Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-21, a debate which with one exception has been measured, careful and non-ideological. That exception was the speech of the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, another ideological rant against anything governments might do which might be of benefit to anyone.
If we look around the world we will see that there is not one successful economy in which government and business do not work together for the benefit of all. The question that arises of course is whether or not intervention by the government in the marketplace is beneficial in the long term.
We know from all analyses, from all work done on small businesses that they have some initial problems in particular with raising capital. We also know that their ability to create jobs in this economy is unsurpassed by any other sector of the economy. Large business is downsizing. Mega mergers are costing Canada thousands and thousands of jobs. However small businesses are working hard and are generating jobs right across the country, from the east coast to the west coast and all parts in between.
It is the small and medium size business sector which is driving the Canadian economy. It would only be proper for us to look at ways in which we can assist that sector to do the job which it is doing. That job is not only to pursue the interests of the owners of those businesses but it is also to create jobs across the country.
We know that small businesses experience significant difficulties in raising capital from financial institutions. The banks have begun a process of trying to persuade Canadians how oriented they are toward public interest and how they do what they can to assist wherever they can. However the fact of the matter is that banks have not been very helpful to small businesses. Across the country concerns have been raised by small businesses about the treatment they have received from banks and other lending institutions.
In order for the small business sector to thrive, to create economic activity and to create the jobs which are so vital to Canada, we need to ensure that impediments in their way are removed. The small business loans program is a small step but an important step in removing one particular impediment to the establishment and certainly to the growth of small businesses. That impediment is the difficulty experienced in raising capital.
Under this program the federal government will provide loan guarantees to assist in the marketability of small companies as they go to financial institutions seeking financial assistance. I am a member of a party which is committed to assisting small businesses in whatever way is possible. This is a legitimate, sensible, rational, logical program to assist small businesses.
Our economy is becoming increasingly globalized. If we listen to the Minister of Finance, foreign banks will be coming to Canada to generate competition in our banking sector because Canadian banks do not do that very well and in any case are more interested in expanding overseas. Our economy is increasingly affected by competition from overseas.
Indeed it is the small and medium size business sector which has an important part to play in Canada's economy. It is the one part which is and will remain Canadian owned and which is and will remain committed to the community within which it operates. That is critically important as our economy becomes increasingly globalized and as our economy becomes increasingly threatened by outside pressures and by corporations on the inside which are focusing more and more on overseas investment. The small and medium size business community plays a critically important role in ensuring some Canadian ownership of our economy and some commitment to the communities within which they operate.
We know the devastation caused when a company ups and leaves a community because it can no longer make the kinds of profits it wants to make in that community.
Often it is not because it cannot make profits but because those profits are not large enough. Those employees who worked for the corporation, perhaps for years and years and maybe even generations, are thrown away as irrelevant to the corporation's needs. The community in which that business operates is ignored in terms of its interest. The corporation goes off, makes money somewhere else and continues that cycle.
The devastation which takes place in many of our communities is a serious and significant problem for those affected and for the country as a whole. It is vital that we do what we can to ensure that small and medium size businesses thrive and counter to some extent those particular trends.
It is important for it to be noted that New Democrats support Bill C-21 and have done from the beginning. It is important to extend the program for one more year while serious review of the program is taking place. I will come to some of the concerns in a moment. It is important to continue the program while we are assessing its strengths and weaknesses and how to make it a better program.
Were it not as successful as it has been, perhaps it would not be necessary to extend it for just one more year. It has been a successful program. Indeed all studies of the program show it to be one which is particularly well regarded when matched up against those of other OECD countries, for example the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.
Our program has been shown to be one of the better programs with administrative and default costs much lower than those in other countries. That is not to say there have not been problems, and I will come to those in a minute. It is a program which has proven to be successful and useful to small business.
The government could prevail upon its friends in the banking industry, many of whom contribute significantly to the Liberal Party's funds and I am sure would be only too open to that kind of ministration by the government. It could work with the banks to ensure that the banks put the public interest in the mix when making the decisions it makes.
The banks can afford to pay their chief executive officers millions of dollars a year but yet cannot afford to commit themselves to helping a small business in any significant way. I think that would be another way in which the government might assist.
We are still wrestling with the GST and so on. Lack of any real commitment to job creation on the part of the federal government and all such things hurt small business as well.
As I said, I am only too pleased to support Bill C-21 which will extend and enhance slightly the Small Business Loans Act. It is worth pointing out that the auditor general has suggested that some loans are made without a proper review by Industry Canada, that the government has paid out default claims to banks for loans not eligible under the program, and that banks are sometimes charging user fees to small businesses in violation of the act.
There is also concern voiced by the auditor general and by others that the jobs claims, the numbers of jobs created as a result of the loan guarantees contained in the small business loans program, have been grossly exaggerated by those who wish to support, sustain and encourage the program to continue.
None of those things are useful as elements of this debate. It is only proper and I am glad to see the government is pursuing a full review of the legislation. I hope at the end of the review we will end up with a better small business loans program to support small businesses which fulfil a critically important role in our economy.
We will be supporting the legislation. We hope the government will treat it as a priority and do more to ensure that the conditions necessary for small business to thrive are in fact implemented in the budget and in economic and industrial policies in years to come.