Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the fine member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, whose constituency is next to mine.
First, I would like to wish all of the members of the House, as well as the support staff and pages, a happy 2015. I would also like to wish all of my constituents of LaSalle—Émard good health, happiness and solidarity. I will also take this opportunity to wish the owners and employees of small and medium-sized businesses in the riding of LaSalle—Émard a happy and prosperous 2015. Happy new year as well to all of the members of the co-operatives, which are also businesses that are striving for a sustainable and 100% local economy.
At the beginning of this new year, I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate Bill C-21, An Act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses.
This is a very important bill, particularly when you come from a riding such as mine, namely LaSalle—Émard. LaSalle has close to 1,680 registered businesses and 71% of them employ fewer than 10 workers. There are therefore many small and medium-sized businesses in LaSalle, many of which are retail stores.
We recently learned of the imminent closure of Target stores and the loss of hundreds of jobs in my riding. Small business is very important to the Sud-Ouest borough. There are 2,047 small businesses in the borough, and 69% of them have fewer than 10 employees. This is the case across Canada. Canada's economic landscape is shaped by a large number of small and medium-sized businesses which, as many of my colleagues have mentioned, are the driving force of our economy. More than 75% of jobs are created by small and medium-sized businesses. One would think that Bill C-21 would focus on the owners and the people who work in these businesses. This is also a bill that, to some degree, could be of interest to co-operatives. We often forget that co-operatives are also businesses involved in a multitude of areas. Naturally, we always want to help the owners of small and medium-sized businesses, but we could also consider co-operatives.
We must be careful. Once again, the Conservatives are talking about a bill to help small and medium-sized businesses and to reduce red tape. However, we should also realize that regulations have a very important role to play in Canada, whether it is protecting the environment or ensuring the health and safety of Canadians. Regulations stem from the bills introduced in the House of Commons, bills that are introduced by all members in order to improve the lives of Canadians, not to increase red tape.
The Conservatives are using this bill to eliminate some regulations, but these regulations are important to protect the safety and health of Canadians and to protect the environment.
Government regulations are intended to protect the safety and health of Canadians and protect the environment. That should be a priority. Regulations that are in the public interest should be maintained. It is not just a question of managing the number of regulations on the books, as is the case with Bill C-21, but of determining which regulations are working for Canadians and which are not.
Let us look at how the bill defines an administrative burden:
“administrative burden” means anything that is necessary to demonstrate compliance with a regulation, including the collecting, processing, reporting and retaining of information and the completing of forms.
It may not, in fact, be an administrative burden, but rather a tool to ensure accountability or to answer questionnaires, as is often the case.
Businesses must prove that they comply with the regulations and look at the whole economic picture. However, not every small and medium-sized business has the resources to comply with these administrative rules. That is why legislators, and not just bureaucracy or the public service, must be innovative. We also need to give small and medium-sized businesses the means to comply with administrative demands.
Earlier, Conservative members spoke about online forms and faster ways to comply with administrative regulations. What are they doing to ensure that all Canadians have access to high-speed Internet? Speaking of high speed, this is also a matter of how easy it is to fill out and submit these forms. The government must also ensure that high-speed Internet is affordable for all Canadians and for small and medium-sized businesses. The Conservatives have completely missed the boat there.
As legislators, we are also responsible for introducing bills that will not increase the administrative burden on small and medium-sized businesses. However, a bill introduced not long ago by the Conservatives, Canada's anti-spam legislation, places a huge added administrative burden on small and medium-sized businesses. In addition, this bill, Bill C-21, is inconsistent by virtue of its own administrative burden, because it requires a calculation of the cost of the administrative burden and compliance deadlines.
The truth is that Bill C-21 will not reduce the administrative burden for small and medium-sized businesses. On the contrary, the Conservatives will actually be increasing their burden without really helping them by instituting a hiring tax credit, which the NDP has proposed, or reducing the credit card fees they have to pay.