The House resumed from May 11 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, today I speak in favour of Bill , the community benefits agreement.
As the member for Sault Ste. Marie, I campaigned on historic infrastructure investments of $125 billion over 10 years. I strongly believe that if the government wants to, investments will have important impacts on regions and communities, and the bill will have that effect.
Bill will amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to include provisions that will give the minister the flexibility to require bidders on federal projects to include information on community benefits of said projects for the local community.
For the purposes of the bill, the community benefit agreements are defined as social or economic benefits the community obtains from a public works project. These benefits can include local job creation and training opportunities, improvement of public spaces within the community, and any other specific benefits identified by the community.
It is a bill modelled on existing legislation in the province of Ontario, which was implemented earlier this month and is a great fit with this government's priorities.
In my riding of Sault Ste. Marie, the steel industry, including companies like Essar Steel Algoma and Tenaris Algoma Tubes are plagued with challenges. Global overcapacity and weak demand have put these domestic steel producers in jeopardy and are threatening the livelihoods of many people and their families. Many have already been laid off. Good-paying jobs in northern Ontario are hard to come by.
As a former city councillor and someone who has worked in economic development in Sault Ste. Marie and northern Ontario for many years, I know that economic development, diversification, and investments in key infrastructure projects are more important today than ever.
In fact, Sault Ste. Marie's unemployment rate over the last few years has been in the double digits. Investment in infrastructure in Bill , in combination, will work to ensure that the historic investments our government is delivering have direct impacts that will leverage the existing skills and expertise of local businesses and individuals in my riding and in ridings across this country.
As someone who has worked in training and with the trades, it is my hope that, once passed, this legislation will also lead to more opportunities to train and develop a skilled workforce.
CBAs are a new approach to empowering local communities to partner with developers to respond to local challenges, and through encouraging activities like training, can lead to economic development and growth, poverty reduction, and environmental sustainability in neighbourhoods across Canada.
Canadians, in particular, are struggling economically and need a boost. Our government is working to deliver on a procurement and modernization agenda, and the constituents of my riding, like many others, want the Government of Canada to step up to the plate, after years of neglect, to ensure that Canadians are not left behind.
I think of an example in my riding of community benefits that our first nations partners put in place many years ago. We should look to our first nations as leaders in developing community benefits. When we added lanes to Highway 17 that ran through my riding a few years ago, the first nation of Garden River said they would like to see some community benefits, and they listed a number of things, including employment of Garden River people, training, use of local aggregates, and subcontracting with local businesses.
I think we could learn a lesson from our first nation friends that this is a good thing. It really helped Garden River. I know that Chief Paul Syrette is a leader in this area and will continue to be.
I have been able to speak with the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Christian Provenzano, and with many city councillors, and they believe that this is a good thing that will really help our economy, which has been struggling over the last few years.
The Government of Canada has an opportunity to work directly with many communities across this area to dictate these community benefits.
I will use the example of some tradespeople who came to my area to get certification so they could work. They were not from the community. They were not even from northern Ontario, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, or Alberta. They were from the United States. Sault Ste. Marie is on the border of America, and they had come to work. I have nothing against my American cousins, but when the government spends infrastructure monies, they should direct them to community benefits.
I said that the economy in my riding had been suffering over the last few years and it was an opportunity for other tradespeople from Sault Ste. Marie, northern Ontario, or across the country to work, but they did not. Those are just two anecdotal examples where community benefits in play have helped a community like Garden River and when community benefits were not in play, there was a bit of seepage, so to speak.
Our government has also invested greatly in infrastructure spending in my area, and there are many federal projects that could be invested in and expanded upon. This gives the minister the ability to work with local communities.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the member for for introducing this great bill and for his hard work. I know he has gone from coast to coast across the country, talking with many businesses, labour organizations, communities, community leaders, and organizations. I will not steal his thunder as I know he will speak later, but there were very positive results from those consultations and hard work. My hat goes off to the member for , who has been working very hard.
This is really important. It is a critical time for us to invest in infrastructure and get the economy going. It is of utmost importance, not just for my generation but our children's generation. My daughter Kate Sheehan is visiting Ottawa today on a professional development day. We have to think about what her future will look like in Sault Ste. Marie and Canada.
I am very pleased that we can dictate the community benefits that will help the riding of Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding area. The people from Batchewana First Nation are going to have opportunities, as well as Prince Township, Heyden, and Searchmont. There are untold opportunities, and this is just the beginning.
We could look at this to see how we could expand it to have more impact. Our historic spending of $125 billion over 10 years is absolutely remarkable. Of course, the spending is important to the steel industry because infrastructure projects use steel. Being the co-chair of the steel caucus, I recognize there are plenty of opportunities for us to have steel in our infrastructure program. I know it will be extremely beneficial for places like Sault Ste. Marie, northern Ontario, Ontario, and the rest of Canada.
I cannot stress enough that, after talking with local community leaders, they are totally looking forward to announcements. I am looking forward to making announcements in the future in my riding and working with community leaders to prioritize which infrastructure projects they believe are important. Not only that, but we should engage them again and ask how we can benefit their communities more, get people working, get people into the trades, and get local contractors working on these infrastructure programs.
I again thank the member for . It is an honour to co-second the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's speech on Bill , the community benefits bill. Like my colleague, I too was a city councillor, having spent nine years with the City of Barrie before being elected to this wonderful institution.
It is my honour to rise on behalf of the residents of Barrie—Innisfil today and speak to Bill , a bill brought forward with all the best intentions. In my opinion, and I say this with all due respect to the member for , it fails in the reality of what he may be trying to propose here.
The bill deals with federal infrastructure projects but does not stray far from the process for municipal projects that many here in the House are familiar with. There are 77 members of the House who have municipal political experience; 36 of those members are of the government.
The planning process goes through many different phases, from determining a need to the drawing up of an idea, the drafting of the building rationale, and the production of the plans. Each of my 76 colleagues who have served locally know that red tape cannot be added to ensure a community benefit.
In the process of a project, there's always the discussion of the benefit that a new project is going to bring to the community, and that really starts at the beginning. If it is a new LRT plan, it is to increase transit ridership, new roads mean goods move faster, waste-water systems mean safer water, and housing funding means affordable housing.
What does Bill mean for federal employees who fall under this? Has their work managing federal infrastructure projects been subpar? Have the women and men of PWGSC been operating under the guise that there's no such thing as a community benefit? There's always a community benefit, and our federal departments are always working with the needs and the benefits of Canadians.
When the announced funding for municipal projects, he stated on May 5, 2016:
||...we also respect the ability of the local governments to make their own decisions.
Does the member for naturally assume that he does not feel the same for federal employees and our provincial partners? Let us be clear, the bill aims to add red tape and bureaucracy to a process that already has safeguards built into it.
The bill intends to add three new reporting mechanisms to every federal infrastructure project. The first stage of the new reporting will come in pre-attribution. This is a repetition of the work being done from the start of an idea: the determining of a need, the benefits of the project, and the benefits of the community the project will serve. Will these proposed projects not come under the watchful eye of the public during consultations? Is this step of a pre-attribution report nothing more than a repeat of the project application process?
I have been a part of many public consultations in the city of Barrie. The public in these consultations have a keen eye for the community benefit of each and every project. Our residents can see waste a mile away. There is no need for a new step in the beginning to determine if a funding project is a worthwhile endeavour by the government.
The second new mandated report will take place during a project, with ongoing reporting during the works of the project. The most common reasons for increased costs of construction are delays. Delays are deadly to the life cycle of a project. It costs the project manager, construction company, inspectors, and the federal government.
The life cycle of a project has milestones, and these milestones and the timeline in these milestones are watched and mitigated by the project handlers themselves. These milestone reports form much of the reporting after completion. It will be difficult to determine just how community benefits are being met during construction. Time is money. Bill will add time and money to the cost of every federal project at a time when many feel we take too long to complete a project today.
Let me now address the third proposed mandatory reporting requirement after the project is complete. This is perhaps the only real beneficial step in what is being proposed in this bill. We do need to find accountability in the work that is being done and funded by Canadians. Gaps found in a post-evaluation can be addressed for future projects. However, this does not need to be mandated. In the world of project management, a post-completion review is part of a current rigorous process. Why entrench it further when there is no need to?
This bill requires that we add some very important questions addressing red flag concerns. Where will the costs of the extra work be covered? Will it come from within the department's budget? Will the red tape be paid for by project funding received by the very same minister who is asking for the review? Will there be a need to hire to meet the new expanded reporting demands that this bill creates? The current government is starting to sound like the Government of Ontario and becoming a leading new hire employer. The private sector, not the government, should be leading with job creation. Will the government be forced to hire to cover the extra workload? These are all fair questions.
When the was gearing up for the election, he spoke at the FCM conference in Edmonton in June of 2015. He stated:
| We will make it easier for municipalities to get shovels in the ground by removing the requirement that virtually every project must go through...that too often results in unilateral federal decisions.
The went on to say:
|| And we will make sure that that investment gets to you when you need it, not when it’s politically convenient for the federal government to send it your way.
He concluded his speech by proclaiming to municipal leaders:
|| I want you to know that with the right partner in Ottawa, you will have real partnership with Ottawa. A partner that respects your experience—
—that is, who respects municipalities' experiences.
Does this statement exclude federal departments? Does the trust the has in municipalities not extend to the hard-working men and women of our public service? Additional bureaucracy does not send a message of trust. Rather, it says that we need to watch you a little more closely.
As the member for once wrote in a blog post in May 2015, when he was a member of Parliament for the old Toronto riding of Trinity—Spadina:
|| Unlike complex funding programmes, direct revenue does not require a new ministry or massive bureaucracy for oversight.
We believe in the transparency of government, but we do not believe that we need to add more regulations and rules to it.
In closing, I, along with 76 other colleagues in House, including 36 from the government side, know all too well the red tape and bureaucracy that exists in getting projects completed from idea to the completion of construction. The last thing needed is another level of red tape and the threat of a federal ministerial review for community benefits that have already been proven at their local level. We would not accept this at the municipal level.
As a resident of Ontario, I have witnessed first hand the wasted tax dollars and the effect of over 300,000-plus regulations by the McGuinty and Wynne Liberals. My fear is that the federal Liberals are taking us down the same path at the national level. Why should we accept that at the federal level?
Mr. Speaker, agreements on community benefits are definitely vectors of social and economic development at the local level. Today, it seems that creating such agreements is a progressive idea and an opportunity that we should seize.
I would like to say that I will be supporting this bill at second reading stage.
The NDP believes that we must promote local growth, training and employment by increasing investments in public infrastructure and promoting agreements on community benefits.
This government promised Canadians that there would be change. I am pleased to see today that they are finally getting down to work. The Liberals promised to make massive investments in infrastructure, among other things. We are still waiting.
Agreements on community benefits would stimulate growth, employment, and economic and social development not just in my riding, but in all ridings. In Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, there are a number of major infrastructure projects waiting for federal funding.
I want to talk about a large-scale infrastructure project, the Casavant Boulevard extension in Saint-Hyacinthe, that I would like to see covered by this kind of agreement. Having served six years as a city councillor, I am sure everyone in Saint-Hyacinthe knows what I am talking about. The project involves building a rail overpass. It is vital to the city's economic development because it will open up the industrial park. Believe it or not, we have been waiting for federal funding for this project for 10 years.
The Casavant Boulevard extension is critical to Saint-Hyacinthe's growth and development. The federal government must act quickly and decisively on this file so that we can build this road infrastructure. The Casavant Boulevard extension is well suited to a community benefit agreement. It would be an opportunity to create good jobs, make training available, and revitalize the local economy. It would certainly stimulate growth, help create wealth, and contribute to more responsible development.
While I have no doubt this would benefit my riding, I am skeptical about the implementation and the scope of such agreements.
I think that this bill could be improved in several ways. In my riding, it is important to support local businesses. Saint-Hyacinthe is known around the world for being an agrifood technocity. The development of its local businesses would definitely stimulate the economy, create jobs, and promote growth and innovation in my region. That would create a ripple effect. We all know that when our businesses are successful, our economy does well too.
What the NDP wants is to include local organizations, regional businesses, and members of the community in the planning process for infrastructure spending. We want to ensure that they enjoy the benefits and spinoffs that this spending creates. That seems like common sense to us.
However, this bill does not require bidders to provide all the information about the project to the various stakeholders. In my opinion, that is vital information. This bill also does not specify how the intended benefits will be calculated. It also does not mention the objectives of these agreements.
We believe that a targeted recruitment policy must be included in the bill so that members of the community and local organizations and businesses are not forgotten. What is more, as my hon. colleague, the sponsor of this bill mentioned, the purpose of these community benefit agreements is to “create community wealth, quality jobs, training, responsible growth, and a healthier environment”.
These are honourable goals. However, how can we be sure that they will be implemented if they are not even mentioned in the legislation? I suggest that the legislation include guiding principles that emphasize equity, community involvement, eco-friendly practices, and support for disadvantaged groups.
I would also like to come back to a small, but significant word. I am talking about the word “may” in clause 2 of the bill. This small word makes a big difference. Clause 2 of the bill reads:
|| The Minister may, before awarding a contract for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, require bidders on the proposal to provide information on the community benefits that the project will provide.
Why the word “may” and not the word “shall”? In other words, the requirement on community benefits that the project will provide is left to the discretion of the minister.
There is no guarantee that these agreements to include community benefits will in fact be implemented. I think if we really want to make a difference and generate wealth locally, we should not leave that to the discretion of the minister. If we truly wanted communities to benefit, we would establish clear structures and avoid the kind of ambiguity that we see here.
We want the goals of community benefit agreements to be an explicit part of the 's mandate. Otherwise, there would be no requirement for the government to report on the success or failure of the policy.
I am trying to believe in the legislation, and I want it to become a reality for our regions. However, when I consider the conditions of the trans-Pacific partnership, I cannot help but be pessimistic about it. When my honourable colleague introduced the bill in the House, he said, “a similar piece of legislation in Ontario, Bill 6, has survived trade agreements.”
Bill must do more than survive trade agreements. Chapter 15 of the trans-Pacific partnership does not state whether bid criteria such as those in community benefit agreements would be considered a trade barrier. If that were the case, the bill could expose Canada to trade challenges
The government has bulldozed straight ahead to ratify this trade agreement. It is clear that the government will definitely limit preferences regarding government procurement at an international level. Let us also not forget that a similar piece of legislation in Ontario, Bill 6, has never been in force at the same time as the trans-Pacific partnership. It if survives, I have to wonder what will become of it once that agreement comes into effect.
It seems to me that the bill requires a number of changes before this initiative can become a reality, despite its goal to support vulnerable populations while working on development.
As I said, we do not want this bill to be a missed opportunity. These kinds of community benefit agreements need to become a reality. It is our duty to provide our regions and our constituents with meaningful social and economic development opportunities.
Let us work on creating jobs at a local level. Through these agreements, let us create a generation of qualified workers to build a talent pool for our industries, as recommended by Canada's Building Trades Unions and the National Construction Labour Relations Alliance. Let us stimulate economic growth in our regions. Let us encourage social and economic development in our ridings and our regions.
Let us work together to make our regional economies models of development.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill , an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, regarding community benefits.
Community benefits are defined as the benefits obtained by a community, above and beyond the infrastructure project itself. These include but are not limited to local job creation, paid training, affordable housing, green space, or any other benefit identified by the community itself.
My colleagues have brought forward some concerns regarding the bill in today's debate, and previously. I would like to address some of them.
It is, in fact, a myth that the bill would increase red tape and increase costs for small- and medium-sized businesses. It is not true. In fact, Bill would speed up the approval process, thereby, saving money for small and medium-sized businesses. When communities have been consulted on the kinds of benefits that they would like from an infrastructure project and can see those benefits being obtained from an infrastructure project, they are more likely to support the development process and speed up the approval process for new development.
It is also a myth that business groups and other organizations oppose Bill . In fact, the Toronto board of trade, the Vancouver board of trade, the Montreal board of trade, and many other organizations have come out strongly for community benefit agreements as a good way, as a good economic policy, to tackle youth unemployment and to deal with the issue of including marginalized groups that are not included in the construction industry.
It is also a complete myth that Bill did not receive adequate consultation. The fact is that I have consulted extensively on the bill all across the country. The groups that I have spoken with include, but are not limited to, the United Way, the Toronto Community Benefits Network, the Atkinson Foundation, the Mowat Centre, Canada's Building Trades Union, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Carpenters' Union, the Province of Ontario, the City of Vancouver, and many others.
The Mowat Centre and the Atkinson Foundation have jointly published numerous studies that have stressed the importance of community benefit agreements for local economic growth. I have consulted all levels of government in the provinces across Canada. Having said that, my consultation process is ongoing. I have already planned many meetings across the country to ensure that I continue to consult widely on Bill .
The bill is modelled on Ontario legislation, Bill C-6. The beauty of that is that we are able to now understand what has worked and what is not working with the Ontario legislation. As such, for example, Bill would address the concern about implementation and measurement of outcomes. It would do so in two ways.
First, the bill would empower the to demand from contractors to demonstrate what they think the community benefits would be from an infrastructure project, and to demand an assessment after the completion of the project, to see whether those benefits were indeed delivered. Second, it would also require the minister to report back to Parliament once a year to show how the community benefited from various select building and repair projects.
Community benefit agreements are also in line with our government's priorities, including procurement modernization and social infrastructure promotion.
I am asking my colleagues from all sides of the House to support the bill, Bill . Help me to enable communities all across Canada to benefit from building and repair projects.
I was elected to Parliament to represent , to push and propose legislation that would benefit my constituents. Bill would do exactly that, by dramatically improving the economic local impact that infrastructure has in local communities across Canada.
This would help and many other communities across this great country.
Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): In my opinion the yeas have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 5, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
It being 1:15, the House stands adjourned until next Monday, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 1:15 p.m.)