Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in this House to speak to an important bill that is being presented at second reading.
Bill C-9 is important because it concerns the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, which works on behalf of the entire population of Quebec. The purpose of this agency is to encourage the implementation of projects throughout Quebec that will provide our fellow citizens with development opportunities.
The bill before us today is a good example of this government's vision for the future, a vision in which our current and future entrepreneurs are encouraged to turn their innovative ideas into projects and can count on the Government of Canada to help make these projects a great success.
The purpose of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec is to promote the development and diversification of the economy of the regions of Quebec. It focuses particularly on regions where economic growth is slow and there are not enough jobs. It seeks to improve regional employment opportunities and prosperity for the long term.
In carrying out its mandate, the agency helps the Government of Canada fulfil its commitment to promoting equality of opportunity for all Canadians in the pursuit of their well-being.
As part of its core mandate, the agency targets two key strategic outcomes to contribute to the economic development of the regions of Quebec. The first is enterprise development and the second is the improvement of the environment for economic development of the regions.
We all know that in Canada, enterprises are the main driving force behind economic development and wealth creation. There is no doubt that the economic development of the regions involves the growth of enterprises.
For this reason, to contribute to building a 21st-century economy founded on innovation, the agency provides Quebec SMEs with a continuum of support necessary for innovation, from access to financing for the startup of innovative enterprises to the commercialization of innovative products via the adoption of new technology and more productive equipment.
It is in that context that SKL Aluminium Technologie in Saguenay was granted repayable financial assistance of $243,125 for the establishment of an aluminum heat exchanger and radiator plant.
I draw your attention to this announcement, because when this was done, it was to help an Ontario business that provided materials for vehicles to the United States and that was previously buying its products in the United States. Thanks to the commitment of Canada Economic Development, we have helped a business from our region to provide an Ontario business with products for vehicles built in the United States.
This project, besides creating eight jobs, has led to the development of a strategic partnership with various businesses in the region that specialize in the processing of aluminum. Financial support to this project was a priority in the efforts of Canada Economic Development to consolidate and increase the favoured position of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region in the secondary and tertiary processing of the white metal.
In Carleton-Saint-Omer, in the Gaspé Peninsula, the thalassotherapy centre Aqua-Mer benefited from a $1.938 million contribution to expand its facilities. The centre attracts a lot of foreign tourists and its activities have a ripple effect on other businesses in the region. It is now better positioned to help making Carleton-Saint-Omer a most valued destination both at home and outside our borders in relation to health tourism.
This project, which will increase the number of cure-days, fits well with one of the priorities of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, which is to increase tourism development in Gaspesia-Magdalen Islands.
Let me give the House another example of what we were able to do with Canada Economic Development, and we often work with other departments to ensure that our interventions are more effective. Just think about the aluminum technologies centre, where the Government of Canada made an investment of $57 million, including $25 million from Canada Economic Development, to recruit 80 researchers to help develop aluminum and particularly secondary and tertiary processing.
In collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada and the Department of Industry, this $57 million project has already had considerable economic impact on the region, Quebec and Canada. Through Canada Economic Development we were able to invest $2.9 million in a planned automotive parts factory, which enabled Alcan to obtain a contract for manufacturing aluminum bumpers for Cadillac cars. This contract could have gone to either of two cities, Jonquière or Detroit. Therefore, because of the investments by Canada Economic Development, with its partners in the Government of Canada, we were able to help create this project that provided some 50 jobs.
In the centre of Quebec, the agency joined with Industry Canada to provide total support of $4.7 million to VisuAide in Drummondville, to support the development of assistive technologies for persons with visual disabilities. This project, aimed at developing innovative digital devices for persons with visual disabilities, will further the development of accessible and affordable technology for these persons.This is not only a promising project in terms of technological innovation and optimization of the innovative capacity of local businesses, but also a technological application that will provide a clear improvement in quality of life for many of our fellow citizens.
Here are some examples of the grants made by the Canada Economic Development Agency that demonstrate the diversity of its activities and its commitment to support projects that blend into the existing economic fabric of the regions of Quebec.
Moreover, these projects share a common outcome: to create more dynamic, more competitive businesses with a greater ability to create prosperity and employment in their own regions. Regional economic development is not only about SMEs and entrepreneurs. The whole community must participate and take ownership in order to make it a success.
That is the context in which, as I said before, the agency works at improving the environment for regional economic development. In order to do so it supports development organizations that provide services regionally. It also supports non-profit agencies and businesses with plans for projects to develop a region's competitive advantages and spirit of entrepreneurship.
Through its funding of such organizations, the agency seeks to create a network of businesses that can take full advantage of projects to improve the economic development environment, so that the expansion of these businesses creates increased economic activity, employment and income.
Allow me to give two examples to illustrate the role played by the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec in improving the economic development environment in the regions.
In recent years, several studies have demonstrated the wind power potential in the Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine area. This potential explains the interest shown by a number of regional stakeholders in the development of the wind power industry, which could generate billions of dollars in investments in the Gaspé Peninsula.
As a result, a non-profit organization, the Technocentre éolien, was created. Its role is mainly to gather and distribute information to its members. For example, the organization is working on setting up in the area a research and development centre identified as necessary for industrial development. The operations of the technocentre are funded by Canada Economic Development and the Government of Quebec on a 50-50 basis, which, once again, shows the importance of collaboration and of serving the well-being of the public.
In addition, the agency provided $1.5 million in support to the Quebec Wood Export Bureau, commonly known as Q-Web, to promote, over a three-year period, the value-added wood products of Quebec on export markets.
We need not emphasize the importance of this action, considering the crisis that the softwood lumber sector is going through because of the tariffs imposed by the Americans. Canada Economic Development helps ensuring that we reduce our dependency on one market and increase our exports in order to promote jobs in this country.
This contribution will allow the organization to establish a commercial vigil on the certification of forest products on foreign markets. Moreover, the contribution of the agency will allow Q-Web to develop the American market for value-added products for new exporters. Representing 185 manufacturing companies in the exports industry, Q-Web is opening international markets for wood products from Quebec.
This is again representative of what Economic Development Canada is doing in the regions of Quebec. I would be remiss if I did not mention the Crossroads for Industrial Materials Innovation in Boucherville, i which the government, through the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, invested $6 million, again in cooperation with NRC and Industry Canada. This allows Quebec researchers to innovate, to find new ways of developing products to start businesses or to create jobs and wealth here in our regions.
I have visited the Industrial Materials Institute in Boucherville and I recall seeing researchers developing a porous metal that could be injected in patients' spines to prevent a second hip operation. It cuts costs and promotes speedy recovery. This is a Quebec product that can be exported worldwide.
This shows the importance of the Economic Development Agency and government allies in the development of Quebec's economy. These examples show that the federal government is committed to give the regions the tools they need, not only to face new market conditions, but also to take advantage of them for the benefit of the Quebec population as a whole.
I wish I could give you many more tangible examples from all the regions in Quebec to illustrate the importance of Economic Development Canada. There are examples in connection with the environment, where we help our businesses to go green and to be more efficient and more environment-friendly, while saving money. Success was achieved thanks to help from Economic Development Canada and partners like the Department of the Environment and other departments. Businesses all over Quebec appreciate the environment clubs that were created for the purpose of helping them.
As far as the development of businesses owned by women is concerned, the CFDCs, in all regions of Quebec, contribute to economic development, in cooperation with Economic Development Canada. CFDCs are our proud partners in the creation and development of female entrepreneurship. I can testify to the fact that they achieved great successes. They must be encouraged and thanked.
Programs in the areas of softwood, textiles and clothing are currently going through a terrible crisis. We must work together to find solutions. Can we say that Economic Development Canada did anything about that situation? Of course, they created programs aimed at supporting communities and industries when possible.
In conclusion, allow me to pay tribute to our 14 regional and central offices, their staff and the women and men who are dedicated to the well-being of Quebeckers and all Canadians.