Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on this particular issue.
For the most part, the government has been fairly negligent in dealing with an industry that is critically important to all Canadians. When I talk about industry, I am referring to small and medium-sized businesses, the entrepreneurs who, ultimately, many would argue, are the backbone of our economy. The amount of contributions to future potential job growth that is within those small and medium-sized businesses is phenomenal. When the government does not take this industry responsibly as an issue, we lose opportunities.
I want to focus on that because we had a report that the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates brought forward. The hon. member for Markham—Unionville is quite familiar with that report as he is one of the co-chairs of the committee. The report details the importance of procurement. The Government of Canada spends billions of dollars every year on procurement and on a number of contracts. There is a very vital and important role for small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs to be engaged in those procurement contracts.
We want to emphasize just how important that is to the government. We, in the Liberal Party, have acknowledged it. Years ago, we set up frameworks to ensure that small businesses would have the opportunity to get engaged in those procurement contracts. We look forward to seeing a more progressive government that will ultimately see small and medium-sized businesses more engaged.
I will cite a couple of specific examples. I could talk about the F-35 and military procurement and the manner in which the government has made a mess of the whole procurement process. For example, why was there no tendering process for the F-35? To what degree could we have ensured there would have been bundled small contracts incorporated into these larger contracts when government issues billions of taxpayers' dollars on one procurement?
Those are the types of things we need to look at and give good and detailed diligence to. There is a great deal of merit to breaking up these larger contracts that are bundled into one.
There are industries across Canada. I have had the opportunity to tour a couple of facilities in Winnipeg where mobile military tracks built are built. These are very small components. Those are bundled into a larger contract. These are good quality jobs. Those are the types of things that we need to be very much cognizant of.
That is why even in government expenditures, the amount of dollars we spend every year on these procurements, there is a vital and important role these small and medium-sized businesses play. We in the Liberal Party have acknowledged that role. We want to encourage the government to review the budget process it has been entering into over the last number of years, which has denied many of these small and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to legitimately participate, thereby losing millions of dollars or potential contracts, which prevents jobs from being created. The government needs to approach it in a much more open-minded way.
I think of Winnipeg's garment industry. I had a wonderful tour of Peerless Garments Limited. Peerless has been one of many different businesses in Winnipeg that has used government procurement contracts to sustain good quality jobs in the city of Winnipeg. It has done that and it has been very effective.
I could talk about Peerless, StandardAero or the aerospace industry as a whole. We can see that in the relatively smaller communities like Winnipeg, compared to Toronto, Mississauga, Montreal, Vancouver or Calgary, and then we have many of the medium-sized cities such as Edmonton, Halifax and St. John's, but all of these communities should have the ability to compete for some of those government contracts.
There has been some progress. For years the Martin and Chrétien government talked about how important the Internet was. I can recall having discussions with the former president of the Treasury Board, Reg Alcock, on how important he thought it was for procurement contracts to be done on the Internet because that technology would be better able to provide opportunities for all small and medium-sized businesses to participate in government contracts.
At the end of the day, the more aggressive and committed the Government of Canada is at widening the field and ensuring that these small and medium-sized businesses are in a position to compete for those tendered contracts, the better for the taxpayer and the better for the economy itself.
We need to look at the technology that is there. It is very real today and the opportunity is greater today than it ever has been because of that technology. However, we need to go beyond that. There are many different minority groups, whether they be professional women running businesses or the many different ethnic minority groups that may not be as familiar with the government contract process. What can we do to enhance and encourage their involvement in the process?
One of the things I would suggest is to have seminars. We see some of that happening today through the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises, and that is a great thing to see, but we can never see enough of that because, at the end of the day, if we can get more people interested in participating in the process and get more businesses interested and aware of the number of contracts that are on the Internet the better we will be.
A great Internet site is buyandsell.ca. When I click into that site I can see how many hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars of potential contracts are there. We need to ensure t there is a very strong educational component that engages small and medium-sized businesses. We need to challenge our chambers of commerce from coast to coast to coast to come up with ideas to ensure those community businesses are aware of the types of contracts that the Government of Canada is engaged in and encourage their participation.
If we do that, then I believe at the end of the day there will be more jobs created for Canada, more opportunities and better quality products. We believe that the government needs to work with the stakeholders to engage both small and medium-sized businesses. I think that is critically important to our economy and all of us would do well to give more attention to that issue.
Having said that, I move:
That the House do now adjourn.