Mr. Speaker, this morning I am very proud, honoured and privileged to rise in the House to represent my constituents and the people of our great country, just as my hon. colleagues who rise in this House from time to time are honoured and privileged to participate in the debates and to represent Canadians.
However, sometimes it is important to note that the members who debate in the House are looking through the lens of their political stripes rather through the lens of issues. In this Chamber it is our moral responsibility to debate the issues conscientiously. I look forward to hearing all members debate the facts in this House, looking through the lens of issues.
Bill C-21 affects the lending practices for small business. With the little experience I have, and after having done some research on this issue, it is very hard for me to support this bill.
I am pro small business as are my other Reform colleagues who have previously addressed this issue. However in its present form the Small Business Loans Act does not meet its objectives. It is an inefficient and ineffective program. After thoroughly examining the program and reading the auditor general's report, I would like to make the following observations.
The small business loans program was established in 1961 to increase the availability of loans on reasonable terms and conditions for the establishment, expansion, modernization and improvement of small businesses in this country. In the last four years 177,000 new loans have been granted totalling approximately $11.2 billion.
The objective is to increase the availability of loans. It is a very broad objective. The act should supplement the services provided by the private sector incrementally and not merely replace them. The loans under this program should be made in addition to the loans made by other financial institutions.
In a study it was found that half of the borrowers involved in the SBLA, 46% to be precise, would have received the loans anyway. They had met the criteria and were qualified to get the loans. Therefore in real terms the system has been working at 50% capacity.
Through this program the government is not successfully helping entrepreneurs or small businesses. The government guarantees the financial institutions for the bad decisions which they might make, up to 85% of the amount, in the event the borrower defaults.
Under this program loans are made up to a maximum of $250,000 for fixed assets like land, buildings and equipment. The program does not provide loans for capital leasing or working capital.
Many times it does not meet the requirements of the small business person and this condition has not changed since 1961 but we know the business environment has been changing ever since.
Although there is more growth in the economy and employment in the service and knowledge-based industry, the purpose of business is not fully served to cater to the needs of small business in this country.
There have been instances where related parties have obtained many loans totalling much more than the maximum limit of each loan by creating artificially more than one corporation for the purpose of loans. Therefore those businesses have abused the system by millions of dollars.
Financial institutions have been charging interest up to prime plus 3%. There cannot be any other charges according to the act but the application fees or opening fees, or opening file fees, et cetera are being charged by some financial institutions and that goes undetected.
There have been many instances when some financial institutions have been charging an extra amount illegally. The department has not been checking it. There is no system in place to check it, unless the case files have been opened.
There are many other observations. Income tax implications are very complicated under this act. They have not been addressed. They are not simplified to help the small businessman.
The job creation record is not good either. There is potential for an active displacement effect. The job creation figures under SBLA have been inflated by as much as five times.
The quality and quantity of information provided to parliamentarians on the result of this program is very inadequate. Surprisingly, the department is not reviewing risk analysis and there is no provision for the losses that may be incurred.
Industry Canada has emphasized that the program should recover full costs but it looks quite unlikely that this objective can ever be achieved.
The small business loan program management and delivery mechanisms are very weak. Industry Canada has no yardstick. There are no indicators in place. There are no procedures in place to measure the performance results of this program.
We know the performance evaluation framework is very important for the success of a program like this one. The department operates the accounting system on a cash basis and not on an accrual basis. It creates further implications in the program.
The department lacks adequate forecasting techniques. Basically the department needs better tools to operate effectively and efficiently which will cost billions of dollars.
Having said all that, the purpose of Bill C-21 is to extend the SBLA to March 31, 1999 and raise the government's total liability to $15 billion, an increase of $1 billion.
In 1994 the industry committee of the House of Commons called for a review to be done on SBLA. Up to now, a complete cost based analysis has never been done.
This program is not only inefficient and ineffective but it also discourages the development of alternative and innovative financial solutions for small businesses.
If Industry Canada of this government has been asleep at the switch with respect to the operations of SBLA, how can I and my colleagues from the Reform Party betray the trust of Canadians and support this bill?
In fact, any member from any political party who is looking through the lens of issues and facts and not through the lens of political stripes will never support this bill until a full review is done.