Good morning, and thank you for inviting the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres, or MAL, a Quebec coalition representing over 10,000 professional artists, artisans, writers and cultural workers in Quebec. The MAL advocates for a substantial increase in public funding for the arts and culture in Quebec and Canada, given the essential role of the cultural industry in shaping Quebec and Canadian identities, improving the quality of life of city and rural residents and contributing to Canada's economic prosperity.
In a global economy based on creative knowledge, it is in the interest of the Canadian government to invest massively and strategically in our artists and cultural workers. In doing so, it has to consider arts and culture research, creation, production, dissemination, training, education, market development—whether local, national or international—and promotion as inseparable activities. The MAL believes in the Canadian government's ability to contribute to better living and working conditions for artists and cultural workers, while making it easier for Canadians to access Quebec and Canadian arts and culture. Moreover, it is incumbent on the government to make the financial commitments to help meet the development, consolidation and sustainability challenges faced by those organizations and institutions that support our cultural vitality.
Beyond their indisputable economic impact—sizable share of GDP, job creation, etc.—artists and cultural workers help build a society that is democratic and respectful of people's differences, representing an investment with both quantitative and highly qualitative spinoffs.
The MAL is pleased with the Canadian government's recent announcement of a five-year investment to renew the “Tomorrow Starts Today” program—announced in June by the minister, Mr. James Moore—which will help sustain a number of effective programs, thus ensuring a certain stability for artists and cultural workers to plan their development. Nevertheless, the MAL wishes to draw the attention of the Standing Committee on Finance to three recommendations it believes will help position the Canadian government's recent commitments within a sustainable development strategy for Canada's arts and culture.
First, the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres calls on the Standing Committee on Finance to recommend that the Canadian government incrementally increase the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts over the next three years up to $300 million, as it has called for since 2003.
Second, the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres recommends that the management of arts promotion and distribution support programs—and I am referring here to the programs abolished last year—be entrusted to the Canada Council for the Arts as soon as possible, providing it with at least $12 million in additional funding per year.
The third recommendation has to do with cultural diplomacy. Since 2006, Canadian cultural diplomacy has been significantly undermined by Canadian political officials. There has been over $10 million in cutbacks in cultural funding to Canadian embassies and consulates, which have had to either abolish their cultural attaché positions or convert them into trade-related postings. Quebec and Canadian artists are thus deprived of expertise that is crucial for them to position themselves in the largest cultural markets, which are New York, London and Berlin. The turning of Canadian diplomacy towards trade and industry affairs was confirmed by Mr. Pelletier, an assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who states that “[...] 171 officers are tasked with cultural affairs, among other responsibilities. There are also 93 trade delegates who assist Canadian cultural exporters.”
In our view, the cultural attaché positions were indeed eliminated as part of the dismantling of the third pillar of Canadian diplomacy, i.e. cultural diplomacy. We recommend that cultural diplomacy be restored as one of the pillars of Canadian diplomacy.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would like to thank the committee for inviting the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the CSN, to take part in these budget consultations. It is always a pleasure for the CSN to participate in these activities.
The CSN is a union organization representing 300,000 members, primarily in Quebec, although it has members throughout Canada. Our membership is fairly equally divided between the private and public sectors, putting us in most sectors of economic activity.
As part of the present pre-budget consultations, we are being asked for our views on two major questions. The first question concerns the tax, budget and financial measures that are needed to ensure prosperity and a sustainable future for Canada. The objective of the second is to determine which of those measures are the most effective as stimulus measures. It is clear to the CSN that these two questions cannot be treated separately. Any short-term stimulus activity requires a vision of the future, but that vision must be a desirable one for Canada.
We favour a number of measures, the first being EI reform. In numerous appearances before the Standing Committee on Finance we have stated that the situation was utterly unacceptable. Right now, over half of those who lose their jobs do not have access to EI. Despite successive reforms since the early 1990s, Canada is now in an economic recession with a program more ill-suited than ever to the existing situation. Canada's protection is inferior to the average protection offered in other OECD countries. The financial situation in Canada is good and Canada could do much more to improve EI assistance.
Clearly, just increasing the maximum duration of benefits is a step in the right direction, but it does not go nearly far enough. For those without access to EI benefits, extending the duration of benefits is of no help at all for many.
The rate of unemployment continues to rise in Canada. In-depth reform of the program is urgently required. Of course, there are social repercussions, but the program is a key economic stabilizer because EI benefits are immediately plowed back into the economy in the form of consumption.
If EI is not reformed, pressure will be created on the provinces, which are responsible for income security programs such as social assistance. The shortfall in EI benefits must be made up by the provinces in social assistance. People are worse off and this results in pressure on the provinces.
The CSN is calling for a number of measures, measures also being called for by the Sans Chemise, a broad coalition of union organizations, and grassroots and community groups.
The first is to establish an eligibility threshold of 360 hours for all regions, which would of course improve access to the EI program. The second is to eliminate the two-week waiting period, which unfairly punishes claimants, leaving them without any income in the interim. The third is to increase the income replacement rate from 55% to 60% of normal earnings, based on workers' 12 best weeks and a different qualifying period.
Finally, we would like to see an income security program for older workers so that they can bridge the gap between the end of their employment and the start of their retirement. We made this proposal during consultations on the state of the Canadian manufacturing sector. There were already massive job losses. In the current recession, I think it more urgent than ever that such a measure be implemented.
The second thing we are pushing for is federal fiscal reform. It is clear to the CSN that Canada's fiscal imbalance has not been resolved. In fact, Quebec's main gain in the 2007-08 budget was wiped out the following year when the equalization formula was unilaterally changed. A step, however imperfect, had been taken to address the fiscal imbalance and this gain was lost. Furthermore federal transfers have increased more slowly in Quebec than in the rest of Canada. The federal transfer payments Quebec receives are 28% lower than in 1994-95, while Alberta receives 45% more.
As for social assistance, Quebec receives a little under $3,000 per recipient while Alberta receives $11,000. I would also remind the committee that there is still an $800 million shortfall for post-secondary education compared to 1994-95 levels.
It is possible to do something about this, even though there is a deficit. According to the parliamentary budget officer, the structural deficit is only 1% of potential GDP. In 1977, when there were much larger structural deficits, there were still tax transfers to the provinces for health and education.
The third point has to do with government economic stimulus measures. In the last budget, the federal government set aside 2% of GDP, including the contributions expected from the provinces and municipalities. In terms of the amount, this is in line with the International Monetary Fund recommendation. But spending must continue, because the unemployment rate is a grave concern. In July, the unemployment rate was 8.6% in Canada, 9% in Quebec and 9.3% in Ontario. The OECD has predicted that Canada's unemployment rate will reach 9.8% in 2010. Action is still required.
Finally, it is our view that the stimulus plan adopted in 2009-10 is not fair. Ontario received the lion's share for its automotive industry. In fact, Ontario received $3.4 billion in the last budget, while the entire Canadian forestry industry got $170 million. Despite recent additional funds, most of this will go to British Columbia, leaving little for Quebec's forestry industry.
I would also add that in terms of stimulus, too little has been done with respect to the environment. Canada is drifting further and further away from the Kyoto objectives. Yet the economic crisis is also a good opportunity to support public transit, green energy and energy efficiency. Adopting short-term stimulus measures will mean more prosperous and sustainable long-term development in Canada
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning. My name is Christian Blouin and I am here today representing Merck Frosst. I would like to begin by thanking you for allowing us to address you today.
We at Merck Frosst Canada are recommending that the government renew funding for the National Immunization Strategy, or NIS, program. I will begin by outlining the program's success in giving Canadians access to new vaccines and why we believe that this program must continue to be funded. I will also speak about two illnesses we can now prevent with vaccines recently developed by Merck Frosst Canada as examples of the types of innovative and cost-effective vaccines envisioned by the NIS program.
In the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention. That is a remarkable feat. Vaccines have incalculable social and economic benefits ranging from reduced hospitalizations and related medical costs to allowing more Canadians to stay healthy and be productive. Vaccines are truly the most cost-beneficial health intervention of our time.
In 2003, the National Immunization Strategy was adopted to ensure Canadians had access to the latest vaccines. Between 2003 and when the NIS was later renewed, five new vaccines were introduced from coast to coast. It has been estimated that twice as many Canadian children were protected against vaccine-preventable diseases in 2006 compared with 2003. This is a monumental achievement on the part of Canadian members of parliament.
In 2007, thanks to continued government funding of the NIS, $300 million was provided to support HPV immunization programs across the country. Today, although terms of coverage for this vaccine vary between individual provinces and territories, cohorts of girls are able to receive protection from the risk of contracting cervical cancer. This is an innovation which will save thousands of lives in years to come. However, despite these successes, there are continuing gaps and disparities in access to vaccines. Most new vaccines have not been incorporated into provincial public immunization programs, putting Canadians unnecessarily at risk. This is why Canadians need to know that the NIS will continue to support access to important and innovative vaccines.
We will look at two specific examples of how the NIS can help to protect Canadians from shingles and rotavirus—two examples of innovative vaccines which offer tangible benefits to Canadians. Shingles—also known as Herpes zoster—can cause debilitating pain, as well as scarring, pneumonia, hearing loss, and facial paralysis. Shingles will affect one out of every three people in this room over the course of our lifetime. The risk increases with age, with half of cases involving people over 50. The pain caused by shingles too often prevents over-60 Canadians from leading full and productive lives—interfering with activities ranging from employment to housework. Shingles impacts our health care system, resulting in up to 252,000 physician visits annually. Shingles also impacts our long-term facilities, which are already overburdened. However we now finally have a vaccine available. ZOSTAVAX was approved by Health Canada in 2008. ZOSTAVAX cuts in half the incidence of shingles for those over 60—turning what used to be inescapable for many into a preventable illness.
A second recent Merck Frosst vaccine, approved by Health Canada in 2006, prevents rotavirus. Virtually every Canadian under the age of three has been infected with it. Though rarely fatal, it disrupts the lives of families of children who contract the illness as it is a severe type of gastroenteritis with quick onset. The cost of work lost by adult family members of sufferers amounts to $25 million per year. Rotavirus leads to 5,500 hospitalizations, 17,000 emergency room visits and 41,000 physician consultations annually. However, the RotaTeq vaccine, by preventing the onset of rotavirus, can reduce physician visits by 86%. Indeed, a vaccine such as RotaTeq is especially critical to vulnerable populations including aboriginals, who often face crowded living conditions, may lack running water and where healthcare services may be limited. Like all other Canadian infants, children of families in this type of environment would greatly benefit from having a vaccine which would prevent the hardship and rapid spread of rotavirus.
Right now neither the shingles nor the rotavirus vaccines are part of provincial public immunization campaigns and so Canadians are losing out on important opportunities to stay healthy and productive. Vaccines have proven themselves again and again as the most cost-effective health intervention. This is why the National Immunization Strategy cannot be allowed to lapse. Canadians count on being able to access innovative vaccines which also offer tangible financial benefits.
Furthermore, in this era of pandemic concerns when hospital and medical services may be even further taxed, it makes sense to reduce the number of otherwise avoidable hospital visits wherever feasible. This is an example where government has a chance to show leadership and really make a difference.
We recommend, first, that the federal government commit to renewing the NIS program by investing the sum of $100 million per year to ensure Canadians have access to important new and innovative vaccines; second, that the federal government work with provinces and territories towards establishing a permanent funding mechanism to ensure adoption of new, recommended vaccines in public health programs within six months of their approval by Health Canada; finally, that the Government of Canada ensure that NIS program funding is separate from the Canadian Health Transfer payments to provinces and territories so that funds are designated specifically for immunization programs.
My colleague Vaughan Dowie and I wish to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Finance for the opportunity to speak this morning. We will be splitting our presentation. I will begin with McGill's first recommendation and Vaughan will take the second and third.
McGill University recommends that the federal government significantly increase the funding for university research, including direct funding for research and compensation for the indirect costs of university research. You don't need me to tell you that innovation is the key to the future prosperity and well-being of Canadians, or that universities play a vital role in innovation. University research creates knowledge, and universities train highly qualified staff who will work in all organizations of the innovation system in the years to come, whether in the private sector, in government or in universities themselves.
In order to continue to offer a high-quality education to students, universities in Canada require funding that is competitive at international levels for teaching, but also for research. At a research-intensive university like McGill, one of the hallmarks of the education we offer is that teaching is informed by the research carried out by professors.
The federal government is the key funder of university research in Canada. The cost of research can be divided roughly into two types: the direct cost of research—the funding that goes to investigators and scholars to carry out the research, to hire research assistants, and to pay for supplies in order to be able to carry out the research activity—and also the institutional or indirect costs of research. These are costs associated with paying for specialized equipment that's necessary to carry out research, research libraries, research computer networks, and to hire specialized technicians to run the complex machinery that is required to carry out research.
Institutional costs also occur in relation to the research process: applying for research grants, administering grants, reporting; they cover activities that enable universities and societies to get the most benefit from university research, such as protection of intellectual property and technology transfer activities. The institutional costs are related also to activities that enable universities to ensure that we are meeting regulatory requirements and that ethical review takes place.
At the current time, institutional costs of federally funded research are compensated in the most research-intensive universities at the rate of just over 21 cents per dollar of directly funded research. A number of studies and practices in other jurisdictions that fully meet the institutional cost of research indicate that these costs are in fact between 40 and 60 cents on the dollar, depending on the kind of research undertaken. The moneys that research-intensive universities like McGill use to cover the institutional costs of research are taken from other parts of their budgets, including the operating budget. Were the federal government to fully compensate for these costs, we would be able to use those moneys for other important aspects of the academic mission, including teaching, services to students, and of course dealing with our deferred maintenance costs.
The first recommendation of McGill University is that the federal government should make a significant increase to financing for research, including both funding direct research and moving to full compensation for the institutional costs of research.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I will fly through the other two recommendations. I think you probably have our speaking notes, and I won't repeat what you can already read for yourself.
The second recommendation has to do with the support of the federal government for a program for post-doctoral fellows. Currently there are a number of programs that the federal government has, both for graduate students and for academics, whether it be the Canada research chairs, the Vanier scholarship for doctoral students, or whatever. One important part of the research composition that needs support consists of post-doctoral fellows. There are currently about 6,000 of them in Canada, although the number is soft because they are counted in different ways. There needs to be a program both to support the functions within the research enterprise as well as to attract the best scholars to the country. We have quantified this as a program of about 1,000 scholars at a level of about $60,000 per person.
The second aspect has to do with trying to provide seed money as well as targeted support for international partnerships for Canadian research networks. These are not limited to universities but include partnerships between universities, industries, and governments across the world in order to make sure that Canada is an important player in international research consortiums and is able to maximize the strengths we have within this country.
I can speak about this more in questions, but I know your time is limited.
Good morning and thank you to the committee members for allowing us to address them.
The Réseau SOLIDARITÉ Itinérance du Québec represents some 250 organizations working in the area of homelessness and homelessness prevention. This morning, I am accompanied by Louise Fortin, the director of SQUAT Basse-Ville here in Quebec City. This organization for young runaways from 12 to 17 years of age is part of the Regroupement des Auberges du cœur du Québec. In addition to my duties as president of Réseau SOLIDARITÉ Itinérance, I work for a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre in Sherbrooke.
In Canada, the federal government has been involved in the field of homelessness since 1999. The Liberals, under Jean Chrétien and Claudette Bradshaw, introduced the SCPI for a period of three years. This program was renewed four times by successive governments. It was very useful. The number of homeless people in Quebec and Canada is on the increase.
In 2005, the federal government estimated the number of homeless in Canada to be 150,000. According to an old Quebec study from 1997, 28,000 people in Montreal and 11,000 in Quebec City were considered homeless. This study was conducted in emergency shelters, soup kitchens and drop-in centres. When we speak to just about anyone in Quebec and to some of our colleagues elsewhere in Canada we can see that homelessness has increased significantly in recent years. Fortunately, the federal government has provided funding, because had it not done so, I believe the situation would be even worse, especially because so many people do not qualify for employment insurance. These are some of the people who find themselves homeless. They are men and women of all ages and from all walks of life. We are also seeing more young people in our various organizations.
SCPI became the HPI before becoming the HPS, or Homelessness Partnering Strategy. Consultations are now under way for this program for 2011-2014. Since 1999, Quebec has received over $130 million as part of this strategy. Funding was received in 2001 under the Canada-Quebec agreements.
This is a good program which has shown its worth in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. But we are more familiar with the situation in Quebec. One of its strengths is that priorities are set by the various local and regional communities. We would like to see that continue for 2011-2014. Two years ago, for the first time, the Conservative government announced that the program would be in place for five years. We are very happy to see it extended for more than one or two years. This is long-term work. We are glad to finally have something for 2009-2014, although some aspects need to be re-assessed for 2011-2014.
We are asking the Standing Committee on Finance to continue and to increase funding. In Quebec, based on applications received, more than $50 million annually is needed to meet demand. Right now, we receive $18.5 million. When we file our applications, it is for more than three times that amount for almost all regions in Quebec. With projects being carried over from one year to the next in Quebec City and Sherbrooke, it is not possible to begin anything new. In Sherbrooke, the need is great. In Quebec City, it is the same. In Quebec City and Sherbrooke, we have social housing projects. But a roof and four walls is not enough; community support is needed as well. The lack of funding makes that impossible. There are many solutions, but they require money.
The strength of this program is its diversity. It is general in nature, addressing not just the needs of housing, youth or aboriginals. Homelessness concerns everyone. It is important that this program be maintained.
What is needed is a $50 million increase in funding, while maintaining existing priorities. In Quebec, we have identified 12 municipalities or major centres, as well as remote areas. People in these communities are the best placed to determine urgent needs and priorities. We must keep the same kind of program; it has shown its worth and we are happy with it. Quebec has its own delivery model. I believe the National Secretariat on Homelessness is pleased with how this program is working in Quebec.
Let us carry on with what is working. All that is needed is more money to keep the worst from happening. Even the UN rapporteurs, who periodically evaluate countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam, tell Canada to step up its efforts with respect to homelessness, poverty and social housing.
I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Finance for giving us this opportunity to speak to them about two concerns we have as part of the pre-budget consultations.
The first has to do with the impact of the increase in debit and credit card transaction fees, an issue that was the subject of special consultations by the committee in spring 2009. Second, we would like to make committee members aware of the need to harmonize legislative and regulatory frameworks regarding Canadian environmental matters in order to lighten the complex and onerous financial and administrative burden on the retail trade and other sectors.
For retailers in all provinces, whether large or small, credit and debit card transaction fees represent a significant cost. Retail trade profit margins are often extremely slim, especially so during the economic downturn that has lasted for over a year now. In this context, all expenditures must be taken into account. Now Visa and MasterCard have chosen to increase credit card transaction fees and enter the debit market in Canada. The Retail Council of Canada estimates the various transaction fees paid by retailers in exchange for the privilege of accepting credit card payments at over $4 billion. These fees, therefore, account for a substantial share of retailers' operating costs.
Our members are satisfied with the debit card payment system as it now stands. It is effective, and the related fees are reasonable. The standard fee is a fixed cost per transaction rather than a charge based on the value of a transaction; it is simple and prevents Interac from profiting unduly from inflation.
The arrival of new players on the debit market will not, in our view, lead to a decline in rates. On the contrary, we are convinced that rates will increase. In this regard, the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce states the following on page 32 of its June 30, 2009 report entitled “Transparency, Balance and Choice: Canada's credit and debit card systems”. I quote:
“[...] the Committee believes that, because of the nature of competition among payment systems, there is a risk that debit card payment competition would lead to rising debit card costs for payment processors and merchants and, eventually, to higher retail prices for consumers.”
Therefore, on this issue the Conseil québécois du commerce de détail believes that the federal government should take the appropriate measures to avoid the introduction of interchange or other such fees that are not based on the true costs of debit transactions, and subject all corporations entering the debit market to the rules set out by the Canadian Payments Association.
With regard to the second topic, the harmonization of waste management rules, retailers have helped achieve tangible sustainable development targets for a number of years now. They have volunteered their time and effort to support end-of-life product disposal initiatives. In Quebec, for example, there are extended producer responsibility programs for paints and oils. Over the years, all Canadian provinces have established a list of products covered by these types of programs, which require that end-of-life products be taken back.
The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment is now attempting to establish a general framework to guide the federal and provincial legislatures in crafting their own regulations. We commend the council for this initiative and have participated in the related consultations.
Furthermore, the council is of the opinion that such harmonization must first and foremost simplify and facilitate the opting-in of producers and their participation in these programs, and support targets to improve the environmental performance of products and the effectiveness of programs, not increase the administrative burden of corporations with more government red tape.
In this regard, we recommend that the federal government table general regulations containing common guidelines regarding waste management systems in order to streamline programs among all provinces and thus help reduce the financial burden on corporations caused by the vast web of standards.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am glad that Mr. Pacetti raised the issue, because that is what I wanted to talk about.
Your statements are in line with the Bloc Québécois' thinking, especially when it comes to eligibility for employment insurance. You are asking the federal government for a complete overhaul of the employment insurance system because half of all unemployed workers are not entitled to employment insurance. That is disastrous, and I would like you to comment further.
In your brief, you referred to a Toronto Dominion Bank study estimating that it would cost $1 billion to reduce the employment insurance eligibility threshold to 360 hours so that more people can benefit. It is a tragedy that so many people do not have access to employment insurance after having contributed for years. That is the problem, because for the past 15 years or so, Liberal and Conservative governments have taken $57 billion from the employment insurance surplus.
Now they are saying that it would be hard to bring in measures like this, which would cost $1 billion, and to put money back into the pockets of unemployed workers where it came from.
I would like you to comment on that because you did not mention the $57 billion.
That is the problem when we only have five minutes to present our positions.
Successive Canadian governments did take $57 billion from the employment insurance fund, and they cut benefits. Yes, the contribution rate went down, but the main problem is that now, over half of all unemployed workers are not eligible for employment insurance.
In many cases, people who are not eligible for employment insurance end up on social assistance as a last resort. Earlier on, she said that this could increase homelessness. I do not want to blow the link between the two out of proportion, but it is clear that more and more workers are losing their jobs and facing a serious poverty situation.
If the federal government had acted more responsibly with the employment insurance fund and had not taken the $57 billion, it could have spent the past few years making the program better. It makes sense to keep a surplus in reserve as a hedge against tougher times when people who lose their jobs need access to employment insurance benefits.
Yes, this is about social needs. This is a social program, but as I said earlier, the employment insurance program also helps stabilize the economy because every dollar given to an unemployed worker, compared to tax cuts, will be put right back into the economy because it gives the recipient buying power. If that person cannot collect employment insurance and has to rely on social assistance as a last resort, he or she will have less buying power, which will just prolong the current economic crisis.
I think that the government should be more proactive when it comes to employment insurance by improving the program and ensuring that in good times, the fund accumulates a surplus so that it can weather the tough times that will undoubtedly follow.
Thank you, Mr. Patry. My time is limited, so I would like to ask Mr. Lafleur a question.
You talked about your appearance before the Standing Committee on Finance this spring. It was actually a joint session of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and the Standing Committee on Finance. We talked about the issue then. I moved a motion to consider the issue you brought up that is facing the Retail Council of Canada a priority. This is a very important issue.
You said that the federal government must adopt appropriate measures. The expression “appropriate measures” may be a bit vague.
This spring, you also talked about the Australian model. Do you think that the Standing Committee on Finance and the government should consider moving toward greater control?
The whole issue with MasterCard and Visa wanting access to the debit market will soon be up for study, and you seem to think that this is a pressing matter. You talked about $4 billion in fees. That is not a drop in the bucket for retailers, and the number keeps going up.
I would like to welcome the people who are here with us today and thank them for coming. Their presentations covered a broad range of issues that will no doubt be the subject of debate and decisions during the next budget process. Some things will not be easy, and your presentations will guide our thinking and our deliberations.
I would like to thank Mr. Gilbert in particular for his reminder. I think that your sector is the one that should be best informed. You will have to be very vigilant during the next budget.
Mr. Patry, thank you for your presentation. In the CSN's comments, at the bottom of page 3, you mention the failure of talks between members of the joint Liberal-Conservative committee. You said that that was insufficient.
Not much has been said yet about the bill before us now, and I would like to discuss it. Your analysis is impeccable. When you talked about the number of people not covered, there could be no doubt. With respect to the bill specifically, I would like to know if the CSN has conducted an analysis. As you know, the NDP has said that we want to make Parliament work. We now have $935 million, according to the government anyway, that could help as many as 190,000 unemployed workers and their families. We will do a thorough audit of those numbers, of course. Two of our economic advisors from the union community say that the numbers are accurate. However, we would like to know whether the CSN has audited them too.
I would like to point out that my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst, Yvon Godin, introduced a bill for a standard 360-hour threshold. The private member's bill is making its way through the process. Right now, the bill with the best chance of passing is this one. I have a suggestion. Maybe you could ask your economists to look into it. We will actually be inviting you to comment specifically on this issue soon, and we will need your perspective.
I agreed with what Ms. Vézina said about communicating vessels when she described the connection between cuts to employment insurance and the number of people in poverty. This is not just about the fact that $57 billion was stolen from the employment insurance fund. A lot of people say that that money was put into the general revenue fund, so it stayed within government. But that false. A $60 billion space was freed up to give tax breaks to the richest companies, and the cuts were supported by both the Conservatives and the Liberals. By definition, a company that does not make a profit has nothing to gain from tax breaks because it does not pay income tax. However, it still contributes to the employment insurance fund. Even if it loses money, it still contributes for all of its employees. That money is supposed to be for a specific purpose. Someone said theft, and that is exactly what it was.
Mr. Dowie and Ms. Meikle, I would like to talk about the general role of universities and the role of McGill University in Quebec. You have already received your first two Nobel prizes of the week, the Nobel prize for medicine on Monday and the Nobel for physics yesterday. Now it is Wednesday. This has been a good week for McGill. I have not seen today's results yet because I was not on line.
Can you tell me a bit about McGill's role as a Quebec institution?
That is an excellent way of putting it. Thank you very much.
Mr. Lafleur, I am glad to see you again. What Mr. Dechert said was interesting. Obviously, there are some things we can work on. In addition to employment insurance, we agree on the credit card issue.
I have to say that what you said will probably keep me up tonight because you raised the possibility that the federal government could play a role in managing waste materials. Knowing that this is the same organization that gave us a list—one with important and commendable public safety goals—known as the gun registry, which cost $1 billion, if you really want to keep people awake at night, just raise the spectre of the federal government taking care of garbage. People will really be worried.
All the same, I will stick to the two specific issues you raised. You are a lawyer and I am a lawyer, so we will not get into a long constitutional debate about jurisdictional powers. I will just ask you a specific question.
You mentioned about paint and oil. In Quebec, the Société de gestion des huiles usagées du Québec, SOGHU, deals with oil. For paint, there is a 50¢ fee per four-litre can. This is in line with two sustainable development principles: internalizing costs and product life cycle. These two sustainable development principles appear in Quebec law, which is considered to be the best in the world with respect to sustainable development.
I would like to close by asking you, what are the problems with this? Tell me one concrete problem related to managing these products. I have never heard of any, and I was involved in it for many years.
We want the federal government to play a leadership role to ensure—I agree that we should be thinking about harmonization that is in line with constitutional jurisdiction over environmental matters. However, we have to make an effort to try to work together, which is what the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment is trying to do. We support that.
For example, harmonization might be the right way to go with issues surrounding internalization or in our sector. There are retailers all over Canada. We think that the idea of internalization, which we have already talked about in a parliamentary committee, was associated with concerns about the right to transparency and visibility regarding costs related to an environmental program for retailers so that they can clearly post environmental costs on labels or elsewhere.
Elsewhere in Canada, there are not necessarily any legislative constraints in this respect. In Quebec, a provision in the Sustainable Development Act requires cost internalization. This principle does create problems with interpretation, but it does have the advantage or the disadvantage of being the only one of its kind in Canada. People talk about trying to harmonize. The point is to strike a balance so that our businesses operating across Canada can do this in similar, but not necessarily identical ways.
Nothing is perfect, obviously, but we have to work toward harmonizing this because there are major costs involved. If the 10 provinces and the territories each do their own thing and create different ways of doing things, a business in our retail sector with locations in Vancouver or Halifax will have problems. This will involve tremendous costs.
Ms. Meikle, I am a McGill University alumnus too. I would like to congratulate you on the good work you are doing and the fact that you have two Nobel laureates. Maybe I will be one too one day.
Some hon. members: Ha! Ha!
Mr. Massimo Pacetti: We have travelled all across Canada. Many colleges and universities have asked for more money for research. In the past, they have even asked the government to cover indirect costs. You mentioned that too, but I do not see a recommendation about it. You are sometimes eligible for funding for research, equipment and capital costs.
How will indirect costs be covered? Have universities found a way to absorb these costs?
I am pleased to see you all here this morning. This debate raises a number of issues.
Over the course of my 16 years in the House of Commons as a member of Parliament, I have been asked to work on all of the issues before us this morning. One of the first files I worked on was poverty. Talking about poverty means talking about the social safety net. We are therefore familiar with all of the issues covered in the CSN's employment insurance submission. There was also the employment insurance file in 1995-96, as well as SCPI, implemented by Ms. Bradshaw, whose heart was in the right place. However, we had to work very hard to bring certain realities to light and really understand homelessness issues, as well as issues facing universities, which need $800 million more to overcome their challenges. There are also heritage issues. As you can see, it is very hard for us to ask all of you about the realities you face. Let me just say that I will begin with something I am passionate about.
I worked in the cultural sector. It is often hard to understand why spoiled children want more, if I may say so. Mr. Gilbert, I would like you to explain further. You want a Canada-wide cultural infrastructure network that is better suited to the demands of the arts and the realities of artists' day-to-day lives, things that people have a hard time understanding. Around 1984, I was working to promote Quebec film—that was a long time ago—and I remember the hoops we had to jump through to promote Quebec film abroad. It was very difficult.
Can you explain it to us in terms that we can use to accurately convey these realities during debates in the House of Commons? Maybe that will help us get PromArt and Trade Routes back or get bigger budgets.
Later on, Ms. Samson will do a better job than I could of telling you about problems facing the film industry and distribution in Canada and abroad.
As to the arts we are talking about, the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres is an association of Quebec artists. These artists are operating in a relatively small market and they have to disseminate their work abroad as well as in Canada. It is not easy for them to get their work out to the rest of Canada. Canada is huge, and the population is spread out and so on. So we need help from the federal government to do a better job of promoting the professional work being done in various sectors, including visual arts, which is my field, contemporary dance, classical music, multimedia, arts and crafts and more. Quebec arts and crafts have an excellent reputation in Canada and abroad. We need help from the federal government to promote our work, to help our performers, our organizations and our artists get the funding they need to survive, grow and develop.
The cultural infrastructure mentioned in our submission also refers to physical spaces. People need professional spaces to get their work out there. We mentioned the Canadian Conference of the Arts, which stated that much of the physical and cultural infrastructure—theatres, dance halls and exhibit halls—was created as part of the buildings paid for by funding to mark the centennial of Confederation in 1967. Many of these buildings need renovation, restoration and so on, and that will cost a lot of money. That is why the Canadian Conference of the Arts, the foremost Canadian organization representing the arts and culture sector, recommended significant increases to funding for Canadian Heritage's cultural spaces program because that is the department that provides funding for the infrastructure that is so important to cultural and artistic expression in Canada.
I do not know whether my answer will help you defend or express our position in the House of Commons, but I hope that I have answered your question.
We are not the ones who said that. It was the Toronto Dominion Bank that calculated a cost of $1 billion if employment insurance eligibility is reduced to 360 hours.
I would like to go back to what we were talking about earlier. We believe that there was a huge surplus that the government unfortunately took away. If the government creates a real employment insurance fund, an independent account, which does not yet exist but is in the planning stages at the new board, and if it is funded adequately, there would eventually be a surplus. Then, during a recession or an economic crisis, even if it cost a little more to support unemployed workers, the government could still afford it.
Now, because the $57 million is gone and there is an economic crisis going on, the government says that there is no money left. However, these amounts are relatively small compared to the total Canadian budget.
We could get the money from employer and employee contributions, especially since the Conservatives have cut corporate income taxes significantly since coming to power—15% by 2011-2012. They could take the money they are saving on taxes and spend it on employment insurance contributions. That would improve the system and help the government deal with difficult situations like the one we are going through right now.
Mr. Chair, distinguished members of the House standing committee, thank you for providing us the opportunity today to participate in this committee's hearings on the 2009 budget consultations.
My name is Michael Broad, and I am president of the Shipping Federation of Canada. I'm accompanied by Captain Ivan Lantz, our director of marine operations, who will assist in responding to your difficult questions.
The Shipping Federation of Canada represents the ships and their operators that carry Canada's international trade. Our contribution to the 2009 pre-budget consultations is to raise a red flag regarding the urgent need to provide funds for the replacement of the Canadian Coast Guard's icebreaking fleet.
As past budgets have earmarked funds for the coast guard's fleet, there is a widespread belief that renewal of the icebreaking fleet is being taken care of and that the government can therefore focus on other priorities. We are here to advise that the funds announced in previous budgets were actually flagged for other types of vessels. Indeed the only icebreaking funds that have been allocated are to a polar icebreaker dedicated to Arctic waters. This means that navigation south of the 60th parallel, which is where almost all shipping activity takes place in this part of the country, has had to make do with an aging icebreaker fleet that is stretched to its limits in terms of capacity and liability and provides no margin for error. Unforeseen circumstances are emergencies, and it is increasingly costly to maintain.
The essence of our testimony is simple. Canada is already at the precipice with respect to its icebreaker fleet and must act now to address the situation. More specifically, the coast guard needs funds to replace seven icebreakers, six medium and one light, and one ice-strengthened vessel, and to add one more ice-strengthened vessel to its fleet. Our recommendations cover nine out of the existing fleet of 18 vessels supporting ice navigation. We estimate they will cost between $330 million and $990 million to build, depending on whether the icebreakers were purchased under commercial terms on the international market or built in Canada.
Although these funds have to be earmarked now to get the process started, the actual delivery of the vessels could take as long as 10 years due to the complexity of the government procurement process. In the meantime, eight of the existing ships that have to be replaced will need to be refurbished, which we estimate will cost some $130 million. Therefore the total cost of our recommendations for replacement and refurbishment translate into a budget proposal ranging between $460 million and $1.12 billion.
Our written brief refers to the coast guard's 2008-2011 business plan, which was the most recent plan available when we wrote the brief this past summer. However, the coast guard has released its plan for 2009-2012, which includes the following points of interest. We've printed the relevant excerpts of the new business plan in French and English for circulation by the clerk.
The coast guard will develop its first integrated investment plan in 2009-10, announced under priority three. We recommend a comprehensive fleet replacement plan be integrated into this plan and that the government earmark the corresponding funds. The cost of replacing the coast guard's entire fleet--that's not just icebreakers, that's everything including 22 helicopters--is about $10 billion, while the fleet's net book value is only $463 million. This clearly reflects the extent to which the coast guard's asset base is deteriorating.
Furthermore, fleet replacement estimates have doubled over last year, when they were about $5 billion, due to a marked escalation in vessel replacement costs--and I quote the coast guard on that.
The report--that's the 2009-2012 coast guard business plan--acknowledges, and I quote from section 5, “Financial Information, Assets and Liabilities”:
In recent years it has become apparent that the inadequate recapitalization of our Fleet assets would result in the eventual inability of CCG to sustain its required levels of service.
Table 22 of this report, which provides an overview of the coast guard's major capital and planned expenditures, shows vessel life extension totalling $74.5 million and vessel refits and refurbishments totalling close to $330 million over the next five years. Such a budget would cover, at least in part, the cost of extending the life and refurbishing eight of the existing vessels mentioned in our recommendations. However, the budget item entitled “Procurement of Major Vessels”, which totals $1.1 billion over five years, does not include any icebreaker for navigation south of the 60th parallel.
Annex D to the 2009-2012 plan represents the follow-up actions taken in response to the nearly ten-year-old Auditor General's recommendations of 2000 and 2002, which include the need to procure new and replacement vessels. Although the coast guard lists a number of vessels for which it has taken action, it makes no mention of replacing the icebreaker fleet.
As mentioned in our brief, we along with a number of other stakeholders are seriously concerned with the government's inaction with respect to planning the renewal of the icebreaking fleet. Such planning is particularly important given the age of the existing fleet, the key role it plays in ensuring the safety of winter navigation, and the huge delays that are intrinsic to the process of procuring and delivering new ships. Starting to plan today will allow for new ships to be delivered in eight to ten years. Each year of inaction or postponed action generates escalating maintenance and refurbishment costs and increases the vulnerability of the system as a whole.
Mr. Chair, distinguished members of the committee, we thank you for your attention. I'd be pleased to answer questions later.
Distinguished committee members, this morning I will be presenting a report prepared by Jean Lecours and Rémy Laterreur. The Fédération des producteurs de porcs du Québec is giving this presentation in order to demonstrate how this group's recommendations correspond to the opinions of the Fédération des producteurs de porcs du Québec and the Canadian Pork Council.
Given the many problems facing the pork industry in recent years, a group of individuals within that industry decided to join forces to try to come up with new solutions to address the pork production crises we have seen. These problems include rapidly changing exchange rates, new grain-based products like ethanol, emerging diseases like circovirus and, more recently, A (H1N1), commonly known as swine flu. People met over the summer to try to find some long-term solutions for the pork industry.
I would like to point out a few facts. In Quebec alone, the pork industry employs 24,000 people. It is one of the 10 largest export industries in Quebec and it generates a great deal of business.
The working group decided to present this report as part of the annual hearings on pre-budget consultations. In this report, we did not describe the problems, but rather the solutions to be implemented over the next few years.
The working group recommends pursuing three main objectives. First of all, funding is needed to allow an organization—one that is independent of the federal and provincial governments—to analyze the competitiveness of Canadian pork producers compared to our foreign competitors, primarily the United States, Brazil and Europe.
The Government of Canada should also launch a campaign to promote Canadian pork products, since we are seeing more and more American pork products on our supermarket shelves. It is estimated that in Quebec and Canada, an exporting country, approximately 20% to 30% of the meat on our shelves is American. Financial assistance must be given to pork producers in specific regions in Canada that are facing the common problem of disease, in order to help them reposition themselves so they can be more competitive on the international free market.
The first recommendation—which involves obtaining financial assistance for a stakeholder organization to analyze competitiveness—would be more like structural assistance, rather than a major budgetary expenditure. The cost of this would be somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, not millions. For the past few years, managers in the pork industry have been plagued by financial difficulties for the reasons I mentioned a moment ago. These issues have caused a certain amount of pessimism about the future among pork producers.
However, considering the increased pork production in emerging countries, as well as in the United States, for instance, farmers are wondering if the cost of producing pork in Canada is similar to and competitive with the cost in other countries. In Canada, particularly in Quebec, pork producers face a number of environment restrictions and other restrictions regarding the use of drugs. Our social and environmental costs are sometimes higher than those of our competitors on the international free market.
Do these increased production costs allow businesses to remain competitive in the global market, and what weaknesses can be identified in the pork industry? Do they have to do with grains, pork production, processing or access to foreign markets?
In order to enhance the legitimacy of the competitiveness study, it must be conducted by an organization that operates independently of the pork industry and the various levels of government. It would be inappropriate for the Government of Canada to conduct such a study, since it provides financial assistance to pork producers through programs like AgriStability and AgriInvest. We believe that managers in the pork industry and the various levels of government must be given this information as soon as possible so they can make the right decisions to help grow our pork industry. This recommendation is supported by the Canadian Pork Council as well as the Fédération des producteurs de porcs du Québec.
The second recommendation calls on the Government of Canada to launch a campaign to promote Canadian pork products. As I explained in my introduction, foreign pork products, especially from the United States, are now filling store shelves on a regular basis in many major Canadian grocery stores. However, we would like to work with various partners to create an organization to promote Canadian pork.
Lastly, the third recommendation calls for more money, but that must come third. In very specific regions of Canada where producers face particular problems, such as environmental problems or competition-related problems because of specific diseases, it is a question of upgrading the buildings with new technology in order to eliminate disease, the main cause of decreased competitiveness and profitability among Canadian producers.
This concludes my presentation.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, honourable members, and distinguished participants of this pre-budgetary consultation.
Before I begin, I would like to introduce Lysiane Boucher, federal and international affairs coordinator for the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec. My name is Jean Grégoire, and I am the president of the FEUQ.
The FEUQ represents 16 member associations and over 125,000 university students in Quebec. For over 20 years now, it has been defending the rights and interests of students before, during and after their studies.
One thing that all political parties can agree on is the fact that Canada must work hard to get through the economic crisis. Several scenarios come to mind, but one aspect that often comes up has to do with the knowledge economy.
The knowledge economy is developing in several ways, but primarily through education and research. Of course education falls under provincial jurisdiction. That said, the federal government can help Canada as a whole actively develop by stimulating economic recovery through knowledge-based investments, for the well being of all Canadians. Specifically, this could be done by restoring the Canada social transfer, by providing adequate funding to granting agencies and by funding indirect research costs.
Regarding the Canada social transfer, in 1994, the Liberal government drastically cut provincial funding by eliminating much of those transfers, in order to achieve a zero deficit.
At this time, taking inflation into account, along with the increased number of beneficiaries, $3.5 billion is missing from Canada's social programs, including the post-secondary education system. Some $820 million is owed to Quebec. We are not asking for a funding increase; rather, we are simply asking that the funding provided to the provinces in the past be restored. In concrete terms, the under-funding of our university system is a direct result of this shortfall, as is the trend of researchers going abroad, allowing others to benefit from their knowledge and talents.
As for the funding provided to granting agencies, this relates to another crucial aspect of the Canadian economy: the development of knowledge and innovation. Quebec and Canadian universities provide the framework for the development of ideas and technology. Granting agencies were created to fund such research projects. At present, this major funding shortfall is crushing granting agencies, which means that many grant applications cannot be funded. As we know, the university selection process is already extremely rigorous regarding students who can apply for grants from these granting agencies. So, by limiting their funding, Canada is depriving itself of the best students and the best research opportunities that could help this country become really competitive on the international stage in terms of knowledge.
Regarding indirect research costs, not only are research projects underfunded, but all research activities are suffering from a lack of resources. Indirect costs—such as service costs and the cost of maintaining research space—total approximately 65% of all research costs. Universities are not in a position to cover these costs, which can be astronomical, and this also limits Canada's ability to develop a very highly qualified work force.
In conclusion, although education falls under provincial jurisdiction, it must be regarded as a tool for economic development and prosperity for Canadians. The current government must correct the mistakes made by previous governments and restore Canadian social transfers. Furthermore, in order to remain competitive on the international stage, develop its knowledge economy and get out of this crisis, Canada must focus more on research funding, particularly by increasing funding to granting agencies and by funding indirect research costs.
A university education generally translates into a higher salary. Higher salaries mean more income for the state. It is high time the government stopped thinking of education and research as an expenditure, when really, they should be considered an investment.
This is what the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec believes that Canada must do to get out of this crisis and prepare for the future.
Good morning, Mr. Chair.
My name is Ross Gaudreault, and I am the president of the Quebec Port Authority, not to be confused with Quebec pork.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Ross Gaudreault: Mr. Mulcair, Ms. Gagnon, good morning.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have been the president of the Quebec Port Authority for 22 years. Here with me today is the executive vice-president, Marcel Labrecque. When I joined the Quebec Port Authority 22 years ago, the port was in a very bad state. It handled 11 million tonnes and served zero passengers. After 22 years, this year, it handled nearly 28 million tonnes—making Québec the second largest port in Canada, in terms of tonnage. Furthermore, we also served nearly 100,000 passengers.
We have a problem: we have run out of space. We need to expand. We have a three-step plan for our expansion. The first phase involves a system to improve our loading and unloading procedure, given that we are now a port of the Great Lakes, which has become the Port of Québec's source of strength over the years. That is what has made the Port of Québec so successful: the fact that we serve the American and Canadian Great Lakes. We are competing with the American east coast and New Orleans. We serve everything from the steel plants to western Canadian farmers. We truly are a port of the Great Lakes, Ontario and western Canada.
So, we have run out of space, and we plan to expand two wharfs. This absolutely crucial. We have a three-step plan. The first phase consists of outfitting the Port of Québec with more modern equipment. Indeed, when we reached the point of having no more space, ships were paying a fee of $200,000 a day. We could not allow ships to anchor. We therefore invested $30 million in a new, faster unloading system, which will allow ships to get back on the water quicker and not have to pay a $200,000-a-day fine. We ordered the new machine, it has arrived, and we are in the process of installing it, but unfortunately we could not benefit from any funding from the new infrastructure Canada program, because we had already ordered the equipment. At the time we had to borrow $30 million from the Royal Bank, and we have nearly finished installing the new machine.
As the second phase of the plan, a new liquid bulk terminal is absolutely essential, given that we provide all of Air Canada's jet fuel for Pearson International Airport. It goes through the Port of Québec. Since we have run out of space, we must build a new wharf for liquid bulk and we need to deepen our wharfs. Indeed, the success of the Port of Québec stems from the fact that it is a deep water port. As a result, Quebec can accommodate ships of up to 125,000 and 150,000 tonnes, and unload them onto lakers that sail on the Great Lakes. We currently have only one 15 metre wharf, and we need to deepen wharf 51-52 to 15 metres.
The third part of our plan consists of building two new wharfs to allow us to meet increasing business demands.
Thus, we are here this morning calling on the federal government to develop an infrastructure program adapted to the needs of Canadian port authorities, one in which the federal contribution represents 100% of the cost of structural infrastructures.
Furthermore, we are also asking the Government of Canada to acknowledge the importance of the Port of Québec to the development of Canada's international trade, by allocating a budget of $383 million over three years, funding that would allow us to complete the three aspects of phase two of our expansion project.
My questions are for Mr. Gaudreault and Mr. Labrecque from the Port of Quebec. I want to thank the other witnesses who are here today to shed light on various aspects and challenges. Later my colleague will go over other aspects that have been raised.
You want to expand the Port of Quebec, which would benefit Quebec City's economy. However, there are questions that concern some people and certain environmental associations.
You developed the Baie de Beauport to the tune of $20 million and the planned expansion might hinder certain winter sports because the wind would be blocked and we know full well that it takes sea currents to do kite surfing. Environmentalists are also concerned that this could cause more traffic, among other things.
In your brief you say you will meet environmental requirements. What type of requirements are you referring to? Are you referring to land use, which is less demanding and will be handled by the Port of Quebec, or will you use a commission and public hearings?
As MPs, we listen to people. Economic diversification is important in the Quebec City area and it creates good jobs, but we must also consider other aspects such as the environment and the development of the Baie de Beauport. Those who use the Baie de Beauport are also concerned about the expansion of the Port of Quebec. We have not seen the plans. They may be very nice, but perhaps more people should be included.
My name is Thomas: I like to look at things and touch them before I am convinced. I think that should be your approach, Mr. Gaudreault, because if you went to Boston to see what the Coast Guard calls for, then you would understand. I met the highest ranking officials in the U.S. Coast Guard. They told me that to install a liquefied natural gas terminal so close to a population as large as the one in Quebec City is pure foolishness. Those are their words, not mine.
Did you know that when any pleasure craft approaches an LNG carrier in Boston, the Coast Guard is instructed to use deadly force? When I was in Boston in January 2006, the highest ranking officer in the Coast Guard gave me a concrete example. He told me that during the previous summer, some young people on a boat approached an incoming large LNG carrier and he looked into filing disciplinary action against his own staff because they did not shoot at the boat, which was their only order.
From that to the Port of Quebec going to court to prevent people from having an opinion. Allow me to express my opinion, Mr. Gaudreault. I think you were extremely ill advised to do that. If there is to be a debate on a liquefied natural gas terminal, then let it be. If you think you have valid arguments, then prove it. But if you intend to prevent people from saying what they have to say on a project like this, then that does not bode well on future discussions about your new piers.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all of our presenters this morning. Your presentations were very informative in terms of the organizations you represent and the issues you are facing.
My questions are for the pork industry working group. I come from Saskatchewan, and those issues are huge in our province.
As I'm sure you're aware--in fact, the timing of your submission preceded this announcement by our government--on August 15 we delivered a comprehensive restructuring plan, which included an international pork marketing fund of $17 million for eligible market research, as well as long-term loans with government-backed credit, and finally the hog farm transition program.
I'm wondering, first, if you can provide comments on that, and then provide some comments on our government's announcement today--namely, that we are launching a World Trade Organization dispute settlement process over U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling. Today the Honourable and the Minister of Agriculture announced their request for a WTO panel. Perhaps you could comment on that.
Finally, I'd like to hear more about your first recommendation to provide an organization of stakeholders with financial assistance. Who would that organization be, and how much are you looking for?
First of all, I will answer the second question first: the news of the day. If the federal government has launched some actions against the American way of dealing in the pork industry, it is extremely welcomed, because this COOL in the U.S. has disturbed the trade in Canada, has put the provinces one against each other because of the trade of piglets from Ontario—Manitoba has dumped into Ontario, Ontario has dumped into Quebec—and has created a lot of structural problems. This kind of dealing by the U.S. industry is unacceptable, and to be active with this kind of action is very supportive for the Canadian pig industry as a whole.
Second, the announcement of the long-term loan is good news. It is a point that a loan is still a loan. You need to reimburse the loan. It means that we add some cost to the pig producer in the long term. It's helping, but it is just to bring some blood to a patient who could be sick, and it's not successful survival. We need to have more than just a loan. A loan is like a plaster; it is like a band-aid on a problem. We need to do more than that. It means that we need to act on the way the pig industry is structured. The loan is welcomed because it will give us time to reorganize and refocus and to compete with the Americans.
The $17 million to expand exportation is also welcomed, because it is the right way to go. We need to create new markets. We need to export, to find new opportunity for export, because in the past, around 10 years ago, our main customer was the U.S. and now our main competitor is the U.S. We need to find new markets. We need to develop new places. We need to open China properly. We need to open Russia. We need to open Ukraine.
Third, who will be the organization...as the provincial government is involved in financing and they have their own budget to control, their own deficit to control? You know, the provinces have ad hoc support, as in Saskatchewan. The government will act with ad hoc programs. We need to have a neutral organization--not a lot of money, we speak of something in the hundred thousands of dollars--to have an independent study to create the leadership to identify clearly where the solutions are for the pig industry in Canada.
The solutions are not the same all across Canada. The pig industry is very different in the east, and it's different from province to province. That is why this paper was quite nice, because it makes sense for everybody. But solutions are not the same for every part of Canada.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your presentations.
I have a question for Mr. Grégoire.
I very much appreciated your presentation. I believe education is key to our future prosperity, and I certainly agree with your analysis of the devastation caused by the cuts that were made to the Canada social transfer by the former Liberal government.
You've asked the government to restore that funding in the amount of $3.5 billion. First, I'm sure you know that the government made a significant investment in colleges and universities this year through the knowledge infrastructure program. I hope your university received some of that funding and it's helpful.
We have also made new investments of $87.5 million in graduate scholarships, $48 million for research partnerships in community colleges across Canada, $15 million for quantum computing, and several other programs of that sort. So I hope we're addressing the needs across Canada.
With respect to the $3.5 billion that you're requesting though, do you think it's a good idea simply to provide it to the provinces and let them decide how to spend it in education, or would you suggest that the government mandate how the funds are to be used?
For example, I note that there is a good news report today, a prediction that Canada's information technology industry will create 84,000 highly skilled jobs in the next four years. Should we be directing funds towards certain types of study or industry, or should we simply allow the provinces to make their own determinations on how it should be spent?