Mr. Mark Assad (Gatineau-La Lievre):
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Kenora-Rainy River for his explanation of how to help small and medium-sized businesses in this country. This is a major concern in our party because we see that the small-business sector is the driving force of this new economy we have to put in place in Canada.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs, not big ones but rather small ones, so to speak, and we have had this kind of problem in the past with getting financing from the bank to start up a business. We know the frustration. We know about the paperwork and the banks' lack of understanding of small and medium-sized businesses in our society.
The figures speak for themselves, as we say, and that is very obvious when we see that 80 per cent of jobs in this country are generated by small and medium-sized businesses. These past few years, they have even created 90 per cent of new jobs in Canada. So, knowing that one sector of our economy, namely small and medium-sized business, accounts for 90 per cent of the new jobs created, one would think that the government would pay more attention to it. But that is not what has happened.
There is another statistic that seems almost appalling to me: 70 per cent of the business loans made by banks are to big businesses like multinational and transnational corporations; barely 30 per cent of loans go to small and medium-sized businesses, while they create over 90 per cent of the jobs. If these figures are not telling enough for a national government, I wonder what it is going to take. Sure, banks are there to make a profit. No one is disputing the fact that they are interested in making profits. But when you look at the role of a national government, we have the power to tax and to legislate. All Canadians would benefit from the government ensuring a fair balance nation-wide, but this is not what happens. We hear things such as: "The market will decide", or "we will let the market conditions decide-", but it does not work that way. We have ample proof of that.
We not only need a new policy but also a new determination and the political will to say to the banks: Now, you must think about the well-being of all Canadians. It goes without saying that small and medium sized businesses represent, for Canadians in general, the best avenue to improve our economy and to provide jobs for those who are qualified and who are looking for work. This is what our role should be.
Like my colleague from Kenora-Rainy River indicated, if necessary, we will legislate on banks and we will tell them that their most important role is to have funds available for small and medium sized businesses. It cannot be left up to the manager of each bank or to committees to decide whether a small or medium sized business will get help. They look at their balance sheet and then the paperwork follows. Things can no longer be done in this fashion. We need a very coherent and easily understood policy for everybody, and one which these people can benefit from.
Too many small and medium sized businesses have difficulty getting a line of credit from a bank, as well as a loan. Too often, when these businesses experience the least bit of problem, the bank will immediately insist that it gets paid, instead of proposing a plan which could be based over a year or two, in order to give the business a chance to increase its sales or to restructure its activity to survive. Let us not forget that jobs are at stake. But this is not what we see. We see too many small and medium
sized businesses which are literally at the mercy of banks and which are forced to dismiss people or lay them off. This is not the way to solve our problems.
Small and medium sized businesses also play a vital role in the field of high technology, inventions and innovations. There is ample proof that this sector of our economy is very much at the forefront. Of course, if we want to be part of a global market-this is the buzzword around here, we talk about globalization-we must get going. I submit that the time has come to take drastic action to cure our big problems, even if this means that we must do things which may be considered radical today.
In the past, there were changes that seemed very radical at the time, particularly during the depression, but which would be considered quite ordinary today. The big thing we have to do today is look at that part of our economy which is most beneficial for our country. Obviously, as the figures show, small and medium-sized business will certainly be the sector of our economy that will get us out of this depression. Some people would have us believe that we are in a recession and that we are getting out of it. I am sorry, but there is no evidence of that. The facts show that we are in a depression.
Small and medium-sized business can get us out of this depression. How will we do it? By giving them what they need most, making funds available to them. It does not necessarily mean asking any comer, "Do you need money? Well, here is some." That is not what we are asking. We are asking the government to set rules and insist that the banks implement this new policy. We will insist, we can do it and do not forget, that we have the power to tax, the prerogative to tax and to legislate. The government should not be at the mercy of the banks. Really, it should be the opposite, because we represent the whole country.
The figures from last year showed that small and medium-sized businesses failed more than in the past. The chartered banks lost nearly $600 million in bad loans. However, they lost $2 billion on one single customer. The chartered banks, with some customers, lost $2 billion on Olympia & York or the Campeau Corporation, over three times as much as on all small and medium-sized businesses, which have far more employees than those companies.
May 14, 1993
So you see, Mr. Speaker, there is no balance, but it is our role here to ensure balance in our economy. Until this balance is established, we will have to believe in miracles, that overnight, by some chance, the economy will suddenly recover. That is not true; that is not what is lacking. It will take policies, but especially, as I often repeat, political will so that our financial institutions, especially our banks, think of our whole country and all our fellow citizens, to make the economy recover.
We have great abilities. We must invest in people so that they can acquire technical knowledge or trades, and that is our next step. One thing the next government will do, and we will be in power, is to inaugurate a new era in our country's economy, because the banks will have to co-operate with the government to ensure that small and medium-sized business is recognized for once as the engine of our economy.
If this change is not made in the next few years, if radical policies are not put forward, we will be at the mercy of our financial institutions. We will be at the mercy of our southern neighbour who tends to monopolize everything. It is essential that we have the determination and conviction to represent all our fellow citizens, not the big interests, but the interest of every Canadian, to give them the opportunity to get a job and to progress in our country.
Subtopic: ALLOTTED DAY, S. O. 81-THE ECONOMY