Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's speech on Bill C-227, the community benefits bill. Like my colleague, I too was a city councillor, having spent nine years with the City of Barrie before being elected to this wonderful institution.
It is my honour to rise on behalf of the residents of Barrie—Innisfil today and speak to Bill C-227, a bill brought forward with all the best intentions. In my opinion, and I say this with all due respect to the member for York South—Weston, it fails in the reality of what he may be trying to propose here.
The bill deals with federal infrastructure projects but does not stray far from the process for municipal projects that many here in the House are familiar with. There are 77 members of the House who have municipal political experience; 36 of those members are of the government.
The planning process goes through many different phases, from determining a need to the drawing up of an idea, the drafting of the building rationale, and the production of the plans. Each of my 76 colleagues who have served locally know that red tape cannot be added to ensure a community benefit.
In the process of a project, there's always the discussion of the benefit that a new project is going to bring to the community, and that really starts at the beginning. If it is a new LRT plan, it is to increase transit ridership, new roads mean goods move faster, waste-water systems mean safer water, and housing funding means affordable housing.
What does Bill C-227 mean for federal employees who fall under this? Has their work managing federal infrastructure projects been subpar? Have the women and men of PWGSC been operating under the guise that there's no such thing as a community benefit? There's always a community benefit, and our federal departments are always working with the needs and the benefits of Canadians.
When the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities announced funding for municipal projects, he stated on May 5, 2016:
...we also respect the ability of the local governments to make their own decisions.
Does the member for York South—Weston naturally assume that he does not feel the same for federal employees and our provincial partners? Let us be clear, the bill aims to add red tape and bureaucracy to a process that already has safeguards built into it.
The bill intends to add three new reporting mechanisms to every federal infrastructure project. The first stage of the new reporting will come in pre-attribution. This is a repetition of the work being done from the start of an idea: the determining of a need, the benefits of the project, and the benefits of the community the project will serve. Will these proposed projects not come under the watchful eye of the public during consultations? Is this step of a pre-attribution report nothing more than a repeat of the project application process?
I have been a part of many public consultations in the city of Barrie. The public in these consultations have a keen eye for the community benefit of each and every project. Our residents can see waste a mile away. There is no need for a new step in the beginning to determine if a funding project is a worthwhile endeavour by the government.
The second new mandated report will take place during a project, with ongoing reporting during the works of the project. The most common reasons for increased costs of construction are delays. Delays are deadly to the life cycle of a project. It costs the project manager, construction company, inspectors, and the federal government.
The life cycle of a project has milestones, and these milestones and the timeline in these milestones are watched and mitigated by the project handlers themselves. These milestone reports form much of the reporting after completion. It will be difficult to determine just how community benefits are being met during construction. Time is money. Bill C-227 will add time and money to the cost of every federal project at a time when many feel we take too long to complete a project today.
Let me now address the third proposed mandatory reporting requirement after the project is complete. This is perhaps the only real beneficial step in what is being proposed in this bill. We do need to find accountability in the work that is being done and funded by Canadians. Gaps found in a post-evaluation can be addressed for future projects. However, this does not need to be mandated. In the world of project management, a post-completion review is part of a current rigorous process. Why entrench it further when there is no need to?
This bill requires that we add some very important questions addressing red flag concerns. Where will the costs of the extra work be covered? Will it come from within the department's budget? Will the red tape be paid for by project funding received by the very same minister who is asking for the review? Will there be a need to hire to meet the new expanded reporting demands that this bill creates? The current government is starting to sound like the Government of Ontario and becoming a leading new hire employer. The private sector, not the government, should be leading with job creation. Will the government be forced to hire to cover the extra workload? These are all fair questions.
When the Prime Minister was gearing up for the election, he spoke at the FCM conference in Edmonton in June of 2015. He stated:
We will make it easier for municipalities to get shovels in the ground by removing the requirement that virtually every project must go through...that too often results in unilateral federal decisions.
The Prime Minister went on to say:
And we will make sure that that investment gets to you when you need it, not when it’s politically convenient for the federal government to send it your way.
He concluded his speech by proclaiming to municipal leaders:
I want you to know that with the right partner in Ottawa, you will have real partnership with Ottawa. A partner that respects your experience—
—that is, who respects municipalities' experiences.
Does this statement exclude federal departments? Does the trust the Prime Minister has in municipalities not extend to the hard-working men and women of our public service? Additional bureaucracy does not send a message of trust. Rather, it says that we need to watch you a little more closely.
As the member for Spadina—Fort York once wrote in a blog post in May 2015, when he was a member of Parliament for the old Toronto riding of Trinity—Spadina:
Unlike complex funding programmes, direct revenue does not require a new ministry or massive bureaucracy for oversight.
We believe in the transparency of government, but we do not believe that we need to add more regulations and rules to it.
In closing, I, along with 76 other colleagues in House, including 36 from the government side, know all too well the red tape and bureaucracy that exists in getting projects completed from idea to the completion of construction. The last thing needed is another level of red tape and the threat of a federal ministerial review for community benefits that have already been proven at their local level. We would not accept this at the municipal level.
As a resident of Ontario, I have witnessed first hand the wasted tax dollars and the effect of over 300,000-plus regulations by the McGuinty and Wynne Liberals. My fear is that the federal Liberals are taking us down the same path at the national level. Why should we accept that at the federal level?