Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-53, an act to increase the availability of financing for the establishment, expansion, modernization and improvement of small businesses.
Government members should support the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Mercier, since the title of the bill itself states that its purpose is to increase the availability of financing of small businesses.
The hon. member for Mercier proposes that this financing program apply to businesses that would not otherwise have access to such financing. This would allow increased financing to businesses that are in trouble. I do not understand why the Reformers seem to disagree with this amendment. They said repeatedly in this House that the act should apply only to businesses that would not otherwise have access to financing. This is precisely what the hon. member for Mercier is proposing in her motion.
Businesses that have access to the financial and banking institutions' regular program do not need this legislation to get financing. In fact, it would not be to their advantage to use this program, since the interest rate charged to businesses is 3% higher. Therefore, it seems that businesses should use the other types of loans offered by banking institutions. As a rule, the government should not take the place of banking institutions that play a role in the economy.
Reformers who support that view should realize that the banks would only be too happy if this were the case. For once we agree, to some extent, that we should leave it to banks and financial institutions to deal with regular loans, as they do a fine job of it. In my mind, banks include the caisses populaires, because half of the loans made in Quebec went through the caisses populaires.
I will let the Reform Party clarify their position. However, as far as I am concerned, they are contradicting themselves. They seem bent on an ideology where government should completely withdraw so that individuals have so few taxes to pay, if any—not no taxes whatsoever, as government would disappear—or play such a diluted role that its presence would be insignificant.
Not surprisingly the NDP believes that government should take action in a number of areas, including small business. In Canada, 98% of all businesses are small businesses with fewer than 100 employees—and the percentage may even be higher because the statistics are not necessarily up to date—yet they account for 45% of all job creation.
There is much talk about large corporations. That is fine, but large corporations do not need such a program. They have access to other financing sources. This program is suited to the small and medium size businesses that lost significantly fewer jobs than larger ones did during the recession, in the early 1990s, and created a significantly larger number of jobs in the following recovery.
Small businesses ought to be encouraged, on account of the various sectors they are involved in within the global economy. I am thinking of the agri-food industry, for example, including fisheries and forestry; in Quebec, 90.1 % of this industry is controlled by small and medium size businesses. The forestry and agri-food sectors are active in the various regions.
As the Bloc Quebecois critic for regional development, this program to enable small businesses—especially in the regions, outside large urban areas—develop, have access to financing and create and maintain jobs for people in the regions, especially young people, is of great interest to me.
The Conservative member for Chicoutimi, whom I saw just now, knows what I am talking about, when I refer to the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region. We have all kinds of problems in keeping young people in the region. Who does most to keep them in the regions? Small business, the target of this program.
In the construction sector, 88.2% of jobs in Quebec are in small and medium size companies with fewer than 100 employees. In the real estate sector, 73.6% of businesses are small and medium size. In the wholesale sector, 66% of jobs in Quebec are in small and medium size businesses. In Quebec, in the retail sector, which is important in rural municipalities, in small municipalities or in big city neighbourhoods—small businesses are the ones closest to the population and provide more personalized services—59.7% of businesses are small and or medium size. Also, 53% of the companies providing services to other companies are small businesses.
For a bill to be a good one, it must meet several criteria. It must be recognizable by its title. We agree with the title I read earlier. This is a bill to increase the availability of financing for small businesses. A title is all very well, but a bill must be real, must go beyond a mere title. Its clauses, its content and its regulations, if possible, must go with the title.
Suprisingly, in this case, while the purpose of the bill is to increase financing, not a single clause—I have read and reread them, because I am a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, where we studied the bill clause by clause—is consistent with the purpose. That is why the member for Mercier and I are requesting greater access be provided for those really needing it, those who would not otherwise have access to the regular bank financing programs. The government must give them its endorsement, because the government is not doing the lending. People have to understand, this is about guarantees of financing. The government is a guarantor, with restrictions and with control.
That is the role of the executive. It may not be the role of the legislators, but it is the role of government, through the executive, specifically the minister and his officials, to ensure that the banks see to that.
So that is why this has to appear in the bill. We will talk more about it when we consider the other amendments, those proposed by the government and the Reform Party, which are intended to add controls and restrictions and which serve to cut the program that existed in the past. We in the Bloc Quebecois want a better law, one more appropriate to the objective. This law must make financing more available and not reduce it, limit it or make it unobtainable.
The act includes so many conditions that, in the end, financial institutions may decide to make financing available to businesses that present no risks, but that could have access to other sources of financing. I find it very contradictory that this would be done in the context of a bill. Our objective is a good one and we are acting in good faith. When the bill was introduced in the House, we agreed with its principle at second reading. We still do, but we are now a little suspicious and sceptical, because we realize that the amendments proposed by the Reform Party would in the end restrict the scope of the bill.
We oppose restricting access to financing for small businesses. Rather, we would like to see such access increased. I hope the government will listen to our representations and realize that our proposals are in line with the bill. Our amendment, which was accepted by the clerk and by the Chair, is consistent with the bill and this brings to a close—