Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, community benefit.
Bill C-344 would amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to provide the minister of public services and procurement with the authority to require an assessment of the benefits that a community derives from a construction, maintenance, or repair project. Under the bill, the minister may require bidders on a contract to provide information on a project's community benefits. The minister may also request an assessment as to whether community benefits have been derived from a project.
Finally, the bill would require the minister to table an annual report in Parliament on community benefits provided by construction, maintenance, or repair projects.
In simple terms, the goal of the bill is to ensure that taxpayer money invested in the repair and construction of federal infrastructure is used to produce useful local benefits, such as training, jobs, and environmental benefits.
The goals of this bill are laudable and I encourage all members in the House to support it.
There are three compelling reasons for supporting this bill. The first is that the government should use its spending power to create jobs, promote economic growth, and foster a more prosperous society. Certainly, this is one of our government's priorities and is in keeping with the mandate of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.
The minister was mandated to:
Modernize procurement practices so that they are simpler, less administratively burdensome, deploy modern comptrollership, and include practices that support our economic policy goals, including green and social procurement.
Bill C-344 aligns squarely with these objectives. If enacted, Bill C-344 would help support the government's effort in leveraging procurement to advance social and green policies for the benefit of all Canadians.
The second reason to support this bill is that the concept of community benefits is already well established in the United Kingdom and the United States and is gaining popularity at the local and provincial levels here in Canada. Bill C-344 is a perfect opportunity for the federal government to show leadership and adopt the concept of community benefits on behalf of the entire country. For example, the concept of community benefits was applied in building the athletes’ village for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
More recently, Ontario passed the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015 and became the first province to include community benefits in provincial infrastructure projects, putting emphasis on hiring, training, and buying local. An excellent example of the results of this approach is the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown light rail line in Toronto, a public transit project worth several billion dollars that now includes an agreement regarding community benefits.
As part of that initiative, provincial and municipal partners set the objective that 10% of trade and craft hours required for the project must be carried out by apprentices and journeypersons who live along the public transit corridor and who have had difficulty finding work. The cost is the same, but part of the cost of labour is better directed to advance things on the social front. That project has the possibility of changing the lives of young people, who will then be able to obtain training or a job.
At the same time, Bill C-344 would not impose much in the way of additional procedures on either the government or private sector suppliers. The bill does not call for changing the criteria in the tendering process. The minister's annual report to Parliament would simply provide an additional level of transparency and accountability to Canadians as to how their money is being spent and the positive impact it is having on their communities.
Third, this bill is consistent with the approach of the investing in Canada plan. The Government of Canada is making historic new investments in infrastructure, more than doubling existing funding to build the cities of the 21st century and provide communities across the country with the tools they need to prosper and innovate. Our historic investments are bringing about transformational change in our communities.
An example of a project that brings great community benefit is the Champlain Bridge, which crosses into my riding.
The new Champlain Bridge corridor is one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America. In addition to ensuring the safety of users, the proposed corridor will create thousands of jobs in the greater Montreal area and foster economic growth in Canada by improving the network's connectivity and the continuous and safe flow of people and goods.
Another great example is the Gordie Howe bridge. The Government of Canada is committed to the Gordie Howe international bridge, a strategic trade corridor with our country's most important economic partner. It is an example of the infrastructure investments being made to help grow the economy, create good middle-class jobs, and enhance trade and productivity in our local communities and across the country.
The Gordie Howe international bridge will encourage new investment between Canada and the United States and help to maintain and create thousands of jobs and opportunities on both sides of the border. The new bridge is of vital importance to the economic prosperity of communities and businesses on both sides of the border and is expected to create thousands of construction jobs in Ontario. In addition to the jobs created during the construction of the project, the new bridge will result in many permanent jobs for the future operation of the crossing. As well, it is expected that thousands of jobs will be created in businesses that will supply goods and raw materials for the project.
This is the opportune time to ensure that we are reinvesting in our communities. By investing in the things that help make our neighbourhoods better places to live, like affordable housing, cultural institutions, and recreational facilities, we can build stronger neighbourhoods and communities that we are all proud to call home.
I have had the opportunity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to go to different parts of the country and get full feedback from mayors and city councillors, some of the hardest-working people in the public service, and they tell me how important it is to get local feedback and talk about the expertise that exists in those communities and to reflect the needs in our infrastructure projects. We know that the federal government cannot just walk in and invest without consulting and without talking to the provinces. Frankly, the expertise lies in a number of these projects. We rely on them and we need them, whether it is talking to provincial governments, talking to community leaders, talking to individuals as to what their needs are, or talking to our indigenous communities. These are key things, and this is part and parcel of Bill C-344. It fits perfectly within the framework we are creating to build the 21st century.
By investing in infrastructure now, in the projects that Canada needs and in the men and women who can carry them out, we can strengthen and grow the middle class and make Canada a better place to live.
I see Bill C-344 as another way of ensuring that federal procurement helps the government obtain real benefits and results for Canadians and our communities.
I would like to take the time to congratulate the sponsor of this private member's bill, the member for Brampton Centre, for proposing a piece of legislation that is extremely difficult to argue against, particularly in light of his extreme advocacy in the community for the community benefits from any federal investment. The bill's underlying principles and objectives are laudable, and Bill C-344 warrants the support of the House.