Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for the time you have allocated to me to debate Motion No. 288, presented by the Hon. member for Sherbrooke.
First of all, it is obvious that the deterioration of the global economic situation requires us to help the regions of Quebec even more aggressively.
Needless to say, then, the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec needs to play an even more significant role.
Small and medium businesses and communities made their needs clear during the regional tours by the Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec). Our government has been able to put a number of measures in place thanks to our exhaustive consultations throughout Quebec and Canada, and our keeping our fingers constantly on the pulse.
The findings on those tours confirmed our opinion that the NGOs are important allies of the SMEs and the communities in their economic development and diversification efforts.
On March 18, the Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)was therefore able to announce that he has loosened up the funding for certain NGOs in the economic sector.
Our government is, however, a responsible government and it is important that we ensure that the taxpayer's dollar is being carefully managed, especially in these difficult times.
This is why our new approach to the funding of non-profit bodies active in the economic development sector is set up as follows: It is for a period of two years; the funding is for those NGOs that are deemed by the community to be essential, and is related to the financial capacity of the agency; there must be a real demonstration of need by the applying organization; the objectives must be translated into concrete results or funding will be cut back or terminated; there must be rigorous accountability to the government.
This announcement was greeted very positively by the stakeholders. For instance, Mayor Labeaume spoke of how delighted he was with the Government of Canada's decision to create a new policy on the funding of NGOs in the economic sector.
I would also like to remind hon. members of the reaction of Raymond Bachand, Quebec's Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade to the announcement:
Today's announcement demonstrates that the federal government has recognized the important contribution to the economic development of Quebec of the not for profit economic organizations. Not for profit organizations will again have access for a period of two years to federal government funding, an essential complement to the action of the Government of Quebec. The economic vitality of Quebec is unfolding, day after day, thanks to the work of these economic leaders.
Canada Economic Development’s mission is to focus on regional economic development and support for small and medium-size businesses.
In addition to the assistance we give not-for-profit organizations with an economic mandate, we provide direct assistance to small and medium-size businesses in Quebec through consulting services and financial help.
Canada Economic Development also encourages regional business circles and the organizations that support them. As my colleague from Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière mentioned in the first hour of debate, we have announced a number of measures to assist the economic development of the regions and thereby help the people and communities located there.
For example, I would like to mention that, through the community futures program, our government made a total contribution of $31 million in 2008-2009 to support the operations of 57 community futures development corporations, or CFDCs, 10 business development centres, or BDCs, 14 community economic development corporations, or CEDCs, the community futures development corporation network in Quebec, the joint CFDC fund, as well as all the not-for-profit organizations with an economic mandate.
The CFDCs, BDCs and CEDCs provide a variety of local development and business assistance services in the regions of Quebec.
The CED minister recently had the pleasure, thanks to agreements reached with the joint CFDC fund, of announcing the implementation of the business startup and succession fund to stimulate the Quebec economy.
This fund has a $6 million budget to help small and medium-sized businesses located outside the major urban centres to develop at particularly critical points in their growth by facilitating their access to risk capital.
The CED minister also had the pleasure of announcing the envelope allocated to the business support fund, whose initial $8 million budget was increased to $9.6 million.
As a result, slightly more than 90 small and medium-sized businesses outside the major urban centres in Quebec received financial assistance to meet their needs for working capital.
We also understand the importance of tourism to the economic development of Quebec.
That is why the Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec) has announced $30 million over three years to renew the funding agreements with the regional tourism associations, commonly called ATRs in Quebec, the sectoral tourism associations, called the ATSs in Quebec, which, we could point out, are not-for-profit organizations with an economic mandate.
Our government uses the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec as a conduit for providing financial assistance to the tourism industry to help it work together to improve tourism products and marketing and to support major projects to attract tourists from outside Quebec.
We also announced recently that the criteria for applying for financial assistance had been eased to help the tourist accommodation industry in Quebec.
It is evident that our government is out there in the field, working together with all the economic players in the regions because it is only with their assistance that we are able to help communities diversify their economies.
Together we will become stronger and more prosperous, in Quebec and in Canada.