Mr. Speaker, I do not know what has gotten into our colleagues opposite, whether it is the
upcoming election making them nervous, both in the House and in committee, but I would like to come back to the issue of federal government procurement, which has naturally interested the official opposition for a long time now.
Like most members of the Standing Committee on Government Operations, we have heard many criticisms of government contracts, which have been described as unfair and ineffective. Despite the fine talk of this government since it came to office, things are pretty much the same as they were in the dark Conservative past. Of the $8.6 billion spent by this government in 1994-95, 37 per cent was on sole source or non-competitive contracts. This is very troubling. The Liberal majority, like us, was left staring at the same sad figures.
Therefore, in the present tendering system, it is important to make some very minor changes. It would not even take very much time. These changes were proposed by SMBs that appeared before the committee. To name but a few, first of all small and medium size businesses are complaining about lack of information on tenders. They have no way of knowing what the government wants to buy.
They also feel that the tendering process has its shortcomings. They experience great difficulty in contacting the user of the product or service, or the true purchaser of goods and services. Reaching these people, or not reaching them, can make the difference between having the winning bid, or not.
The tendering process is an extremely complex one, which discourages the small and medium size businesses from bidding. They have trouble filling out the necessary forms. There is too much unnecessary red tape. As well, the small and medium size businesses fear, and rightly so, that contracts are awarded on the basis of nepotism and political favouritism, and favour Ottawa-based companies.
I have made a list of the comments made by certain small and medium size businesses in my riding. This is what I heard: "We are registered suppliers but we are never asked to tender our services", "we have to know the buyer to be able to sell a product or a service". That is par for the course in my riding, at CFB Bagotville. I also heard this: "We are not informed of requirements or products", "we are not asked to bid, although our names are on the lists, although we are qualified". Others told me: "I tried my luck recently, but I have serious doubts about the integrity of the system".
There is another aspect I would like to discuss, since you are signalling that my time is up: Quebec's share of the procurement of goods and services. In 1994-95, there was a shortfall of 22,000 jobs in Quebec because the federal government did not give Quebec its fair share of the procurement of federal goods and services.