Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, presented on November 23, 2011, be concurred in.
I would like to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg North.
This refers to the third report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, and it involves government support for small and medium-sized enterprises.
I think we all know that small and medium-sized enterprises play a crucial role in our economy. They account for something like 98% of all firms, 60% of all jobs, and 70% of all net new jobs, so anything government can do to support small and medium-sized enterprises is very positive and helpful.
We decided to examine two cases and we questioned witnesses to determine whether these programs were good or bad, whether they should be renewed and whether they should be changed in any way.
One of these items that we examined was the Canadian innovation commercialization program. This was a program designed for small and medium-sized enterprises, whereby they could put bids in for government support to help fund their innovation, and then their innovation would be examined and commented on by government departments.
We had a number of witnesses both from within the government and outside the government, and the general consensus was that this program was a success. It was helping Canadian small companies to innovate, be successful and improve productivity.
The program was to run for two years. In our committee report, we recommended that this program be made permanent. The government, in its answer, gave a somewhat ambiguous reply, but we then learned in the budget that the government had indeed cancelled the program.
It is ironic that the government should have cancelled the program, because just today a new OECD report came out on the Canadian economy, and the primary recommendation was that Canada had to do something and get its act together to deal with our very lacklustre performance in the areas of productivity and innovation.
This program that the government killed was precisely designed to help small businesses be more productive and innovative. All of the witnesses said that this program was having success, and yet the government chose to kill it.
As I have said before, often there have to be some reductions in government expenditures. We on the Liberal side do not object to that, but when the Conservatives focus their cuts on science, on Statistics Canada, on knowledge-generating, innovation-generating activities of government, then we certainly take exception to that.
Canada's productivity has lagged since 2002, I believe, which is a long period of time. It is actually lower today than it was 10 years ago.
All kinds of new programs and new activities should be considered to improve Canada's very dismal productivity and innovation performance. The fact that the government chose to eliminate one of the more successful programs in this area is certainly not good news for Canadian innovators and Canadian small businesses in general.
The second case that we examined was the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises.
Government can be very difficult to understand for a small company without massive numbers of employees, particularly in the area of procurement. The idea of this agency is that it could help small and medium-sized businesses have access to government procurement. Government procurement, as we have heard in recent weeks, has been a total flop in certain areas, as in the case of the F-35s, but it involves billions of dollars.
It is important that small and medium-sized businesses have access to these programs since it is difficult for them to obtain all the required information. It is important that a government program help these businesses find the information and participate in government procurement.
I know from my time in government that often these procurements are very large. An effort is made to bundle the smaller components to make them into a bigger contract.
Again we heard from stakeholders that this program was a success. We heard that there were certain things that could be done to improve it, but that over time the agency had been increasing the number of companies benefiting from its activities and increasing the amount of procurement going to the smaller companies.
The committee report was unanimously concurred in. All political parties agreed. We are disappointed that the government cancelled the first program that I talked about because, in this day and age, Canada needs more innovation and productivity, as the OECD said today.
By cancelling this program, the government is negatively affecting the productivity and innovation of small and medium-sized businesses in Canada.