Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to be speaking to this private member's bill today, which is sponsored by the member for Brampton Centre. He is a neighbour of mine in the city of Brampton.
The member for York South—Weston first laid the groundwork for this very important piece of legislation.
I believe this legislation is a stepping stone. Public procurement spends about $15 billion a year in maintenance and upgrades, and that is a big chunk of money. The government should be thinking about how it is spent, where it goes, and what benefits end up coming to the community.
I have heard from a few members that the definition of a CBA, a community benefit agreement, is not clear. The Mowat Centre Atkinson Foundation defines community benefit agreements as:
...formal agreements between a real estate or infrastructure developer and a coalition that reflects and represents people who are affected by a large development project. The agreement outlines the benefits the community will enjoy from the project. These benefits usually include some combination of jobs, training or apprenticeships, business opportunities as well as neighbourhood improvements. Where the development includes residential construction, affordable housing can be a benefit negotiated through this process. Most agreements reflect the interests of people who are not already benefiting from economic growth, such as young workers, newcomers, foreign-trained professionals and low-income communities and send opportunities their way.
This is a fantastic step. It is not overly cumbersome, either, which I have been hearing as well. A lot of discretion would be given to the minister to ask any company taking over a bid about the benefits it foresaw for the community. There would be no required minimums or maximums. The minister could see what was fit for a rural area or an urban area, such as the one I live in, which has high growth. After assessing that, the minister could go back to the person who won the bid to see whether there was actually a benefit for that community. Parliament would learn of that benefit, because a report would be tabled in Parliament.
That is fantastic. The government should know the effects it is having in communities. At the end of the day, every dollar we spend should be benefiting Canadians.
I sometimes hear a lot of frustration in communities from people who feel that there is a lot of work going on, but it is not helping them. This frustration will continue to grow unless we think first about the people living in communities.
This is a wonderful step in thinking about those people first and for companies that are working on a bridge, or some kind of construction project, to factor in the area they are working in and to build relationships with the local communities.
We saw this relationship building in our government's supercluster program. When businesses are led to communities, research institutions, and academic institutions, they build relationships, not just for a given project but sometimes for the long term. The effects can be incredible.
We have not seem many CBAs in Canada, although there are some at the municipal level. Regent Park was involved in a CBA project. I have heard that there are quite a lot in U.S. Since the nineties, America has been entering into CBAs, and a lot of them have been quite successful.
One I would like to highlight today is a community benefit agreement signed by Hill District, in Pittsburgh, in 2008. Local Pittsburgh groups brokered the city's first CBA with the developers and operators of the Pittsburgh Penguins. This is hockey, which is something we can really understand here in Canada. In exchange for supporting a new arena for the hockey team, the agreement provided $8.3 million in neighbourhood improvements and set benchmarks for local hiring, liveable wages, and protections for workers to organize. The agreement also called for the development of a grocery store and a youth centre.
In that example of Pittsburgh, we can see the potential this private member's bill could have on communities in Canada, especially for a city like Brampton. It is the ninth largest city in the country and is experiencing exponential growth. The population is growing faster than we can keep up with infrastructure. I am hoping as we plant this seed, since this is just for Public Services and Procurement, that other departments and ministries also see the benefit of looking at projects through this lens and knowing where the money and the benefits will go.
There is frustration when we see money going into projects overseas or into the hands of big corporations and not necessarily trickling down to the little guy. That is when people feel a lot of pain and that they are not part of the decision-making process, and something like this would make them feel part of the process. Someone would have to consult the communities, find out what their needs are, and we would no longer just have somebody moving in and doing what they think is right. Rather, we would have a perspective and an understanding from that community. Whether the involvement is direct, through employment on that project, or through building a park or a youth centre, the options are limitless and it is heading us down a road that would be mutually beneficial to all Canadians.
That is the type of inclusive Canada we would like to build. The government is committed to making sure the money we spend benefits the people who put us in office.