moved that Bill C-227, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House to speak to Canadians about my private member's bill, Bill C-227, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, community benefit.
Before I begin, I would like to thank the residents of York South—Weston for giving me the confidence and the opportunity to be in the House of Commons to present this legislation.
Since I drew an early slot in the private members' lottery, I consulted widely, and I heard extensively from various stakeholders. I felt a special responsibility to put forward legislation that would greatly benefit all Canadians.
Bill C-227 would amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to include a provision that would give the Minister of Public Services and Procurement the flexibility to require bidders on federal construction, maintenance and repair contracts to include information on the community benefits that the project would provide.
Community benefits are essentially the social or economic benefits that result from a development project above and beyond the project itself. These include but are not limited to local job creation, paid training, apprenticeships, affordable housing, or any other benefit that the community identifies.
What are community benefits agreements? These are agreements between an infrastructure developer and the Minister of Public Services and Procurement that are developed after input from local community groups. CBAs are a new approach and a very important tool in empowering local communities to partner with developers in order to respond to local challenges. Essentially, CBAs maximize the local economic impact of publicly-funded development projects, producing quality jobs, training, and contributing to a responsible growth and development, and a healthier environment.
For example, my riding of York South—Weston has a section of the Eglinton LRT project, a project that has embraced a community-benefits approach, and is a great example of how a public works project can benefit a community above and beyond the project itself.
I will now present case studies. Before I do that, according to a joint report from the Mowat Centre and the Atkinson Foundation, the Government of Canada, the province of Ontario, and the city of Toronto alone have spent $23.5 billion per year procuring goods and services, including construction. Imagine how communities would thrive if even a portion of that expenditure had CBAs tied to it. We would have more local jobs produced and more opportunities for local businesses because big construction contracts would be chopped down to bite-size pieces. We would have more paid training and apprenticeships, and unions would have new blood inserted into their membership.
I held a round table in my riding of York South—Weston in the city of Toronto with the federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. We had over 20 stakeholders participate. The message was clear. They wanted the Government of Canada to leverage spending on federal projects by increasing the local economic impact of these projects. They wanted community benefits to result from these projects above and beyond the project itself. They wanted federal leadership to result from this.
Community benefits agreements are not new. They have been used for years in the United States and in many other parts of the world.
There are great examples also of community benefits agreements working in our country. These also highlight how they could work here.
Social networks and indigenous communities in Canada have signed community benefits agreements for various projects, including the 2010 Olympic Winter Games' Southeast False Creek Olympic Village, where a community benefits agreement was formed to create opportunities in the areas of training, and the acquisition of goods and services.
The second example is the Waneta expansion project. The Columbia Power Corporation signed a community benefits agreement with the Ktunaxa Nation Council for the Waneta expansion project in British Columbia, which included provisions for assistance to the community in small hydro development.
Finally, the Eglinton crosstown LRT project is set to provide benefits to disadvantaged communities through equitable hiring practices, training, apprenticeships, local suppliers, and social procurement opportunities, where possible. In addition to this, other provinces such as Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Manitoba are either exploring or have already implemented a formal community benefit agreement.
Since 2001, just south of the border in Los Angeles, one of the first successful pioneers of community benefit agreements, organizations have negotiated CBAs that range from living wage requirements to investments in parks and recreation.
In the United Kingdom in 2012, the Public Services (Social Value) Act was passed to promote social benefits through public sector procurement. According to this act a commissioning authority must consider how the purchase might improve the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the relevant area, so that everyone can get a slice of the development pie.
All of these case studies show very clearly that there is a growing realization that community benefit agreements are essential to public development projects.
Experience also shows that CBAs can bring historically marginalized or excluded groups into the construction industry. Women, for example, represent more than 50% of the population but just 2.6% of the construction industry labour force. Youth from underprivileged communities, veterans, and indigenous groups can also benefit from community benefit agreements and become more involved in the construction industry.
There are groups already addressing this issue and I will give three examples. The Hammer Heads program in the greater Toronto area is a skill and employment-based training program with the construction industry that provides youth from under-resourced and underprivileged communities with access to apprenticeship career opportunities. Helmets to Hardhats is a Canada-wide program that is designed to provide opportunities to anyone who has or is serving in the Canadian Forces.
Finally, “I'm Eglinton” is a pre-apprenticeship program in my riding of York South—Weston for Ontario Works recipients interested in a career in the construction and building trades industries. The program aims to provide participants with knowledge about the building trades and to expose them to working in the building trades and construction fields. By gaining real-life experience, networking with industry members, and gaining a secure foothold in the construction industry the community benefits in addition to these individuals.
My Bill C-227 would also allow for measures to ensure there is implementation of the community benefit agreements that are signed by developers and that there is also a measurement of outcomes.
If Bill C-227 is passed, it would empower the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to require bidders on government-funded projects to explain the community benefits that would result from these projects. The bill would also enable the minister to require these developers to provide an assessment as to whether the project has indeed provided community benefits. The bill would also require the minister to report back to Parliament at the end of every fiscal year to demonstrate what community benefits were delivered from the CBAs that were signed.
Community benefit agreements are inline with our government's priorities, such as procurement modernization. In addition to this, the largest province in the country, Ontario, has already set a precedent for community benefits. Ontario has successfully made community benefit agreements in the context of infrastructure planning and investment.
In conclusion, the community benefit agreements that would emanate from Bill C-227 are particularly suited to my riding and many other communities that would benefit greatly from local and increased economic impact from federal building projects.
Many communities in the U.S. and Canada have already had many projects with a CBA component but they have done this without a legislative framework. However, this is an idea that has passed the test in practical terms and in many communities. It has delivered.
My bill is about bringing CBAs into the federal realm, so that we can allow the Government of Canada to exercise leadership on community benefit agreements and take its benefits to all communities across Canada. If passed, we would have an amazing opportunity in which the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada would have CBA enshrined in law. This would create a model for the rest of the country. It is also about ensuring that future federal projects involving the construction, maintenance, or repair of federal projects would result in community benefits for millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
I am asking my colleagues on all sides of the House for their support for my private member's bill, Bill C-227, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit), so that we can have a community benefit approach enshrined in federal law. I welcome any amendments that my colleagues will bring forward at the committee stage.