Madam Speaker, I will start by saying that I am somewhat disappointed with my Liberal colleague's position on this bill, given that it has the support of those on the left in the NDP and those on the right in the Conservative Party.
In Canada, it is a good sign when those on the left and socialists support a bill that limits corporate handouts to businesses. That is good news. This bill ensures that there is greater transparency concerning the amounts and the financial grants or contributions that the government gives to major corporations.
What is a little disappointing is that these corporations currently receive assistance from the Canadian government. We are told that they receive repayable loans and contributions. However, when we take a look at the numbers, more than 200 companies in Canada received millions of dollars in loans. We might be talking about $300 million or $60 million. In fact, $702 million was paid out to companies, but we do not know if this contributions were repaid. Some of these loans date back to 1997. Why do we not know if they were repaid?
It is true. My colleague was quite right in saying that when individual loans are repaid, the repayment is indicated on the department's website. However, there are no further details for some loans. I will quote what it says on the government website. There is no information about the repayment of certain loans because this:
“Indicates that the company has not provided ISED with an authorization to disclose repayment information.”
What we take from that is that the companies themselves are the ones who decide whether they want their loan repayment to be made public or not. That should not be the case. That is taxpayers' money, and Canadians have the right to know what is happening with it and whether it was paid back or not. That is what this bill seeks to do. It is a very clear and simple bill.
Under the bill, when a company like Bombardier or ABM receives financial assistance from the government, the government must, within 90 days, publish on its website the amount of the loan and the insurance provided to the company by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, as well as the type of insurance provided, whether loan or credit insurance. We want to know the missing details, which would tell us about all of the loans made, the loan insurance or credit insurance provided, and the grants awarded, as well as the circumstances of the loan and the terms and conditions of repayment. The government does not want to go along with that.
Indeed, the government does not want to share that information, claiming that it could be part of a company's trade secrets. I really do not believe that a loan repayment and the repayment conditions are part of a company's trade secrets. The repayment method and schedule are not trade secrets. That should be public, since the money given to those companies comes from all taxpayers.
This is unfair for small businesses, especially businesses in Beauce and the other regions of Canada, which are forced to pay taxes and, at the end of the day, never receive any of these loans. We want to know whether they are loans or grants. If financial assistance has not been repaid after 20 years, why was it not paid back? What were the repayment terms and conditions? That is what we do not know. That is what the bill calls for. It is a very simple piece of legislation.
I am very disappointed that the government is not being more transparent and is letting big corporations decide whether taxpayers will get any information about repayment of those loans. That is a real shame.
The Liberal Party and the government could have been more open with taxpayers and proven that the $702 million handed over to companies over the past few years were not grants, but were indeed repayable loans with repayment conditions. Now Canadians are wondering about the $702 million. The fact that we do not know the repayment arrangements suggests to me that the money was given to those businesses.
Since we do not know how the money is supposed to be repaid, that means it was a grant. This is a real letdown.