised in the red book. Two years ago the government was given a mandate to revitalize Canada's economy. All Canadians, including the people of Quebec, are benefiting from these promises.

Our economy is still recovering from one of the worst recessions in our history. The recession was not only just a slowdown of our economy but a massive reorganization of how our economy operates. It has been a painful journey.

The previous government led us down this debt ridden path but we are getting Canada turned around and moving back toward prosperity. The Liberal government through its jobs and growth agenda is creating an economic atmosphere conducive to job creation. Over the last two years we have created approximately half a million full time jobs.

The main pillar of our approach is to reduce the deficit. By reducing the deficit the government will break the crutches that are slowing down our economy. The federal government, as we all know, is under tremendous financial strain. Some people criticize our cuts, they are not enough or they are too much. But the government is committed to a balanced and a realistic approach. In contrast, the third party proposes devastation through its plan to eliminate the deficit in three years. I am no economist but I know that such a plan is much too severe and would do more harm than good.

Our deficit reduction plan is based on credible analysis of our situation. We have instituted short term goals that have been reached. We are on the track to achieving this year's target of $32.7 billion. In next year's budget we will reach our election promise of a budget deficit of only 3 per cent of GDP.

It will not stop there. We will continue to set short term goals and before the end of the century we will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The proposed amendments to the Small Business Loans Act follow our plan. Some may ask how. We did not call our red book "Creating Opportunity" for nothing. These amendments will create more opportunities for small and medium size businesses to access the capital they need.

More entrepreneurs will obtain loans to make their business dreams become a reality. Through these new private sector initiatives, made possible by the Small Business Loans Act and the proposed amendments in Bill C-99, new jobs will continue to be created.

As some of my colleagues have already pointed out, the Small Business Loans Act is not new. However, earlier this year we made regulatory changes to the act in order to make it more effective and accountable. Only those who truly need our assistance will receive it.

The fee structure introduced in April of this year serves to encourage those applicants who are more financially secure to seek capital loans directly from financial institutions without the federal guarantee. It will also provide an incentive for borrowers to down the road seek normal commercial financing as soon as possible.

This is consistent with the many other policies we have introduced. Our government believes that it must carefully review all government activities, to recognize areas where we can achieve our objectives more effectively.

We conducted one of the most, if not the most, extensive program reviews by any federal government. This is one of those areas and we have made some necessary changes. Due to the competitive environment of the financial sector, we believe that the new fee structure, whereby the administration fee is incorporated in the interest rate, will improve the effectiveness of the program.

A further step has been taken by the amendments contained in Bill C-99. We have already made the program more effective and accountable on the user side of it, but now our side must be streamlined. Bill C-99 addresses that matter. With the implementation of this bill, the program will be a full cost recovery program. As I mentioned earlier, we are reducing our deficit. It is through changes like these that allow us to reach our deficit targets.

We will also be improving the loan guarantee coverage for low volume lenders. This is an important aspect that should not be overlooked. Better coverage for the smaller lenders will strengthen our financial sector. These financial institutions may be small, but collectively they count for a significant portion of the loans administered by this program.

Previously these lenders in relative terms were vulnerable to a greater proportion of losses. Due to the existing regulations, these institutions were limited in the amount of losses that could be claimed to the federal government. The new provisions create a more equitable arrangement for these small lenders.

On Tuesday I heard some members from across the floor state that this bill violates the democratic process. On the contrary, extensive consultations were held to get the views of all sides of the issues. We reviewed the report of the Standing Committee on Industry. What more do they want? We listened to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. We listened to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. We listened to the Canadian Bankers Association, to name a few. Through those consultations we obtained substantial support for proposed changes.

Furthermore, some of the provisions of this bill were a direct result of the report from the industry committee. On going back to the red book, we promised to regain the confidence of Canadians. We want Canadians to be able to believe in the political process.

Over the last two years we have been reintroducing integrity into the political process. Again, someone might ask how. It is by holding consultations with Canadians, by listening to Canadians, which is more than I can say for official opposition members. They are so busy listening to themselves that they cannot hear Canadians, including Quebecers, telling them they want Quebec to stay in Canada.

The Small Business Loans Act plays an important role in my province of Prince Edward Island. In the previous fiscal year loans under this program totalled $21.8 million. This is a substantial amount of money for a small province. Our economy is seasonal by nature. Any initiatives to create business operations that can counter the seasonal aspect of our economy are very welcome. Small firms wanting to expand can do so with financing under this program. Entrepreneurs with dreams of owning a successful business are given a chance under this program.

Our economy has an abundance of small and medium size firms. The Liberal government acknowledges this reality and knows how to address the concerns of Atlantic Canadians. When it comes to small business, a loans program is not the only solution. This is just part of a larger package. We have refocused our regional development programs on small businesses, in particular I am referring to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. ACOA has been instrumental in assisting small businesses in Atlantic Canada and it has done so through many varied ways.

I would like to point out a few recent activities of ACOA. Just last week ACOA hosted a delegation of trade representatives from the Russian federation. The delegates were here to pursue joint ventures between Russian and Atlantic Canadian firms. Among the topics discussed were geomatics, aquaculture, agriculture products and current trade activities in other sectors.

This is an important step for business in Atlantic Canada. We are becoming more aggressive in pursuing world markets and the Russian federation, although poor economically in many standards, is open for investment opportunities.

In September the Atlantic Canada Home Program was held in Halifax. The program was designed to take advantage of opportunities created by the deregulation of building standards in Japan which permits a wider range of home construction. Prince Edward Island was represented there by the provincial minister of economic development and tourism.

Canada is always searching for new markets to access throughout the world. Our economy is geared toward exports. Our relations within the global economy are what is helping to drive the Canadian economy.

The government is working with the private sector and the provincial governments to open up new markets abroad, to ensure that Canadian firms have access to markets they need to grow and create more jobs. We need to do all we can to assist in that aspect and Bill C-99 in part does just that. We are improving a federal program so that it can adjust to current demands and be more flexible to meet our future demands.

Last week, on the eve of small business week, the Association of Atlantic Women Business Owners hosted a conference, trade show and an Atlantic Hall of Fame for Women Entrepreneurs, a ceremony sponsored in part by ACOA. The theme of the conference was "New Markets and Opportunities for Growth".

To me that sounds a lot like our jobs and growth agenda. Is it not funny how our approach is similar to private enterprise? I believe that would suggest that we are going about our business in the correct fashion.

Earlier in the fall also in Halifax key stakeholders in the Atlantic Canada economy discussed the business support system for young entrepreneurs. This was hosted again by ACOA. It was designed to highlight the needs and challenges facing our young entrepreneurs and establish services to meet those needs as well as to encourage young people interested in starting their own businesses. These young people are the future of the country.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing me the time to speak in support of this bill because I believe it will give to the small business community the impetus it needs to get up and get going.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak on Bill C-99, an act to amend the Small Business Loans Act.

Along with my colleague from London-Middlesex this morning, I extend my thoughts to those people who have travelled from our various communities today to the heartland of Quebec, to Montreal. Our thoughts are with these people. We all share the same common sentiment that we want to have Quebec remain a part of us and share the business climate we have in this country come Monday of next week.

As the member of Parliament for Huron-Bruce, representing a small yet mostly rural riding, I do not have large municipalities. I do not have large urban centres. The largest community in my constituency is the town of Goderich which has 8,000 people. In Goderich there are two main plants, which employ 900 people: Champion Road Machinery, a manufacturer of road graders and other roadbuilding equipment, and Sifto Salt Mines, which produces the third largest quantity of salt in North America.

As a rural constituency, the businesses we have are largely small in nature. Many of the businesses are agri-related. When I was elected to be the member of Parliament for Huron-Bruce, I believed, as do all members of the House, that we were elected to create a climate of employment in Canada. We spoke about jobs and growth. This bill goes a long way in helping us to achieve those goals.

How do we create jobs? Government cannot by itself create jobs. Government jobs are largely jobs that do not contribute to the GDP of our country. While government cannot create jobs, government can certainly create an environment in which business can grow and prosper. The importance of Bill C-99 is that it becomes another avenue for small business to access capital and operating moneys.

As I said earlier, I represent a small rural constituency. We have many resources in our riding. Most of them are rural agricultural resources: wheat, hogs, beef and all the other commodities we grow so well in Huron-Bruce. The riding produces more dollar value in agricultural products than any riding east of Winnipeg. I therefore speak with a great deal of pride as I speak about my riding this morning.

The greatest resources in any riding are the youth of our communities. When we closely examine the resource of youth we find that many of these young people upon completion of their secondary education move on to other communities. For the most part they leave to further their education and then go on to careers often in large urban centres simply because job opportunities are not as plentiful today as perhaps they were a decade ago, certainly not in small communities.

Some of these youth are now returning to their communities of origin simply because jobs in the urban centres are not as plentiful as they once were. The young people are returning to their communities, in some cases to enter into a partnership with a family business or to enter into a partnership with an established business. In some cases they are coming home to seek the future they have dreamed of, a career of choice based on and related to the training and educational background they have achieved.

This is where the banks and the lending institutions become involved. Allow me to give a personal example. About eight years ago our two sons had a dream. Upon completing their secondary education they wanted to pursue a business career. One of the first things they had to do was find the capital required to begin a business. That was the first experience. Of course they had to visit the bankers. They found that the bankers were not all in agreement with their dream. In many cases they were turned away. However, there was one banker who, because of his appreciation for young people, sensed that there might be merit in the dream and that it might go somewhere. He invited them in. He asked their father to sign a few papers and these two young men began a business.

It has been eight years since they began the business. They have realized their dream. The dream will continue. It was only six months after they had begun the business that they asked the banker to remove their father's name from the papers. People are realizing their dreams in the country. This is an example of what can happen when we take those dreams to the ultimate end. Now that they have established their business it is the bankers who are knocking on their door to see if they can lend them a bit of money.

My point is that the risk in doing anything is always great but I believe we have to take some of these risks. When I chose this position in Parliament I accepted a risk. I was walking away from a

business that had given me 21 years of fruitful employment. My background in small business and in the agricultural sector gave me an appreciation for and insight into the borrowing needs of small business.

Early in my new career as a member of Parliament I quickly became aware of the inability of entrepreneurs to gain access to business capital. If there has been one area of frustration in my career as a politician it has been that of my being unable to resolve the matter of banks and small business.

A few months ago Bluewater Fibre Inc., with 150 employees in the northern part of my riding, found itself in the very untenable position of risking closure of its plant if a resolution of a border tax was not found. To the credit of the Minister of Finance's department, this issue was resolved and the jobs of 150 people were ensured.

Another situation concerns Tackle Windpower, a manufacturer of rotor blades for windpower electricity generation, which just recently began manufacturing in Huron Park in the southern part of my riding. Before this company turned one employee hour in its plant it had $9.5 million in guaranteed orders for a product it was about to build, but it had difficulty in obtaining a $500,000 operating loan. Through much difficulty and a great deal of effort on the company's part and a small effort on my part, financing was finally procured. This company started with two, three, four employees, and has now reached 28 employees and is quickly moving to full employment of 70.

Stories like this go on and on. How many members here would have believed that so much of our time would be spent on helping small business achieve funding and financing?

There are two million small businesses in Canada, and 82 per cent of new jobs created are created by small businesses. When one puts these numbers in perspective it puts a new importance on entrepreneurialism. If every small business would employ just one more person we would eliminate unemployment.

This is an important bill for two reasons: the increase in the maximum size of the loan to more accurately reflect the realities of doing business, and the movement of the SBLA to full cost recovery, a measure in keeping with our promises as a government to maintain fiscal management policies.

Given the extensive consultations with the major stakeholders, it is imperative that we seek swift passage of this bill for the benefit of all small businesses in Canada. I look forward to supporting this bill at a future time in the House.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for St. Boniface has the floor. As you know, dear colleague, you will start your address and will finish it after question period. Agreed?

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

So, Mr. Speaker, I shall have two speeches.

I am pleased to speak today on the Small Business Loans Act. I shall address the key principles rather than its details, which some of my colleagues with an in depth knowledge of this field have already done.

I wish to point out that this bill is part of a total strategy for supporting the growth of small businesses, particularly their access to capital. This must be clearly understood. We wish to provide more help to small business so that they may grow, have greater access to capital and thus create additional employment. We are very much aware that the bulk of jobs created over the past decade have been in small and medium size businesses. The figures indicate 85 to 90 per cent. This is very impressive.

This bill was proposed after much consultation with lenders and borrowers. It is not something that we just decided to impose. It is not something where we are just going ahead without consultation, without advice from all sides, because we believe that the way to have an excellent bill, with a better chance of success, with a better chance of being accepted by those targeted by it, is to ensure that there have been consultations. This has been done country-wide with the groups I have referred to.

Another very important aspect of this bill is self-funding. Yes, costs will be higher, because we want it to be self-sustaining, but this is in keeping with two government policies. The first is to decrease, if you will, grants and subsidies to business. We realize that, in today's reality, there is less financial flexibility and that we must reduce the costs of government. Reducing these financial supports, if you will, to businesses is one way of being proactive and attaining that objective.

Another objective is reduction of the deficit and the debt. Since this program will be self-supporting, there will be less government money going to businesses. This will have a positive impact on the deficit and the debt. I must add that the new program will provide a better response to businesses needing funding. This is very important.

We are well aware that 30 or 40 per cent of businesses receiving assistance at this time can go to a bank or a caisse populaire and have their needs met by those institutions. So, if 30 or 40 per cent go elsewhere for solutions to their financial needs, more financial assistance will be getting to the businesses that need it.

I have spoken to a number of Manitoba businessmen and businesswomen in my riding and all have indicated to me that this was a step in the right direction. This is an example of a federal government initiative which is country-wide, an example of what we can do together. I will close on this and pick up where I left off later on.

Small Business Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

Thank you, dear colleague. It being 11 a.m., we will now proceed to statements by members.

I know this is a very special time for all of us but with all respect, should you be tempted to use what I call props I would prefer that you did not.

Canadian UnityStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, through a project called "Cher ami", 5,000 children in my riding of Mississauga West have written in French to the children of the province of Quebec in a gesture of friendship. They want to show that French is spoken all over Canada and that there is no such thing as "English Canada".

I will read today a few excerpts from the children's letters. From six-year-old Diane:

"Hello, my name is Diane. I am six years old. I like speaking French. I love Canada and Quebec."

From a grade eight student at St. Rose de Lima School:

"Dear friend, I love Canada, because I love the winter and the summer. I love Canada, because it is a multicultural country. It is important to have friends in Quebec, because that gives us a chance to learn about another culture".

If children can understand that fundamentally we belong together, so should we. Several hundred thousand people demonstrating in Montreal today also agree.

Mr. Speaker, I will respect your wishes and not lift this box of a thousand letters on to my desk.

Canadian UnityStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

I do thank you for that.

Gun ControlStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday constitutional lawyer Peter Hogg and former deputy minister of justice Ian Binnie appeared before the Senate justice committee on the gun control bill. These two respected lawyers stated unequivocally that the government has not consulted with the aboriginal people, as required by section 35 of the Constitution. According to this testimony the constitutional rights of the aboriginal people have been abrogated by the government. Bill C-68 will directly affect aboriginal treaty rights and therefore they should have been consulted.

Mr. Binni went on to say that Bill C-68 indicates that the government did not consider how the legislation would affect aboriginal people and called it an abdication of their responsibility.

The justice minister states that Bill C-68 is a done deal. I suggest nothing could be further from the truth.

Quebec ReferendumStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I speak on behalf of my colleague from Peterborough who lost his voice and on behalf of the people of St. Catharines.

Four buses, two from each city, two cities which normally compete with each other, today drive together to join people from all over Canada at the no rally in Montreal.

Today Canadians are voicing their opinion. They are in Montreal to say to Quebecers that they want to stay together, they want to stay united. They are also reminding Quebecers of the seriousness of the vote.

Canadians are asking Quebecers to say no to destroying our political union, to say no to destroying our economic union, to say no to destroying Canada as we know it and as it has existed for many years.

Keep the family together. On Monday vote no. As proud Canadians we say let us keep the country together. We join in spirit with our constituents in Montreal in saying our Canada includes Quebec.

Johnny MilesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Russell MacLellan Liberal Cape Breton—The Sydneys, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to offer birthday wishes to a great Canadian.

On October 30, Mr. Johnny Miles will be celebrating his 90th birthday. Mr. Miles is a two-time winner and the oldest surviving winner of the Boston Marathon.

As a native of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, and a current resident of Hamilton, Ontario, Mr. Miles has been a role model for generations of young athletes all across Canada.

He is a distinguished ambassador of Canadian amateur sport who has been honoured with the Order of Canada and inducted into the Nova Scotia and Canadian Sports Halls of Fame.

As a proud Canadian, Mr. Miles has said that nothing gives him greater pleasure than to do something for his country. We should all take pride in what this fine Canadian has achieved. I am sure my colleagues will want to join me in wishing him a very happy 90th birthday.

Quebec ReferendumStatements By Members

11 a.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe passionately in this country and its citizens. Whether we belong to one of the three founding realities in Canada, the aboriginal people, the French or the English, or whether we hail from a group that chose to come to Canada to find a nation that provided hope and opportunity, we love our country.

This summer I visited communities in the Gaspe region of Quebec. I did not meet wild eyed separatists with an animosity toward Canada. Instead I met people who deeply respected Canada but were also proud of their distinct culture and traditions.

I will not raise the letter I have on my desk, but I have a letter signed by 65 seniors in my riding asking me to tell Quebecers to stay in Canada so that we may continue to be together in the world's best country.

The only way to do this is to vote no on Monday.

Quebec ReferendumStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bob White, the most powerful union leader in Canada, warned Canadian political leaders against being vengeful following a victorious yes vote in the referendum on Monday. He called on them to act responsibly and to negotiate with Quebecers, saying that millions of Quebecers want a different relationship and different recognition by Canada, and so serious discussions will have to be undertaken.

Mr. White acknowledged that it was in Canadians' and Quebecers' interest to establish an economic and political partnership. Given the size of the stakes involved, it would probably not be hard to find support among business people to defend and promote a partnership with Quebec.

Quebecers will vote yes on Monday, confident in their ability to finally negotiate with their Canadian partners as one people with another.

Referendum CampaignStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, today, we should express our true sentiments. People know where I stand, I support a no vote on Monday. I am for a French Quebec in a united Canada.

During this referendum campaign and since my election here, I have had the opportunity to improve my ability to speak the beautiful French language. I am very grateful indeed for the patience, tolerance and friendship of federalist and sovereignist Quebecers.

I think people are fortunate to be Quebecers. They are part of a large family. In my view, this family has long been divided by this national question. I hope that, whatever the outcome, the family will be reunited Monday evening after the vote.

Referendum CampaignStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Parti Quebecois claims it will save $3 billion in an independent Quebec through the elimination of the overlap and duplication of the federal system.

How does Premier Parizeau expect to achieve this objective when he is promising to hire the thousands of federal public servants living in Quebec? Premier Parizeau said in August of this year that an independent Quebec could not hire all the federal public servants working for the departments of agriculture and of the environment, for example, because Quebec's departments in these areas are already fully staffed.

The so-called promise the Government of Quebec is making to hire federal public servants living in Quebec reminds me of the generous collective agreements the Parti Quebecois accorded Quebec public servants prior to the 1980 referendum. Following the rejection of the referendum question, the Parti Quebecois government then cut provincial public servants' salaries by some 20 per cent. Federal public servants have therefore every reason to mistrust the Parti Quebecois promises.

Referendum CampaignStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Roger Pomerleau Bloc Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, the federal government and the Canadian establishment are putting all their power at the service of the No cause: a paid holiday for employees who want to attend the rally in

Montreal, transportation services subsidized by the major Canadian carriers, and I could go on. Even Ottawa high school teachers are using school buses to send their students to the rally in Montreal.

As the director general of elections in Quebec reminded us, all these referendum related expenses by the federal government and private enterprise violate Quebec's referendum act, since any service that promotes a referendum option constitutes a regulated expense. The Liberal Party of Canada and the federal government are supporting these illegal referendum expenses.

This rally in Montreal was meant as a demonstration of love. Is it becoming a giant intimidation manoeuvre paid for with taxpayers' money, in defiance of the referendum act and of all Quebecers' idea of democracy?

Referendum CampaignStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Albina Guarnieri Liberal Mississauga East, ON

Mr. Speaker, at this very moment, thousands upon thousands of Canadians from coast to coast are gathering at Place du Canada to join the most popular Prime Minister ever to lead the best country in the world.

In this great Canadian pilgrimage, hundreds of constituents from my riding of Mississauga East are opening their hearts to their friends and relatives in Quebec, going even further for a strong and united Canada.

Today's rally will show the rest of the world that the Canadian people are a great people whose warmth transcends any division in this united nation they love with all their heart.

Canadians are together and want to stay together because Quebec and Quebecers are at the heart of the Canadian dream.

National UnityStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to members across the way cry out with self-righteous and sanctimonious indignation about the need for a code to govern freedom of speech in the Chamber. Perhaps they should start with their own party.

Recent remarks made yesterday by the minister of fisheries and by the Deputy Prime Minister about members of the Reform Party have reached an all-time low. The Deputy Prime Minister stated publicly that the Reform Party wanted Quebec out of Confederation. This is not only totally untrue but it is so untrue that it is offensive. We are communicating in the newspapers with one million Quebecers this week on our proposals for decentralization which will contribute to national unity.

If the Deputy Prime Minister wishes to do something positive for national unity, she should stop misrepresenting the views of loyal Canadians.

Quebec ReferendumStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois keep focusing on the past, and only on the negative aspects of the past. They do not remember the positive aspects, like what we have built together, what we have become collectively and the efforts made by many Canadians to give Quebecers opportunities and rights that no other province has.

I would like to inform this House that the constituents of my riding of Vancouver East and of every riding in this country, from Tofino to Signal Hill, including a large number of Quebecers, are saddened by the actions of those whose goal is to destroy Canada. On the other hand, you have people like the Prime Minister, who have been fighting for many years to make sure that all Canadians have equal rights.

Today, Canada is doing as well as any country with a huge territory, a small population and diverse needs can expect.

Canadians are fond of their country. They do not say it too often, but they are proud of the maple leaf, their passport, the freedom they enjoy and the respect they are shown everywhere else in the world by people who cannot understand-