Mr. Speaker, the subject today affects many more businesses across Canada than we might think.
I am simply going to take the example of the manufacturing sector, which plays a key role in Canada. It once accounted for 65%, but it is now 50%; it is declining somewhat. In that segment, we find not just companies with 500 or more employees. From one end of my riding to the other, there are companies with five or 15 or 50 employees. These manufacturing entrepreneurs need an appropriate operating framework. They have enough competition at the international level. Today, no sector of economic activity, whether in Canada or elsewhere on the planet, can be exclusive to one region, one riding or one country any longer. Everything is global these days. You produce something, a natural resource, and it can be processed or manufactured anywhere on the planet.
I am talking about the manufacturing sector, but there are other sectors such as agriculture or retail, which now has to adjust to e-commerce. What is needed is a genuinely flexible framework. Bureaucracy and red tape, as it is called today, are certainly part of operating a business. However, I have sometimes had businessmen or businesswomen tell me that they had to spend one day a week doing nothing but administration. They had to fill out reports: one for the environment, another for workers’ compensation, because there is also bureaucracy at the provincial level. Put it all together and it adds up to a lot. People have to be able to operate their businesses in a sound environment and, most importantly, a competitive environment.
Bill C-21, An Act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses, is intended as a response from this Conservative government to the Canadians and the small and medium-sized businesses that have often voiced their concerns about the expanding administrative burden that regulations impose on the cost of doing business in Canada. If we want to prosper, we must really have an attractive framework.
The government therefore wants to institute the one-for-one rule. As my colleague said earlier, plus one minus one equals zero. You do not have to be very good at mathematics to understand that calculation: 1 - 1 = 0. However, the one-for-one rule must not interfere with public health or safety. There is an environmental framework and a framework for public health and safety. It applies mainly to employees but can also relate to the cleanliness of food processing. This must all be as transparent as possible.
Once again, they are going to give a minister, Mr. Gazebo, some latitude, rely on his judgment, and trust him to reduce administrative burdens and make decisions about this subject. I am sorry, but the Conservatives and Liberals really do not have a good track record in this regard, particularly when it comes to regulations that protect Canadians’ health and safety. I stress this again. We have seen very clearly the disastrous consequences for the environment and public safety that deregulation has had for the Canadian public in recent years.
Regulations that are in the public interest should be retained, of course. What needs to be done is to closely monitor the aggravating factors and the factors that are mitigating and user-friendly for businesses and business owners.
Bill C-21 seems to disregard that obligation. We would have liked to have assurances that deregulation will not apply to regulations that affect health and safety and, most importantly, the environment.
If the Conservatives really wanted to help small businesses, they would have supported the NDP’s proposal to create an ombudsman position to deal with issues such as the excessive credit card fees that the big banks unfairly charge merchants. This is an ineffective injustice that my colleague fromMontmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup has been battling vehemently since he first came to the House.
Small and medium-sized businesses create most of the new jobs in Quebec and Canada, not only in the major centres, but also outside the urban areas. In addition, small businesses make those regions thrive. Unfortunately, small businesses and the regions outside urban areas get very little attention from this Conservative government. The Prime Minister and his key ministers have completely ignored them at the expense of big businesses, the ones that have been given billions of dollars in tax cuts. We see what happens when you favour a single sector of economic activity, with the price of oil falling. The Conservatives find themselves in a precarious position, making it up as they go. They are no longer even capable of producing a budget in real time, something that is essential to help Canadian business owners across the country.
I talked about the fiscal and administrative environments as well as the actual environment. When someone operates a business, we want them to do so in a way that respects the environment. Of course, the government also deregulated that. It said it would let project proponents self-regulate. Canada is one of the only countries in the world that lets everyone do almost whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. Furthermore, the provinces have tried to protect themselves when it comes to natural resources, just in case the federal government is unable to impose an environment that is not highly regulated, but that people respect.
Thinking clearly about what is happening also means having a healthy, clear and successful framework. I am thinking of future generations. That is what is so aggravating about this. Future generations do not have an environment in which they will be able to develop our natural resources without polluting. If you add this to our changing demographics and our aging population, it is going to be a disaster. We were talking earlier about renewing our workforce. Businesses have a real challenge on their hands. The workforce, the next generation, the men and women who want to be part of this prosperous Canada should have the opportunity to do so, and they should be able to run businesses even in areas where crops cannot be grown as they once were here in Canada. There are areas where climate change is preventing people from farming the same way they did in the past.
The regulatory framework in which most businesses in Canada will operate is made up of nearly 2,500 regulations spread over more than 15 departments. These cover everything from agricultural businesses to R and D companies researching the energy of the future. Business people across Canada need to dedicate a huge amount of time, money and consultation to complying with these regulations.
At present, red tape is preventing the collective growth of entrepreneurship. The need to prove that they comply with regulations by collecting, processing and retaining information, preparing reports and filling out forms is such that it discourages many people from actively taking the reins of businesses across the country. I talked about demographic changes. That will be the result if there is not an appropriate framework.
This small bill, which is truly small, contains about 11 clauses. In actual fact, there are only four. It is a question of semantics. It does not address the real problems, which cause quite a few headaches for Canadian entrepreneurs.
In closing, it is not until the NDP comes to power in 2015 that things will change and entrepreneurs will prosper.