Mr. Speaker, after listening to the comments today I am a little surprised at what appears to be a lack of knowledge of Bill C-53. I say that with all due respect to my colleagues who have just spoken.
Members seem to think that there are no fees involved in this loan and that people who qualify for small business loans do not necessarily pay for them. The fact is that they pay administration fees and higher rates of interest. The loans are there to help those businesses which otherwise would not be able to get loans.
That being said, I want to speak specifically to the motions that were presented in Group No. 2. The first motion, presented by the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, proposes that persons not be related. Obviously he has not read clause 3 where it is already defined.
If he would recall correctly from our discussions at committee, we had a very long and lengthy discussion on this very topic when we discussed the proposed regulations that will be coming down later. As a committee we wanted to ensure that everyone is entitled to apply.
We also wanted to ensure that one business is not beyond the aggregate amount, which I believe is already covered in the bill and regulations will further define it. As well, we wanted to ensure that if a husband and wife are in separate businesses neither one is prohibited from being able to apply for funding.
I also want to speak briefly to Motion No. 3. This is a proposal that would reduce the loan amount under the program to $100,000 from $250,000. Again I think it would be important for members opposite to go back and read the testimony that we heard at committee, the discussions that took place and to look at the groups that appeared, the witnesses and those who had benefited from the Small Business Loans Act in the past.
The fact is that even representatives of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said we should not go back. They suggested that it stay at $250,000. They suggested that it not be raised. They said that in the past they would have liked to have seen it lowered, but now that it is there we should not go back. They also suggested that we look at the types of businesses, and that is being done. They suggested that we look at who needs assistance and where the difficulties are in lending practices.
I remind my colleagues on the other side that the average loan amount is around $60,000 to $70,000 under the SBLA presently. Even though the limit is $250,000, the majority are falling much below that. There is no research at the present time which proves that larger loans pose any greater risk than smaller loans.
Several groups appeared before the committee. We asked the opposition for witnesses. The only groups that came before us to discuss the SBLA were those which had used the SBLA and were successful businesses. Some had borrowed to the tune of the $250,000 limit. Some of them told us that if the limit of $250,000 had not been there they would not be in business today. They have gone on to develop businesses that are worth $2 million or $3 million. Those businesses started with a small government assistance loan.
Let us remember that the assistance is paid for by higher than normal rates. If these businesses could go to a bank and get a regular small business loan without the assistance of the government or a guarantee then they would pay a lesser rate of interest. They are paying more money for this loan, but they are still doing well in their businesses. They were able to make it and survive once they got their foot in the door. If it was not for the government's guarantee they would not have been able to get that loan and they would not be in business today.
Motion No. 4 is pretty straightforward. Motion No. 5 is very much a housekeeping amendment because when the bill was originally introduced there were 85 loans under the Fisheries Improvement Loans Act that were still in existence. Those will soon be taken off the books, so we are just trying to ensure that the act and the legislation as it is written is as clean and understandable as possible.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about the successes of the Small Business Loans Act, the importance of continuing it, the new name for it—the Canada small business financing act—and the fact that so many businesses today will be able to get their foot in the door because it exists. The guarantee gives a little reassurance, when necessary; an extra push to get them in the door.
Many witnesses appeared before the committee, in particular from the restaurant sector, who said it is very difficult. We have spoken to the banks and we continue to speak to the banks at committee about the restaurant sector in particular, which has difficulty getting small business loans from banks. New people in business do not necessarily have long credit histories or long records of doing business and they need that extra assistance. We want to be there for them as a government.
The government knows that it is small business that is creating jobs. We know the potential that exists in Canada. We want to ensure that all small businesses have access to financing. That is what the Canadian small business financing act, Bill C-53, is all about.
I am a little disappointed by some of the amendments that are before us today because we had many of these discussions at committee. We discussed very thoroughly the size of a loan and the importance of it and the fact that individuals, to be able to have their businesses, need to be able to renovate, need to be able to open their doors and to run a good operation. We also discussed the differences between different types of businesses, about leaseholds, about existing businesses, about how people can move on and what people want to do.
It is a little disappointing that we are discussing loan limits. I really find it surprising, considering the fact that we have moved beyond $100,000 to $250,000. Evidence before us indicated that some people do need that much. Even the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, as I said earlier, said not to go back.
There are many, many success stories. We had people before us who talked about a building they had bought. They renovated it and leased out space. They were able to attract tenants and to become a centre for that community. If it was not for the Canada Small Business Loans Act, soon to be called the Canadian small business financing act, they would not be in business today. They would not have had that opportunity.
They put up a lot of their own dollars. The government guaranteed up to $250,000. That was it. In this case, in particular, each of the individuals matched that with their own personal money and put up their own personal guarantees as well. There is a lot of investment in making small businesses grow, in making small businesses happen and I think as Canadians we want to see this happening from coast to coast.
We know that different areas go through different times. We know there is difficulty in financing from time to time. We are trying to ensure that everyone has access and everyone has opportuntiy.
Some ideas are too new for the banks to feel comfortable with in the normal scheme of lending. Again, some people do not have a credit history or a credit risk history. It is important that we be there as a government and that we continue to deal with small business.
I speak from earlier days, before I was elected, when I was practising law and the administration of loans. I think it is important that people realize that the borrowers are paying a higher rate of interest. They are paying a fee. It is not a freebie. It is not that the government gives money and gets nothing back. The majority of these loans will be paid over time. Sure, there will be losses, but the majority will provide jobs, the majority will be successful. Many of these businesses will go on to hire people and will continue to develop.
One group in particular that appeared before us started very small and now has several tenants. They are collecting thousands of dollars in rent and they are able to continue.
I think it is important that we all participate in the debate today. I am sure that many of my colleagues will join me in reminding the opposition that the SBLA in the past has done a lot of good for small business and will continue to do a lot of good in the future. We need to ensure that the economy moves forward, we need to ensure that small business has access to this money and we need to ensure that small business can create jobs.