Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the bill.
I think we should start by understanding what Bill C-227 would actually do.
It is a classic case of the Liberal government getting its backbenchers to do its dirty work, because we know that the government has already betrayed small businesses in Canada by not reducing the tax rate down to 9%, and the bill before us would impose additional burdens on our small businesses across Canada. Therefore, the Liberals have a private member, one of their backbenchers, bring forward the bill. It provides the Liberal government with plausible deniability. The bill gets passed here in the House, and they blame the House for it rather than themselves. We know what is up.
Essentially, Bill C-227 would allow the minister to require bidders on federal projects to provide information on the community benefits that a federal project would deliver. We have no idea what benefits would be sufficient, which, of course, introduces greater uncertainty into the bidding process.
However, it is not just information that the minister would be able to require. The bill would also empower the minister to demand bidders provide a formal assessment as to whether community benefits have indeed been provided.
Who would conduct this assessment? Is it the minister at his or her discretion? Is it some independent party? What is the threshold or standard that must be met? Is there a value of contract that would be captured? We do not know. Would bidders compete with each other on who could best meet the community-benefit test, or is it whether the appropriate balance between community benefit and value for money has been met? Who makes that decision?
Bill C-227 would turn what is usually an objective process, which is value for money, in other words, getting a project, product, or service at the best price and the best quality, and turns it into a largely subjective determination by the minister. This is another example of a Liberal government overreaching and interfering in matters it should stay out of.
Last week, I spoke to Motion No. 45, which was another Liberal initiative that essentially interfered in the ability of municipalities to do contracting. Now the federal government wants to force every municipality to run every single infrastructure project over $500,000 through an assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions that will be caused both upstream and downstream. Again, it is a horrific cost to municipalities. There are 4,000 of them across Canada, multiply that by two or three projects a year, and think of how much money that is going to cost municipalities across the country.
This is all about layering red tape upon red tape upon red tape, and undermining and underappreciating the value of small businesses to our economy.
As I mentioned, the Liberals have already hammered Canadian small businesses by breaking their promise to lower the small business tax rate to 9%. That was a very clear broken promise. That decision alone is going to cost our businesses somewhere in the order of $2.2 billion over the next five years, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs across this country. Now they are hammering them with even more government red tape, increasing the cost of doing business, and further discouraging smaller businesses from bidding on government contracts.
The bottom line is that Bill C-227 would hurt small businesses. It would add a massive amount of additional regulation on top of the ones that already exist. It would dissuade small businesses from bidding on government contracts, and it would require small businesses to assess matters other than price and quality, which, of course, will drive up the cost of government and drive up the cost to taxpayers in this country.
Of course, these companies, if they are going to bid, are going to have to build in these additional risk considerations into the price that they bid. We are talking about additional costs to taxpayers across this country.
Then there are, of course, the additional powers that would be given to the minister under the bill. Bill C-227 would expand the minister's discretionary power and allow the minister to unnecessarily politicize the contracting process.
There is no clarity as to when an assessment would be required. It could be in the middle of the contract, after the contract had been let, or maybe after the bids have been received. There is no clarity in the bill at all. It is very broad in scope. It is highly ambiguous. It is vague. It leaves everybody here in the House, the contracting community, the sub-trades, and the workers in the dark.
I asked a question of the proponent of the bill earlier on. Given the fact that he claimed he had broadly consulted on the bill, had he at the very least consulted with the key business organizations across the country that represent small business? I am talking about the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters. The member said that he had consulted with unions across the country. Really. Why not with the businesses themselves that actually pay that price? He said that he had consulted with academics. What about consulting with the very Canadians who would be most impacted by the bill?
The bottom line is this. The bill would do a few things. It would impose an increased burden on our companies. It would impose additional costs on them and uncertainty for small businesses that have already been betrayed by the Liberal government. The bill would also replace what in the past was a clear process, value for money, ensuring we get the best quality at the very best price, with a process that would be unpredictable and highly subjective and dependent upon the discretion of the minister and his or her officials.
In his speech, the sponsor highlighted all of the things the bill intended to achieve. It is clear to anyone who heard the speech that this is about social engineering at significant cost to the taxpayer. The bill would drive up costs to taxpayers to try to achieve some social engineering goals that the Liberal government suggests may be reasonable objectives.
The best response we should have when businesses are contracting with the federal government is to ensure that they understand what the rules are, ensuring Canadian taxpayers get the best value for money.
Then of course the proponent referred to Ontario, of all places, as being the role model of these community benefit agreements. A Liberal government in the province of Ontario has mismanaged the economy so much and has driven that province into such debt that today it has the highest sub-federal cost, the highest sub-federal debt not only within Canada, not only within North America, but in the entire world. Is that a role model we should be following? Absolutely not.
No one should be surprised that the bill is coming from the Liberal side of the House. We can also be certain that Liberals' will find new ways of increasing costs to taxpayers, interfering with the private sector, and clearly giving themselves more and more power over time. On that basis alone we should reject the bill.
I ask the Liberal government, the Liberal members of the House, the NDP members who have highlighted significant shortcomings of the bill, to reconsider their support of the bill, let business do what it does best, which is provide contracts, services, products of the very best quality and at the very best price. By doing so, we would be serving the taxpayers of our country.