Mr. Speaker, although the NDP supports Bill C-9 in principle, there is a missed opportunity with the bill. I believe my colleague from the Bloc spoke very eloquently around some of the challenges the bill does not address.
We need very strong policies that support regional development and we need a federal government that sets a framework to allow communities to determine their destiny. One thing we know about effective community economic development is that it builds long term community capacity and fosters the integration of not only economic but social and environmental activities.
The intention of community economic development is individual and community self-reliance through collaborative action, capacity building and returning control of business enterprises, capital, labour and other resources to communities. This fact often gets lost in the discussion of economic development. We will notice that many references to economic development omit communities. The social and environmental activity is so critical and it should be included in that discussion.
There are some basic tools around community economic development that the bill does not address, and the discussion is not taking place in the larger capacity. Community economic development talks about capacity building and making more with less in communities. It talks about making money circulate within communities before it leaves communities. It talks about import replacement, which means making things within our communities instead of bringing them in from outside. It talks about making brand new products within our communities.
We need targeted long term policies that promote and support domestic economies. We need to talk about financing. We need meaningful funds for job creation so when we are hit with things like softwood lumber, we can look to community economic development within our communities. We need effective community development corporations so decisions are made in the communities which will bring about that kind of job creation that we know is so critical. We need to support downtown development authorities. We need loan funds for a full range of entrepreneurs.
We also need to effectively promote buy local strategies, which includes government procurement. Therefore, when we have federal government agencies in local communities, they need to have a development strategy on buying local. We need tax incentives that support buying local. We need meaningful skills and business training that supports community economic development. The bill does not address any of that. I would hope at the committee level we have that kind of discussion on building our local economy.
Part of this discussion should be about environmental responsibilities in terms of green businesses. This can include tax incentives, government retrofit, attraction and retention of business strategies and energy conservation. We also need targeted subsidies and funding so we can get what we measure, and that is supporting local business.
Research and development funds are not easily accessible for local communities either. We need community supported agriculture. My community in Nanaimo--Cowichan is a good example. We need to talk about local strategies that not only support agri-business and agri-tourism, but support buying local as well. We need to reclaim our communities and grow them without sacrificing liveability.
Community economic development also needs to include a small business policy. I will talk about British Columbia for a moment. In British Columbia nearly half of all jobs in 2003 were generated by small business. Yet we do not have an effective strategy in community economic development that looks at growing small business.
It is a myth about foreign trade. Currently only 20% of our GDP is foreign trade. Yet we have this focus on foreign trade that ignores 80% of our GDP. In 2002 Statistics Canada said that 80% of Canadian exports were accounted for by 4% of Canadian companies. Where is the support for our small local businesses when those kinds of statistics do not bear the kind of subsidies that are out there? We need an industrial policy that adequately addresses the needs of small business, which not only talks about small business retention, but includes small business expansion and development of new small businesses.
Another thing that is not adequately addressed in our economic development policy are the issues around rural communities. The definition of a rural community is community of less than 50,000 people. Many of our small rural communities have populations of 1,000, 5,000 to 10,000. Policies that cover rural communities of 50,000 do not address the needs of small communities of 1,000.
This is where community economic development is even more critical so people have a choice about remaining within their communities rather than having to move to big urban centres. Studies have indicated that rural communities are critical for the survival of the larger urban centres.
In conclusion, although we support the bill in principle, I would urge the committee to have the comprehensive discussion that is required around meaningful community economic development which will allow our small communities to remain viable and liveable.