Mr. Chair and members of the committee,
My name is Gail Beck. I work as a physician in Ottawa and I'm the President of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada.
The Federation of Medical Women of Canada represents Canada's women physicians, and we are honoured to have been invited to participate in your pre-budget consultations.
For this budget we are asking that the committee consider some recommendations that will fall into the realm of preventative medicine. We know you're interested in productivity, and we feel that preventing illness is the way to keep people well and able to do the tasks to which they're best suited.
In the brief we have prepared, which I am assuming is in your kits, our first set of recommendations relates to public health measures. One is for an education campaign directed toward young people regarding healthy lifestyles to combat the epidemic of obesity in Canada's children. We are looking at the very successful campaign, the anti-smoking campaign, that the federal government had. There is evidence that this was effective in convincing young people not to smoke, so we believe a similar campaign asking them to look at healthy lifestyles will also have an impact on their health in the long run.
We also know that at this time the immunization program is up for renewal, so we are asking for federal funding of vaccines, and in particular, new vaccines. We've been discussing in particular the release of the vaccine against human papillomavirus, and I want to read an excerpt from our president-elect, Dr. Janet Dollin.
||I feel privileged to be a family medicine practitioner at this time- to be a witness to the beginning of the HPV vaccine program. I feel that this will ultimately be another medical revolution that will change the face of cancer and of medical services in Canada and internationally. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, and HPV is implicated in over 99% of these cancers.
||While the need to suppress secondary effects of HPV vs the need to eradicate HPV altogether will be debated, I would caution us to address this infection as one that is important to both men and women, thus the need to include both in any strategy. Clearly we need a national strategy which is informed by our diversity.
Our second set of recommendations is a request to recognize gender as a determinant of health.
We are asking that gender analysis be an integral part of all new Health Canada program development.
Such analysis ensures that projects reflect the needs of all Canadians from the get-go.
Finally, we have seen how the House Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the expert panel on accountability mechanisms for gender equality have both made recommendations for Status of Women Canada that have never been operationalized. We are asking the Government of Canada to fund these recommendations. Our brief explains our recommendations more fully.
I am happy to address any questions you may have, either now or at a later date through the office of the federation.
Honourable members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, good afternoon. I am pleased to be here with you.
The Canadian Association of Railway Suppliers is the association of companies that make the trains, the rolling stock, freight cars, track maintenance machinery, all the hardware, including some of the noisy stuff that causes the railways a little problem at railway crossings. We're working very hard on improving those products, so bear with us and you'll see the results of our developments in the next few years. Our companies provide things like nuts and bolts, as well as big freight cars, and I'll talk a little bit more about freight cars in a minute.
We believe our industry is on the brink of big expansion because of the growth in the economy and because of the changing fuel costs. Railways, as you may know, are about five times as fuel efficient per tonne moved as road trucks are. And of course movement of freight through railways requires some innovative planning on the part of the railways and innovative planning by our members to come up with the cars and rolling stock that will achieve those gains, albeit with lower freight rates and economies of scale for the size and length of trains.
Government decisions that affect legislation on finance and budgets have a great impact on the rail industry and its ability to provide service to Canadians. Unlike other countries that Canada's producers compete with, particularly on issues like grain transportation, we have to move grain 2,000 kilometres to a port, whereas such competitors as Australia only move it a few hundred kilometres. The United States is a little bit smaller in girth, so again, it's easier for them. We have to be just that much more efficient to help our customers, the railways' customers, compete internationally.
The railway suppliers have about 60,000 employees in Canada. There are about 500 companies altogether, and that group makes a big footprint in Canada's economy. People are familiar with the railways because they see the trains, but if you stop and think about it, what you're looking at is the products of our members.
We want to see the railways invest in cleaner technology, but they need predictable, long-term funding to write off old technology and fund the new technology.
We need to see investment in environmentally sustainable transportation. The railways have come a long way in the last 25 years with greater fuel efficiency of their locomotives, and again, it's our members that have done this work for the railways.
We welcome the renewed Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, and we strongly recommend that the rail infrastructure remain an eligible item under the CSIF program.
We also support the Railway Association of Canada's submission to create a rail technology development fund from the proceeds of fuel tax collected from Canada's railways--about $75 million annually--and that this fund would be accessible to rail technology developers and manufacturers to create a more competitive environment in developing and marketing new technologies, which, in accordance with the last 15 years, do in fact reduce harmful emissions through fuel reductions and cleaner emissions from the locomotives.
We also recommend that investments be made by the federal government for commercialization of research so that innovative technologies can more easily enter the marketplace. An avenue for that has been the Transportation Development Centre, which has been Transport Canada's agency to provide funding for useful and productive research. Our members cooperate with TDC to access that funding, but it really is minimal at the present time. We need to go back to what it was 15, 20, or 25 years ago. One tends to think that these things increase with time, but actually there's one that has unfortunately diminished drastically.
Thank you very much for allowing the Canadian Meat Council to present to you this afternoon.
We represent Canada's largest agrifood sector, the meat packers and processors. At the back of our brief, you can see all the member companies we represent.
In fact, for the meat sector in Canada, exports are extremely important. We've made some very specific recommendations under the four specific questions that the committee asked, to be as clear as possible. There are two major issues facing us right now in the meat industry in Canada: the shortage of labour, largely due to a booming economy out in western Canada, and the risks associated with foreign animal diseases entering Canada.
In terms of our recommendations on skills and health, we very strongly encourage the government to continue to invest in the high-calibre veterinarians we need to guarantee our export markets and the health of Canadians. We encourage the government to extend to all Canadians its very progressive tax credit for youth sport registration, which we commend, because obesity is a problem as well. Healthy Canadians means healthy workers who continue to come to work.
We also believe, in terms of competitiveness, that we need to make changes to the foreign workers program. Right now in Canada we need to be able to extend this pilot project to get workers in quickly for longer than a one-year period. We need changes as well in the tax regime, to allow and encourage Canadians to move where the jobs are, to keep them moving.
We also need the government to deliver on its smart regulations promise. We need to move quickly with the introduction of new food products, label registrations, new ingredients, or other food-borne illness issues that we can deal with, that other countries are allowed to use but we can't.
As my colleague indicated, we rely on exports. A lot of meat gets transported across Canada, and we need to make sure that we have efficient transportation systems. We need to have new bridges and very secure rapid crossings into the United States, because they remain our major customer for beef and pork.
We need to widen the agricultural essential services designation for agricultural products. The strike at the port of Vancouver had a serious effect on meat products. We sell fresh pork to Japan, and we can't have strikes at the port of Vancouver affecting Canadian trade.
We need to invest in the future electrical supply source in Canada. We can't have another ice storm or another issue where the power is shut down. We have very time-sensitive products of huge value--$15 billion--to the Canadian economy. We need to keep this industry moving.
On the actions to secure a prosperous future, we need the Government of Canada to step up and get this WTO deal going. It's very important for us. We need some more free trade agreements that do not exclude agriculture. We have to be aggressive. Canada is an export nation, and we don't want to miss the boat.
We encourage the government to keep with its target to restrain government spending, to ensure that the value for tax dollars is monitored.
We also need the government to commit to a long-term agricultural policy framework that doesn't keep sending these ad hoc income support expenditures. We need secure funding for farmers, but we also need clear policy direction for the long term.
Finally, we do encourage the government to strengthen provincial government accountability by reducing the federal taxes and trimming non-equalization transfers to the provinces.
Our recommendations are all very clear and summarized.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I'm very pleased to present the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters budget recommendations for this round.
As you know, Canada’s manufacturing and exporting sector represents together around 24% directly of the Canadian economy. For every dollar of manufacturing output another $2.05 is generated somewhere else in the economy in the services sector and the primary sector. These are the industries and the businesses at the forefront of global competition that are competing every day and expanding business in global markets.
The challenges and changes that are facing manufacturing and international Canadian businesses operating on a global basis are outlined in the report we've distributed, Manufacturing 20/20. That's a report of our findings from over two years of consultation with over 3,500 manufacturers and exporters and community leaders across the country about the future of manufacturing and international business in Canada. The report focuses on what should be done to make sure we have a competitive manufacturing and exporting sector in this country. It points out that the success of these sectors really will determine Canada's place in a competitive world, the theme you're looking at this year.
Canada's place in a competitive world, our ability to sustain and increase the economic prosperity and the standard of living of all Canadians, depends on our ability to add value in the economic activities, the businesses, the jobs—all the activities in which we're engaged. Today our customers and our competitors are located around the world. The competition for investment, for market share, for knowledge and technology and skilled labour is pretty intense. Canadians have remarkable assets working in our favour: the richness of our natural resources, a highly educated and highly skilled workforce, our knowledge base, a highly productive business sector, and our well-developed logistics, services, and knowledge infrastructure.
Our future economic prosperity rests on our ability to grow these assets and to create greater value from them. That depends in turn on an investment strategy focused on four priorities: one, investing in technology; two, investing in innovation; three, investing in people; and four, investing in infrastructure. Our budget recommendations reflect those priorities.
To maintain investor confidence, the government must continue to ensure that budgets are balanced, that there are adequate contingency reserves to offset economic downturns, and that unspent reserves continue to be used to pay down the federal debt. To encourage Canadian businesses to invest in value-adding, productive technologies, the government should provide a two year CCA write-off for investments in new manufacturing, processing, and associated information and communication, energy, and environmental technologies.
The put-in-use rule for CCA should be eliminated. Over the long term, the government should not only maintain its commitment to lower the federal corporate tax rate to 19% by 2010, but undertake to reduce it by a further two percentage points, to 17%, by 2012.
To encourage investments in value-creating innovation, the government should improve the SR&ED tax credit system by making the credits refundable, excluding them from the calculation of the tax base, providing an allowance for international collaborative R&D, and extending the tax credit to cover costs for patenting, prototyping, product testing, and other pre-commercialization activities.
To encourage employers to invest more in upgrading the skills and capabilities of their workers, the government should introduce a training tax credit creditable against EI premiums.
To ensure that Canada’s infrastructure meets the competitive requirements of the future, the government should focus its investments on the provision of a reliable and cost-competitive supply of energy, further improvements to the security and efficiency of our borders, improved and expanded north-south and east-west logistics networks, more effective support for innovation activities on the part of Canadian businesses, and more effective financing mechanisms for Canadian exporters engaged in new market development around the world.
I would also say we need a much more efficient and much more rapid and responsive regulatory system in the country. We not only encourage the government to follow through with the objectives of the smart regulation initiative, but the one thing this committee could recommend that would have a direct impact on improving the efficiency of regulatory process at the federal level would be to require departments across the government to implement the User Fees Act that was passed two years ago.
Thank you very much. I would be glad to take questions.
Good afternoon everyone.
Thank you very much for having invited the Canadian Paediatric Society to participate in these pre-budget consultations.
A society's good health is key to its economic growth and sustainable development. Jeffrey Sachs estimated that poor health accounts for about 50% of the growth differential between rich and poor nations.
Policies and programs based on effective health promotion strategies are needed to ensure a healthy society. These represent an investment in the future.
Our brief focuses on the starting point of that investment, the health of our children and youth.
Unintentional injuries are the number one cause of death in children, adolescents, and young adults. More children die of injuries than of all childhood diseases combined. The cost of these injuries is staggering, an estimated $9 billion in Canada in 1995. The potential economic benefits of investing in injury prevention are equally impressive. European data show that one euro, for example, spent on child safety seats results in a saving of 32 euros to the economy.
Canada has certainly made remarkable progress in this domain over the last several decades, but we retain a misconception about so-called accidents. Accidents are not accidents. We can sharply reduce death and disability by providing safer physical and social environments.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that the federal government allocate $20 million this year for the development of a federal-provincial-territorial strategy on injury prevention, together with a multi-year financial commitment, which would facilitate the implementation and evaluation of related policies and programs.
The disease prevention strategy we know best, and with good reason, is our immunization program. The $300 million allocated under the national immunization strategy for new childhood vaccines has been an outstanding success, including vaccines against bacteria causing meningitis and serious pneumonia. Almost all provincial and territorial governments now make these vaccines available as part of their routine funded immunization schedules. The result is that parents who may have been unable or unwilling to pay for vaccines can now readily obtain these vaccines for their children at no cost to them. The impact of these expanded programs has already been felt.
Infectious disease prevention is especially important with the threat of an influenza pandemic. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that 15% to 35% of the Canadian population will become ill during a pandemic. Sherry Cooper compared the prospect of a flu pandemic with the Great Depression. Infectious disease outbreaks have the potential for huge costs. The Bank of Canada estimated that the 2003 SARS outbreak caused a 0.6% drop in the GDP. While it was devastating to those involved, the scope of the SARS outbreak was very small compared with that of an influenza pandemic.
The CPS recommends that current funding for the provincial childhood vaccine programs be made permanent and that it be reviewed annually to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, have equal access to new vaccines approved by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Lastly, we recommend the continued allocation of $10 million annually to the Public Health Agency to ensure that the objectives of the national immunization strategy are achieved.
The costs associated with treating mental illness affecting youth have increased in recent decades. These costs are expected to increase by 50 per cent over the next 15 years. Twenty per cent of children and adolescents are afflicted with emotional, developmental or behavioural problems.
The cost to the Canadian economy of mental illness is estimated at $30 billion a year. This includes direct costs to the health and social services as well as indirect costs from family breakdown, poverty, disability, and crime.
In May 2006 the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released an outstanding report on mental health in Canada called Out of the Shadows at Last. Among its findings it concluded that “children and youth are at a significant disadvantage when compared to other groups affected by mental illness, in that the failings of the mental health system affect them more acutely and severely.”
The CPS calls on the federal government to invest the $536 million annually recommended in the Senate Report Out of the Shadows at Last. It had many recommendations, but principally it called for developing a national and coordinated strategy for mental illness and mental health.
I'd like to remind you today that I am not an accountant, nor am I an economist, but I'd like to show you what I see as a stay-at-home mother. I appreciate being invited to speak to you today regarding financial benefits to the economy.
My initial thought for this is “fund the child.” “Fund the child” is an idea that many groups and advocates have fought for over the 30 years this has been going on. The idea behind ”fund the child” is that the funding must flow with the children. Doing this, the parents would be able to choose their own personal style of child care, whether it is child-caring your own children at home, day cares, or everything in between. The universal child care benefit that is in place right now is showing great faith by funding the child without discrimination. We appreciate that the current government shows equality in the universal child care benefit for all child care choices.
There is still, however, discrimination by other government departments, in this case in taxation, among families and their different child care choices.
I have prepared three scenarios for the basic 2005 taxes with the help of UFile.ca. In these scenarios, I have made up one family with three different ways of child care. For every tax preparation we have for the Simpson family, Homer and Marge have three children—Bart who is twelve, Lisa who is ten, Maggie who is two—with the same amount of salary and income tax deducted. The difference, though, is in the child care expenses and income tax brackets.
The first scenario shows Homer as a father at home who is able to child-care his own children, where Marge is the main breadwinner, working nine to five Monday through Friday and has an estimated salary of $80,000 per year.
The second scenario shows Homer and Marge both working. They both work shifts to ensure one parent is at home with the children at all times. Homer works four to midnight, and Marge works 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They have a combined estimated income of $80,000.
The third scenario shows Homer and Marge both working while using full-time day care for Maggie, who is two; before- and after-school and summer camps for Bart, who is twelve, and for Lisa, who is ten. Child care costs for day care and summer camps for all three children are estimated at $19,200 a year.
In the first scenario, where there is a stay-at-home parent, they are paying in a 21.5% tax bracket and have no child care expenses, yet Homer does child care in the home. The result of their income tax for 2005 is to owe $3,534.64.
The second scenario, wherein both parents work and are able to do child care on their own, but which shows a high strain on the marriage, puts them in the 15.4% tax bracket. The result of their income tax for 2005 is a refund of $1,306.59.
In the third scenario, where both parents work and use outside-of-the-home child care while being able to deduct the expenses, they are also in an 11.1% tax bracket. The result of their income tax for 2005 is a refund of $4,764.41.
This shows a full discrimination against the single-income family. They are paying over $8,000 more in income taxes. The second family, with two incomes and no outside day care costs, are also discriminated against by paying over $3,400 in income taxes. It seems the family that has both parents working and uses centre-based child care is highly favoured through the Canadian tax system.
There is no difference in the child care costs of all three scenarios, except who does the child caring. Each family pays for breakfast, lunch, snacks, outings, movies, toys, etc. Everything the day care does for family number three and similar families, the other families pay the exact same amount to do at home instead. Yet the economy will not recognize this as a child care cost. Therefore, the taxation is discriminating against anyone who does not use outside child care.
This can easily be rectified by income splitting. Income splitting is one way the family, as a unit, can pay taxes. Whether the family unit is mom-to-mom, dad-to-dad, or mom and dad doesn't matter; income splitting will achieve the goal for equalizing the parents' income taxes payable, thereby eliminating the tax bracket discrimination of the individual child care choice.
This still leaves us with a tax reduction for parents who use outside-of-the-home child care. But we did not have time for the full explanation of “fund the child” today, so I shall leave that one for another day.
I have recommendations, as follows.
Since parents are in the best position to decide what their children need, funding support for their decisions shouldn't be contingent on any one choice. Amending the tax code to allow income splitting removes the penalty currently being paid by single-income households that choose to have a parent at home caring for the child.
This measure, along with increasing the choice in child care allowance, would empower all parents, no matter what their choices are. Both are important steps toward a child care policy that allows Canadians to be successful, at home and in the workforce.
The supporting argument is that these two measures also achieve other important goals, including strengthening Canada as a democratic, entrepreneurial nation; enhancing the freedom and privacy of Canadian citizens; reducing the tax burdens that keep families from achieving the goal of home ownership; reducing the tax burdens that can keep Canadian companies from expanding so they can provide good jobs for parents who are working outside of the home; eliminating the cost overruns, diversion of money, and lack of accountability that currently pervade the child care administrations of lower tier governments; enhancing child care quality by focusing on consumer protection through regulation and licensing; enhancing child care quality by empowering parents and fostering competition among providers; and growing a sustainable licensed child care industry by eliminating barriers to private investments and parents.
I've left background material from associations that represent the child care programs throughout Ontario and Canada that are all in support of this position, of both at-home parents and parents who work outside of the home.
Hi. My name is Monica Lysack. I'm the executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada.
The CCAC was founded in 1983 to promote quality, inclusive, publicly funded, non-profit child care accessible to all. The association's membership reaches more than four million Canadians, including parents, caregivers, researchers, and students, as well as women's, anti-poverty, labour, social justice, disability, and rural organizations.
In order for Canada to prosper in the world of the future, it's necessary that we invest in our own potential. It is especially critical that we offer adequate support to ensure that children acquire the foundations for lifelong health, learning, and skill development. As is already recognized in most other developed countries, quality child care programs help build these foundations and also support the ongoing learning, skill development, and labour-force attachment of parents.
Public investments that improve access to quality child care services are affordable because these benefits significantly outweigh the costs involved. As it conducts the 2006 pre-budget consultations with a clear focus on Canada's place in a competitive world, we offer the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance the following points and recommendations:
First, quality child care services support children, families, and communities, and the economy and will improve Canada's competitive stance with peer nations.
Second is a qualifier. The benefits from child care will only be realized through a focused public investment strategy that ensures that families have access to quality services.
Third, to build the child care system that Canadians want and need, the CCAC calls on the federal government to restore and increase sustained long-term federal funding to the provinces and territories. Federal transfers must be specifically dedicated to improving and expanding child care services based on provincial and territorial plans to advance quality, inclusion, and affordability. The briefing note submitted to this committee, and available on the CCAC website, elaborates on each of these points. I'd just like to highlight a few.
As a society, Canada invests less in child care services than most other developed countries. In fact, there is an OECD study being released this week in Italy that shows a table with Canada at the bottom with the lowest investment of the countries profiled. That's why our patchwork of services ranks poorly in international comparisons, and most importantly, why it fails to meet children's and families' needs. To address this concern, the federal government has announced a child care spaces initiative, which they indicate will have incentives that are flexible enough to meet the needs of all families and that will work for all sizes and types of employers. This is taken from the universal child care website.
What is the price tag for this all-encompassing initiative? The federal government's website indicates a financial commitment of $250 million each year over the next five years. On its own, it's a bargain by international standards for achieving such far-reaching objectives. What that website doesn't clearly say is that this $250 million annual budget replaces previously committed and dedicated federal child care funds of $1.2 billion, for a net loss, a cut, of $950 million.
The mismatch between this initiative's goals and financial reality reaches mythic proportions. Although the federal government will provide only 38% of the funds that are flowing to communities now, and 21% of what was committed to communities for 2007, through this initiative the federal government claims it will meet the needs of all families, regardless of their hours of work and whether they live in cities, small towns, or rural areas. It will work with the business community, non-profit organizations, employers, and provincial and territorial governments to ensure that the initiative complements what is already in place.
There is no evidence here to support children's healthy development or to guarantee standards for quality.
With these cuts, $212 million from Quebec, $352 million from Ontario—you see the pattern—we're going backwards from what the OECD has recommended.
Therefore the CCAC calls on the federal government to adopt the recommendations in our brief: to restore and increase sustained, long-term federal funding to the provinces and territories, enact legislation, replace the capital incentives for child care spaces with dedicated capital transfers to the provinces and territories, and provide effective income supports for Canadian families.
Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting us here today.
Given the importance of the country's air transportation system to its economic competitiveness, we trust you'll find our comments useful to the theme of your hearings.
I'm speaking today on behalf of my own organization as well as the International Air Transport Association and the Air Transport Association of America. Together we represent every significant passenger and cargo carrier operating in Canadian airspace.
Before getting to our specific recommendations, I would ask committee members to keep a few questions in mind to frame the discussion.
Is fiscal policy for the aviation sector really working, when businesses in our sector continually fail, such as Canada 3000, Jetsgo, Roots Air, Royal Airlines, to name a few?
Are these policies working, when businesses announce that they're forced to scale back operations, as CanJet did, or when the largest business in this sector, Air Canada, is forced into creditor protection, or when international airlines are forgoing new Canadian operations because it is too expensive to operate here?
Airlines today are extremely efficient, having engaged in massive cost-cutting exercises to meet the public demand for high-quality, low-cost air travel.
While we cut costs, however, the federal government continually adds to our tax burden, treating air transportation as a source of tax revenue to fund other priorities, not as a strategic asset to grow business and tourism.
As outlined in our written submission, last year the federal government took an additional $800 million out of the airline sector through a series of industry-specific tax measures, on top of all the other taxes we pay just like every other business in this country.
This is over and above the actual cost of operating the country's airports and air navigation system, which our customers already pay for through various fees and charges on their ticket.
So respectfully, we're not here looking for a handout. Instead, we are looking for government to get its hand out of our pocket and our customers' pockets.
Fixing this imbalance, we would suggest, is not only the right thing to do but a smart thing to do. How better to encourage stability in this industry and new investment and increased services than to lower the cost of doing business?
Let me offer some specifics. Long-term, the government should eliminate three industry-specific taxes: the $300 million collected a year from airport rent, the $100 million collected from the aviation fuel excise tax, and the $400 million from the air travellers security charge. All add to the high cost of our industry.
In the interest of short-term practicality, however, let me outline our immediate priority: the crippling airport rent burden at Toronto's Pearson Airport.
Pearson is the most expensive airport in the world at which to land a plane. A large part of the blame lies with the federal government, which this year alone will drain over $150 million from Pearson's budget through airport rent, costs that are passed along to airlines and passengers through fees and charges.
Let me be very clear. No services are provided in return for that rent. It isn't really rent at all; it is a simple but brutal tax. Pearson has already paid over a billion dollars in rent and will pay another three billion by 2020—more than 14 times the value of that facility when it was transferred by the federal government.
Consider as well that all the investments and improvements at that facility have already been paid for by the users, not by government.
Other airports simply don't have this cost burden, and in the U.S. many of them are actually subsidized.
Last year's rent reform actually changed the way rents are collected, to the detriment of Pearson. They went from paying a flat fee to being put alone in the highest tax bracket of this new progressive rent scheme.
So we have a rent formula that charges airports more as they grow. In a country that needs a critical mass of passengers in one place in order to generate new international travel opportunities, it is the ultimate “penny wise and pound foolish” approach.
How foolish is the notion of charging airport rents? Well, for starters, Peru and Ecuador are the only other countries in the world that do it—not exactly lofty company when we're talking about international centres of aviation.
The practical effect of Pearson's rent bill is dramatic. For an average airline, operating a 747 into Pearson is almost double the cost of Tokyo, triple the cost of Hong Kong. London, Paris, and New York are all cheaper as well.
To compare it with the regional North American hub competitors, the $24,000 turnaround cost at Pearson compares to $16,000 in Chicago, $14,000 in Denver, and $12,000 in Detroit. If you're looking to hub your flights at an airport in North America, why would you choose Toronto?
You've been presented with a detailed brief on the rent situation at Pearson by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. We fully support their proposal. Included in our brief is an economic impact analysis of the rent cut at Pearson. It clearly shows that government revenue lost from a rent cut will be more than made up for in increased economic activity, increased annual passenger traffic, and tax revenue for the government. A Pearson rent cut makes sense from a policy point of view and an economic one.
Air policy can and should be used to promote growth and investment and as a strategic asset to enhance Canada's place in a competitive world. But while other countries and regions are building their whole economies around low-cost air transportation, in Canada we are taxing airports and airlines to fund other government spending priorities.
So to answer the questions I posed earlier, Canada's fiscal policy for the aviation sector is simply not working. Airlines are failing or scaling back operations, thousands of jobs have been lost, and our only potential international hub is the most expensive airport in the world. We are simply missing out on tremendous economic potential.
I strongly encourage the committee to act on our recommendations to put aviation in Canada back on a flight plan for success.
Thank you very much for your time.
Bonjour. My name is Linda Silas. I am a nurse by profession, a proud New Brunswicker, and president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union.
We represent over 135,000 nurses, in every province except Quebec. Our members work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, communities, and in our homes. We're celebrating our 25th anniversary this year as the national voice for working nurses, and we speak at all levels of government, so here we are.
We tried to base our recommendations on evidence-based policies to improve patient care, working conditions, and our public health care system. We also tried to stay very focused on what we know best, which is patient care, health care, and women's concerns.
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank the committee for this consultation, and we're hoping provincial unions will also be able to meet with you across the country. We'll share with you our views on what we believe should be in the next federal budget or should not.
We outline five needed investments. The federal government must step up to better fund the following: a national pharmacare program; Canada Health Infoway; Canada's health care infrastructure; a pan-Canadian human resources strategy based on innovation, coordination and research; and post-secondary education matched with continuing education.
First, we need federal support for a national pharmacare program. Last year, 396 million prescriptions were written in Canada. Only one out of three Canadians have some kind of protective cap on out-of-pocket drug costs, only 58% of workers. If government wants to put money back into the pockets of Canadians, cover their essential drug treatments.
Second and third, we need federal support for a public health infrastructure and infostructure. Many of our hospitals are older than most of our patients. We need newer and different infrastructure to assist in tackling wait time, such as community care centres to reduce non-urgent care that is clogging up emergency rooms--that's where I used to work, and I guarantee you, you don't want to be there at 3 a.m. We also need investments in computer technology to bring our health care system into the 21st century, as recommended most recently by Dr. Brian Postl, the past federal wait-time adviser. Canada Health Infoway investment should be doubled.
Fourth and fifth, we need serious investment in our health human resources. Within a decade, Canada will be short 113,000 nurses, and the U.S., one million nurses short. We need to invest in post-secondary education and turn out more health care professionals. In this competitive environment of health care workers, we need to be innovative and coordinate and research the recruitment and retention of health care workers. The federal government can play a strong role in readying this workforce for the future through a pan-Canadian health human resource strategy, innovation, research, and through the use of EI programs such as the current apprenticeship program for building trades. From education to children, a national child care program will also greatly support the health care workforce, most of which are women. We need strong leadership here to build long-term partnerships with provinces and territories.
I will conclude by saying we strongly believe we do not need more tax cuts. In a poll we commissioned last January, 83% of Canadians said we would have a great health care system if only our governments would get their act together. Nurses believe that our five-point plan will guarantee the success of the ten-year plan to strengthen health care and reduce wait times in all sectors. Remember, a healthy population is the key ingredient for a healthy economy.
Thank you. Good afternoon.
I'm the president and CEO of the Canadian Lung Association. We are one of Canada's oldest health charities; we were 100 in the year 2000.
We are a partnership of provincial organizations dedicated to improving the lung health and the quality of life for the six million Canadians suffering from lung diseases, such as asthma, pneumonia, flu, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and TB. We provide patient support programs, rehab, education, and world-class research, and we make an important contribution to the health care system by supporting fellowships in many provinces to ensure access to well-trained respiratory experts.
Please let me also introduce my director of public issues, Mr. Luc Lapointe, who will help me answer questions you may have.
You've asked those who appear before you to answer questions about key measures that could be undertaken by the federal government to effectively serve the economic interests of Canadians.
We believe that health and the economic well-being of Canadians are inextricably linked. The cost to individuals, businesses, and the economy of neglecting lung disease is well documented and sobering. The cost in today's dollars per year, both direct and indirect, of lung disease for the economy is estimated at $15 billion. This staggering price tag includes direct health care costs related to the rising numbers of emergency room visits for children with asthma. It also includes the cost of lost productivity at work and disability because of chronic and infectious lung disease.
Lung disorders are the leading cause of short-term disability and are one of the top five costs for the health care system. The World Health Organization says that by the year 2020 chronic lung disease will be the third leading cause of death in the world. Yet our approach to combating this increasingly deadly and crippling problem has been neither comprehensive nor coordinated. The amount dedicated to research in this area is a mere 2% of the $4.6 billion for health research funded by the federal government since 1999. We believe this level of investment cannot produce the needed impact.
As the voice of lung health in Canada, we felt it was our responsibility to take the lead in developing a coordinated strategy to address the burden of lung disease. In collaboration with key stakeholders, including patient groups, physicians, industry groups, environmentalists, experts, aboriginal groups, and government at every level, we asked the question, “What plan or framework would have the most impact on the health and economic well-being of Canadians?” At a stakeholder meeting in late April, these stakeholders gave an answer: we need to coordinate our efforts; we must develop a comprehensive plan of action to direct our efforts in the most effective ways to improve lung health. The proposed lung health framework will provide a clear picture of the state of lung disease in Canada: where the gaps and efforts to combat it exist and how stakeholders can collaborate for maximum impact. The two-year plan will, after clear deliberation and research, propose a coordinated approach to the prevention and management of chronic respiratory diseases.
We estimate the required investment in this strategy by the federal government over the next two years will be $3 million. This investment will provide a well thought out set of actions that will tell us where to concentrate our joint efforts to improve the health of Canadians and reduce the $15 billion burden.
The Lung Association has been pleased to work with the Ministry of the Environment over the last several years on air quality indexes and through a variety of programs that work to ameliorate the health effects of poor indoor and outdoor air quality. We feel it is essential that both indoor and outdoor air quality issues form a significant piece of the work of the federal government and of the lung health strategy. We urge support for programs that will substantially address air quality issues, both indoor and outdoor, as they relate to respiratory health.
It's been our experience that one of the key elements of both prevention and appropriate management of disease to prevent costly visits to emergency rooms in particular is evidence-based, easily understood health information. We currently partner with the Canadian Health Network, a program of the Public Health Agency of Canada, to provide this information. We have found this to be a cost-effective means to gather and disseminate important health information to Canadians. We urge continued government investment in this program.
Tuberculosis is another area in urgent need of continued investment. A 2000 study by Dr. Dick Menzies, the Canadian expert on TB control, demonstrated that the cost of treating this disease domestically is an average of $27,250 versus just $20 to treat TB in a less developed country. We urge the government to continue to support international tuberculosis control programs.
I have a final word about tobacco control, which we heard a little bit about earlier today. Tobacco is still the number one risk factor in several lung diseases, and the cost to the health care system, the economy, and Canadians has been well documented. Legislation has proven to be the single most effective tool against tobacco. The federal government has jurisdiction over federal buildings to make them smoke-free, and we see no reason why the federal government could not follow the example of several provinces and make these buildings smoke-free zones.
In closing, through investment in a framework process we will be able to integrate recommendations on research, policy, and programs to have a significant impact on the health of Canadians and the economic burden of lung disease. We look forward to meeting with many of you on October 16, when our board, provincial members, patients, senior physicians, and experts will be in town to meet with their members of Parliament to provide more information on these important issues.
Thank you for your time. We look forward to answering any questions you might have.
Good afternoon, and thank you to the members of the committee for granting us this hearing.
I'm here today on behalf of ACE Aviation and its corporate family, including Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz. As a collective, the ACE family of companies provides passenger and cargo service to 75 Canadian communities, 48 U.S. cities, and an additional 56 international destinations, with an ever-expanding fleet of 329 aircraft. Last year we transported over 30 million passengers and were ranked the best airline in North America by Skytrax, an award based on survey results collected from 12 million passengers.
We employ 32,000 people worldwide, the vast majority of those jobs located here in Canada and of the highly skilled variety. We have emerged confidently from CCAA protection with a reinvigorated business plan and a re-energized workforce, and we have begun to show modest profits over the last several reporting periods. In short, we are succeeding.
As it relates directly to your theme of economic competitiveness, despite all of our efforts, our gains in market share, our substantial year over year decreases in unit costs, our record load factors, and all of the huge strides forward we've made, we are not nearly as competitive today as we should be because of government policy.
The continued existence of ground rent obligations imposed by the federal government on Canadian airports is an outstanding example of a policy that limits not only the development of the aviation industry in Canada but also serves to discourage economic growth in communities across the country. By continuing to charge ground rents, as Fred mentioned, Canada joins just Peru and Ecuador as the only jurisdictions where airport ground rents continue to be collected. It is our firm belief that the previous government's decision to impose airport ground rents was short-sighted and ill-advised, and we would urge that this decision be revisited.
At the time of the federal government transfer of airports to local authorities by way of long-term lease arrangements, which included rent payments, the rationale for the imposition of those rents was that the government should receive fair value for the transferred assets, which were then valued at $2 billion. This value has, by any metric, been recouped; therefore, any further revenues accruing to the government in this regard are in fact taxes without legislative mandate. As a result, in accordance with intended government policy at the time of divestiture, airport ground rents should be eliminated entirely. In brief, there was never any intention for airports, and by extension airlines and airline customers, to be used in perpetuity as sources of incremental tax revenue by the federal treasury. Ground rents were to be a temporary measure to allow the Crown to obtain a reasonable return on its investment.
Now, Fred has already covered the situation at Toronto, but let me just say that I echo his sentiments and would wholly support any solutions specific to the situation at Pearson. As it is our hub, we bear the cost of that situation more than any other airline in the world.
Another business challenge for the Canadian aviation industry is the federal excise tax imposed on the domestic sale of jet fuel. Originally levied for the express purpose of fighting the federal deficit, the revenues from this tax are presently channelled into the consolidated revenue fund. This tax is imposed on an absolutely fundamental business input, which only serves to unfairly escalate costs and which in turn distorts market and erodes competitiveness. Moreover, this regressive tax places domestic operators at a distinct disadvantage in the global and North American markets, where, by contrast, U.S. carriers have a fuel tax burden approximately one-quarter the size of Canadian carriers. Eliminating the federal excise tax on jet fuel would represent a tangible step towards the reduction of the elevated cost base faced by domestic operators and help to fully unlock the potential of the Canadian aviation industry.
The last limiting factor I would like to address today is the air travellers security charge, which is widely acknowledged to be among the highest aviation security taxes in the world, as well as the panoply of new and ever-increasing security costs assumed directly or indirectly by air carriers, including airport policing, advanced passenger information access, and cabin searches.
As part of the national security mandate, all of these costs should be assumed by the government, not only because air travel is an important driver of our economy, and as such of direct benefit to all Canadians and to the communities in which we live, but also because the guiding principle of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act was to protect the public and not simply protect airline passengers. The government should acknowledge this principle and assume its obligation to this important national security priority. Simply put, if aviation security is indeed a crucial component of our national security, it should be funded out of general revenues, and air travellers and airlines should not be forced to bear the full cost burden of Canadians at large.
These three glaring examples of short-sighted fiscal policy are even more egregious when viewed in the context of the Open Skies agreement Canada has signed with the United States. When implemented, that agreement will permit Canadian airlines unprecedented access to U.S. markets and will yield opportunities for growth that are truly impossible to calculate.
Although our airline is appropriately structured and positioned to compete in the North American market, our domestic taxation framework frankly is not. Only by addressing that inequity between ourselves and our counterparts in the U.S. can we hope to recognize the full potential of our airline and become the powerful economic engine that the ACE family of companies should be for all Canadian communities.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to make the case for the next federal budget to be a budget to make poverty history.
The Canadian Make Poverty History campaign has the support of over a quarter of a million Canadians and of over 800 organizations that have signed on to our platform calling for more and better aid, trade justice, cancelling the debt, and ending child poverty in Canada.
The next federal budget could make a significant contribution to making poverty history by increasing Canadian aid by 18% annually and committing to a plan to meet the internationally agreed target for aid spending of 0.7% of gross national income by the year 2015.
More than 800 million people go to bed hungry and 50,000 people die every day from poverty-related causes. I know the government has many priorities to consider, but I would really ask you to search your hearts and say whether or not poverty reduction should be at the top of the agenda. How many other things stack up against the kind of death and misery that poverty is responsible for?
It doesn't have to be this way, and that's what makes it so terrible. If we choose, if we have the will to act, we now have in our hands in this world the technology and the resources that would enable us to make poverty history.
Former Canadian prime minister and Nobel peace prize laureate Lester B. Pearson was instrumental in setting the 0.7% of GNI target for international development assistance. This target was reaffirmed recently by the United Nations when it adopted the millennium declaration and the millennium development goals.
Other donors have stepped up, but Canada lags far behind. We are currently giving only 0.32% of our GNI, or less than half of what we should be giving. I would like to note that Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an election promise, during the election campaign, to match the OECD donor performance average, which was 0.42% of GNI in 2005. At a minimum, we believe the next federal budget needs to deliver on this election promise, and there needs to be a longer-term commitment to a plan for how Canada can meet the 0.7% aid target by 2015.
But more aid by itself is not enough. We also need better aid, and that is why the Make Poverty History campaign supports Bill C-293, the Development Assistance Accountability Act. I see that Mr. McKay has just left to be part of the debate today in the House of Commons. We urge the government and members of Parliament from all parties to support speedy passage of this bill.
I also want to note that just increasing our multilateral aid to the World Bank would not, in my opinion, meet the test of better aid either. I was very interested to hear today that the U.K. government has actually announced it will withhold its contribution to the World Bank because of its serious concerns about the quality of aid.
In 1989 the House of Commons unanimously resolved to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. More than fifteen years later and five years after the deadline of the year 2000, what's happened? One in six Canadian children is still poor. We must end child poverty in Canada. The federal government could take a big step towards this goal by increasing the Canada Child Tax Benefit to $4,900 per child. In fact, since Make Poverty History established that as a goal, several years have passed, and a number of organizations are now saying it should be $5,000.
Ending child poverty is an important first step, but ultimately we need to find a way to ensure that no one is poor, and that is why the Make Poverty History campaign in Canada is calling for the federal government to involve groups where poverty is predominant, such as aboriginal people, women, minorities, and youth, in the design and implementation of a domestic poverty reduction strategy.
The governments of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have taken the lead in developing comprehensive poverty reduction strategies, but provincial governments do not have the jurisdiction over all the policy tools required to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty. That is why we need leadership from the federal government working with other levels of government to develop a national poverty reduction strategy for Canada.
The federal government could take leadership in areas of its jurisdiction by implementing a national housing strategy for social housing, implementing a national child care and early childhood education program, improving employment insurance programs so that more of those who really need it can qualify, reinstating a federal minimum wage and setting it at $10 an hour to ensure that someone working full-time will be able to escape poverty, creating a national pharmacare plan, and implementing the aboriginal poverty reduction measures that were part of the Kelowna accord between first nations and other levels of government.
Investment in poverty reduction and supporting participation in the labour market through positive incentives will yield many economic and social benefits, including boosting productivity, improving population health and lowering the cost of health care, and boosting labour market supply to help address looming labour shortages that could arise from an aging workforce.
Thank you, Chair, and I'd like to thank the panellists. We had a good wide-ranging set of topics here, everything from airplanes and airports to make poverty history.
Let me start with Linda Silas of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union. I have had the chance to get to meet you a few times since I was elected. You mentioned you're a proud New Brunswicker, and I'm sure the whole committee sends its congratulations to Shawn Graham today in New Brunswick on his big victory yesterday.
Can I get that unanimous?
The Chair: Order and relevance, Mr. Savage.
Mr. Michael Savage: Nonetheless, you've been a good passionate voice for nurses in Canada and health care in Canada overall.
Since Mr. McCallum usually leads off, he goes into a long preamble--I'm not going to go into a long preamble--but I do want to indicate my belief in the same philosophy that you espoused that tax cuts are not always the answer. In fact tax cuts that don't invest in productivity and particularly, I would argue, tax cuts that disproportionately assist those least in need are not the answer. If we're going to maintain a publicly funded quality health care system, we need to take some of your recommendations very seriously.
I want to ask you about a recommendation in your brief--education and training. Your recommendation is that the federal government provide long-term funding commitments to post-secondary education programs. You talked about how medical schools, nursing schools, a lot of health professional schools were cut back in the 1990s. I can recall that. I recall the argument in my own province of Nova Scotia. We weren't going to need as many doctors. We couldn't afford to have all these places, and the same with other health professionals. But I think it's clear now that we do need more funding for post-secondary education and in your case in the health professional field, specifically, nursing.
When you talk about long-term funding commitments, are you talking about a dedicated education transfer, handing money to the provinces to let them implement, since post-secondary education is primarily a provincial responsibility? Are you talking about direct federal investment perhaps in institutions and students?
I agree with respect to the tax cuts. I think the public health system has proven itself. It went into difficulties in the 1990s, and we've had Romanow, and we've had Michael Dechter, who were all agents of the cutbacks. I haven't heard Frank McKenna—and I was there in the 1990s—say that it was a mistake to balance the budget on the back of health care. Now we're trying to fix it.
Also, the finance department—I'm trying to recall the year, but it was about four years ago—had P.J. Deveraux do a study of the sustainability of the health care system in the future, on a comparison with the GDP. It's about 10% of it now, and economist Deveraux said it was going to be like that for the next 10 years, the way we were going. So it was stable.
With regard to funding for education, there are two parts to it. Yes, you need to continue helping the provinces, helping the education programs, but I believe you have to give credit where credit is due. The federal government needs to give students notice, in the future of education, that they're giving the money. I'm a true believer, in a bursary system, in showing a student in New Brunswick or a nurse from Saskatchewan that the money he or she is getting is directly from the federal government, directly from being part of this great country. It's two avenues.
The schools of nursing, the medical schools, and CMA, the Canadian Medical Association, presented to you last year on the $1 billion fund over five years, and we supported that. We need some kind of initiative, without telling the provinces what to do. They need to be appropriately funded, and then we need this initiative overall to help the humungous shortage we have in health care professionals.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for your presentations.
I'd also like to thank Mr. Savage for his comment, which I would have made anyway.
The Bloc Québécois is not alone in opposing the direct transfer of federal funds to areas under Quebec jurisdiction. May I remind you that when the millennium scholarship program was introduced, even students and student federations were opposed to this initiative. I'm convinced the same feeling applies with respect to other institutions under provincial jurisdiction.
Among other things, you recommend in your submission that child care legislative measures be introduced, although you emphasize that the right of Quebec and of First Nations to set up their own child care systems should be respected. I congratulate you on clarifying this point. It's not something I'll do every time. For us, it's a given, even though the federal government has financial responsibility for transferring to the provinces the funding they require to meet their obligations.
That being said, I have a question for you. There has been some discussion of a legislative measure respecting child care which would set a number of conditions. University professors and students who have appeared before the committee have also called for legislation to establish pan-Canadian standards in education. The Canada Health Act ostensibly sets out universal principles, but this has never stopped the federal government from withdrawing unilaterally from health care funding.
I'm wondering if perhaps your proposal should include--and this is true of other very generous proposals calling for pan-Canadian standards--an obligation on the part of the federal government to fund child care services to legally established levels.
For example, the Canada Health Act could stipulate, as Mr. Romanow recommended, that the federal government must assume 25% of health care costs. Principles are all well and good, but it's not fair to offload problems onto the province's shoulders.
Would your association be receptive to the idea of a legislative provision requiring the federal government to fund child care? How would you feel about that?
The same goes for health care workers. Perhaps we could include this in our recommendations. Legislation alone isn't enough. We need legislation that assigns financial responsibilities to the federal government.
Mr. Howlett, you've also made a number of suggestions to which my previous comments also apply. Therefore, I won't belabour the point.
You call for improvements to the employment insurance program, a provincial responsibility, with a view to increasing the number of persons eligible for EI. I don't disagree with you. Today, only a handful of those who pay premiums are entitled to collect EI, which wasn't at all the case ten years ago before the Axworthy reform.
However, you haven't touched on the question of replacement income. In fact, benefits now only replace 55% of previous income earned, down from 60%. Moreover, the benefit entitlement period has been reduced, which means that many people fall into a black hole. Indeed, before they are able to go back to work, seasonal workers exhaust their EI benefits. This topic has been under discussion for several years now.
Could you elaborate further on your recommendation that the employment insurance regime be improved?
Let me be clear about how our organization uses our funding, because I think you're getting at some things or are making perhaps some implications that aren't quite correct.
As I said, we have agreements for all funding we receive federally for a fee for service. We have a clear outline of deliverables—research papers, consultations, and so on. We are absolutely crystal clear in our accounting of it. We have separate bank accounts; we deliver the reports we agreed to deliver. Whether or not people like what they say is another issue, but all of that is very straightforward within the parameters that are set by those programs.
The funding for the poll—incidentally, I have brought copies, if anyone is interested in having a look at it—came from donations. I'm happy to provide a clear accounting of the donations, but we have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from far-reaching groups. You hear around this table how important it is to the anti-poverty movement; you hear how important it is to the nurses; you hear how important it is to parents all across this country. We receive donations as small as five dollars from child care workers who make appallingly low wages to several thousand dollars from labour groups and from other organizations.
So that is the funding. It goes in a separate bank account. That's the funding that is used to do the political lobbying, the polling, all of those kinds of things. It's funded completely separately.
Now I've got my blood boiling so much that I don't know where to start.
There's such a misrepresentation on the issue of child care that it's.... As I said to Rick Dykstra and others before, they need to tour some of the different child care programs in this country to really appreciate what is being recommended. We just sat here in the last panel and listened to an individual from an organization called Care of the Child Coalition. I didn't hear Rick ask her any questions about where she got her money. Here we have people who suggest that on the one hand, people like Monica Lysack are talking about institutionalized day care; on the other hand, we have people like those in the Care of the Child Coalition talking about home settings with baked cookies and flower gardens.
What has to be emphasized here is that we're talking about an investment in an area that will produce options for women and families so that their children will be well cared for, whether that be in an organized child care space, a home day care setting, a rural co-op, or a workplace centre. The full range is part of what Monica is talking about, and I think Monica needs now to address, for Rick and others, the issue of what happens if we don't invest in child care that creates options for women and families so that they can use their skills to fill the skills shortage we've all heard about in terms of this competitive economy. What happens if we don't invest, and who loses, and are you prepared then?
Do you think the goal of the Conservatives is really to get women back into the home so that they can bring in cheap foreign labour without any standards? What is the real objective here? Why aren't we ensuring that people with the skills can access good child care so that they can be both good parents and good contributors to the economy?
I'm sorry for the rant, but I needed to say that for the benefit of all the child care workers out there who work so hard.
I appreciate that. While it is a great tactic to deflect from the real issue by making insinuations about federal funding to organizations and so on, you're right--the bottom line here is what this means for Canada, for our future productivity. Is this an issue about children? Is this an issue about parents and their ability to be in the workforce? Is this about Canada's economy? Child care is about all of those things. We know that if we don't invest in Canada's future, in our children, we are going to be in trouble.
I was in Alberta recently. There were signs everywhere; 7-Eleven is offering signing bonuses to people to try to get them to work there. Their coverage for child care is among the lowest of all provinces. They're scrambling to try to figure out how to address this problem. Seventy percent of the parents of young children are in the workforce. That's the reality. We can wish something different; we can try to provide incentives for something different....
On the whole idea of funding the child, let me say that again, despite the fact that we've been characterized in the media and so on as being opposed to stay-at-home parents, the reality is that if you look through our documents over the last three decades, you will see that the CCAC has always advocated for family policy. We have supported expanded maternity and parental leave to support families to be able to stay home during those important early years.
Do we think it's a great idea to fund parents to stay home for the first five years? Sure, why not?
Why not? Because it would cost about $80 billion a year. If we can afford that, let's look at it.
I don't think so. We can't just look at the amount it would cost. If we look at the amount of the maternity and paternity benefit, we also have to look at the reduced tax contributions of those working parents. Those working parents are contributing to our economy, and with our shrinking workforce and our shrinking birth rate, we have to address those issues. We have to do that by addressing it through a very systematic approach to providing early learning and child care, both to support labour force participation as well as to ensure that our youngest citizens get a good start in life, so that we aren't investing money in health care and education to undo the damage done when we don't support families to provide the best start for children.
I have another question for Dennis, since I think it's a similar sort of debate we're having. I think you've come with a very noble self-evident objective, which is to make poverty history. I'd like to hear from the Conservatives sometime about whether they're on board or not, but I think the problem is that we're dealing with some different philosophies, and we've got to tackle that if we're going to get through to the Conservative government.
On the one hand, we hear from business leaders and Conservatives that the more freedom we give the rich, the better off the poor will be. That's The Economist magazine article as well--you know, the rising tide will lift all boats. This article goes on to say we might get a few out of the mud, but not much beyond that.
Dennis, you need to address for this committee the alternative vision, which means you can have a country that is not in debt, that has a healthy economy, and that still invests in programs that get people out of poverty and counters this notion that the neo-Liberals are offering us.
My question is to Ms. Lysack.
Certainly a lot of families welcome the taxable $1,200 relief to families, but do you think that many of those, if they had known that it would come at the expense of cancelling the first steps of building an affordable and high-quality accessible child care program, would have accepted the taxable $100 a month?
Also, does it really offer a choice, or does it really take away choice from working families or parents who want to go to school to pursue a higher education or pursue a better career?
My other question is to Ms. Silas. I commend you for your recommendation and your suggestions. I don't want to miss this opportunity to ask this question with an objective health care expert here. If you were to rate or compare your recommendations to the last budget, do you see any signs in the last budget that come close to addressing those recommendations?
The reason it's important is that you are a non-partisan, objective health care expert, and Canadians certainly rank health care as a top priority.
In response to your first question, which asked whether people would have made the choice had they known, certainly the Environics poll--paid for by donations--confirmed that in fact they wouldn't have made that choice, and the public focus groups that I believe the government paid for, highlighted in The Globe and Mail
last week, also confirmed that families would not have made that choice.
It's not a real choice. Do families need income? Absolutely. Should it be in this form? No. There are experts with far more ability to comment on this than I. The Caledon Institute has made some good recommendations. We absolutely agree with Dennis's comment; it should be part of the Canada child tax benefit. It's a much more equitable way of disbursing funds and would address poverty and so many other issues.
Does that provide choice? Why are we fooling ourselves by even calling it child care? Even their own website doesn't call it child care anymore. They say you can invest it in your child's post-secondary education, in groceries, in whatever you like. It's family income and it's important and families need it and it's absolutely critical. Does it do anything to address people's issues around child care? No. Families are still struggling.
I got an e-mail, completely unsolicited, from a parent who is not part of our organization, saying they hadn't even cashed the cheque. They said it made them sick, that they didn't want it, that they needed child care, and that this $100 didn't help them; it didn't give them child care. It could help them pay for it, perhaps, if they could get it, but they don't have it.
So this is what parents are saying about it. It's not that the funds are unwelcome; it's just not child care.
Thank you for joining us today.
I'd like to continue on the subject of day care. The issue was discussed at considerable length by us last spring and will likely continue to be a topic of conversation for some time to come. The Conservative government's decision to cancel funds earmarked for the provinces, including Quebec, for improvements to day care was ill-advised from the outset. The problem existed under the previous Liberal regime and continues to this day. Quebec parents are confronted with the inequity of the tax system. They cannot claim the same tax credit as other Canadian parents. Let me explain to you what I mean by this.
When filing their federal tax return, parents can claim a tax credit corresponding to the amount paid in child care fees. This amount is not taxable. Quebec parents with children in day care can claim $7 per day. Previously, they could claim $5 per day. Yet, parents living elsewhere can claim much higher amounts. Therefore, the tax credit represents a much larger sum of money for them.
There are those who will argue that there is nothing unusual about this because parents in the rest of Canada pay more for day care services. Quebeckers pay more as well, albeit through their taxes. Basically, the Canadian taxation system penalizes Quebeckers for having an affordable, universally accessible day care system.
My question is for either Ms. Lysack or Ms. Silas. Mr. Howlett may also wish to respond.
In your opinion, should the federal government acknowledge and respect the choice Quebec has made, a choice that has been praised across the country and even abroad? Should the federal government remit to the Quebec government the savings realized year after year--these savings have been pegged at approximately $250 million per year, or $1.5 billion since this program's inception--, so that it can make improvements to its system, or should it continue to take advantage of Quebec's initiative, continue channelling this money into the consolidated revenue fund and continue using it for other purposes?