Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for York South—Weston, for his speech and presentation, and I would like to commend him for introducing his private member's bill, which is an important milestone in the life of a parliamentarian.
As he pointed out in his speech, this is one of the first series of bills being debated, so he had little time to draft it. As a result, I want to raise a few points during my speech today.
Maybe just to remind members, this bill is adding the notion of community benefit along with the already provided capacity to the minister by narrowing the definition of “community benefit” in the public works and government services department. It would expect the bidders to be fulfilling some additional requirements regarding community benefit, if the minister wishes to obtain this information before handing out the contract. It would expect that the minister could ask for a study to the contracted parties so that they can precisely scale of the community benefit generated by the project. There would be an additional step of a report to Parliament after each exercise that would evaluate if the work, repairs, or maintenance generated any community benefit.
Before I comment any further on the bill, I would like to comment on a poll that was done when we talked to businesses in this country. Basically, it says that companies felt that there is too much red tape in Canada already. Sixty-nine per cent of businesses in this country find that there is too much red tape and that it is not helping to create jobs, create wealth, or create a lively community. I think, in particular, of farmers who have to deal with red tape exactly in the middle of their high season.
It is very important, as parliamentarians, when we are tabling new legislation, although well intended—and I do not doubt in any way the intention of the member to increase the benefit of the activity of the government—to make sure that we are not adding an extra layer of administrative tasks to those who are actually responding to the need of the government.
Our party, the Conservative Party, certainly supports transparency within the government and in the federal contracting process. We believe that community interests must be served. We know that, naturally, when contracts are awarded in a region, there are automatically benefits to the economy. It is also important to support local workers. We believe in a neutral, rational contracting process that is advantageous to taxpayers.
That is my concern about Bill C-227 as introduced. It is a sort of double-edged sword, since it would give the minister discretionary authority in the contracting process. When we consider the tens of thousands of contracts that are awarded every year by Public Services and Procurement Canada, this will create a lot of red tape, which I think is completely unnecessary.
Paragraph 7(1)(a) of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act explains the framework and the various duties or functions of the minister, pursuant to the act. It states that the minister must “[increase] the efficiency and economy of the federal public administration and...[enhance] integrity and efficiency in the contracting process”.
Under these proposals, as we have seen and as I have mentioned, the minister would be able to ask bidders to submit additional reports and would be able to issue a report to Parliament. This translates into many different administrative tasks. It is another step for the bidder, but it also means additional tasks for our public officials, tasks that are unnecessary.
Therefore, in the interest of small and medium-sized businesses, we believe this is unnecessary. I invite my colleague to consider some of the initiatives in place to reduce red tape. Examples from the Government of New Brunswick and others from Quebec come to mind.
My colleague mentioned the Helmets to Hardhats Canada program, an initiative that was led by veterans themselves to facilitate veterans' integration into civil society. He could have mentioned a number of other initiatives that our government brought in to reduce red tape for veterans, including the veterans independence program. We also simplified the process for that program.
Veterans no longer have any paperwork to fill out for that program. In the past, they had to fill out forms and include invoices, whether it was for housekeeping, snow removal or window cleaning, and it all had to be reviewed by officials. There were over 100,000 transactions of that nature. We simplified the process so there would be only two payments, thereby making things easier for veterans.
Officials can now spend their time on more important tasks than reviewing housekeeping, snow removal and window cleaning invoices. Taxpayers also come out further ahead, as do veterans, most of whom are aging, we have to admit, and who benefit from the veterans independence program, also known as the VIP program.
I also want to applaud the fact that Public Works and Government Services Canada has already produced recommendations in response to the Red Tape Reduction Commission's work, which started in 2011. Led by the minister, the member for Beauce, our government consulted businesses across the country with a view to boosting efficiency and figuring out how best to reduce red tape and spare businesses from getting bogged down in bureaucratic processes.
Of the many recommendations, Public Works and Government Services Canada adopted two that zeroed in on improving the procurement process. In response to one of the recommendations in the Red Tape Reduction Commission's report, Public Works and Government Services Canada improved the famous MERX database. People who work for Public Works and Government Services Canada know it well.
PWGSC improved the procurement process by adopting a smart procurement approach that leverages digital technology to provide tools and information that enhance service delivery while cutting costs and reducing the operational burden for clients, suppliers, and procurement staff. That is my first example.
The department continued to create electronic tools for its clients, which helped the government to become more efficient and improve its services. That measure is related to another measure, the open bidding service. It was recommended that the program be improved and that is what PWGSC did. The government electronic tendering service was improved. There is now one-stop access to information on the federal government's procurement activities.
The people watching at home, whether they be entrepreneurs or suppliers, can go to the MERX website to see all of the federal government's procurement and leasing needs and determine whether they can meet those needs. This bill pertains mainly to property development projects.
The MERX website has become the Government of Canada's official website for tendering opportunities. This site provides one-stop access to information on the federal government's procurement activities. It contains useful information and it is easy to access.
Now, it is important for the government to simplify its processes and become more efficient by removing red tape rather than creating more.
We believe that today's bill will create red tape and concentrate powers in the minister's hands. Given the large number of transactions that are conducted, I worry that this bill will merely serve to create more red tape. That is why we cannot support this bill today.
Once again, we need to remember that if our companies have to deal with red tape, they will not be able to remain competitive. As a result, in order to create healthy communities, we need to reduce red tape. We do not intend to support this bill at this time.