Madam Speaker, I am pleased to support the amendments put forward by my colleague.
These amendments will do two things. First, they will lower the maximum of a small business loan from $250,000 to $100,000. Second, they will prevent a second family member from obtaining a small business loan for a business when one has already been granted to another family member.
I would also like to comment on this whole small business loans program which, again with all due respect, I think has completely gone down the wrong track in what we are doing for the Canadian people.
This bill essentially will put $1.5 billion into the small business loans program where businesses that do not qualify for any other funding, that have been turned down by the banks and financial institutions for various reasons, would then try to obtain financing from the small business loans program.
I would argue this is the wrong approach. These people obviously are a higher risk. We are using taxpayer money as a poor investment. We are giving it to the worst business plans of this country, the businesses that are most likely to go broke and most likely to go bankrupt. The taxpayers will receive zero dollars on their investment. We are throwing money at bad business plans.
I would argue it is the role of government to be responsible for introducing legislation in this House that ensures there will be a strong economic climate. Again, I do not necessarily support subsidizing business after business by throwing money at it. Instead, we should be creating an economic climate where businesses can survive without government subsidies. In essence that is what this is. That is what we have failed to do.
My home province of British Columbia is in an absolute crisis state. As an example we can look at the forest industry in British Columbia. Many of my colleagues from British Columbia can attest to the fact that one of the principal reasons the forest industry and the business climate in the forest sector is in a crisis situation is largely government policy and the direction the government has been going in both provincially and federally.
The federal government cannot be let off the hook. It has created an economic climate, due to the quota system with the United States, where British Columbia has now lost a significant part of its quota to eastern Canada. The mills are suffering incredibly.
I was speaking with the senior forester in one of the forest product companies in British Columbia over the weekend. He tells me that their wood costs in 1994 were $43 a metre. Today their wood costs are $83 a metre. This has almost doubled. I asked him why they had doubled and what had caused the cost of the wood landed in the mill to be double to what it was three or four years ago.
He said strictly government policy, both federal and provincial.
I am a big defender of small businesses. They are the economic backbone of this country. If we are to have successful businesses, let us not do it with government subsidies. We have the government saying here is $1.5 billion available for small businesses.
Many of the ones that probably are struggling and will survive do not have access to this. Again, only the highest risk business plans are going to get access to this. We may never recover this money. I would argue very little we will recover.
The government gives out but takes right back through high payroll taxes. The EI premiums are billions of dollars higher than what they should be. The list goes on and on.
Speaking with small business owners, even very small businesses with only a few employees, they say they get government forms, both federal and provincial, in the mail two or three times a week. It never ends.
A full time bookkeeper is needed to keep up with the bureaucracy, the paperwork, whether it is the GST or the payroll tax forms or worker compensation forms. Some of them are provincial but the list goes on and on. How can they possibly survive?
It is our role as legislators to cut that down, break down these barriers. What kind of taxes are these companies paying? Can they be competitive? It goes further. Some of our most entrepreneurial people who should be creating these small businesses are running down south of us to the U.S. the day after they leave school. Why? Because of the economic climate in this country. Why? Because of the taxes they pay.
People pay double the taxes to our friends to the south. These are realities. These are the things the government should be focusing on.
The small business loans program has been around for a long time, which would only reinforce that the government is absolutely prepared to accept the status quo. It thinks things are just fine. Let us not change, just send out another $1.5 billion and that will take care of itself.
Some people cannot go to the bank. They get turned down and then go to the finance companies and get turned down there. They cannot raise any money, but we will give them some taxpayer money. We likely will never see it again because their business plans are flawed to begin with. The point I am trying to make is that government subsidies are not the answer. It has been proven time and time again.
Let us look at the fishing industry on the east coast in Newfoundland and the Atlantic provinces. What has this government done since 1993? It has spend $2 billion paying fishermen to sit at home and wait for the fish to come back but it has not changed anything within the department and how it operates. It has not looked at the root problems. It has not focused on anything.
The idea was to throw money at it and hopefully the problems will solve themselves. It accepted the status quo. That is not good enough. We need change. It is the same thing with the small business plan. That analogy can be drawn with small business people. Throwing money at them and saying go create a new business, we will create another level of bureaucracy to help them with their bankruptcy in six months is not the answer.
We have to create an economic climate where these businesses will thrive, where they will create employment, where they will be valuable contributors to their local economies.
We are not doing that. It is in every sector whether fishing, forestry or mining. All these areas are suffering. We have our heads buried in the sand. We are not looking at it. Now the government has forced time allocation. It will shut the debate off on this.
Again I plead with the government to look at the real problem. Travel to British Columbia to some of these interior communities. Go up to Lumby. Go down to Duncan. Go into Cranbrook. Go up to Prince George and see what is happening. One and a half billion dollars in the small business loans program will not solve anything. It will just be a high risk. If that is what the government is going to do it might as well go down to Vegas and dump it into a slot machine.
Some will argue I am against the small business programs. I am not. I will stand up and fight for small businesses. But I would do it differently. I would ensure that they have a strong economic climate. I would ensure that they are not being taxed to death on payroll taxes. It can be done without government subsidies. If I can leave one message, the answer to our problems is not government subsidies. It is our job to create the economic climate where they can survive.