Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-53 and the various amendments that are before the House.
Some of the amendments, if I am not mistaking, are enacting amendments or enabling amendments. I would like to focus on the substance of the bill, which is to provide access to capital to small business. The Small Business Loans Act has been an effective tool for helping small businesses access financing over the past 37 years.
Bill C-53 was designed to meet three objectives: to continue helping small young businesses access financing, to increase program accountability, and to move the program toward cost recovery. Bill C-53 contains no changes to the basic program parameters. The new provisions it contains are aimed at ensuring the program's long term viability, cost effectiveness and stability to better meet the needs of small business.
The recent and quite unexpected volatility in currency and trading markets that we have all witnessed confirms again the importance of sound, consistent public policy. Small businesses need stability, even more so at a time when we face the prospect of restructuring in the financial services industries.
Decisions related to the recommendations of the MacKay task force and the proposed bank mergers will have a direct bearing on the well-being of small business, which is the source of economic and job growth in every region of the country.
Small and medium size businesses are the cornerstone of our economy. Their contribution is vital to our economic welfare. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to support the bill before us.
In Canada, there are over 2.5 million small businesses, if we include the self-employed. They account for 99% of all Canadian companies and for between 70% and 80% of all the jobs created in Canada in the past three years.
The SBLA has been serving Canada's small businesses since 1961 and is widely recognized as a necessary and effective program. Last year it helped some 30,000 small businesses across the country to access nearly $2 billion in financing from Canadian lending institutions.
These firms acquired necessary financing that might otherwise not have been available to them for the establishment, expansion, modernization and improvement of their businesses. Some 9,000 of these firms were in rural communities and the majority of loans averaging nearly $68,000 went to firms less than three years old.
Bill C-53 results from a comprehensive program and policy review conducted over the past year in consultation with both private and public sector stakeholders. It takes into account recommendations of the auditor general and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
The Canada Small Business Financing Act will keep the basic parameters of the Small Business Loans Act: loans granted by approved lenders for a maximum of 10 years; possibility for businesses of borrowing up to $250,000; requirement that lenders pay only once the 2% registration fee, which the borrowers can absorb; and requirement that lenders pay an annual administration fee of 1.25%.
Bill C-53 is a step forward in streamlining, improving and stabilizing the Small Business Loans Act. The key provisions are as follows.
First, the bill will provide authority for the Department of Industry to conduct audits to ensure compliance with the act and regulations.
Second, it will provide authority to create limited pilot programs on a cost recovery basis on capital leasing and lending to the voluntary sector.
Third, we are also proposing to replace the current sunset clause. Every five years Industry Canada will conduct a comprehensive review of the program. The resulting report on the program's performance would be tabled in parliament for committee consideration.
As a means of maintaining and ensuring cost recovery, the governor in council through regulation would have the power to restrict eligibility criteria for access to program loans.
The maximum amount of the government's potential liability would be set at $1.5 billion over five years. This means that, regardless of the monetary value of the loans granted under the act, the taxpayer would never be required to cover more than $1.5 billion of the loans granted during that period.
That $1.5 billion figure would only be reached in the highly unlikely event that all loans were defaulted on. Historically, the loss rate on loans is 5.6%, which means that over 94% of all loans were paid back without incident.
This potential liability would be renewed automatically every five years. Loans could therefore continue to be made while Parliament carries out its in-depth investigation.
Since 1961 the SBLA has served the small business community well. The Canada small business financing act will provide an even more effective mechanism for the government and financial institutions to share the risks of lending to small businesses to help them grow and create jobs.