I call the 52nd meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance to order. We have with us here today seven organizations for the first panel and a number of organizations for the second panel.
The finance committee is completing its pre-budget consultations across Canada. This is our eighth out of nine cities across the country. We finish in Toronto tomorrow or the next day.
We're very pleased to be here in Winnipeg today. This morning we have with us the Winnipeg Airports Authority Inc., the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, the University of Manitoba, the Rural Municipality of Alexander, the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, the Canadian Nurses Association, and Genome Prairie.
I thank you all for being with us here this morning.
Each panel will be an hour and a half in length. We'll have each organization present their brief for up to five minutes in an opening statement in the order that I outlined. Then we'll proceed to questions from the members of the committee.
We'll start with the Winnipeg Airports Authority, please.
Good morning. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity this morning to elaborate on the position put forward in our submission.
The Winnipeg Airports Authority put forward two requests: the creation of foreign trade zones in Canada and the elimination or reduction in airport rents.
With respect to the first point, we would like to acknowledge the recent advancements of this cause by Minister Day on October 8, when he announced here in Winnipeg the creation of the task force to study the implementation of foreign trade zone-type programs. We would like to recommend that this task force, the federal bureaucrats, be supplemented with industry expertise with respect to value-added activities, such as adding a representative from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association. What Canada really needs is to be competitive with the other G20 countries with the implementation of true foreign trade zones.
With respect to the second point, the payment of rent by Canadian airports to the federal government directly impedes airports' ability to compete, not only globally but in particular with the United States. In Canada, airports are paying rent to an absentee landlord while the airports are required to raise funds in the capital markets to fund infrastructure improvements. In contrast, the United States federal government contributes to infrastructure improvements while at the same time the airports are allowed to raise funds through tax advantaged municipal bonds. This has led to higher costs in Canada for airlines, which in turn results in higher air fares for travellers. This has caused a tremendous leakage of passengers to airports located just across the border from Canada. In addition, the revenue-based calculation of this rent is based on a formula that does not follow Canadian generally accepted accounting principles, and as such increases the burden to the host community.
For background information, you've all received copies of the press release from Minister Day regarding the task force, as well as article 4 of the Canadian airport leases that shows the rent calculation and the associated definitions.
Good morning, and thank you for letting us present today. We have a written submission, and there are three points I would like to highlight.
The first is on the innovation strategy to meet our infrastructure challenges. As we know, there is a $123 billion infrastructure deficit across Canada, and that's just to fix the existing infrastructure; it's not for new construction. In Manitoba it's $11 billion, which equates to about $10,000 per Manitoban.
We need to look at programs like the GST rebate, of which municipalities get 100%. We need to look at programs like the gas tax agreement, which is a really good program. It doesn't matter what size the municipality is; you have access to funds.
Building Canada is a great program, but unfortunately it's ad hoc and short term. It's not good for long-term planning and sustainable funding. We need these programs to help municipalities with long-term planning and funding and to give them some predictability when they're doing their budgets.
The prairie grain roads program was excellent and was taken up right across Canada. It was well-received, well-used, and a good use of money.
The one thing about this strategy is that it needs to involve the municipalities. Our association was not allowed to provide any input to the Building Canada fund. For other infrastructure programs we did have a seat at the table and were able to input and bring a municipal lens to the table to show what municipalities need. We were very disappointed this time around that municipalities were not allowed at the table and decisions were made at the federal and provincial levels.
The second point I'd like to make is to stop the offloading of responsibilities to municipalities. Right now municipalities are doing non-traditional municipal work like policing, health care, and housing—things that municipalities never had responsibility for. These things are now on our table, and that's preventing municipalities from doing what they normally do, like streets and all those other things. We need to stop this downloading.
There are always regulations and things coming down, but new money never comes with them. You expect municipalities to comply with these regulations, yet no money comes. The pile keeps getting higher and higher. Municipalities are now at the point where they're willing to turn water treatment plants back to the province because they can no longer pay for these requirements.
The third thing I would like to mention is that a rural champion is needed to stimulate the rural economy of Manitoba. We need someone at the cabinet table who has rural experience. We need someone who understands rural Canada, small-town Canada, small-town Manitoba. We need that person there for their input so that when these policies are being made in Ottawa they are looked at with a rural and municipal lens.
The rural champion should understand rural Canada. I think that's very important, because with all of these programs that come down, it seems there's no thought given to rural Canada. When these programs come down it's very hard for small municipalities, towns, and villages to figure them out, because the people who design these programs just don't understand rural life. A lot of these programs are very cumbersome. We need a streamlined process. So we feel that if we had a rural champion at the cabinet table it would make things a lot better.
On behalf of the university, I'd first like to thank you for the contributions the federal government has been making to a number of programs that have supported universities in recent years--the knowledge infrastructure program, the Vanier Canada scholarships, and the Canada excellence research chairs program, which I think is a very creative stimulus for research in this country. Universities, especially research-intensive universities, contribute to social, economic, and cultural growth in the country through their threefold mission of teaching, research, and public service, and we appreciate the support for those various things.
Our written submission focuses on three issues, and I'll touch on each of them briefly.
First is the need for continuing investment in the direct and indirect costs of research. The university system has consistently identified direct costs, indirect costs, infrastructure, and people as the components the federal government can help with and has indeed been helping with. But in the current circumstances, we think the balance needs to shift a little bit towards the direct and indirect costs of university-sponsored research, especially now in Canada, and especially with the stimulus that we expect to see in the United States as a result of a number of things that President Obama has said, and our expectations that this will increase the competition for seeking first-class researchers and trying to keep them in Canada. So we would like to see an increase in support to the three major research-granting councils and increased funding for the indirect costs of research.
The second issue we raised in our written brief was increased focus on aboriginal education. It's true in this province and in other parts of Canada that there need to be more aboriginal students in universities to be representative of their distribution in the overall population, and that more of those who come to universities need help to succeed in achieving the educational aspirations they have. The dropout rates in universities for aboriginal students are high because of the cultural adjustments that are necessary. Finally, those aboriginal students who do come confine their interest generally to a relatively small number of our programs. We have very few, for example, aboriginal people in math and science, and relatively more in nursing, education, and social work.
Our intention, as an institution working in collaboration with others in the city, is to try to address each of those three issues. I know that other universities across the country are doing so as well. We ask that you increase support for aboriginal education by investing in university programs and services that support aboriginal students.
The third thing we mentioned is specific to the University of Manitoba, and that's the establishment of the Canadian centre for excellence for grain crops. One of the things we've identified in our own strategic planning framework is focusing work on safe, secure, sustainable food and bioproducts, which matters locally for the economy here, of course, and matters nationally and globally in terms of supply and safety of food. This is a project that's been discussed at length with various government officials and departments, and we think it is an important component of the research infrastructure for the country. It will provide the opportunity for the academic, government, and industrial folks to work together, and we would ask you to include funding for the Canadian centre for grain crops in next year's budget.
Thank you for seeking our input.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairperson, and welcome to all members of the committee.
We have submitted our written brief in advance, as the other organizations have.
Our three principal recommendations are, first, that immigration fees should be forgiven for recent newcomers to Canada. By “recent” we mean within the last five years. We are very fortunate in Winnipeg to have a large number of newcomers coming into the province. This is a result of both federal policies and much reinforced provincial policies. Many immigrants in the economic class and many refugees are coming to Winnipeg. But unlike in the past, when the experience was generally a positive one, when immigrants came in and began to earn income, we are now finding many, many recent immigrants—and thus their children—ending up in poverty. We are just about to release a report at the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg detailing this with Statistics Canada figures, mostly from the census.
In our brief we say that 31.9% of children in families in Manitoba with at least one parent as a recent immigrant—that is, within the last five years—fall below the after-tax low-income cut-off. The low-income cut-off, of course, is a statistical construct from StatsCan. It is not perfect, but as a measure of poverty it's not bad—and there is also a before-tax low-income cut-off. Now, if you look at that figure for Canada, it's actually even worse. Again, quoting from Statistics Canada, the Canadian figure shows that 35.9% of children of recent immigrants live in poverty, if one uses the after-tax low-income cut-off. Using the before-tax low-income cut-off, it's almost another 10%, at 44.2%.
These figures are not included in the brief, but because they give the national picture, I want to make sure we get them on the record. So the figures for Canada as a whole are worse than the figures for Manitoba, and these figures show that essentially one in three children of recent immigrants live in poverty.
Removing the newcomer fee is not a panacea. It's not a silver bullet or the end of all problems for newcomers to Canada, but it would remove this head tax, if you will. That's essentially what it is—we've reintroduced a head tax. It was cut in half fairly recently, but let's cut it to zero. Is it a significant source of income at $121 million? Of course, every penny counts when you're putting together the budget, but we think it's a measure that could easily be foregone. We think most Canadians aren't even aware there is this head tax. Most Canadians who are already here aren't paying it off. So we would say that a good investment in the future of these families, so they can do well in Canada, would be to remove this additional burden from them.
Our second recommendation is on employment insurance. I realize it's a bit controversial around the table as to what should happen to the employment insurance program, but we believe and know that the regional variations in this program were undertaken in good faith to recognize that some Canadians needed more help than others. Obviously, we believe that. We believe that given our diversity, both regionally and by income levels, we sometimes need to do that, but we don't think this particularly is the program where it should be done. So we would like to see a national 360-hour qualifying period of work for employment insurance. The honourable members are certainly aware of the number of Canadians who pay into the system, which is then not there for them when they want it. We say in our brief that they amount to 150,000 Canadians.
Am I out of time?
One minute. Sorry, but as a part-time teacher I sometimes fill up three hours without even knowing it.
I've just checked the figures today and they remain about the same.
Next is the national child benefit supplement. Again, we believe this should be $5,200 per child per year. We believe that would really help a lot of families who are struggling. At the Social Planning Council, we put a lot of emphasis on child poverty and supporting families. Also, there are still some provinces that claw back the child benefit if the recipient is on welfare or social assistance. That practice has been ended in Manitoba, and we would like to see it end in all provinces. Obviously you could only recommend that to provincial governments, but we believe it should be changed.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairperson.
Good morning, and thank you so much.
My name is Kaaren Neufeld, and I am president of the Canadian Nurses Association. I represent registered nurses from across the country. Thank you for the opportunity to present nurses' solutions for maintaining the sustainability of Canada's health system, and that's helping to ensure that each one of us can contribute fully to a productive economy.
Our analysis of the health care system reveals that Canada urgently needs to invest in three priorities: a national pharmacare strategy, advancing health through nursing science and innovation, and a pan-Canadian health human resources institute.
Let me address our first priority, which is a national pharmacare strategy. For many Canadians, this year has been indeed a very difficult time. Thousands of Canadians have lost their jobs, and in losing their jobs, they've lost their insured drug benefits. Also, according to a Canadian Health Coalition report, 42% of Canadian workers do not have a drug plan. That's almost half of Canadian workers, who are just one illness away from a very serious financial hardship. The Canadian Cancer Society reports that the price tag of $65,000 is the average cost of treatment with newer cancer drugs, and we all know that exceeds the annual income of millions and millions of Canadian households.
CNA believes prescription treatment for serious illness must not cripple Canadians financially. What good is a universally accessible medical diagnosis if you cannot afford the treatment? Some Canadians who need expensive drug therapy are not only fighting for their lives, but they are fighting to put food on their table and to keep their home. Canada's first ministers agreed in 2004 that all Canadians must have access to catastrophic drug coverage. They also agreed that Canadians should have safe, effective, and accessible drug coverage. That was five years ago. Therefore, CNA recommends that the federal government fulfill their commitment to implement a national pharmaceutical strategy.
Our second priority is advancing health through nursing science and innovation. The government knows the importance of science and innovation, as it has identified this as a priority within Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage. Now more than ever, we find innovative, effective, fiscally responsible ways of improving the health of Canadians in the health care system that serves us all.
Registered nurses are the largest group of health care providers in this country. We are more than a quarter million strong. We have the strongest potential to bring about health system reform. By leading and applying research innovations, registered nurses contribute to improvement and innovations in health service delivery, better quality care, and reduced health care costs. What I should actually say is, we were making unprecedented contributions. The funding that made this research possible has ended, and despite our best efforts to keep up the momentum, our requests for new research dollars have gone unanswered. The nursing research fund expired in March of 2009, and renewal of this funding is urgently needed so that we can continue to innovate. I invite you to read our brief, which outlines concrete examples of where nursing research has led to significant cost savings, reduced wait times, and fewer adverse patient outcomes that lead to expensive hospital stays. Therefore, CNA recommends that the federal government invest $55 million over 10 years in nursing research.
Finally, our third priority that I would like to raise is the need for a pan-Canadian health human resources institute. Canada will be short almost 60,000 full-time equivalent registered nurses by 2022. All of us will be 13 years older by then, and more likely in need of the care that nurses provide, and the nurses will not be there to provide that care because we have not planned ahead. Our aging population will have growing health care needs. We need to build our capacity to respond to those basic needs, not to mention the stresses that sudden crises like flu pandemics cause to our system. Governments acknowledged this impending crisis in the 2004 health accord, when they committed to accelerate work on health human resources action plans and initiatives to ensure that we have enough of the appropriate mix of health professionals to meet our needs. The time has come for concerted action on this issue. CNA recommends that the federal government invest $10 million in an institute to promote and facilitate pan-Canadian health human resources planning.
So to recap, Canadian nurses are pressing for three priorities. We are calling for a national pharmacare strategy, advancing health through nursing science and innovation, and a pan-Canadian health human resources institute. The return on these investments can be calculated not only in terms of dollars and cents, but much more importantly on leveraging the effects of a healthy nation for our future prosperity.
Thank you for your attention.
I'm here representing Genome Prairie, which coordinates and oversees research and development projects that are led by researchers and developers based here in Manitoba and in Saskatchewan, but also includes collaborators throughout Canada and in several other countries.
I want to touch on five main topics that are covered in our brief submission.
The first is that revolutionary scientific and technological advances have given us the ability to determine the genetic makeup, what we call the genome, of plants and animals and to understand how that leads to the physical and biochemical characteristics of individual plants and animals. These discoveries have already led to huge social and economic benefits in human and animal health, in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, and the environment. The pace of development in this area, and our practical application of results, is accelerating very rapidly, and competition to reap the benefits of these advances is intensifying. The first point is that if we want to share fully in those benefits, we need to do more, we need to do better, and we need to do them soon.
The second point is this. Until a decade ago, Canada was largely a bystander in the world of genomic sciences. With the advent of genome centres such as Genome Prairie and a variety of other initiatives, Canada is now a recognized player in genomics research, but we're not realizing our full potential in applying discovery to the development of products and services of social and economic value. We see the goal for policy-makers as twofold. We need to keep the genomics research engine adequately fueled, and we need to effectively link the output of that engine to industrial innovation and thereby to economic growth and social benefit. We have to pursue both of those goals together or we will achieve neither.
The strategies for successfully achieving that dual objective are pretty clear to us. They are, first of all, the need to create or reinforce incentives and also to remove or ameliorate barriers.
On the incentive front--it's my third point--we are fortunate in Canada. We do have some experience and policy tools already in place to build on. We're good at building networks and coordinating agencies that bring essential elements together to foster synergy among governments, academia, and industry. However, these networks and agencies need significantly more funding capacity to initiate and sustain internationally competitive, large-scale projects in genomics-based research, in development, and in commercialization, and to attract correspondingly enhanced investment and commitment by industry.
Fourth, on the element of creating incentives, certain not-for-profit organizations support activities focused directly on the critical challenge of taking discoveries out of the laboratory through the early stages of the development to commercialization. However, these organizations are disadvantaged by being excluded from government initiatives designed to foster research and development, such as Canada's program of scientific research and experimental development credits, so-called SR and ED credits. If refundable SR and ED credits were made available to these not-for-profit organizations, the bench-to-shelf phase—going from the bench to a prototype and to a product that can be marketed—will be significantly strengthened.
Fifth, when it comes to removing or ameliorating barriers, the list of challenges is long. It includes regulatory complexity, market barriers, and scarcity of venture capital. An example drawn from agriculture is the unwillingness of some producers and investors to pursue the potential to enhance certain crop varieties because of the high cost they face in navigating the complex and time-consuming regulatory process. We believe there are clear opportunities to simplify or streamline the regulatory process without in any way compromising quality or safety, so it becomes cost effective for producers and investors to develop new marketable products in these areas.
Let me conclude by saying that we at Genome Prairie are passionate about the mission of fostering the use of genomic tools to address regional, national, and global challenges related to energy shortage, climate change, environmental sustainability, and of course to build and sustain a competitive advantage for Canada in genomics-based industrial innovation in selected fields of agriculture, health, energy, and the environment.
To succeed, we and other similar organizations need responsive, evidence-based public policy backed by increased strategic government investment and the use of the convening power of government to force strong competitive intersectoral partnerships, that is, between academia, government, and industry.
Thank you for your attention.
Yes, I think you're right about that, but it also needs input from those who will not qualify to be inside the zone.
I thank you for that answer, but it does generate some concerns that I hope will be addressed.
The second question I have is to Mr. Benham, and that has to do with employment insurance reform. Obviously your second recommendation was part of the Liberal Party's presentation over the course of the summer. The government spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars on a misinformation campaign, including saying that it was a $4 billion program rather than a $1 billion program and that these various zones were perfectly fine.
In Ottawa, if you are a waiter in the Parliamentary Restaurant and you're laid off during the summer, which most of them are, and you happen to live in Ottawa, you don't qualify for EI, but if you live in Gatineau, you do qualify. This is exactly the same person, exactly the same job. There's this whole huge distortion.
I'd be interested in your comments about the way in which the system currently works, particularly in Manitoba, where I'm assuming there is an overlay of a variety of zones that gives ridiculous distortions to various employee groups.
Yes. Thank you very much for the question.
Of course, the example you're using of Ottawa and Gatineau, where you're on a provincial boundary and it's very easy to cross, doesn't exist for most people in Winnipeg. Even in rural Manitoba, very few people would cross into other provinces.
My principal concern here is that.... As I say, I think everybody can understand why Quebec got a different level than other provinces, and perhaps it made sense in terms of a chronic level of unemployment over a period of time. So I don't think there should be any attacks on anybody for having that system, but I think the time for that has ended, and it is time for a uniform employment insurance qualification across the country.
In my previous role as a journalist here in Winnipeg, I had an open-line program that went right across Manitoba, so we were talking to Manitobans from all parts of the province at that point. A woman came forward who had appealed her unemployment insurance case, her disqualification from employment insurance. The issue in that case was that these rules are unfair to anybody who is in and out of the economy, and that particularly affects women.
I think that's another issue I would put before members of the committee, that having these various rates across the country and setting them fairly high generally makes it difficult for people who are in and out of the economy. That would be some of the people we represent at the Social Planning Council--women, immigrants and newcomers, and people with lower levels of education--who have less of an attachment to the workforce.
Drawing on my experience, I'm also a public education coordinator at Winnipeg Harvest, which is a food bank in town that supplies 300 local food banks around Winnipeg and across Manitoba, and we are definitely noticing a real problem with people who have exhausted their employment insurance benefits.
For example, we now have two projects that are working on using genetically modified bacteria to clean up oil spills in the environment. We have projects using bacterial populations and other micro-organisms in the process of being able to release oil supplies that are trapped in inaccessible locations.
So there are projects going from environment to energy, to human and animal health, biofuels, all of these things, that have their basis in genomics and related sciences, and we see that Canada has built up a platform in the last decade or so. What we now need to do is to make sure we keep that strong and develop it further and especially focus on commercialization of the discoveries we make so that the economic benefits to Canada can flow.
We see most of that happening by working more effectively together in order to use our resources better and to remove barriers. The intellectual property regimes in Canada have been made up of reform related to biotechnology for years. There are process barriers. We've had reports on smart regulation and all the rest of it. None of that has yet produced the kind of streamlining that is absolutely essential.
We think we can compete. What we want is the ability to compete, and that doesn't just mean more investment, although that's critically important. It also means using it more effectively.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for your presentations. It's good to be here in the heartland of Canada.
I have some questions for Mr. Benham.
I appreciate your recommendation regarding the landing fee. I've always been troubled by that landing fee. We invite people to come to our country. They bring their families, and of course they have the costs of getting here and the costs of establishing a home and looking for work, and the first thing we do is tax them at, previously, $1,000 per head.
Do you remember when that landing fee of $1,000 a head was imposed?
Well, I'll help you out. It was in the mid-1990s, I think, when Mr. McKay was in the government. Of course, I was always quite surprised that we would do that, because it's a significant tax: $1,000 per person.
As you know, we immediately cut it in half, in 2006, which I hope was helpful, and I'd like to see it go further, because I believe new Canadians contribute greatly to our economy and we need to help them get established—and obviously there are other costs that we fund through the government to help people settle.
That said, I take your recommendation and I think it's a good one, and I personally will pass it along. I believe it will be well received in Ottawa.
What other kind of settlement funding do you think is required to help new Canadians establish themselves in Canada? What other things would you recommend in that regard?
Mr. Benham, I'm pleased to hear that Mr. Dechert has shown some enthusiasm for forgiving immigration fees, and certainly we would support that. I'm glad, after four years, that it's going to happen.
He seemed to be somewhat less enthusiastic about your recommendation with the employment insurance reform or in increasing the national child benefit level. The national child benefit level is a $5 billion item. That's a pretty significant amount of money, and a pretty significant amount of money in the current context.
Is there an argument as to why you would prefer the national child benefit level as opposed to, say, a child care program, which would cost a similar amount of money?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much for your presentations. I've read through your briefs.
I have some questions for the Canadian Nurses Association as well as the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.
First of all, I am a little surprised at the assertion that the Canadian Nurses Association or nurses across Canada need to do a study on health human resources in isolation of other disciplines. In Saskatchewan we have a primary care model that you reference in terms of needing to establish the right mix of providers, and you talked about the primary care model. We also heard from the Canadian Medical Association, as was referenced by my colleague. They too are requesting that the federal government consider the need for a health human resources strategy on a national level.
How closely do you work with other health care providers when bringing forward recommendations for a health human resources strategy for the country? You also referenced the great work that we've done with H1N1. It is unfortunate that sometimes we don't do what we should do until we have to.
How closely do you work with other health care providers across the country?
Dr. Naimark, I hesitate to question your recommendations since you're such a distinguished Canadian, but I have to follow up on this recommendation for western economic diversification, because when we're funding research, if we look at the whole spectrum of research from idea to implementation, which you know very well, we're funding certainly on the human resource side through the granting councils and the Canada research chairs. Also, we fund infrastructure through CFI and the knowledge infrastructure program.
On commercialization, I'll just take the University of Alberta as an example. The University of Alberta asked for federal and provincial funding for TEC Edmonton, which is located at the downtown facility.
Then we have the SR and ED tax credit and programs like IRAP, which received increased funding.
But it seems that this is just sort of another thing we're going to fund. My concern, I guess, is that we're diluting it too much and funding in too many places, and we'll lose our effectiveness. It's just an honest, genuine concern. I have great respect for WD, but since the University of Alberta itself asked for funding of that commercialization institute, it just seems to make more sense to fund something like that rather than funding through WD, or to fund Genome Prairie directly rather than funding WD.
I don't dispute anything you've said; it's absolutely correct. As I said earlier, the kind of funding we're talking about needs to come for the projects and the heavy lifting. But the role for existing federal entities is to help with this interaction, convening and bringing groups together.
In our report you'll see four examples of really important networks that have been developed among the western provinces, with some support from western economic diversification. That's a layer that helps us with part of the interaction. It's not the biggest thing, but it brings people together.
There are many examples where existing structures, as you've described, have been set up and are doing excellent work. I think our thrust nationally should be to make sure we don't create ever newer structures to do bits and pieces. We need to ask how we can adapt the programs we have to allow them to deal with new challenges and opportunities. That means streamlining our intellectual property regime. That means looking at our incentive programs like SR and ED and asking whether making some changes there would have a positive effect and attract more investment from the private sector.
Our thrust is really to say that we in Genome Prairie have seen the benefit of making the existing programs work together as a really important way to go.
Let's find our seats, please, and begin with the second panel.
With us here are six organizations for the second hour-and-a-half panel, and I'll read them in order of presentation: the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, the Manitoba Child Care Association, the City of Selkirk, the Athabasca University, the Canadian Federation of Students (Manitoba), and the University College of the North.
Each organization will have up to five minutes to make an opening presentation, and then we'll go to questions from members.
We'll start, Mr. Crawford, with your presentation, please.
Good morning, Mr. Chair.
I represent the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. It's an independent society of scientists in these two disciplines.
Canada and other G8 nations, in their accountability report this year, recognized the broad scientific view that global warming should not exceed two degrees Celsius. Evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and from recent research, suggests that any delays in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will bring us uncomfortably, or even dangerously, close to this two-degree increase. So our society recommends the introduction of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rapidly, to ensure prosperity for Canadians of future generations. These measurements will complement present plans to reduce emissions by target years of 2020 and 2050, and we hope will accelerate these reductions.
Canada has opportunities at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December to coordinate these measures with other nations, so that we are not acting alone and our industries and businesses are not subject to undue and unfair competition from other nations. Many of these projects are cost efficient and will allow Canadian industry to compete globally.
We also recommend that the federal government invest funds in science-based climate information. Everyone, from farmers to fishers to the oil and gas industries, and workers in this hotel, need this type of information. Climate covers everything from the next season to the next century. What will happen to permafrost in the north? Will it affect communities and operations? Will we see more or fewer floods on the Red River? What will be the future water supply for Manitoba Hydro? Will tropical diseases spread into Canada? These are the types of issues we already know, and there are many surprises that will develop.
This type of information requires the federal government to maintain funding for the climate-, ocean-, and weather-observing network, and especially to expand it into the north where impacts will hit the hardest. It requires research and development to coordinate federal labs and universities; government climate programs and forecast models can be linked to university research. It requires communication to give public and business the information they need on climate issues. Examples of provincial programs are Ouranos in Quebec and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions in British Columbia. A federal program can unify and expand these efforts all across the country and into the north.
Previous economic crises have demonstrated that companies and nations that maintain and increase their investments in research and development during bad times emerge stronger and more competitive when the recovery begins. We recommend renewed funds to independent granting councils that can assess air, water, and climate research proposals on their scientific merit. Proposals are ranked by relevance, excellence, and innovation, to balance the curiosity and relevance. Other nations and Canada have all found this is the most effective way for scientific discovery and ways to cash in on these discoveries.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada provides such funding across all subjects. The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences awards funding through the same processes with a specific mandate in climate and atmospheric studies, and impacts on air, ocean, water, and ice. This foundation requires renewed funding in its next budget to continue its research. Its funds for new research proposals have recently run out, and this funding ended as the International Polar Year also completed, ending many arctic programs and leaving a big hole in Canada's research, as well as the danger of a brain-drain of scientists engaged in this field. About half the funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences goes directly to students and post-doctoral fellows, to support them while they are doing their research.
We recommend renewal of financial support for these types of funding agencies to engage in oceanography, meteorology, climate, and ice science. These are the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
Canadian parents need early learning and child care services to work. Child care yields high social and economic returns by promoting economic stimulus through job creation, facilitating Canada's labour force participation, and increasing government revenues from employment taxes. It's the most healthy child development, and it ensures fathers and mothers can participate in education, job training, and can enter and stay in the workforce. It moves families out of poverty and it builds strong local economies.
In 2006 the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance recommended that the government, in conjunction with the provincial and territorial governments, fund a national, accessible, affordable, high-quality, publicly regulated child care system. This system should respect any provincial-territorial child care programs already in effect, recognizing the leadership of the Province of Quebec.
That same year, the Government of Canada terminated the funding agreements on early learning and child care and flipped most of the money intended to build a national child care program into a universal child care benefit, a monthly taxable allowance of up to $100 given to parents of each child under age six. A review of the federal government's own website boasts that the flipped money is used by some parents to subsidize child care expenses but is used by others for vacations, RESPs, clothing, diapers, and recreational activities.
The majority of the $5.9 billion Canada currently spends on early learning and child care is primarily tax measures and unaccountable transfers, not the creation of new and desperately needed services. The consequence? In 2007 there were 3.1 million children aged zero to 12 years of age with a mother in the paid labour force in Canada but barely 857,194 regulated child care spaces. To Canada's shame, the United Nations education fund published a study in December 2008 that rated Canada's provision of early childhood education and child care at the very bottom of 25 developed countries.
UNICEF, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Canadian Labour Congress are just some of the many well-established organizations currently calling on government to take strong leadership in creating a national child care strategy to build accessible, affordable, quality early learning and child care services. In April 2009 the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released a report called “Early Childhood Education and Care: Next Steps” that calls upon Canada to be a champion for the families of the 21st century and makes four recommendations to make that happen, all of which are supported by the Manitoba Child Care Association.
In addition, the Manitoba Child Care Association recommends that the Government of Canada use its constitutional powers to get back on track and lead the provinces and territories in the development of a system of high-quality, not-for-profit, accessible, affordable, and inclusive early learning and child care services. By 2020, federal support for early learning and child care services should reach 1% of GDP through scheduled increases in annual increments to provinces. Funds should be sustainable, increased annually, and targeted to the provinces and territories that are committed to the development of high-quality early learning and child care services.
The Government of Canada should transfer funds to the provinces and territories that are earmarked for early learning and child care and attach conditions to ensure quality and accountability. In return the provinces must agree to establish high-quality standards, provide direct operating grant funding to not-for-profit services, provide a level of funding that supports competitive wages to the child care workforce, and provide a level of funding that keeps parents' fees affordable. For example, the OECD recommends a 40-40-20 cost sharing: the federal and provincial governments should provide at least 40% each, with a maximum overall contribution from parents of 20%.
Quality early learning and child care programs have been recognized by countries around the world as essential services to support the ongoing learning and healthy development of children and to ensure access to training and labour force attachment of parents. Educated and employed parents can enjoy a stable income, economic security, and the potential for a positive future.
Canada's stagnant birth rate, combined with an aging population, is a land mine that no responsible government should ignore. Business struggles about labour shortages in many sectors now are not likely getting better as long as Canadian birth rates remain below that required for a country to support itself.
In good and bad economic times, Canada needs child care to work. Child care yields high social and economic returns by promoting economic stimulus through job creation, facilitating parents' labour force participation, and increasing government revenues from employment taxes. It promotes healthy child development. It moves families out of poverty. It builds strong local economies. Canada can't work without quality child care.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the panel.
The City of Selkirk is pleased to have the opportunity to make a presentation to the committee. I wish to thank the government for allowing us this input into the 2010 budget considerations.
While there are many items of importance in this great country, the City of Selkirk wishes to focus on three main topics: public transportation, the municipal infrastructure deficit, and affordable housing and homelessness. All of these topics form the foundation of a municipal government's responsibility of creating a quality of place within its community. Therefore, it is important that all levels of government work together to ensure that Canada's economic engines retain their competitive edge through the proper investments in transportation, infrastructure, and housing.
Although there are many other opportunities to invest in the quality of life of every Canadian, these three components will touch all. As stated by FCM past president Jean Perrault, “Every day, as mayors and councillors, we see what needs to be done in our communities, but too often we do not have the resources to do it. We also know this is not just a problem for our individual community; it is a national problem.”
Municipalities receive only 8¢ from each tax dollar collected. With this, each municipality must deal with responsibilities--for example, roads, water and waste water infrastructures, solid waste management, recreation, and protective services, both police and fire--and are faced with affordable housing issues. Municipalities are depended upon to deliver the basic services that our communities rely on every day. They provide the public infrastructure that supports economic activity and job creation, and they deliver front-line services to meet continuous new and growing challenges.
Due to receiving just 8¢ out of every tax dollar collected, municipalities struggle to supply these services because they lack the resources needed to succeed, therefore forcing them to rely on the property taxpayer for the new responsibilities and our ever-growing needs.
In addition to supplying these services, municipalities have taken the lead role in the federal government's stimulus plan. As municipalities are required to balance their budgets each year, unlike federal and provincial governments, the cost of participating in the stimulus program must be paid immediately, either by raising taxes, cutting spending or services, or borrowing.
To that end, the City of Selkirk is requesting your government to take action on the following priority items.
Number one is public transportation. Safe and reliable public transportation is the only universally acceptable form of transport that provides economic, social, and environmental benefits. Canadian transit riders pay a higher percentage of total costs required to build, maintain, and operate transit than do riders in almost all other western countries.
Almost every transit system in the world requires financial support to offset the shortfall of expenses and revenues raised from fares. Canada's transit systems require more than $40 billion in investment to cover the next five years of operation alone, which will cause rehabilitation, replacement, and expansion projects, thus increasing numbers of riders.
Local governments, which already make up the majority of Canada's transit investments, do not have the revenue source to meet the current and future demands. Canada needs a long-term federally funded national transit strategy. As a first step, the federal government must review and extend dedicated transit funding set to expire in the year 2009.
The next item is the municipal infrastructure deficit. Given the estimated $123 billion municipal infrastructure deficit and a very limited source of revenues, municipal governments need help to deliver services that the nation's economy, quality of life, and environmental sustainability rely on. Recent federal government initiatives for municipal infrastructure funding are very important, very much appreciated, and must be sustained, but we need to concentrate on longer-term predictable commitments from all levels of government.
With the cooperation of all three levels of government, the federal government has to produce a plan of action to reduce or eliminate the infrastructure deficit within 20 years. As well, the federal gas tax fund should be indexed to protect its purchasing power against inflation, population growth, and economic expansion.
Finally, on housing and homelessness, with thousands of Canadians struggling to find affordable places to live, the federal government needs a renewed funding commitment and a national housing plan. In this age, too many Canadians are forced to decide between food or rent, necessities for their children or making the mortgage payment. A well-housed population with affordable shelter costs enables individuals to participate more productively in the economy.
This comes from the FCM 2008 national action plan on housing and homelessness:
||The CREA has estimated that every existing home sold stimulates on average $32,000 in spending and income. This includes transaction fees...moving costs and spending on new furnishings and renovations. This spending is recycled into the economy and subject to taxation. This impact may be somewhat moderated in the recommended assisted ownership option as this targets lower priced homes. However, it will still likely generate at least half ($16,000 per unit) of this estimated impact.
The federal government should immediately adopt the recommendations of the FCM 2008 national plan on homelessness and housing--
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today about what we think is an important component of Canadian culture, and that is the importance of a national information technology or an ICT vision.
I also want to thank you--and it is relevant to our discussion today--for the knowledge infrastructure program and the funding we received as a university, which actually for the first time, we think, recognized technology as capital. That is an important step in really seeing the ICT vision happen.
Canada’s national English language open and distance university, Athabasca University, is uniquely placed to address the key elements of our nation’s future financial and social success, which is our e-economy. This distinct perspective has evolved as a result of our mandate to remove barriers that restrict access to and success in the university-level studies by providing the opportunity for interested adults to take university courses and programs anywhere and at any time of the day or year. Our perspective has also been informed by 81% of our students who work while they study, who engage directly in lifelong learning while immersed in the emergent knowledge economy. Currently we have 38,000 students who are doing this across the country, enrolled in our courses and programs.
As outlined in our briefing to you today, we believe strongly that Canada needs a national information and communication technology vision and that the federal government has a significant role to play in both the development and implementation of the ICT vision.
The most developed progressive and economically stable countries in the world are those that are technologically advanced. While recent technological advances have brought major social and economic shifts in Canada that have helped shape our nation's economic and social visions and some of our decision processes, more needs to be done.
Consider this. One-half of the current jobs are in the knowledge sector, and this is growing. Companies spend more on tangible assets--that is, people, software, and design--than on tangible resources such as building and equipment. The vast majority of the workforce, now 90%, request formal job qualifications, which is up from 40% in 1970. In short, ICT is changing the face of the economy in much the same way as the Industrial Revolution did several centuries ago. To put it simply, Canada is not keeping up.
Previous governments and this government have introduced the idea of a national ICT plan. We believe, as a university, this is the right direction, and we're here to support the initiatives that we've heard in the past and also with this current government.
Our national challenge is to work together to develop a vision to make this happen. The federal government--for that matter all levels of government--needs to ensure that this vision is a priority when developing legislation, regulations, policies, and funding priorities. Post-secondary institutions, Athabasca University in particular, and industry are looking for Parliament for leadership.
We have three concrete recommendations that we make in the briefing as we move collectively towards our increasingly technologically based future.
First, as a country we need to develop and support research into the new knowledge economy, with a goal to increase Canada's potential for global strength and leadership. The impact of Canada's low investment in ICT research and development is clear: loss of opportunities, loss of revenue, and loss of the kind of people, quite frankly, who are attracted to innovative environments and who will go on to shape our own global future. If our national research and development spending is improved and if the needed infrastructure is strengthened, we believe we will be able to keep and attract knowledge workers and begin to realize the economic and social benefits that will bring.
There are three elements that we outline, and I won't go into detail because my colleagues from the University of Manitoba this morning actually went through some of them, but we need to grow Canada's R and D expenditures in a coordinated way. We need to create R and D incentives into all aspects of ICT, and we need to research learning in a virtual environment.
The area that I really want to focus on is the second recommendation in our proposal, and that is that we need to ensure that all Canadians can engage in the digital environment, and in doing so we need to develop and support a framework for engagement in the emergent e-world in ways that will benefit them personally, socially, and economically.
It's a different world out there, and we have to really change the way we think about education if we're going to create the new knowledge economy.
So there are three things. We need to address the digital divide--that is one of the biggest things. We need to improve digital infrastructure, increase comfort with the learning of new technologies, and improve access, most importantly for underrepresented groups, indigenous groups, rural areas, and for those who maybe do not have access to the Internet for whatever reason. We need to encourage lifelong learning, and we need to encourage a national virtual learning environment. New learning environments include wikis, blogs, podcasts, and three-dimensional simulations, and together they represent a significant shift from face-to face to text-based learning. They need to be accessible.
My final point is that the federal government, and in fact all levels of government, need to review and support stimulus measures and policy and regulatory environments that consistently advance both of the two objectives I've just mentioned. This government must have a vision and lead by example to ensure that Canada has consistently friendly policies toward the knowledge economy and a regulatory framework in these areas.
Thank you very much for your time today.
As many of you know, in the midst of a global economic recession, affordable and high-quality post-secondary education and training is key to ensuring that Canada remains a sustainable, liberal, just, and competitive society. With an aging and retiring workforce and growing young immigrant and aboriginal populations, access to post-secondary education will be key to maintaining Canada’s success in weathering the economic crisis.
With the implementation of the Canada student grants program this year—Canada's first broad-based national system of means-tested grants—and the infusion of campus infrastructure funding from the federal stimulus package, the federal government has shown leadership in post-secondary education.
The growing consensus in Manitoba and around the country is that the federal government must take a leadership role in establishing and funding national standards for post-secondary education in Canada. To do this, the government must create a dedicated post-secondary education cash transfer guided by federal legislation.
In 2007, the federal budget included the largest funding increase to core transfer payments for post-secondary education in 15 years, but it still left universities and colleges close to $1 billion short of 1992 levels, when accounting for inflation and population growth. These funding increases lack binding agreements or legislated guidelines, leaving no accountability measures to ensure that the provincial governments are actually spending the money as intended.
Manitoba has set a precedent throughout a decade-long tuition fee freeze, with universities and colleges in Manitoba experiencing enrolment increases of over 31% and an aboriginal enrolment increase of 44%. During that same period from 1999 to 2008, our post-secondary institutions saw consistent increases in provincial operating grants, funded in part by these federal transfer payments. Overall funding for post-secondary institutions in Manitoba rose by over 60%. However, to use the University of Manitoba as an example—and Dr. Barnard from the University of Manitoba may have touched on this—the loss of endowment funding and the continued accumulated federal funding shortfall inherited from years of federal funding cuts in the 1980s and the 1990s mean that the pressure on the system is not something the Manitoba provincial government can address alone. This is where you come in.
Therefore, the Canadian Federation of Students recommends that the federal government, in cooperation with the provinces, create a post-secondary education cash transfer payment for the purpose of fostering operating budgets; reducing tuition fees; and improving teaching, learning, and research infrastructure at universities and colleges. This transfer should be guided by principles set out in a federal post-secondary education act.
Access to education is integral to breaking the cycle of poverty that plagues Canada's aboriginal communities. Aboriginal people make up over 15% of the population of Manitoba, yet the poverty rate is 29%. Manitoba's aboriginal children under six years of age experience a poverty rate at 56% compared to 19% of non-aboriginal children.
Despite the worsening situation of Canada's aboriginal people, support for first nations education, a federal responsibility and treaty right, has stagnated over the last several decades.
The Assembly of First Nations estimates that over 10,000 eligible status first nations students remain on waiting lists to access federal funding transferred to band councils for the post-secondary student support program. Manitoba is home to 15% of Canada's aboriginal population and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs estimates that 10% of first nations students on waiting lists live in Manitoba.
The sixth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development entitled “No Higher Priority: Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education in Canada”, outlined a set of recommendations for aboriginal post-secondary education in Canada. Central among them was eliminating the 2% funding cap on the post-secondary student support program, the federal government's mechanism for funding first nations and Inuit post-secondary education. This funding cap prohibits the allocation of adequate funding for prospective aboriginal students, and it does not meet the needs of the growing student demographic.
Research by the First Nations Education Council suggests that an increase to the post-secondary student support program of 149%, or $481 million, is needed to address the current funding deficit. Only 5% of aboriginal people have post-secondary degrees or diplomas, and the fact that the funding allocated through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs fails to reach non-status aboriginal students, Métis, or first nations students living off reserve only slows down progress.
Additional federal support must be allocated towards the success of aboriginal students. The federal government should eliminate the 2% funding cap on the post-secondary student support program and ensure that the federal funding for this program rises with the rate of growth in the young aboriginal population, calculated region by region.
Good morning. Wado
My name is Denise Henning and I'm president and vice-chancellor of the University College of the North.
I first want to speak about the KIP dollars, the knowledge infrastructure program, where $8 million was allocated to University College of the North. I want to point out, however, that 70% of the dollars.... We are the only institution that is advocating for and putting those dollars into first nations communities, thereby expanding our regional centre model of directly impacting the communities of the students, not only meeting them where they are academically, but also meeting them where they are demographically, and therefore keeping them within their communities to get the support from family and community.
In regard to the lack of increase in funding through federal dollars to the provincial governments to provide for infrastructure, maintenance, support, and upgrading, I am concerned about the impact this will have on a deficit for deferred maintenance in terms of the dollars that are being put into building versus the dollars that are there to maintain.
The second point I'd like to make, which was referred to by my previous colleagues, is about the 2% cap of INAC's student success program dollars. This directly impacts University College of the North. In the region we serve, the northern Manitoba area, 72% of our population is aboriginal. Eighty-nine percent of our student population are aboriginal people, and those dollars have a direct impact on them. With the highest birth rate and the fastest growing population being in the aboriginal communities, this particularly impacts Manitoba as a province, but also Canada, in that we are trying to meet the needs of those students directly to provide a healthy, talented, and skilled labour force as well as increasing the capacity for other students like me who are first nations and have met with different impacts from our lived experience.
It's very important that we understand that those wait lists translate to a decreased labour force, as well as impacting the ability for students to go to school, which leads to the third point that I want to talk about, which is the CCL dollars and the Millennium Foundation dollars.
With the Millennium Foundation dollars there was an ability for most post-secondary educational institutions to provide funding for students who were falling through the gaps because of those wait lists that were in regard to the INAC dollars. The funding for community colleges, polytechnicals, and university colleges and the debate between the universities' share of the pie for research dollars has an impact on the University College of the North in relation to providing northern solutions to northern issues.
Many times, as you are probably aware, decisions are made at the table by people who have no understanding or knowledge of what life is like in the north and the expensive living environment that we have. As a result, the decrease in the foundation dollars through these two programs has impacted us in real ways.
UCN is providing solutions through programs like our Kenanow bachelor of education program, where we are the only institution that I'm aware of.... We had 200 applications in the first week of advertising our program, and we've had 100% retention from the first year to the second year, thus subsequently providing for the needs of education in the north, the Northwest Territories, and far northern areas of Canada.
Secondly, the research dollars impact on our ability to deliver in the crisis in health care and the health care needs in northern Manitoba, where 84% of our graduates in our health studies area are staying in the north and providing for the deficit in doctors.
Our law enforcement programs understand how they're impacting on and reducing the gang intervention, the gang violence that's going on amongst the aboriginal population.
Also, 39% of the applied research that is going on in colleges comes directly from industry, and that allows us to have a greater impact on the economic development of smaller communities.
I thank you very much for allowing us to come to speak with you today.
My second question is to Ms. Henderson.
This committee recommended at one point that the government, in conjunction with the provincial-territorial governments, fund a national, accessible, affordable, high-quality, publicly regulated child care system. Mr. Mulroney apparently recommended it back in 1984. The Liberal Party made it part of its platform and actually funded it, but the government was defeated.
The government's position is: “Here's $100. Parents know better than anybody else, so do whatever you want with it.”
What's your reaction to the government's position on this?
Good morning to all our witnesses.
In his presentation, the president of the University of Manitoba said that he would like to see an increase in funding to promote post-secondary education for aboriginals. Ms. Makinson and Mr. Jacks, you have also addressed that issue.
My first question is for Ms. Henning, since she has said that she is aboriginal. This is basically the same question that I put earlier to the representative of the University of Manitoba.
You would like that the federal government increase funding to promote post-secondary education among aboriginal students. Is that because you find that the high school graduation rate among aboriginals in general is sufficient? Should we not begin by increasing the funding for the primary and secondary education of aboriginal students, who could then simply pursue their post-secondary studies and obtain a college or university degree?
What are you views on that, Ms. Henning?
Thank you very much. I appreciate the question.
I am going to say that, yes, there needs to be an increase across the board in K through 12, as well as post-secondary college and university. I say that by talking about equity and inclusion. Equity and inclusion means that everyone has a level playing field. Right now, aboriginal people across the board, regardless of where they are in their lifelong learning process, do not experience equity and inclusion.
So when we talk about northern Manitoba, for example, I respectfully say that the mean accomplishment area is grade 7, but mature student programs are directed towards grade 9. That's a huge impact. So for people who are right now in the workforce and trying to make an impact and to provide for their families and for their communities, they're at a deficit to be able to do that.
What we are advocating is that all aboriginal people should have inclusion and equity in education across the board. This includes early childhood education as well, where we have had a 300% increase in early childhood education training in the north, where we suffer a thousand-seat deficit for early childhood education in early childhood facilities. So it's about equity and inclusion and our students having the same access to the same amenities that southern institutions and K-through-12 programs offer.
That's a great question. I think I would have to say that, at this point in time, although we have a huge municipal infrastructure deficit and requirements, I would have to put the social aspects as a priority. We have spent significant amounts of time with the provincial government, working to try to bring appropriate, affordable housing into our community.
The city of Selkirk is home to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, which of course has been there since 1876. I work there full time as a psychiatric nurse and see first-hand how homelessness affects not just the working poor, not just young people starting out, but individuals who maybe don't have all the resources that many of us are so fortunate to have. So I see very much a broad-based need for social housing. I think it's really important that we recognize that there is a component of homelessness, not just in Selkirk but certainly throughout Manitoba, and throughout Canada, of course. I don't think that, in the 21st century, people should ever have to be sleeping in the streets or young families should have to be concerned about where they're going to raise their children.
So given the opportunity, and in terms of our budget, if you were to hand me cheque today, I would be walking down to the provincial government, to Minister Mackintosh, saying “Let's get started, pal.” That's where it would go.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your presentations. I find them all quite informative.
I'd like to start with Athabasca University and Ms. Van Rooijen.
I was interested to hear about your university and the courses you provide online and by distance.
As you know, our government, in Budget 2009, provided a significant amount of money—I think it was over $250 million—to build rural broadband networks across Canada. Is that helpful to your university and your students in reaching out to students in rural and remote areas?
There are many issues I would love to jump into, but I'll use the bulk of my time asking our friends from the meteorological society a question.
There is a bill currently in Parliament, Bill C-311 on climate change, on a cap and trade system. It is coming to a vote tomorrow. We all have to run back for this vote. The vote is to delay--essentially it's a hoist motion, because the enemies of the bill seek to stall it and drag their feet on it so that we go to Copenhagen with nothing to say. We are one of the world's leading democracies with no opinion, one of the great climate change greenhouse gas producers with no opinion on what the world needs to do.
Has your organization been following the development of this bill? Do you have any opinion on the merits of it, or any direction you might give Parliament as to whether or not Canada should go to Copenhagen with some position on climate change?
Because we are a relatively small community, we're very intimate with so many of the people we see living in these types of environments. As I mentioned, my career as a psychiatric nurse certainly allows me to see another end of society that really doesn't get the advocacy it truly needs. We see that many of our people are retained in hospitals simply because of a lack of resources that should be out there. As the mayor of a city that has a mental health centre as its third-largest contributor to our economic engine, I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to say, “Gentle people, we have to come together with some kind of strategy that offers affordable housing at such a broad-based level.”
I have a young nephew who has three young children and is working in a $12 or $14-an-hour job. What kind of home is he going to be able to buy? What are some of the impacts for him in terms of his life? If you want to talk about child care, I can talk child care intimately with you here. If you want to talk about a university education.... I'm telling him to go to school. He's asking how to do it. It really is a crisis.
I know the aboriginal piece well, too; I'm part aboriginal, as are my young nephews. We're living this whole piece. We're coming to you saying that affordable housing is a huge piece that needs to be addressed. You're absolutely correct. If the gentleman next to you were to offer me $2 million or $3 million, you can bet that's the first place we'd be heading, to put some more affordable housing....
Are you going to do it?
It would be to put it into our community, along with retrofitting what is already there. Only in the last couple of years have we seen some of the senior complexes starting to get new windows, new doors, and new appropriate retrofits—as you say, those kinds of things that keep the cold out.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to the witnesses for great presentations. It's tough for us to ask questions in the limited time we have, but I'll try to the best of my ability.
We've had various presenters from federations of students, and they've given good presentations. One of the things I'd like to clarify or would like to see—you state it in your brief, but it's not necessarily a recommendation, and I don't understand why it isn't—is you asking that the government, and I'm going to read this right from your brief, “create a dedicated post-secondary education cash transfer guided by federal legislation”.
Shouldn't the post-secondary transfer payment be separated from the social transfer payment before we talk about increasing post-secondary transfer payments?
We've rather lost that message.
I don't mean to interrupt; it's just that I have only five minutes.
We've lost that message. Before we can say there have been more or fewer moneys transferred for post-secondary, we have to have the real amounts. Different amounts have been transferred for the funding, the granting councils, for scholarships, for student loans, and we don't have an accurate amount. So a couple of years ago, all the student federations were asking for the post-secondary transfer payment to be separated, and we're not seeing it.
I'm wondering why this is not a major recommendation.
I want to thank you for coming today to talk to us.
Mr. Bell—Your Worship—concerning the transit issue you brought forward.... I am from Burlington, Ontario, which is just outside Toronto. We have what is called the Go Train out our way, and in addition the municipality has its own transit system.
What does Selkirk have? I want to understand. Mr. Chong and I have been working to convince the government on a national strategy overall, working with our friends from FCM. Part of the argument, to be frank with you, is that it's really a “big urban” issue, but we think it's wider than that.
What are Selkirk's transit issues? Can you tell me about the community itself?
And it's bilingual, yes.
My question is to Lori Van Rooijen, and it's with respect to the growth of Canada's R and D expenditures. In the previous government, there was a substantial increase in public funding of R and D. Canada went from a pretty dismal position to a number one position in public R and D. What didn't follow was private R and D. Canada seems to be a bit of a laggard in that, and continues to be a laggard. With the bankruptcy of Nortel, it's going to be even more dismal for private R and D here.
I'm interested in your observations with respect to public R and D and whether in fact it has increased lately or has flatlined or is reducing.
You have a bunch of scientists who are about to be laid off. With respect to private R and D, presumably, if your largest R and D researcher is now in the hands of the bankruptcy court, it can't really look good for R and D in this country.
In our university, we own them. That is not the case in all universities. We're very different in that instance. So our faculty members do not own the IP for a particular thing.
What I can tell you is that companies like Nortel were good examples of companies that wanted government funding in there first. There are other companies, however, such as Xerox, that are not part of that component. They spend a significant amount of money on R and D and have come to us. We have a partnership with Xerox. We are looking with them at mobile learning, in particular. We have their support, and now we're going to government, and government has been very supportive of it.
It's not all corporations, but there are some, particularly ones that have been around a long time, that are looking for that component of government.
I'm just going to take the final round and follow up on a couple of issues, first, with the Canadian Federation of Students, Manitoba division. In your first recommendation, you say that the federal government should, in cooperation with the provinces.... You know that this is a very loaded phrase in Canadian federalism.
The issue is that the students outside the province of Quebec have a fairly uniform message, which is similar to yours. The students inside Quebec have a completely different message, in my view, and have made a strong argument that the federal government ought to stick to areas under its own jurisdiction and should leave the areas under provincial jurisdiction to the provinces. So we have two markedly different views within the student population of Canada. It's not just the difference between students and the government.
I want you to argue with them. Their argument is that we're further away from the people as a federal government. It's not our area of expertise. It's a rather paternalistic attitude for us to be attaching and for us, as a federal government, to say that a transfer is unaccountable. They would argue that provincial governments are closer to the people and are thus more accountable to the people. That's not necessarily my argument, but that's the argument they've made.
How do you counter that argument?