I declare the 53rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance in order.
It's wonderful to be here in Toronto. We have two days here. We have a total of eight panels over the next two days. This is our final city on our nine-day tour across Canada for pre-budget consultations.
In the first panel this morning, for an hour and a half, we have six organizations with us. I'll read their names in order of their presentations to the committee: the College Student Alliance, the Canadian Dance Assembly, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, the Employer Coalition for Advanced Skills, Colleges Ontario, and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres.
Thanks to all of you for being with us here this morning. You each have up to five minutes for an opening statement and then we will go to questions from members of all parties on the committee.
We'll start with the College Student Alliance, please.
Good morning. Thank you for this opportunity to share with you the thoughts, concerns, and recommendations of Ontario's college and college/university students.
I am Tyler Charlebois and I am the director of advocacy for the College Student Alliance, which is an advocacy and services organization representing over 120,000 full-time college and college/university students across the province.
“Canada Rebranded: Stronger Investments for Greater Returns” is our submission to your pre-budget consultations. It focuses on three recommendations to lead Canada into the new economy.
The first recommendation is that the Government of Canada, in partnership with the provinces and territories, must develop a national education and training strategy.
The second recommendation is that the Government of Canada assist in alleviating the increasing burden of debt that learners are assuming. The Canada student loans program loan repayment policy should be changed to encompass interest relief and debt reduction components.
The third recommendation is that the Government of Canada should establish a separate research envelope for colleges to expand their applied research, commercialization, and innovation capabilities.
For today's presentation, I'm going to focus only on what we feel is the utmost important issue moving forward. As Canada, North America, and other countries around the globe face economic uncertainty, the CSA is urging the federal government to focus on rebuilding and retraining Canadians for the new economy. If Canada is to rebuild and sustain future prosperity, we must ensure that all Canadians, new and old, have access to an affordable, high-quality post-secondary education and training system. An educated and skilled citizenry will revive Canada’s struggling economy and place the country back on the road to recovery and competitiveness. The benefits to both the individual and the taxpayer are worth Canada’s increased investment in higher learning.
The taxpayer return on investment is some 15.9% for every dollar spent on Canadian colleges and institutes. With more than $123.3 billion in income being contributed to the Canadian economy annually by colleges, polytechnics, institutes, and their graduates, this is roughly 8% of a typical year’s economic growth in Canada. To that end, the College Student Alliance is calling for the federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories, to develop a national education and training strategy.
For over the past decade and a half, Canada and Canadians in all provinces have seen an underfunding of our post-secondary education system. This underfunding has resulted in reduced quality and a downloading of costs onto students and their families.
A country as vast and diverse as Canada must be a leader in today's knowledge-based economy. We must be at the forefront of innovation, commercialization, and integration. We must work together to build a strategy that is clear and concise so that all Canadians understand that Canada is a place to live and learn.
A national strategy must look to increase our ability to collect and report data. Currently, Canada is ranked last amongst OECD countries in terms of data collection for quality measurement in PSE. Our lack of data is not only hurting our ability to compare ourselves to other countries, but also is hindering our ability to make sound decisions based on fact rather than pure assumption or speculation.
A national strategy must work to recognize all prior learning and pathways, with a focus on expanding pan-Canadian mobility for learners. Learners must be able to move between the system sectors and provincial and territorial boundaries without increased cost or duplication of their prior learning.
A national strategy must provide our provinces and territories with the appropriate funding: a dedicated transfer to provinces and territories of about $4 billion annually to restore Canada's investment in higher learning.
Within the framework of a national strategy and transfer, the responsibility would be placed on each provincial and territorial government to construct agreements with the post-secondary education institutions within their jurisdictions to ensure adequate funding to expand access, to increase affordability, and for accountability not only to the learner but also to all Canadians.
Our vision is for a Canada in which all citizens have an opportunity to build on their natural talents and abilities through post-secondary education and training in a system that is adequately supported by both provincial and federal governments and allows learners to move across the country to gain new skills and experiences. Students are united in this call for Canada to develop a national education and training strategy. The time is now.
Thank you for your time this morning.
My name is Shannon Litzenberger and I'm a contemporary dance artist and the executive director of the Canadian Dance Assembly. We're the national association representing Canada's professional dance sector, and we're also a founding member of the Performing Arts Alliance and a member of the Canadian Arts Coalition.
In the 2009 economic action plan, the arts and culture sector was identified as a key sector—along with forestry, agriculture, the auto sector, and others—recognized as playing a significant role in stimulating the economy. The arts and culture sector contributes $46 billion directly to Canada's GDP and generates approximately $25 billion in taxes for all levels of government, which is more than three times higher than the $7.9 billion that is invested at all levels. Despite economic challenges faced by all sectors at this moment, the cultural sector remains a growth market with substantive potential for further expansion.
As the face of Canada's population evolves, so too does the richness and diversity of our cultural expression. The cultural work force has grown by over 30% in the last decade and now represents 7.1% of Canada's total employment. Cultural workers are typically self-employed, have relatively low earnings, are highly educated, and are exceptionally talented. Indeed, cultural workers are leading Canada into the new credo of knowledge-based economy. While the cultural sector plays a critical role in Canada's economic, social, and creative vitality, the Government of Canada also plays a critical role in ensuring that artists and arts organizations can create, produce, and disseminate their work for the benefit of all Canadians.
On behalf of my colleagues in dance and in the performing arts, I'd like to congratulate the government for recognizing this role and putting into action several investment measures that have assisted a number of dance and arts organizations to remain vital during the economic downturn.
Today there are three recommendations I wish to make that I believe will significantly improve the impact and effectiveness of overall federal investment in the arts. These recommendations are modest given our economic climate and represent about one-twentieth of 1% of federal spending, or less than $5 per Canadian.
The first is to increase investment to the Canada Council for the Arts to $300 million over three years. The work of artists and arts organizations contributes immensely to the economic, social, and creative vitality of communities in every riding. In 2008-09, the Canada Council invested $158 million in more than 4,400 artists and arts organizations whose work reached 689 communities across the country. The impact of the council's work is unmatched. It fuels the market with excellent artistic products by supporting artists and arts organizations in the creation, production, and dissemination of meaningful and engaging work.
New investment will enable it to give attention to critical priorities, including increasing artistic activity across regions, nurturing new generations of artists and arts organizations, and responding to the explosion of new forms of practice that have emerged from an evolving Canadian social and multicultural identity over the past two decades. Furthermore, increased investment will ensure that as our economy recovers, the arts remain a public good available not only to the rich but to all Canadians regardless of their socio-economic status.
The second recommendation is connecting Canada's outstanding cultural product to local and global markets by investing $25 million in a new market access and development fund. Today Canadians seek better access to exhibitions and productions from across the country and expect to see them at home in their own galleries, museums, theatres, and concert halls. With Canada's relatively small population base spread across vast territory, arts organizations require support to reach beyond their local markets, making their work accessible to markets from coast to coast to coast. The new market access and development fund will ensure that Canadian communities of all backgrounds will have the opportunities to participate in and benefit from the broadest possible range of artistic experiences.
Equally, Canada's cultural product is in high demand around the globe, a testament to the exceptional talent of Canadian artists. For many dance and arts organizations, international export is a vital component of a sound business strategy that ensures investment made in the creation and production of Canadian works will leverage revenue returns through business development in foreign markets.
My last recommendation is increasing the tax credit to 39% on gifts between $200 and $10,000 to stimulate the flow of charitable gifts from middle-income Canadians. In the performing arts sector, the economic slowdown has resulted in lost revenues from diminished corporate investments and endowments. A full 53% of Canadians report that they would give more to charitable causes if a better tax credit were in place.
The Government of Canada has already taken steps towards supporting a continuum of arts and cultural activities that includes the creation and production of art, public access to Canada’s artistic products, organizational health and sustainability, the development and preservation of physical infrastructure, and arts training. Together with existing investments, targeting arts spending in these three recommended areas will maximize the social and economic impact of public contributions to the arts and culture sector for the benefit of all Canadians. Canadian artists and arts organizations are playing an important role in Canadian society. They contribute significantly to Canada’s economic recovery. We are eager to do more in partnership with the Government of Canada.
My name is Andy Manahan. I'm executive director with the RCCAO. Our group has been in existence for only four years. We are made up of both contractor associations and construction unions. We come to the table speaking on behalf of both labour and management, which I think lends credence to our comments.
You have my presentation that I provided in August, so I just want to provide some context. When we were all facing the prospects of a turning economy last year, we were pleased that many governments, not just in Canada but in the western world, were looking at infrastructure as a way to simulate the economy. Our labour-management alliance decided to come together in mid-January for a round table on providing advice on infrastructure stimulus funding to federal and provincial governments. We came out with a joint statement.
The partnership approach requires working together in difficult times. We recognized that we wanted to invest in the future. Our industry said that we were able and ready to meet the demand. Certainly there were some questions at the provincial government level about the capacity to deal with the major stimulus money that were going to be provided. We recognized, however, that there had been some under-investment over the decades. This isn't a partisan comment in any way. For the past 20 or 30 years, we have not kept up with the level of spending, based on a percentage of GDP, that occurred in the 1950s, the 1960s, and the 1970s. This is a way for us to build confidence through infrastructure and investment, build sustainable communities, do things in a more innovative way, and have some lasting impacts. That was in January.
At the end of that session, our group thought that they should have another session to monitor the impact of the infrastructure funding. We had that meeting on October 8. The group thought that there must be a coordinated strategy. A lot of the projects are very good, but because of the process, the applications and so forth, a lot of contractor members have not seen tendered documents coming out from municipalities. We understand that there has to be due diligence so that funds are spent properly but in our mind, the so-called exit strategy that was talked about in the summer is the wrong approach. We would like to look at a long-term, predictable source of funding. We recognize that this is a bit of an anomaly in light of the increase in investment, but we need to look at life-cycle costing of assets together with a long-term and predictable flow of funding.
In the brief I submitted in August, the first recommendation was to base future infrastructure funding programs on a more rigorous priority setting and to set in place clear programs for sustainable long-term funding of infrastructure.
The second recommendation I put forward in the brief flows from that in that we recommended that an infrastructure simulation platform be developed and supported financially by the federal government. Our organization has looked at what other jurisdictions have done, from Singapore to Finland and even the United States. We believe there is a more objective way of dealing with infrastructure funding. We recognize that under the current program there were constraints applied with respect to deadlines. This meant that some of the projects were not of a high priority. The municipality said that it would not put forward projects that could not be finished by March 2011.
It's not a great criticism, but what we're trying to say is that we should look to the future and build a program that's a bit better. I had a conference call yesterday with the co-chairs of the National Round Table on Sustainable Infrastructure. We think this would be the appropriate body to house this infrastructure simulation platform. We'd certainly like to have more dialogue with various agencies about that.
Recommendation three calls for streamlining the environmental assessment approvals process. There has been a lot of work in accelerating applications, but to plan long-term predictable funding, we need to ensure that there is certainty and predictability in the approval process. We were most heartened that there had been some discussion between the federal government and the Province of Ontario with respect to minimizing duplication in these processes. I understand that this matter has been the subject of a court challenge, but we'd like to see some more action on that front.
Thanks very much, Paul, and monsieur le président et membres du comité
As Paul indicated, our coalition is very concerned about this growing shortage of skilled workers in Canada and the challenge this presents for all of our industries in the years ahead. While the shortage may seem counterintuitive in a recession, the problem is not a new one, and it's only projected to increase as much of our existing labour force approaches retirement age—many of us around these tables, perhaps, in the next few years.
From a health sector perspective, these shortages are more than theoretical. While I am part....
I'm sorry. Was that an aspersion? I didn't mean....
Voices: Oh, oh!
Ms. Pamela Fralick: I'm including myself. I'm not talking about political retirements. I'm completely non-partisan. Do I get my 30 seconds back?
I am part of a larger coalition but have been asked to speak specifically to some of the health sector issues. I'd like to bring to your attention today five pieces of information, five data points.
The first is that in 2005 the average age of individuals in health occupations was 41.9 years. That's almost two and a half years older than the average age of the general Canadian workforce. One example: in the profession of nursing—I know you'll hear from some of them later on—approximately 38% of the nursing workforce is over 50 years of age and very close to retirement.
The third point, and this should be of particular interest to a finance committee, is that in 2006 just over one million people across Canada, or one in ten employed Canadians, worked in the health system/industry. This represents 6% of the total Canadian workforce and indicates that it is one of the major employment industries in Canada. It's not just a cost centre.
Fourth point: in 2007 Canada spent $160 billion on health care. We all know about that. It is estimated that between 60¢ and 80¢ of every health care dollar in Canada is spent on health human resources. In other words, of the $160 billion, $96 to $128 billion went towards health human resources. We really cannot afford to ignore this sector or assume that it's done and checked off our list.
The fifth point: Canada is not alone in having a shortage of health service providers. The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide there is a shortage of more than four million health care providers and there needs to be a 70% increase in the world's health workforce to address current and projected shortages. In other words, we can't rely on other markets; we can't look elsewhere. We must have homegrown solutions.
What does all of this mean? I have some data. I've shared with you some facts, but there is a huge challenge in truly understanding how to move forward. Today I'm wearing the hat representing community colleges and technical institutions. In these areas in particular there is a dearth of information.
One example is in a profession I've worked with closely: physiotherapy. We did a survey a few years ago and discovered that training can range from two weeks to two years. It's not competency based; there are no standards. We can't even come up with all of the data in an aggregate pan-Canadian level to determine where we go in terms of planning for the future.
So governments and health system stakeholders really do need to work to build the capacity to adequately anticipate and accommodate changes in the health system. But, Mr. Chairman and committee members, the skilled worker shortage is not limited to the health sector. Indeed, in almost every sector of the economy, skilled worker shortages are beginning to have a significant impact on the competitiveness and productivity of the Canadian economy. From manufacturing to construction, forestry to mining, aerospace to hospitality, skilled workers are the lifeblood of these sectors and integral to our future economic successes. While immigration is part of the solution—I've already referred to that—it is not a panacea, as new immigrants rely on Canada's community colleges for upscaling and retraining. Unless we significantly increase domestic training capacity, Canadian businesses will continue to struggle in the decades ahead.
I hope that's not the full five minutes.
I'm going to have to speak quickly, then.
Before I get to our recommendations, I want to underscore Pamela's point about the pervasiveness of the skilled trades shortage across the economy. In the construction section alone, a skilled work shortage of 316,000 workers is anticipated by 2017, and that's up from 250,000 last year. When you consider that the overall workforce today is 1.1 million, that means we will need to replace over 30% of our workforce in the next eight years.
I think I'm getting down to the last minute, so I'm going to skip right to my recommendations.
The coalition is very concerned about the declining state of Canadian community colleges and technical institutions. Our industries rely heavily on these facilities. Our recommendations are that we extend the current federal knowledge infrastructure program for an additional five years, at a funding level of $1 billion annually, and abandon the current 70-30 university/college funding apportionment formula in favour of a more equitable distribution; and to increase federal research funding by 5% to support applied research, product development, and research commercialization at colleges and institutes.
The leadership that the federal government showed in the 2009 budget helped kick-start a number of overdue modernization projects at campuses across this country, but much more needs to be done. In 2008, the Association of Canadian Community Colleges reported an estimated $7.4 billion investment required in investment.
I'd like to finish on a personal note, if I can, in 30 seconds.
I'm a college grad from 42 years ago. If it had not been for the vision of the federal government in the 1960s in creating the capacity, and for a caring community, I wouldn't be sitting here in front of you today. I think it's very important for us to provide the same opportunity for many Canadians across Canada.
With that, I will close. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm Linda Franklin, and with me is Bill Summers, the vice-president of research and policy.
I should start by saying we agree entirely with everything Tyler and Paul and Pamela have said, so we really have nine recommendations for you today. We're not going to cover some of what they've done because they've done it better than we could, but we certainly agree with their points.
I'm happy to have the chance today to talk to you about the leading role our colleges have in bringing about economic recovery. In looking at coming out of the recession and building a stronger, more productive economy it's really important, and we think it's right, that the federal government has focused on post-secondary education and the training people need in the new economy.
And they're not alone. In the U.S., Barack Obama has just sent out $12 billion to stimulate activity at community colleges over the next 10 years. The Canadian community college movement is out in the world, in places like Africa and Asia, building community college systems there to try to mirror what we're already doing here.
That's really important, and the stimulus investment, as Paul said, was terribly helpful for us. We got out of the gate fast and we started spending money quickly because of the huge backlog of need we had in the community college system. We need new capacity because we are looking at an enrolment tsunami. Students are coming to the colleges in greater and greater numbers. We are overwhelmed by the numbers, and that makes sense in a recession because students see colleges as places to come to get job opportunities.
We've always been a leader in post-secondary education, but the world is trying to catch up. Seventy per cent of people in post-secondary education right now are in developing countries, not in Canada or in the United States, so it's critical that we keep moving forward. For us to be competitive in the new economy, we need greater numbers of students being prepared for the jobs of the 21st century and we need companies that are more innovative and are more able to create those jobs.
We have three recommendations for you today: first, as Paul and Pamela mentioned, focusing on expanded applied research; second, investing $500 million over five years to let us update our instructional equipment to industry standards, so students are training on the best of what's out there; and third, reforming employment insurance eligibility to include retraining, which is critical going forward.
To add some context to this, we agree the government has shown tremendous leadership in this area, and making the college and community innovation program permanent was a key factor in that leadership. This is a great investment, but many small and mid-size enterprises continue to struggle and face barriers conducting research in commercialization, and colleges are uniquely positioned to help solve that problem. If we can, the result will be more businesses becoming sustained innovators, which will lead to sustained job growth. It will improve the knowledge and training that students get, and colleges can work with small and mid-sized companies on innovative projects to get their ideas to market much faster.
We would propose an increased investment of 5%, because total federal research funding in Canada right now sits at about $2.9 billion. That investment of $145 million to college-based applied research directed at projects in small and mid-sized companies in particular would go a long way to solving this problem.
Let me turn your attention now to the $500 million investment in equipment. Recent funding constraints mean that colleges have been unable to keep up with the renewal of equipment across a wide range of college programs. Students in mechanical, manufacturing, chemical, and environmental engineering technology programs need to learn, as they all do, on the most up-to-date specialized equipment. That's particularly critical because we're finding that as our businesses are struggling, particularly in this recession, they are less and less able to take workers who aren't skilled and train them for the first few months of their employment. They need workers to hit the ground running, and if we're going to do that, the colleges need the most up-to-date equipment possible to train them for that.
Finally, we recommend that the employment insurance eligibility be reformed so that more Ontarians can access EI support programs, including retraining. We've certainly seen this in Ontario. Students are flocking into Ontario colleges from situations where they're laid off, and the first grads are finding employment in sectors where they will be permanently employed. But those who do qualify for EI in Ontario receive fewer benefits than their counterparts in other provinces, although they pay the same amount in premiums when they are working. If more unemployed workers in Ontario were able to access EI, more could take advantage of federal and provincial retraining programs and they'd be better prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.
We also think EI reform needs to allow recipients to attend academic upgrading and literacy programs. At the end of the day, we're finding students coming to colleges who've been laid off, who are in their forties and fifties, a lot of them lacking basic reading and math skills, and some have never worked on a computer before. Clearly, you can't succeed in post-secondary education unless those supports are there.
Those are our recommendations, Mr. Chair. We think investing in Canada's workers will really make a difference in economic recovery, and doing it through an investment in colleges will mean that we will come out of the last downturn in the economy better prepared to be a productive, fast-moving, innovative economy.
Thanks very much.
Good morning. My name is Lucy White. I'm the executive director of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres. Thank you for inviting PACT to speak to you today.
We represent 140 professional not-for-profit and for-profit companies located across the country and working in numerous theatrical traditions from many cultures and languages. Although our membership is widely diverse, we share the belief that the arts have intrinsic value to Canadian citizens and our society. We share this belief in the value of the arts to Canadians with the , who said in January that, “Day to day, Canadians experience the essence of this rich and diverse country through the imagery and worlds of its artists.”
In PACT's brief to this committee, which you have all seen, we made three recommendations. In the interest of time, I'll be focusing only on the first two.
First, PACT recommends that the government increase the base budget of the Canada Council for the Arts by $120 million over three years. Second, we recommend that the government invest in a $25 million market access and innovation program to help Canadian cultural products reach domestic and global marketplaces.
As the basis of Canada's economy shifts towards a knowledge-based foundation, the economy of tomorrow, all fields of endeavour that, like the arts, can tap into imagination, creativity, and innovation, will--again like the arts--generate a high return on investment and create prosperity for Canadians. For example, the federal government invests $3.4 billion in arts and culture annually. In return, 609,000 jobs are created, $5 billion in cultural exports are generated, and $25 billion in tax revenues are returned to all levels of government.
In the last decade, the arts and culture workforce grew by 31%, as compared to 20% for the workforce overall. In short, the arts and culture sector is a significant economic sector that is poised to contribute to Canada's economic recovery across the country.
Government has wisely invested in the development and production of arts through its arm's-length agency, the Canada Council for the Arts, and in 2007 bolstered its support for the council by adding $30 million to the base budget. That was the first and very welcome significant increase for the Canada Council in many years.
Increasing the base budget of the council will ensure access to the arts for all Canadians. It will allow the council to support newer, younger, and more diverse arts organizations, especially those located in smaller cities and communities across the country, and to address demand for an increasingly diverse range of artistic works. It will allow arts organizations to minimize the impact of inflation on pricing and maintain affordable access for all Canadians. Such an increase now to the council's base budget would raise the curtain on a new era of sustainable growth essential to the creative economy.
Our second recommendation is that the government invest in a $25 million access and innovation program. While the growth in arts organizations across the country has been extraordinary, many rural and remote communities don't have local theatre, dance, or music companies and must rely on touring companies to visit. In 2007 alone, Canadian theatres on tour played to more than one million audience members worldwide. Canadian arts organizations are committed to providing Canadian arts experience and engaging Canadian audiences, no matter where they reside, from Gaspé to fly-in communities in the Yukon. A new market access and innovation fund would invest in small and medium-sized organizations to help them penetrate existing domestic markets more fully and to explore and expand into new markets across the country.
Worldwide, Canadian art is in great demand, and the opportunity to showcase Canadian talent opens up foreign markets to sales of Canadian arts and cultural products and bolsters Canada's profile across the globe. Increasing the export of cultural products will also boost tourism in Canada by providing the foreign tourist market with exciting reasons to visit Canada.
Recently the government has been focused on short-term funding to stimulate the economy, and the arts and culture sector has benefited from stimulus spending, for which we are thankful. As government turns its attention to economic recovery, the arts and culture sector asks to be recognized as an economic sector poised to contribute to deficit reduction and economic recovery. As my colleague said, a permanent new investment of $145 million in the arts, which is about one-twentieth of 1% of federal spending, would generate a significant and sustained return on investment for Canadians.
I want to close by reading to you two statements. In 2006 this committee made the following recommendation to government: “That the federal government increase funds allocated to the arts and cultural sector. In particular...funding for the Canada Council for the Arts should reach $300 million over two years.” In June 2009, Parliament agreed, saying that “In the opinion of the House, the government should give direct assistance to artists by increasing the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $300 million.”
The performing arts are a collaborative practice, and it is in this spirit of collaboration that we ask government to respect the will of Parliament and respond in the upcoming budget to the specific recommendations made by the arts community and by you and your colleagues.
Good morning to all the witnesses.
First of all, I have a question for Ms. Litzenberger or Ms. White. In your recommendations, you both asked for the tax credit to be increased to 39% from its present 29%. On the first $200 of charitable gifts, it is 15%. This is clearly a major source of funding for the arts, as Mr. McKay said.
Have you costed it out? Would it not be preferable, a better source of income for the arts, to instead ask for an increase in the credit on the first portion, say, an increase from 15% to 25% on the first $200? Would that not be of greater benefit to the arts? Would it not get more people participating?
Thank you for the question.
I'm not going to comment on any specific projects per se, although anecdotally our groups do hear that a number of projects that are released are perhaps not viewed as the best. They were viewed as more expedient in the sense that this is what could be done within a certain deadline.
Take, for example, the MetroLinx regional transportation plan. That particular plan has been funded, to date, $9.5 billion by the province. I believe there has been some funding for non-RTP projects by the federal government; for example, the Spadina subway station. But those are long-term projects that require many years of public consultation, engineering design, removal of utilities, and construction phases before you even get to completion. We've been talking about the Spadina subway, for example, for seven or eight years. It's been through two EA processes. So we're concerned that if all of the stimulus money goes out the door, there'll be little money left over for those types of priority projects.
My next question is about colleges, and a few people here might have comments.
I'm from a university background, so I'm strongly in favour of funding university research. But like John, I have a college in my riding, a very good one, Seneca College, and I'm highly sympathetic to their cause. I guess I have the impression that traditionally in Canada colleges have received short shrift from the federal government. They have not been treated seriously. To solve that problem, maybe it would be helpful to have a better understanding of why.
I certainly support what you're saying, but I'm wondering why it is that colleges have had little funding or little expression of interest from the federal government over the years. Is it because they seem to be more creatures of the provinces than universities? Is it a status thing--universities get more attention because they seem to have higher status?
Would one of you, or perhaps both of you, like to comment on that?
I could take a first crack at it.
I think there are a lot of things in play. One of them, frankly, is that most policy-makers in government are university graduates, so they don't come to the table with an understanding of colleges. In fact, it's something that the president of Seneca has been fighting for a long time. There's an actual prohibition on the federal government hiring college graduates. So we have a stigma, I think, among policy-makers, both in the civil service and oftentimes in the political realm.
I think, too, that people are stuck in a view of the college system that is very old, which is that these are vocational training institutions. Today, when you look at colleges, we do everything from literacy and skills upgrading through to degrees, diplomas, certificates, and post-graduate work. We train university graduates who need training and skills. I'm not sure that the message has been communicated as effectively as it probably should have been about the range of things we do.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your presentations this morning. They're very instructive.
I have a question for Ms. Franklin and Ms. Fralick and perhaps Mr. Charette and Mr. Charlebois. You've all made good arguments for increasing funding to research in colleges.
By the way, I want to say that I'm very pleased that the government has supported a new campus for Sheridan College in Mississauga this year. It's something that's long overdue for Mississauga.
A voice: And it's not even in his riding.
Mr. Bob Dechert: It's not in my riding. It's in Mississauga East.
But the point is that it's going to do a lot of good for the people of Mississauga and Peel region by giving them the skills they need to compete in the future.
You've all asked for an increase in research funding. We know that we live in a world of limited resources. Recently I was in China and visited a number of universities there. I saw how the Government of China is concentrating its research funding in certain areas of research so that they can become world leaders in specific areas. I'd like to hear, from each of you, your views on whether the Government of Canada should have a national strategy on concentrating these research dollars in specific areas of research. Or should we simply leave it to the college and university sector to decide if they want to support research in every area under the sun?
I'll start with Ms. Franklin.
Thank you. I thought you would say that. I guess I wanted to hear that.
The second issue is about colleges doing more research. I have a friend who used to work in politics, and then, as he tells me, he got into an honest living. He went to NAIT, which you now very well, obviously, in northern Alberta, in Edmonton. He took construction engineering. He actually works for Bird Construction and is a very proud employee of yours. But I think what he and perhaps others would argue is that NAIT now has such a demand that, in fact, they're turning students away who want access to teachers, who want to address one of our fundamental challenges, which is the shortage of skilled labour in Canada.
I take your point about applied research. Colleges obviously do that well, and we should direct some funding there. But there is a caution I would give about getting colleges too far away from their bread and butter, which is what they do very, very well—that is, training skilled labour for the shortage we're going to have. So how do we ensure that we're not turning away students? The concern from some at the university level, especially in the liberal arts, is that we focused a lot of money on research at the expense of teaching.
Could you address that briefly?
I know everyone is having very interesting discussions, but if I may ask members and witnesses to find their seats, we will begin the second panel of our pre-budget consultations here in Toronto.
We have for the next hour-and-a-half panel a number of organizations. We have with us the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice, the National Council of Welfare, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, the Wellesley Institute, the Canadian Association of Physicists, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, the Canadian Association of Income Funds, and Hoffmann-La Roche Limited.
So we have a lot of organizations here for the next hour and a half. Let me ask each of you to present, for no more than five minutes, an opening statement, going in the order we outlined. Then we will have questions from members of the committee.
We will start with Mr. Argue, please.
Thanks very much, Mr. Rajotte.
I guess we're going in alphabetical order. I appreciate starting off.
An hon. member: Don't “argue” about it.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. John Argue: I am sure there will be no argument with our views at all, because we have such logical, persuasive views. We look forward to convincing the committee and thereby improving the economy of the province, along with the other people who are here.
The Coalition for Social Justice is a coalition of groups around Ontario, of both labour unions on one hand and community groups. We are interested in advocating social justice in the province but really have been concentrating on poverty, for obvious reasons, in the last number of years, just because of the way low income affects so many people. This is particularly relevant for this pre-budget hearing because of the economic crisis.
I would side with Jim Stanford, thinking of the CBC panel the other day when he was debating with Mark Mullins and...I forget who the investment person was. The two of them were saying that the economic prospects are looking very positive now in Canada, and Jim was saying, wait a minute, there are a lot of factors that are problems because of the huge number of unemployed. This is why we picked the three areas that we have picked
Probably the most general statement that the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice would argue is that we would hope the federal government would adopt a national poverty reduction strategy. We haven't said so directly; we chose instead to concentrate on three particular issues. I'm confident that advocacy for a national poverty reduction strategy will come up in your hearings, but I think the three areas we have identified are key areas that really affect many of the people with whom we deal directly.
Concerning EI, we quote various unions with which we are in association, mainly because of the dreadful effects on union members throughout Ontario—we are Ontario-focused—of the economic crisis and huge job losses, generally in the north of Ontario with mills shutting down and forestry workers having a hell of a problem, but with auto workers, obviously, in Windsor and other union members in manufacturing plants throughout southern Ontario, whether in Cornwall, Hamilton, St. Catharines, or wherever you go. People who were regarded for years and years as having union jobs that were well paid are suddenly facing the prospect of low income or poverty. It is a devastating prospect for the individuals involved and for the communities in which they are placed.
We advocate as strongly as we can that the CLC recommendations with which we finished the section on EI.... They have a number of recommendations about increasing the period of time during which EI would be paid—which the government has addressed, to a slight extent anyway, by extending the five weeks for a period of time—but then increasing eligibility for EI so that a greater number of people will be eligible for EI than is currently the case.
I think of the situation years ago. I'm old enough to think of accusations that people in various parts of the country would take advantage of EI because of seasonal work—work for a little bit and then get payment. What the country is facing now, and what your budget subcommittee is facing, is a much more serious economic difficulty, in which EI is really needed for people directly as a result of the economic difficulties we're facing and because of job loss.
The second general area is the temporary worker program. There we have contact primarily with the United Food and Commercial Workers as well as with the centres they operate in five different places in Ontario where migrant workers or temporary foreign workers are assisted. They do excellent work. The difficulty they are having is that here we are, inviting foreign—
I have one minute? Okay, I'll deal with it quickly. I was going to talk about housing, but Michael Shapcott is here, so I don't even have to say a word. The experts will speak directly.
The migrant workers and the temporary foreign workers are facing huge difficulties in not having their rights recognized in the context of the work they actually do. The UFCW and the community centres that UFCW operates are of great help to those people. The federal government really must take a role—through the budget, I think—in investing in greater employment standards and helping those people become like Canadian workers. If Canada is benefiting from the work they do, I think it's only reasonable and correct that we extend the rights that the workers usually have in Canada.
Why don't I just stop there? Thank you.
I'm Mark Chamberlain. Thank you for this opportunity.
You have, hopefully, in front of you a full brief that was provided along with an additional document called The Poverty Profile; it's bulletin one. I'm going to refer to it a little during the presentation.
It shows graphically that we are at a pivotal point in Canada. If we follow the traditional course, we face an agonizing, slow recovery for many Canadians. Others will not recover or were disadvantaged even in good times. You'll note on page 2 a graph. You'll see that during the last two recessions poverty continued to climb after the recession was declared over, and you'll see how many more years it took for poverty rates to come back down.
On page 3, you'll see that in the last recession, even when the unemployment situation improved, poverty rates did not. That is the story of many working-age Canadians and their children. Now, if you turn to page 5, you'll see an entirely different story. This is where you see a dramatic decline in poverty that reflects policies that help protect seniors from poverty and the effects of the recession.
In the current recession, both good and bad jobs are disappearing, and EI is not as available as it used to be. Welfare benefits have eroded, in some cases to staggeringly low levels. With severe asset limits and hundreds of rules that can sabotage any rebound to get ahead, or any personal resiliency, it is hard to imagine a program having more work disincentives built in than social assistance has; there is nothing more difficult. Poverty and insecurity are costing us a lot, and this is not a recipe for future prosperity in Canada.
On the positive side, some provinces as well as cities have adopted strategic, coordinated approaches to solving poverty. Hamilton is one of those. It is where I live and have been working with the poverty round table. There are both good results and inspiring practices being generated at municipal and provincial/territorial levels of government. But they cannot do it alone.
I'm a businessman. In fact, I'm an engineer and a businessman. I grew a business that Mike Wallace would know very well. It does about a quarter of a billion dollars' worth of business today. It has 600 high-tech employees in Burlington. I'm also a National Council of Welfare member. We come from all walks of life as a council. We all look at the 40-plus years of constructing a tangled safety net and are confounded at its paltry results.
If you look again at the graphs on page 2 and 3, going up and down and landing where we started is simply not progress. We celebrated our 40th year this year as a council and we're disgusted. We have not made progress as a country, as a province, as a municipality. Canada as a whole must make wiser investments to solve poverty and get better, larger, more permanent returns. The federal government has a unique capacity—and not just unique capacity, but responsibility—to help make that happen.
Poverty has many dimensions. It's not always about money, but that is a dimension in which the federal government plays its most significant role. We say that it's not always just about money, but it's always about money. Through EI, pensions, guaranteed income for seniors, and child and other tax benefits, the federal government has the capacity and the mechanisms in place to provide individuals and families with income security and stability. Those types of policies can operate as poverty preventer, safety net, and springboard to opportunity. Government policy across Canada does a relatively good job for seniors, as page 5 of the bulletin shows, but it can and must do far better for children, youth, and working-age adults—all those individuals who are our future workers, our future skilled workers.
The federal government can do its part effectively by, as a first point, restoring and improving employment insurance to safeguard the livelihoods and the assets of workers and their families during the recession and beyond.
Build on child benefits, employment supplements, GST credits and other potentially refundable credits, including disability and caregiver credits, that deliver the greatest benefits to those who are most economically disadvantaged. These benefits can provide more adequate and stable income; cushion periods of financial difficulty; and prevent, to the greatest extent possible, recourse to social assistance. As one woman put it to us, “welfare” really means “farewell”—to hopes, dreams, even your life. All tax and investment measures proposed to the committee should meet this test of reducing inequalities and providing proportionately more benefits to disadvantaged Canadians than to those who have more money, privilege, ability to pay tax, and options.
Support provincial, territorial, municipal, and aboriginal governments in their efforts to solve poverty and work with them, in consultation with Canadians, towards a pan-Canadian strategy to solve poverty.
And fourth, be a leader in ensuring that our actions as a country match our values as a country. We've got to stop allowing our economics to drive our values and start having our values drive our economics. We speak of deficits. The greatest deficit we have today is our social deficit.
Good morning. My name is Bob Howard, and I am president of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. We appreciate being invited to this meeting, and I look forward to an exchange that benefits all Canadians.
The Canadian pension system, especially defined benefit, has been challenged for many years, and recent events have forcefully brought home issues that need long-term remedies. It's time to bring together decision-makers at a national pension summit to reach conclusions on a road map and timetable to increase the coverage of private sector defined benefit pension plans, to improve the environment for defined contribution pension plans, to foster sound innovation in post-retirement income security, and to implement intergovernmental harmonization of pension legislation and regulation for the benefit of all Canadians.
On August 6, the premiers indicated their agreement by calling on the federal government to host a national summit on retirement income. We've yet to hear a reply from the government on this important item, and we urge the finance minister to act.
The Canadian Institute of Actuaries would be pleased to assist with this summit in any appropriate way. The institute has met with many members around this table regarding pension reforms proposed in our Prescription for Canada's Ailing Pension System. The dire circumstances that the pension system faced when we released that report in 2007 persist, and the economic crisis has made things even worse.
Canadians are not saving enough for retirement. Canadians need defined benefit pension plans, and these plans need to be saved and revitalized. Claude Lamoureux, special adviser on pensions to the institute, has said that if the trend continues “the only Canadians covered by DB plans will be politicians, government employees...”. Imagine how taxpayers will feel about supporting these plans through their taxes when their own workplace offers either a less effective plan or none at all.
We have, in our earlier report, said that legislation should be put in place to remove disincentives to employers starting up or maintaining defined benefit pension plans, which would improve benefit security. This legislation would include three important interrelated changes for pensions plans.
First, permit the use of a 100% employer-funded pension security trust. This is a side fund, independent from but complementary to the regular defined benefit pension fund. It is a practical solution to the surplus asymmetry issue. Employers gain because they can contribute more than the absolute minimum, knowing that if a surplus arises in the future it can be recovered. Pensioners and employees gain because higher employer contributions will make their benefits more secure.
Second, require each defined benefit pension plan to establish a target solvency margin. A target solvency margin would recognize the volatility of pension plans and their assets and help establish a risk-based approach to planned funding contributions. At present, when times are good, employers stop contributing when the plan becomes 100% funded, so when the inevitable downswing occurs, the plan goes into a deficit and members' pensions are at risk. Under our proposal, the funding target would be higher than 100%, so the risk of a deficit would be reduced. Employers would be more willing to accept additional funding through the pension security trust as it remains under their control. The institute would be pleased to work with regulators to develop guidance on the required levels of target solvency margins.
Third, increase the maximum allowable surplus in a pension plan to the greater of two times the target solvency margin or 25% of the going concern liabilities.
Had these proposals been in place prior to the recent crisis, pension funds would have been less threatened and some relief measures may not have been necessary, and the risk of members' pensions being cut back would have been reduced. The task now is to put in place long-term measures that will, over time, improve and safeguard the retirement incomes of all Canadians.
Mr. Chairman, this ends my formal statement. I look forward to answering questions from the committee.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My name is Michael Shapcott. I'm the director of affordable housing and social innovation at the Wellesley Institute. With me is my colleague Nimira Lalani, who is a research associate.
The Wellesley Institute is an independent research and policy institute dedicated to advancing urban health. In our written submission we made several specific recommendations in terms of the next federal budget. Today we want to focus on affordable housing and community innovation.
Mr. Chair, even before the current recession, hundreds of thousands of Canadians were experiencing homelessness and millions more were precariously housed. Our research shows that the toxic combination of insecure housing and inadequate incomes is causing increased illness and premature death.
Just recently we prepared a paper for the federal government's consultation on housing and homelessness in which we totalled up federal government spending on housing and homelessness. We found that the federal government is actually spending a substantial amount of money. In fact, the figures from the federal government show that it'll spend $17.5 billion this year on housing-related expenditures. That doesn't include the $64 billion that's been committed to the banks through the insured mortgage purchase program.
The problem isn't the level of spending, it's the fact that only a small fraction of those dollars are going to reach the households with the most urgent need. I'll give you two examples.
The federal government estimates that the home renovation tax credit will cost about $2 billion this year. Yet most of the 3.2 million households—and that's about nine million women, men, and children—who are living in substandard housing, according to Statistics Canada, won't be able to qualify for the home renovation tax credit. What's offered to them is another federal program called the residential rehabilitation assistance program, which is funded at $128 million annually--$128 million...$2 billion. What $128 million buys is assistance for about 20,000 homes a year for ownership and rental homes. If you do the math--20,000 homes, with 3.2 million households in need of repair--it'll take about 160 years at the current level of spending to meet the repair needs of those households.
Another issue we are concerned about is new supply. We continue to have new households that need new affordable housing, yet we're not generating enough new households. Only about 15% of the $3.5 billion the federal government spends on affordable housing will be devoted to new supply.
Members of the committee will remember that about two weeks ago you voted on Bill , which is an act to ensure adequate accessible and affordable housing. That bill passed second reading and is going to another committee for review. We believe that Canada urgently needs a comprehensive national housing plan, and we commend that legislation.
However, in the meantime we'd like to urge this committee to make a recommendation for a substantial down payment towards a national housing plan. In particular, we want to offer three recommendations: first, an additional $700 million for new affordable housing supply; second, double the funding for the homeless partnering strategies with an additional $135 million; third, $128 million to double funding for the residential rehabilitation assistance program.
I know there's a concern in recommending new spending at this time. I want to say that it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to commit new revenues. The federal government should be starting to re-profile some of its existing housing investments to make sure it goes to the households that need it the most.
In addition, we want to recommend to this committee that the federal government should be reinvesting the estimated $1.353 billion surplus from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation this year. Some of that can be reinvested in affordable housing and homelessness initiatives.
The recession is not only making an already bad affordable housing crisis worse, but it is also delivering a critical blow to Canada's non-profit sector. The non-profit sector is a vital web of health, education, housing, community services, recreation, culture, and faith groups that enriches our communities and makes a major contribution to our economy, contributing five times more to Canada's GDP than auto manufacturing.
As the recession deepens, community-based health, housing, and social services are being asked to deliver critically important services with reduced grants and donations. Our partners throughout Canada tell us that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of organizations will collapse under the fiscal and service pressures of the recession.
Governments in Britain and the United States, to name just two, recognize that the community sector is vital to the health of a nation and its communities. Canada's federal government is lagging far behind, and the community sector is suffering from a lack of effective partnership at the federal level.
Two days ago, a newspaper column by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had this headline: “Investing in innovation will fuel Canada's economic growth”. That's true in the private sector and it's also true in the community sector. Just as Canada needs a comprehensive national housing plan that engages all the actors, the federal government also needs a comprehensive community innovation plan.
We can learn a great deal from the successes and failures overseas, as we build a made-in-Canada plan. In the meantime, the next federal budget should include a substantial investment in community innovation, including $150 million for a national social innovation fund for social purpose ventures; $50 million for a national community innovation fund for non-profit enterprises; and $15 million for a new national health equity fund to invest in innovative community-based, multi-sectoral demonstration projects.
Good morning. My name is Robert Mann and I am the president of the Canadian Association of Physicists.
With me is my colleague Dominic Ryan, who is the president of the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering.
The CAP represents physicists across the broad spectrum of physics: pure and applied, industrial, government laboratory, and academic physics in universities.
In our brief we present three recommendations: one is an increase for funding in basic research via NSERC's discovery grants program; the second is for a design study of the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre, which I will let my colleague Dominic Ryan speak to; and the third is for new funding for major infrastructure.
To speak to the first recommendation, we contend that basic research has been squeezed in recent budgets.
We are very grateful and appreciative of money that has come in for science. There has been money for the Canadian Light Source in Saskatchewan. There has been money for the Canada Foundation for Innovation. In my own city of Waterloo there has been money for the Institute for Quantum Computing. As a physics community, we are very grateful for all of this.
However, if you are able to look at the graph I supplied in the written material I gave, targeted research in the budgetary trends will go up 62%, but basic research, the pure curiosity-driven research, is going to be down by 3.5%. Basic research, we argue, is essential for society not only because of its intrinsic value--part of being human is in fact understanding and discovering new things--but also because of its importance for the marketplace, in that it keeps the marketplace alive with new ideas and prevents society from being locked into particular technological options.
Lasers, for example, arose out of curiosity about how light and matter worked. Today we see them used everywhere, from grocery store scanners to entertainment devices such as CDs and DVD players to medical applications in eye surgery. All of this came about because people were curious about the interaction between light and matter.
Curiosity about how electrons move through materials gave rise to semiconductors, which are essential for computing as we have it today.
A 2005 NSERC study indicated that $3.5 billion in revenue from spinoff companies emerges from NSERC's $1 billion budget. That's a 3.5:1 rate of return, so homegrown curiosity-driven research does indeed generate spinoff companies. It stimulates local industry to do more research and it educates the next generation of students. These students, who are graduate students and include post-doctoral fellows, are best thought of as apprentices. They are not only learning; they are also contributing to the Canadian economy through their process of getting advanced masters and doctoral degrees in the sciences.
We have argued for a 10% increase in this funding. That increase would be $40 million per year. With that, in recommendation three, we've argued for the need for new money for infrastructure. We need this money because we have to maintain and leverage the maximum benefit from the essential investments that the Canada Foundation for Innovation, NSERC, and other groups indirectly--the Institute for Quantum Computing, CLS, and so on--have made. If we don't keep up money for infrastructure, then the discovery-based money will not achieve its maximum value. This infrastructure money pays for lab equipment, for facilities, and so on. We estimate the total there to be $96 million.
Dominic, would you like to continue?
Australia built their reactor between the time we first started asking for a new reactor and now, and theirs is operating and we still don't have a replacement. The NRU is down again; it has a leak. It has precipitated yet another isotope crisis, and these are warnings that we need to deal with the problem. It's a very compressive reactor. It has done a lot of important work. It has been a leading facility in Canada. It has dominated the isotope production business around the world. We've been producing about 80% of the available molybdenum 99, and it's been a critical resource, but now it needs to be replaced.
The construction of a new multi-purpose reactor, one that will provide medical isotopes, enable cutting-edge materials in engineering research, and provide a solid knowledge-based foundation for the development of the next generation power reactors, is a national issue that transcends the mandates of individual departments or agencies. It relates to science, industry, health, energy, environment, international relations, and education. And only a multi-purpose research reactor will fully support the variety of missions that are currently carried out at NRU.
Generation IV nuclear reactor designs, which allow us to use all the energy available in uranium, will allow us to take what is now a 60-year energy reserve in Saskatchewan and turn it into a multi-thousand-year energy reserve if we use it efficiently in generation IV designs.
Nuclear medicine underpins all modern health care. I'll bet every person in this room knows at least one person who has benefited directly from medical isotopes produced in NRU, whether to treat thyroid problems, heart problems, or cancer. Not having the supply is a problem. Industrial research, neutron beam research, and so on are all extremely important; they're in my brief.
It's an expensive project: $800 million to $1 billion. It would generate all that activity in Canada. The construction happens here, the design happens here to support the industries in Canada.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and committee members.
As you know, the AIAMC is the national trade association that represents the Canadian interests of 14 international automobile manufacturers that manufacture, distribute, and market vehicles in Canada.
As you're all aware, this year has witnessed tumultuous change in the automotive sales and production industries in North America, which has been exacerbated by the global recession. Automotive sales are currently down by 3.5% through the third quarter, which is an improvement compared to the second quarter, in which they were down 18.3%, and the first quarter, in which they were down 21.8%. For comparison's sake, sales in the U.S. were down 27% through the third quarter, despite the infusion of a $2.88 billion “cash for clunkers” program, which was responsible for just over 690,000 vehicle sales in the U.S. over the July and August period in which the program was operational.
The U.S. bankruptcies of both GM and Chrysler, combined with the recession, severely impacted vehicle production in Canada, which is down almost 40% from last year through the end of September.
The production contraction has not affected all companies equally, however, with the production at Toyota and Honda contracting 1.3% and 37.3% respectively, according to automotive news production data, through the end of September. These two manufacturers have a higher percentage of their production sold to Canadians and produce the two top vehicles that were purchased by consumers in the U.S. under their “cash for clunkers” program.
That said, with the recent resurgence of the Canadian dollar, the Canadian automotive market is more susceptible than at any time in the last year to a resurgence of cross-border purchases from the U.S. To encourage Canadians to continue to purchase Canadian vehicles from Canadian dealers, who are still struggling to secure appropriate credit and financing lines, we reiterate the recommendations from our August pre-budget submission as a means of bringing greater parity to Canada and U.S. vehicle pricing.
Our first recommendation was to reduce the finished vehicle tariff on imported passenger vehicles from 6.1% to 2.5% on an applied basis, which is consistent with the tariff on imported passenger vehicles into the United States. This tariff reduction would provide the opportunity for manufacturers to pass on savings of $900 to the consumer, assuming a $25,000 value for duty. Tariff reductions would also assist all manufacturers, not just our own members, in meeting the pending fuel economy regulations, as North American production facilities cannot be converted to the production of new fuel-efficient vehicles in the short term.
The second recommendation we made was to eliminate the green levy excise tax that has been applied on vehicles, with the exception of pickup trucks, that have a combined fuel consumption rating of more than 13.0 litres per 100 kilometres, which was introduced in the 2007 federal budget. While the eco-auto rebate component of the vehicle efficiency initiative introduced in that budget was eliminated at the end of 2008, the green levy continues as an excise tax applied to the vehicle manufacturers. While our members are strong proponents of fuel-efficient vehicles, on a matter of principle it is incongruent that the government would retain one component of the vehicle efficiency initiative while cancelling the incentive component that encourages consumers to make more fuel-efficient choices when purchasing vehicles.
The third recommendation we made was to eliminate the $100 excise tax on air conditioning, which has been in place since the 1970s. When the tax was implemented, at the time very few vehicles had air conditioning and it essentially represented a luxury tax. Currently the vast majority of vehicles sold in Canada are equipped with air conditioners, so it now represents a tax grab.
I'll leave it at that and wait for your questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Peter Carayiannis and I'm the director of legal and government relations with the Canadian Association of Income Funds. On behalf of the association's members, I thank the Minister of Finance, this committee, and its members for undertaking the important and significant work of a cross-country consultation in advance of the 2010 budget.
Our association made a key request to the finance committee in 2007 on the question of providing a legal framework for the conversion of income trusts to corporations without suffering any additional negative consequences. Our request in 2007 was endorsed by the finance committee in its final report, and I would note at this time that the request was directly in line and entirely consistent with all statements made by the Minister of Finance on the subject of conversion of income trusts to corporations.
The government released draft legislation in this regard in July 2008 and, in a notice of ways and means motion tabled in November 2008, proposed legislation to facilitate the conversions to corporate form along with certain other rules, both tightening and relieving the provisions surrounding such conversions. This motion, however, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued last year. However, in considering that motion, which died last year on the order paper, the association is cognizant of the fact that the legislative proposal, as it was tabled and which we have now twice reviewed over the past two years, makes it clear that the relieving provisions are strictly temporary in nature, given that the tax-deferred treatment on conversion terminates at the end of 2012. This deadline was never discussed or raised as an issue by the Minister of Finance in any public statements concerning the issue.
In establishing the deadline of December 31, 2012, with the result of requiring income trusts to convert to corporations or lose the tax-free rollover, the government is putting income trusts at a further disadvantage, and it is a disadvantage inconsistent with the government's stated goal of levelling the playing field. To this end, the association respectfully requests that this committee adopt a motion recommending that the conversion deadline of December 31, 2012, be eliminated.
Thank you for your time. I'd be pleased to take questions at your convenience.
My name's Jim Hall. I'm vice-president at Hoffman-La Roche, and it is my pleasure to be here in front of the committee today. Hoffman-La Roche is a global biopharmaceutical company that provides medications for oncology, rheumatology, transplantation, metabolic disease, and infectious disease.
All of us are acutely aware that we're in the middle of a global influenza pandemic, and what I'd like to talk about today is being prepared, not only prepared for the current H1N1 pandemic but for any future pandemic that may come along. To that end, the federal government must ensure the appropriate renewal of budgets for pandemic planning and preparedness, set to expire in 2011.
Pandemics and other outbreaks of disease are known to have serious and devastating health and economic impacts. In economic terms, the potential impact of a severe worldwide flu pandemic could cost the global economy $3.1 trillion and reduce GDP by 4.8%. Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters estimated in 2006 that the impact of a future pandemic could cost the Canadian economy as much as $60 billion. A more recent study conducted by RiskAnalytica forecast the impact of a moderate pandemic in Canada and predicted that a moderate pandemic could increase hospitalizations by over 67,000 people, increase absenteeism of health care workers and emergency service providers by 25%, and impact the production that occurs within the Canadian economy by over $11.9 billion.
The Government of Canada has recognized the importance of pandemic planning and has invested heavily in this area since 2006. This investment has meant that we are better prepared as a country to respond to an infectious disease outbreak than ever before in our history. However, while this planning has allowed us to better respond to this pandemic, we must remember that we are fortunate currently to be in a mild pandemic. The risk of a future, more serious pandemic has not decreased with the emergence of H1N1. Given that H1N1 virus will continue to circulate for a number of years, and given that the H5N1 virus, or the avian flu as it is more commonly known, continues to circulate, the risk of a more serious pandemic continues to be high and should prompt us to be more vigilant, not less.
We must commit ourselves to continued emergency preparedness planning. Budgets for pandemic planning, set to expire in 2011, must be renewed. It is imperative that the government provide sufficient funding to ensure that all the necessary measures, including antiviral stockpiles and emergency response infrastructures, are capable of dealing with this current outbreak in addition to all future outbreaks.
The current pandemic plan has at minimum impressed upon us the importance of being properly prepared for an emergency or health crisis and to take nothing for granted. Canada's pandemic plan, which has allowed us to respond to the H1N1 outbreak in a coordinated way, outlines a response strategy that relies on antivirals and vaccines to protect the health of Canadians. The plan states that antiviral drugs like Roche's Tamiflu remain the only medical intervention available during an initial pandemic response until a vaccine is made available. I would add that even after a vaccine becomes available, antivirals will remain the best option for treatment for those who fall ill despite the efforts of a vaccination campaign.
Any pandemic strategy response must ensure the protection and safety of health care workers and emergency service providers, who will be on the front lines working to contain an outbreak and minimize the negative effects to Canada's health and economic well-being. The Canadian plan provides that antivirals will be used for early treatment for those who fall ill and to protect health care workers through prophylactic use in a very limited way. Emergency service providers such as police, firefighters, and paramedics will not be given antivirals as protection from infection, according to the plan.
In conclusion, the Government of Canada must continue to devote needed resources to pandemic planning and preparedness and ensure that our health care workers and emergency service providers are protected with appropriate preventative use of antivirals.
To that end, Hoffman-La Roche recommends, one, that the federal government must renew and increase its funding for emergency preparedness and response, particularly in the face of current response demands and those that will be required to meet future public health threats; and two, that the Canadian government should commit to increasing its stockpile of antiviral drugs to ensure that front-line health workers and emergency service providers are protected during a pandemic.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all of the panellists for being with us today.
Beginning with the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice, the National Council of Welfare, and the Wellesley Institute, I certainly agree with the thrust of what you have said. I think it's also true that while the recession may be technically over, economists in general are in agreement that the unemployment rate has not yet reached its peak, that it may go to 10%, so your concerns are particularly valid at this time.
I'd also point out that we're committed to the 360-hour rule for employment insurance, not necessarily on a permanent basis, but during the time when unemployment is high.
Since I agree with you and since my time is limited, I think I'll have a question for Mr. Howard. I certainly agree with you that pensions are a huge issue going forward in terms of their coverage, their adequacy, and their security. I agree with the idea of a summit, but I thought the definition of summit was the leaders, the Prime Minister and the premiers, so why are you asking for a sort of mini-summit of finance ministers rather than a real summit on this subject?
Well, you lose your isotope supply immediately and then you become beholden to whoever is going to sell it to you. We lose 50 years of leadership in nuclear power. We were the first to build power reactors outside the U.S. We did all the fundamental work on power reactors for the Americans.
We lose our leadership role in neutron beam research, the triple-axis spectrometer that was recognized by Bertram Brockhouse's Nobel prize, the engineering stress scanner that was used as part of the accident investigation of the Challenger accident. All of that disappears, and there's no prospect of further innovation. We're unable to support our own industries.
We have an example from Saskatchewan, a company manufacturing rolled steel. It may be a boring product, but they developed a new way of making bigger sheets. It wasn't by a recognized method, so they couldn't get it qualified for use in bridges. We were able to demonstrate by doing the neutron measurements on these things that they were equivalent to the existing products and get the standard rewritten. So now they can use it in the 30,000 to 40,000 new bridges and refurbishment projects throughout Ontario. There's a big market. It's a small contribution, but it's a big market that we open up every time we do one of these experiments.
You lose people; you lose the expertise. It'll all go.
Good morning to you all. Thank you for coming here to make your presentations. I would like to speak to Mr. Argue first.
The Ontario Coalition for Social Justice has some recommendations for us. You also feel that some employment insurance reform is a priority. You want to bring the number of hours needed to 360. I am sure that you are aware that, of the people without jobs at the moment, almost half have no access to employment insurance.
I am a Bloc Québécois MP. We have made proposals to the government, but, up to now, they have not paid any attention. It is as if they do not give a hoot about the unemployed, the people with no access to employment insurance. But there is an important point to consider. In the last 15 or 20 years, governments, both Conservative and Liberal, have taken $57 billion out of the employment insurance fund in order to fight the deficit. Now the deficit is going to go up again. The Conservative government is looking for a surplus in the employment insurance fund in the next few years, and eventually, in contributions.
I feel that it is important to include in your recommendations that the government absolutely must stop taking that money and must put an end to its plans to pay off the deficit with employment insurance money, in other words with the money contributed by workers and companies. I feel that it is important.
Do you have any comments on the matter?
You can't stockpile molybdenum-99. Its half-life is six days. Half of it's gone after six days. So you cannot stockpile it, which is why you have to have a local domestic production facility.
The Australians are just coming online with their facility. Because they're so far from everywhere, they have no choice. And they're expanding to supply the Asia region.
Hospitals now are dependent on wherever they can get it. There's going to be another shutdown of the Petten reactor in the summer. If we don't get NRU back up by then, that's going to be another major problem. It's coming from South Africa and Europe primarily at the moment, but a small amount may become available from Australia.
This stuff is short-lived. You have to move it. You have to use it immediately. There's no possibility of stockpiling it.
We're not talking about refurbishing NRU; we have to replace it. It's 52 years old. You don't fix a 52-year-old car, you buy a new one.
We can build a better one. We can use modern technology. And we can support all the missions that are currently supported by NRU with a new facility and secure our isotope supply for the next 50 years.
Thank you, Mr. Dechert, for that question.
To give a specific projection in terms of conversions would be impossible. Primarily, because that information is usually considered proprietary by the trusts, it's sensitive business information. For the most part, the income trusts try to make the decision to convert to a corporate status dependent on business realities at the time of conversion, taking into account the best interests of the stakeholders.
What I can tell you by way of background is that over the last two and a half years some 60 income trusts have converted. They've been acquired by private equity, by pensions funds, and by sovereign wealth funds in some cases, and that represents market capitalization of about $50 billion. What we expect will happen is that come 2011 income trusts will be subject to taxes, and those that do not convert will pay taxes to the federal government.
I would point out that unlike most of the other presentations that I'm sure this committee has heard across the country where the presenters are requesting additional money from the government, we're in a unique position where we are actually going to be paying more money to the government. By eliminating the deadline for conversion, those funds will continue to flow to the federal government and the arbitrary deadline of December 2012 will be removed. So the income trusts will make a decision based on business realities at the time and in the best interests of their stakeholders at the time.
As you know, on the issue of newcomers, from a demographic perspective it's not just your region but all across the country, in almost every part of the country. Any population growth that we have will be from newcomers as opposed to natural birth and so on. So it truly is a national issue.
One of our perspectives on this is a health perspective, and there's a very curious paradox—in fact a very troubling paradox—that newcomers come to Canada and typically are healthier than resident Canadians. This is partly because we just don't admit sick people to the country; we screen them out. Fair enough. But after five years, typically the health status of newcomers is lower than resident Canadians' health status. So something is happening in that initial settlement period that's driving health downward.
We're in year three of a project. We're looking intensively at a very dense neighbourhood that receives a lot of immigrants in downtown Toronto called St. James Town, looking at the whole combination of factors, whether they are employment and income-related factors, whether they are factors involving the physical environment, housing, and so on. We're looking at the kinds of connections, and it's a bit too early for us to offer some specifics on that.
Generally what we hear from community-based organizations that are involved in the very critical work of immigrant settlement issues is that they don't have the resources they need to meet the needs of the communities, and the resources should in fact be increased. I think this ties in, if I may say so, with our general proposition to this committee around community innovation, that many of these organizations are looking for new ways to effectively meet the needs of newcomers.
And thank you to our witnesses. I beg your forgiveness if I focus on Mr. Howard. I think that in the last year I've spent more time with actuaries and pensioners than I have with my wife, so I will probably focus my questions on you.
You had some interesting comments, and I appreciate your input throughout the whole process. Your association has been very helpful on this process.
I want to point out one thing. Maybe I didn't hear you correctly, but I thought you said there's been no meeting of finance ministers or pension ministers. There have actually been two. In December in Saskatoon the federal finance minister had commissioned two papers from experts, Claude Lamoureux and Jack Mintz.Those papers were presented because he was concerned about pensions at that time. That paper came out early in the year and was what spawned the cross-country consultation process. It was then followed up with the report on that consultation process, which went back to that same group of finance ministers in May of last year.
There will actually be a summit of finance ministers. Not everybody understands, although I'm sure you do, that in some provinces it's not necessarily the finance minister who is responsible for pensions, but all the minsters responsible for pensions will convene a meeting. There's a summit of those ministers in December. The findings of the research working group will be reported back then. That is just a clarification to make sure everyone understands that.
With regard to the employer-sponsored pension security trust, one of the big arguments or concerns I heard was over who owns any surplus, if you will. Who would own this trust? If it's tax-exempt, I would assume that the sponsor owns it, but there were certainly some arguments among different groups. Can you tell us who owns that and who can utilize it?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to the witnesses for appearing. It's a very interesting panel.
It's always tough for us to ask questions to everyone. My first question, I guess, would be to Mr. Chamberlain. Your presentation was very interesting, and I think the fact that you come from the business world makes it even more interesting, with the perspective that you have.
In your brief, in recommendation number two, you don't show a cost in wanting to provide for more benefits to the people who need them the most. I'm wondering whether you have a cost. I agree with building on the Canada child tax benefit, the benefit supplement, the working income tax, and all those things, but as for converting “other potentially refundable credits that deliver the greatest benefit”—non-utilized credits—to dollars, would that ever materialize? If people are not making money, would they ever substantially be able to benefit from any tax credit?
I don't know whether we're talking about the same thing.
Thank you for your participation today. I can't ask everybody a question; I don't have time. I only have five minutes.
I'll turn to Mark first. I know Mark. Mark is not just a business person; he's an award-winning entrepreneur in Burlington and in Ontario, and Ernst and Young has recognized him. He has a new company that has a social responsibility aspect to it.
In your second recommendation—I'm following up on Massimo's comment—you say “build on” and name the four or five programs, including the working income tax benefit. But in your comments, you're recommending, in a sense, that this is too complicated.
Does your organization have a solution in terms of a single approach to income support for those who find themselves below the poverty line? Or is this the easy way to go now, because these programs exist: just to ask for more money? Is that what you're telling me today?
I call the third panel to order in the 53rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance, here continuing our pre-budget consultations in Toronto.
We have with us for the next panel, for an hour and half, a number of organizations here to present to us. I'll list them in order of their presenting to the committee. We have first of all the Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology, the Writers' Union of Canada, March of Dimes Canada, the Police Association of Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Business Press, and the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association.
I want to welcome you all before the committee this afternoon. You each have up to five minutes for an opening statement, and then we'll have questions from members from all parties.
We'll start with Mr. Holgerson, please.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I thank the members on the committee for giving me the opportunity to make a presentation today.
Mohawk College is well known in Ontario as the gateway to southwestern Ontario, but it is simultaneously at the outer urban edge of the greater Toronto and Hamilton area. In the brief we presented to you in the summer, we have to correct a few numbers. We're pleased to say that we had a 14% growth in enrolment this past fall, 7% from general enrolment and 7% due to international and second career students, who are workers who have been laid off and are looking for new opportunities. So actually, we now serve 11,500 full-time students, 4,000 apprenticeship students, and 375 international students.
What is unique, perhaps, about the marketplace we serve is the lack of access to post-secondary education, not in Burlington but in Hamilton and in Brantford. In Hamilton roughly 54% of the population and in Brantford 55% of the population have not accessed post-secondary education, and as many studies have revealed, 70% of the future jobs in our economy will demand post-secondary education. So we suggested to the committee in our brief that there were three things we thought were fairly important.
The first was that we're building a new centre for entrepreneurship learning and innovation. The new centre, thanks to a $20 million investment from the Government of Ontario, will allow us to imbue our graduates with the capacity to start their own businesses and help small businesses grow. As part of our research into achieving this goal, we started to look at all the opportunities there were in the Government of Canada to help entrepreneurial young people. We discovered that there were the Business Development Bank of Canada, the Canadian small business financing program, the Small Business Finance Centre, and the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.
All of these had very impressive websites, but there was not a coordinated approach to marketing the services of those organizations, and we believe that by and large our students are not aware of them. We think it would be a great idea if these organizations were encouraged to consolidate a marketing effort and to present themselves to graduates of universities and colleges, from NAIT or SIAST or wherever, who would like to start their own businesses and help small businesses grow.
So it's our suggestion that perhaps the standing committee might suggest to these organizations, which I gather are in some cases at arm's length, that there are other opportunities that they could take advantage of in order to encourage greater economic development in the country.
The second proposal has to do with continuing the knowledge infrastructure program. In the past round of funding, Mohawk either was too ambitious or perhaps didn't have quite the right angle, and we were declined funding. We accept that. However, we're looking forward to where we're going next and are saying that with the growth we're experiencing, we believe there should be ongoing rounds.
One of the challenges is unique to Ontario. The Ontario government funds all the colleges out of one pot, and the number of students you have establishes a percentage that is your market share of the total volume of that pot. If all the colleges around us are growing with new facilities and we're challenged to grow without new facilities, our market share will go down and our annual operating grant will actually go down. So there would be not only the disadvantage of not having a beautiful new building—although we will have one—there will be the disadvantage of losing market share and thereby operational funding.
In Brantford, we have a lot of encouragement from the city to relocate our industrial zone campus to downtown Brantford. So we're proposing that perhaps the Government of Canada, in renewing the program, might consider $20 million for Mohawk.
Finally, on behalf of President Rob MacIsaac and the whole college, we'd like to say that we support totally the objectives of the Government of Canada in trying to achieve Advantage Canada: Building a Strong Economy for Canadians.
Thank you. If you have questions, I am ready to answer in either official language.
Thank you for this opportunity. The Writers' Union of Canada appreciates this opportunity to participate in pre-budget consultations.
The union was founded by writers for writers in 1973 and has evolved into the national voice for over 1,800 writers of books in all genres. Our mandate is to promote and defend the interests of creator members and of Canada's freedom to write and publish.
The union has an extremely important role to play in shaping the application of your objectives. First, to support the creative work that is the heart of the Canadian cultural economy, the Writers' Union of Canada urges the Government of Canada in its next budget to introduce a copyright income deduction for creators modelled on that used successfully in the province of Quebec; second, to exempt from taxation subsistence grants for creators that are administered by the Canada Council for the Arts; and third, to increase the Public Lending Right Commission's budget to bring it to the same hit rate as when it was established 18 years ago.
Let me expand a little on those three items. The income copyright deduction has been used in Quebec for several years. This deduction not only corrects a tax penalty but also works to encourage, rather than penalize, those who try to make a living from their creations.
In Quebec the provision applies to writers, artists, filmmakers, and composers; that is, it applies to any artist who produces copyrighted material that generates income. This provision would be easy to administer, and its effect would be to encourage self-employed creators to concentrate on creating new works instead of taking non-creative jobs to provide the necessary income to buy time to create.
The second issue that I raise is subsistence grants. This is one of the most confusing inequities that I am aware of in policies. These grants are created and delivered to artists to provide a minimal stipend to artists to live for several months while they create their cultural product--hence the word “subsistence”--yet by the time the grants are released and income tax comes in, the creator has to then pay back an extremely large portion in taxes.
The third item I mentioned is the Public Lending Right Commission. Canada is very pleased and proud to be one of the handful of progressive countries in the world to have a public lending right commission. The call to create a commission was spearheaded by the Writers' Union of Canada. This small organization provides a modest annual income to Canadian authors whose works are available in public libraries for lending. I don't think I need to explain that there is a royalty earned when a writer sells a book, but when a book goes into a library, it's read repeatedly. Unfortunately, the amount of money that's been invested into the Public Lending Right Commission since its inception has decreased, so we're asking that the government reinvest in the Public Lending Right Commission and in its culture to make sure that the values of the Public Lending Right Commission are at least at a par with what they were 18 years ago.
In conclusion, the cultural sector is large and it's growing. Depending on how you calculate it, it embraces different people. It counts between 5% and 8% of the Canadian labour force. At the heart of this enormous productive, vital part of the economy is a very small core of self-employed creators who earn incomes that are 25% to 50% less than those for comparable jobs in other sectors.
In summary, we are urging the government to remove the tax inequity currently carried by creators with fluctuating incomes through a targeted copyright income deduction and by introducing an exemption from taxation on creator subsistence grants that are administered by the Canada Council for the Arts. We further seek this government's support in ensuring that the Public Lending Right Commission is adequately funded in the next budget.
Thank you very much for this opportunity. I look forward to your questions.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and honourable members. My name is Steven Christianson and I run government relations and advocacy for the March of Dimes. With me today are my colleagues Janet MacMaster and Dr. Robert Meynell.
I'll try to be as quick as I can. I'll briefly describe what March of Dimes is and then I'll move into our recommendations.
Since 1951, March of Dimes has worked to identify, eliminate, and prevent barriers to the full participation of Canadians with disabilities in all aspects of our society and economy. Today we are one of Canada's largest service providers to Canadians with disabilities and to their families, caregivers, employers, and communities.
We're all about inclusion and participation. Consistently, the one thing that stands in the way of participation in the economy and society is a barrier. For someone who uses a motorized wheelchair, for example, a barrier can be as simple as one step--just one step that prevents entry into an establishment and participation in the economy, the workplace, educational institutions, and government itself. Barriers have the effect of blocking those with a disability.
What do we achieve when we eliminate these barriers? We achieve accessibility and we bring forward a degree of inclusion that we did not previously have.
Many things are helping to eliminate barriers, including government programs and services, of which there are many good examples; we can talk about that later. Some are federal, some are provincial, and some are co-managed. All are critical, and all need greater attention, especially in the areas of affordable and accessible housing.
Today we are going to take a different approach. We're going to take this opportunity to focus on something probably not so conventional, coming from a charity: taxation. In fact, we're going to recommend consideration of tax incentives to help the small businesses of Canada and our communities and villages from coast to coast to provide a stimulus that will eliminate the barriers right there in their communities, helping to facilitate inclusion and participation of Canadians with disabilities and beginning to deliver immediate measurable improvements in accessibility at the grassroots level. Along a theme similar to the recently introduced and much-used home renovation tax credit, we recommend the introduction of a tax credit, a tax deduction, and the consideration of an accessibility bond.
Many of us are aware that small businesses are critical pillars in our communities. They offer service provision, employment, entertainment, dining, social experiences, shopping--you name it. However, many are situated in structures that were designed long before many of us gave due consideration to the valuable contribution of Canadians with disabilities. There are steps that prohibit entry, washrooms that are inaccessible, and doors that are too narrow. However, if there were some form of tax recognition for small business owners to proceed with installing ramps, for example, or electronic door openers, or washroom retrofits, the cost of achieving greater accessibility is more doable, the economy gets that added stimulus through the retrofits and renovations, and Canadians with disabilities can participate and contribute economically in even greater numbers to our local economies and, most importantly, live in a more inclusive society.
The tax incentives we're talking about should not replace or take precedence over the critical role that government has in the direct funding of programs and services, but should be implemented alongside existing measures.
The world is changing. We all know that. Canadians with disabilities and Canadians who are seniors are a growing force in this country. Businesses are beginning to recognize this fact. In our experience, throughout the country many would avail themselves of an opportunity such as the measures we are recommending. If it's acceptable to you, I'll take another 60 seconds and briefly describe the measures we're talking about.
The first is an accessibility tax credit. The credit would be available to small businesses, and there are various definitions we can talk about. An accessibility tax credit would cover a range of pre-approved accessibility expenditures, such as the purchase of adaptive equipment, removal of architectural barriers in facilities or vehicles, or the production of printed materials in accessible formats.
For comparative purposes, we could take a look at the U.S. application of such a credit. The amount of the tax credit under the American system is equal to 50% of the eligible accessibility expenditures in a year, up to a maximum of just a little more than $10,000. Under their regime, there's no credit for the first $250 of expenditures, and the maximum credit is $5,000.
The second recommendation is an accessibility tax deduction that would reduce a business’ payable taxes, recognize the expenses incurred in making it accessible, stimulate economic activity, and help enhance accessibility. Again, we're talking about the small businesses in our neighbourhoods and on our main streets.
The deduction would apply to the removal of architectural or transportation barriers and adaptations to a building or information system. We can talk about how the American system is using that, with their accompanying legislation.
Finally, we recommend an accessibility bond. The Government of Canada could provide for the public issuance of an unspecified amount of general obligation bonds, the proceeds of which would be used for the purpose of funding various improvements to accessibility initiatives nationwide, generate competitive investment yields to the buying public, and be subject to attractive tax-reducing measures similar to other government-issued bonds.
In closing, achieving accessibility on a go-forward basis is less complicated, but retrofitting today's world represents a considerable challenge, as we're finding out with legislation in Ontario and increasingly in Manitoba and Quebec.
My name is Larry Molyneaux. I am president of the Police Association of Ontario. With me today is our chief administrative officer, Ron Middel. Both Ron and I were front-line police officers for over 25 years prior to taking on our current responsibilities. Karl Walsh, president of the OPP Association, and Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, had hoped to attend this presentation with us. We offer our regrets that they could not attend.
The Police Association of Ontario is a professional organization representing over 33,000 police and civilian members from every municipal police association and from the Ontario Provincial Police Association. The PAO has a history of working with government and community partners to ensure safe communities. Safe communities are a key to ensuring Canada's place in a competitive world. Canadians have a right to feel safe in their homes, on their streets, while at play, and in their schools. Safe communities create trust and comfort, attract investment, and can only lead to a stronger Canada.
The Government of Canada's tackling crime agenda consists of significant legislative changes as well as policies and programs designed to address community safety issues. The government has taken much-needed steps to ensure an effective justice system; however, this addresses only half of the community safety equation. A comprehensive justice and community safety program is dependent upon an effective judicial system coupled with adequate levels of professionally trained and resourced police personnel to ensure and enforce the rule of law.
Recently passed legislative changes have resulted in a consequential requirement to invest in additional front-line officers. Therefore, the PAO urges the government to fulfill their campaign promise and provide sufficient long-term funding to put at least 2,500 more police officers on the beat in our provinces, cities, and communities. Based on a projected cost of $100,000 in salary and benefits per officer, the PAO estimates that this initiative could cost approximately $250 million per year.
We acknowledge that partial funding has been provided for the 2,500-officer commitment. Under the community development trust, Ontario received $156 million to partially fund 329 officers over five years. The five-year funding arrangement, however, has a detrimental impact on municipal participation in the program. Investing in a new police officer is a long-term financial commitment. Unfortunately, due to this initiative's short-term nature, many municipalities are reluctant to participate in it, as they are now concerned about the future fiscal pressure they will be facing once the program's funding runs out.
Labour costs currently account for approximately 9% of the operating expenditures in police service budgets across the province. For many reasons, municipalities are consistently pressed to reduce their expenditures on police services, but high-quality professional policing is significantly compromised by budget restraints and cutbacks. We simply cannot continue to provide the level of policing that taxpayers demand within the current staff complement.
Crime is becoming more sophisticated, organized, and technically complex. Criminals are using cutting-edge technology, and the police are hard pressed to keep pace. Often investigations into these matters consume a great deal of time and resources. Criminal organizations do not face budgetary restrictions that prohibit the acquisition of equipment or personnel; it is the police charged with protecting citizens and taxpayers who face the budget restrictions. We are playing catch-up with the criminals in many instances.
The Mayerthorpe incident in 2005, in which four RCMP officers were killed during a raid on an Alberta farm, serves as an example of what can happen when a police force lacks adequate staffing levels, proper equipment, and appropriate supervision.
The threat of terrorism also has had a significant impact on law enforcement resources. The events of 9/11 and other tragedies have reinforced the need for police services to have adequate staffing levels and resources. Recent high-profile arrests, such as those of the Toronto 18, claim shares of policing budgets to provide trial security and prisoner transfers. Our capacity to respond to terrorist threats must be addressed as an immediate priority.
Ongoing fiscal pressures appear to have the greatest impact on general patrol officers. As the specialization of police tasks increases, resources are drawn from the patrol units. This places increased pressure on the remaining front-line personnel, contributing to stress and morale issues.
With the range of duties expanding, the increase in the number of officers has not kept pace with the rate of population growth over the past decade. Statistics Canada recently reported that the number of Canadian police officers per 100,000 citizens peaked at 206 police officers per 100,000 in 1975. Between 1975 and 1991, the number of police officers grew at about the same pace as the Canadian population, maintaining an average of around 200 police officers per 100,000 citizens. The latest figures show that the number has dropped to 195. There are fewer police officers on the beat now than there were 35 years ago, and the population and challenges have changed enormously.
In conclusion, budget 2010 is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the government's commitment to policing and community safety. Safe communities attract businesses, promote growth, and improve the overall quality of life of Canadians.
Also, 2,500 new police officers will improve the overall effectiveness of a tackling crime agenda. Therefore, the PAO urges the government to invest in community safety and provide provinces with the necessary long-term sustainable funding for an additional 2,500 police officers on the street.
We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this important process and we thank you for your support and interest in community safety.
We would be pleased to answer any questions.
Let me begin by, of course, thanking you for this opportunity. In the short time allocated to me, I am going to try to talk about three complex issues: jobs, employment insurance, and pensions.
As you all know, this province was the economic engine of our country at one point. We are going through an economic crisis like I've certainly never seen in my lifetime, and I suspect you haven't. Unlike the recessions we saw in 1982 and 1992, there aren't massive layoffs; there are massive plant closures. In effect, those jobs are gone. They haven't laid people off to have them come back in the near future.
If you've had the opportunity to travel in northern Ontario to Kenora, Marathon, Thunder Bay, and Dryden, as I often do, you'll find communities with 40% and 50% unemployment, where the mill in the town is gone. It has closed. In many cases, it was the single employer. In one town I was in, the actual scrap metal for the mill was worth more than the mill, and that's not to say what the impact is on those families. If you travel down the 401 corridor to Kitchener, London, and Windsor, you'll see unprecedented impacts on communities.
I went through the recessions in 1982 and 1992. I had to collect unemployment insurance. Many people today can't collect it. There's something wrong with that. I'm sure you talk to people who are suffering. I'm less sure about how you face them when you know that there's a surplus of more than $50 billion in that fund and they can't get coverage in a plan that they paid into.
This issue also connects into....
Do you think that's funny? Excuse me. Did I say something funny?
No, he was laughing. I thought he...I missed something.
As for pensions, I went to work in a tire factory when I was a teenager. My neighbours worked in a tire factory. Their parents worked in a tire factory. Today, if you go to that community of Kitchener, you'll find whole neighbourhoods where people have decent pensions because they belonged to a defined benefit pension plan. I don't know what it's going to look like in 20 or 30 years from now, because the plant I worked in is gone. It's in Mexico. Many of those plants in Kitchener that built tires and made automotive parts are closed now.
Sixty-two per cent of people don't have a workplace pension, and more and more people are going to be in that situation. I'm sure you're well aware of the proposals put forward by the Canadian Labour Congress and others around increases to the CPP and the OAS. I would ask you to seriously consider this. I'm going to be quite frank. We need to think about this today for the people who are going to be impacted tomorrow. Every day that we don't act, the more pain people will face down the road.
Finally, I don't have to tell you about the need for us to put a major focus on creating good jobs that pay decent wages. As the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, I can tell you that I am shocked at how little focus there has been on this for the last two years. Sure, I've spoken to many groups of politicians over the years, and I've spoken to business leaders, but I am at a loss to figure out why somebody in government doesn't say that this is something we've never seen before.
Put some people in a room and try to deal with this crisis, because it is going to change our province. It's going to change our country. I think it deserves attention like we've never seen before.
I'm sorry, but I have a document for you that is not here yet. I know you'll all be holding your breath waiting to read it.
Good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee. My name is Bruce Creighton. While my day job is president of the Business Information Group, I'm here today in my capacity as director of the Canadian Business Press.
It has been said that for every industry, profession, or business in Canada there is a specialty publication aimed directly at keeping its participants informed about their businesses, about what's new and interesting to them, and what trends they can expect in their respective fields. However, since this type of business media is so carefully targeted to specialized audiences, many people are simply unaware of its existence or of how broad the industry really is.
Doctors, lawyers, teachers, construction companies, oil workers, grocers, benefits professionals, dentists, pharmacists, welders, pilots, hard goods retailers, and automobile dealers all have their own publication geared to their particular needs.
The Canadian Business Press is the industry association for Canada’s 740 business, professional, and farm publications. In fact, the Business Information Group's parent company, Glacier, is the largest publisher of farm publications in the country. Industry publications known as business to business, or B2B, represent 27% of all magazine titles in this country, 25% of the sector's revenues and expenses, and 29% of the industry's full- and part-time employment.
Many of you would be familiar with our members' titles, which include: Canadian Consulting Engineer, Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, Oilweek, and Québec habitation.
In early 2009 the Honourable James Moore, , announced the creation of the Canada periodical fund. The announcement, which stemmed from a budget 2009 commitment, is set to provide Canada’s magazines and community newspapers with a total of $75.5 million to support their publications. The Canadian Business Press strongly endorses the objectives of this program and thanks the minister for his foresight in this matter.
Our industry is in a time of transition: increased foreign competition, transformation to digital media, new business models, and a bruising recession impacting readers and advertisers alike. Any reductions in government support will no doubt push many magazine titles out of business.
Unfortunately, the funding formula of past programs, the Canada magazine fund and the publishers assistance program, and the one initially proposed for the Canadian periodical fund fail to fully appreciate the cultural and economic significance of B2B publications. The formula favours broad-based readership rather than narrow vertical market publications like those of the Business Press.
Our publications require extremely high penetration rates because of our business model. B2B periodicals have always received a lower portion of the funds designed to support the magazine industry, a portion of which the Canadian Business Press finds unjust. My company, the Business Information Group, is faced with challenges stemming from existing programs and regulations. I cannot, for instance, insert an upstart publication that we're trying to get off the ground to cover a new vertical market into an existing publication and still receive funding from the publications assistance program. This stifles growth and in many cases leaves an industry seeking information unserved.
While I applaud the Government of Canada for revisiting the eligibility criteria for the Canadian periodical fund and hope that many of the aforementioned issues will be addressed, I hope this presentation has demonstrated that B2B publications have different needs from their consumer peers. Therefore, to enhance the viability of this industry, the Canadian Business Press recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance are the following.
One, the Government of Canada should expand the eligibility of the Canadian periodical fund to recognize the uniqueness of business publishers. Secondly, the federal government, under a separate program, should increase funding for the business publishing sector to assist the industry through this period of transition.
With that, I thank you for your time. I look forward to any questions you might have.
My name is Etan Diamond. I am the manager of policy and research from OMSSA. I am here replacing Kira Heineck, the executive director, who had a personal emergency this morning.
The Ontario Municipal Social Services Association represents the municipal services to managers of Ontario, which administer local human social services throughout our province. Our association promotes policy development and program delivery in the areas of economic security, employment support, social housing, homelessness prevention, and children's services.
In 2009 the federal government invested in Canada’s physical infrastructure by providing funds for roads, bridges, buildings, and houses. In 2010 OMSSA believes that the federal government must now invest in Canada's people: the people who drive on those roads, who cross those bridges, who work in those buildings, and who live in those houses. This commitment to Canada’s human infrastructure will have the triple benefit of stimulating the economy, reducing poverty, and fostering healthy families and communities.
I am pleased to turn the microphone over to Janet Menard, the commissioner of human services in Peel region and a member of our board, to talk more specifically about our recommendations.
As you know, 2009 has not been kind to many Canadian families. Plant closures, factory layoffs, and fluctuating markets have removed much of the economic security that Canadian families deserve, and our members are seeing the results first-hand on a daily basis. Compounding the problem, federal supports such as employment insurance have failed to provide a sufficient safety net for the victims of Canada’s economic restructuring. We believe that the federal government must step in and reinforce that safety net with direct and immediate improvements to our nation’s employment insurance program. By improving EI through changes to eligibility requirements, the federal government can lift those Canadian families who are in danger of slipping into poverty because of unemployment. Such EI improvements will help keep these families on a more secure financial footing and will accelerate our country's economic turnaround.
If EI improvements offer the most immediate benefits, our recommendation to expand investments in affordable housing and homelessness prevention focuses on mid-term outcomes. OMSSA appreciates the current government’s investment to make affordable housing available to more Canadians. The infusion of funds into social housing and other housing programs has been welcomed by our communities across this country. And I can assure you, we're making the very best use of those dollars. But it is not enough, and the planned withdrawal of federal funds, starting in 2011, is a huge cause for concern.
Furthermore, affordable housing is more than bricks and mortar. Being able to afford a place to live is not as meaningful when a person has no access to sustainable employment, child care, good schools, recreational opportunities, and mental health and other services. Therefore, OMSSA recommends that the government expand its housing investment to allow for the development of human infrastructure, not just houses themselves but the human and social services that turn a house into a home and a neighbourhood into a community. For example, sustainable programs for mental health or addiction counselling can make a difference in preventing homelessness and can help the government’s bottom line.
But the benefits don't stop there. In Toronto, for example, the Streets to Homes program reduced demand for public services by moving homeless people into more permanent shelter. Emergency room use declined by 40% and police-facilitated detox admissions fell by 75%.
Finally, our third recommendation brings with it the greatest long-term rewards: investing in the children of Canada. OMSSA agrees with the federal government's position that parents are in the best position to decide on and make choices for the care of their children. If parents can choose safe nurturing environments for their young children to play and learn, then our families, our communities, and our society will become stronger. Yet in 2010, Ontario’s children and families will have their choices limited because of the withdrawal of federal support for the early learning and child care system. Almost 9,000 child care spaces are at risk, at a cost of $63.5 million federal dollars, leaving Ontario’s parents with 9,000 fewer choices for their children’s healthy development.
OMSSA strongly recommends that the government recommit to our children’s future by investing in a true system of early learning and child care services. In this way, the federal government can take a leadership role in providing parents with real choices for quality early learning for their children. A recommitment to the children of Ontario makes good economic sense as well. Modern economic realities mean that most parents are in the workforce. Being able to choose a quality early learning system means they can confidently enter and remain in the workforce, knowing that their children are being cared for in a safe and stimulating environment.
Good afternoon to all the witnesses.
I find that presentation particularly interesting. As you well know, we have been all across Canada; we have been to Vancouver, Edmonton and to several other cities. A number of groups have made presentations to the committee and to the government on various aspects of our social, economic and community life. But, on the matter of employment insurance, very specific proposals have been made along the same lines as Mr. Samuelson provided just now.
The noteworthy thing today is that a group like the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association, in a way, backs up what workers' representatives are saying. They are saying that, because the employment insurance program has not been reformed, and because it does not reach enough of the people living in very difficult circumstances, it affects many people in areas such as health, affordable housing and homelessness. People are having a great deal of difficulty because of the employment insurance program, as I said to a social development representative this morning. Half the people without jobs, if not a little more than half, are not eligible for employment insurance benefits.
I would like to hear your comments on that, Mr. Samuelson. Let us certainly not forget that, for the last 15 or 16 years, under both the Conservative government and the preceding Liberal government, the employment insurance program has been used to pay off Canada's deficit. Fifty-seven billion dollars has been taken from the fund. It is important for associations that are demanding improvements also to make proposals to serve as warnings to the government. They should say that the employment insurance fund must never again become a deficit insurance fund and that the deficit must not be paid off by the workers and employers who pay into the employment insurance fund.
I would like to hear your opinion on that, Mr. Samuelson.
Listen, I think that what happened is absolutely outrageous, that people took money from the fund that workers and employers had paid into.
As I said earlier, I travel a lot. I've travelled across this province. I've been into these small communities. People have come to me and they've talked about what it's doing to them. And they don't understand. You know, they've paid into this fund, some of them for years and years. And when they need it, it's not there for them.
I think it's tragic. If you sense any frustration in my voice, it's because we all know what needs to be done. We all know how to provide the benefits to these people who need them so badly. But it seems to me there doesn't appear to be the political courage to stand up and do it. And I feel so much for the people who are impacted.
I should point out to you—for me, it's a bit personal—about the plant I talked about, which they closed about three or four years ago, that half of those people still don't have jobs or they're going through temporary work agencies. They've run out their EI. They've spent their severance. They're now selling their homes. And I think it's outrageous that we just sit back and allow this to continue.
Thank you for your comments. I just ask the committee to deal with this.
Mr. Samuelson, you didn't get a chance to talk about the jobs part of your piece here, and I'm just trying to get information from you on this.
Part of what I see, rightly or wrongly, is that the mobility of labour is also an issue, that people may have to go to where the jobs may be. We were in Winnipeg, where there's a 4% unemployment rate. We were also in Regina recently. Some areas of the country have less unemployment, and you're absolutely right that northern Ontario is suffering tremendously with unemployment issues.
Does the OFL have a position or a comment on how the federal government could do more for the mobility of labour, or are you not interested in that at all?
And thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your presentations. I appreciate your suggestions and your time in putting together these presentations.
I'd like to first ask a question of Ms. Menard.
It's good to see you again. I believe the last time we were together was at an announcement of a retrofit project for Peel social housing. For , that is in the federal riding of Mississauga—Streetsville, which is represented by one of his colleagues. There was no cheque on that occasion, but it was an important project, and I know that Peel does a wonderful job in trying to provide social housing for those who need it. I agree with you that you can't have quality of life without a quality place to live.
I hope that was helpful. In your comments, I think you said that it was.
What more is needed to be done in Peel region? Can you talk about how the provision of affordable housing impacts on the integration of new Canadians, since you know that's a major issue in Peel region? And further on that point, can you tell us what more needs to be done generally in terms of newcomer settlement services?
We've been increasing support for settlement services through CIC since 2006, but there's still a need in Peel. You and others have told me that. Maybe you could give us a little background on that.
I'm Bruce Drewett, the national president of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, and I have with me Mr. Bill Adair, executive director of CPA Ontario, who will join me in the presentation.
I would like to start by thanking the standing committee for giving us the opportunity today to talk about a very critical issue relating to our membership, that is, housing affordability, accessibility, and availability.
First, I'd like to say that when we poll our members on an ongoing basis, the issue of housing is at the forefront of the issues of most concern to our almost 40,000 members with a spinal cord injury. It's an issue for them, whether a matter of affordability, accessibility, or availability. All of these are paramount. It also becomes critically important when we look at the overlay of people who are living in poverty and the co-relationship with people having safe, affordable, and sustainable housing. It's a serious issue.
It's no secret to any of you, I'm sure, that the incidence of people living in poverty among the population we represent is significant, and it should come as no further surprise that the problem becomes much exacerbated when people don't have housing available, which really is the stabilizer for all sorts of other opportunities in society, whether it's having a job, transportation, and opportunities for recreation, and so on. Without a house to live in, it's pretty darn difficult.
The other thing I would like you to keep in mind today, as we go through our discussion, is that when we look at trends within our community of those acquiring a spinal cord injury, there is a greater prevalence among seniors of those experiencing a spinal cord injury these days. So when we look at the issue of disability, the three considerations of spinal cord injury, aging, and poverty prevalence together set out the very serious way this has to be considered, given the interface we have among the various issues.
Bill is going to provide an couple of anecdotes that actually demonstrate the seriousness of these issues for our community, and then I'm going to close with some recommendations.
Good afternoon, and thanks for the chance to present today.
My job is to add a little colour commentary, which isn't pretty, but I'll give you a few stories. As Bruce said in regard to the clients we're working with—over a thousand people a year—about half have spinal cord injuries from traumatic causes, and the other half have disease-induced spinal cord injuries. The latter group is growing and in fact is a larger number now, which comes with the aging of the population. So we're expecting to see a greater trend in the number of people who have a spinal cord injury in the country.
Our clients, the people we work with, enter into the cycle of poverty and discrimination through no fault of their own, which oftentimes keeps them away from workforce participation and from full citizenship activities, and puts them in prison, in a sense. It puts them in a situation where they are homeless.
One example would be a gentleman we're working with who has an MBA from Harvard University. He's a Canadian from Montreal who moved back to Toronto and was ready to pursue a career but was in a car crash. He went through the acute care services and the rehabilitation support services. Then his home was not accessible; his apartment that he had purchased wasn't renovated in time and wasn't ready. So he went into a long-term care facility. He had to live there for four months. He ended up with a pressure sore and was readmitted to acute care, and the nasty cycle of recurring health complications started to set in. He still is not gainfully employed seven years later. We in Canada have lost, albeit not permanently, a very capable leader who could be leading a company and a business. We've also lost the tax dollars he could have contributed. So this is a shame, and it's centred around housing.
This time of year, we tend to get up on our roofs and clean the leaves out of the eavestroughs, and we have a client who broke his neck after falling off a ladder while doing this. He went through acute care and then through rehab, but because he was not a high-income earner, he did not have the resources to renovate his own home. He did not have the ability to purchase an accessible apartment or to rent an accessible apartment. So he is now separated from his wife and his two younger children and is living in a long-term care facility. Again, he is burden on our welfare system. And the heartbreaking thing is that he's not back to work, and not even with his family raising his kids.
Our clients are often locked into the cycle of poverty because, once they access appropriate housing after a fair bit of waiting, they're loath to leave to go anywhere else. So they're pretty well locked in, because if they have a job in one community but are moving forward in their careers and have to move to another community, they usually won't go because there's no accessible housing in that community. So they have to stay where they are.
That's a bit of colour for you, and I'll cut it there.
Good afternoon. Thank you to the committee for allowing me the time to address you today.
My name is Richard St. Denis. I'm from Windsor, Ontario, a city with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. I'm also a proud member of the Canadian Auto Workers, CAW Local 444, working at Chrysler Canada in one of the hardest hit segments of our economy, the manufacturing industry. While I'm disappointed that these meetings aren't happening in Windsor or Essex County, I do appreciate the opportunity to be here today.
I come before you with two very specific recommendations for you to address in the next federal budget with regard to unemployment insurance. The first is for the two-week waiting period to be removed. Premiums are required to be paid by workers on the very first dollar they make on their paycheques. Benefits should be paid from the first day that a worker loses their job and a valid claim is established.
Under the current system, a worker laid off tomorrow must first serve the two-week waiting time, followed by two weeks of served time, and then wait until the next week for payment. That means a minimum of five weeks before they see their first dollar from the EI program. This is the time when they most need the money, but the system makes them wait five weeks before they see their first payment.
The second recommendation is for the employment insurance clawback to be removed. No other insurance has this type of system. When a person buys insurance to protect against a loss, employment or any other, the insurance should be paid when there's a valid claim established.
This is the only insurance that is mandatory to purchase, yet it only pays based upon income levels. Anyone required to pay the clawback on their income tax return has already paid the maximum premium into the program and should be entitled to those benefits when they need them. The clawback is a penalty imposed on the workers that contribute the most to the EI system, and it's not fair.
Even though the current very high unemployment rates happened as a result of the economic climate in Canada, the employment insurance program continues to operate at a surplus. This money belongs to workers who contributed to the fund, not to the government. It should be used to support workers in their time of need, when they're faced with layoffs or a dramatic decrease in their income levels.
Thank you for allowing me the time to bring forth these two very important recommendations. I hope you consider them very seriously in the next federal budget and implement them both.
If you have any questions, I will be happy to take them at the appropriate time.
Thank you and good afternoon. My name is Doris Grinspun and I'm the executive director of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, RNAO.
RNAO is the professional organization for registered nurses who practise in all roles and sectors across Ontario. Nurses want this budget to help build a healthier society, and I'm proud to bring our message to you today. Our presentation addresses three issues: maintaining fiscal capacity, ensuring access to nursing care, and creating a national anti-poverty strategy.
The federal government plays a key role in addressing social and environmental determinants of health, particularly through transfer payments to provinces and territories for health care, post-secondary education, social assistance, social services, early childhood development, and child care. The huge shortfall in investment in physical, social, and environmental capacity may be linked in part to the long-term decline in federal program expenditures as a share of the GDP. This, in turn, is related to tax cuts. We have no objection to reducing the deficit over the business cycle. But when deficit fighting is teamed with tax cuts, the inevitable consequence is a reduction in already strained government programs, especially those related to social and environmental determinants of health.
In the interest of health, we urge that the government recover the fiscal capacity to deliver all essential services--social and environmental services--by adopting a more progressive tax system and using revenue sources that encourage environmental and social responsibility, such as green taxes.
We also believe more emphasis must be placed on ensuring access to nursing care. We know that adequate registered nurse staffing is associated with better health outcomes, such as lower mortality. Access to RNs varies across the country. But overall, according to the Canadian Nurses Association, there is a shortfall of almost 11,000 RN full-time equivalents as we speak. The situation is urgent because patient activity is increasing across all sectors. The RN workforce is aging and the RN-to-population ratio is lower than it was in the past. To put it simply, we are producing far too few nursing graduates. If no measures are taken, the CNA, the Canadian Nurses Association, warns that the shortage of RN full-time equivalents will be 60,000 by 2022. That's why we urge the government to earmark conditional transfers to provinces and territories in two areas: $135 million to support nursing education and $250 million to support 10,000 additional full-time RN positions.
The third area on which we want to comment is poverty reduction. Taking action on poverty is literally a matter of life and death. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that those who live in poverty and are socially excluded experience a greater burden of disease and die earlier than those who have better access to economic, social, and political resources. Aboriginal people, recent immigrants, and people living with disabilities are all disproportionately bearing the burden of unacceptable poverty. We just heard about that from our colleagues.
A recession causes more poverty, particularly among the newly unemployed. This recession has been particularly brutal, with full-time employment falling by nearly 400,000 jobs. We are asking for the following. A comprehensive integrated federal plan for poverty elimination that is linked to and supportive of provincial and territorial poverty action plans is urgently needed. It must have targets, indicators, and timelines for transparency and public accountability.
Reform Canada's employment insurance system, EI, by immediately expanding eligibility and improving benefit levels, especially for the most economically vulnerable workers with low wages and dependants. We support you fully on that.
We appreciate the opportunity to speak to the committee, and we look forward to your attention and action in regard to these important health and nursing issues.
I'm Judy Shamian. I'm the president and CEO of VON Canada, an organization that has proudly served Canadians for 112 years, and we are currently in thousands of communities.
I will focus today primarily on the workforce that supports our health and social system. Yesterday,you heard from the Canadian Nurses Association in Winnipeg, and you heard from the Registered Nurses' Association today, but my emphasis is unpaid workers, family caregivers. There are four million to five million caregivers in this country who support primarily an aging population. It does not include the disability group and other groups.
In the interest of time, I'm going to start with the recommendation and then explain the rationale behind the request.
We ask the federal government to expand the current financial tax credits for caregivers. The relief will help compensate for expenses incurred by families who must purchase services, equipment, and supplies that assist loved ones to live independently at home. Specifically, the tax credits could be enhanced in three ways, and those instruments exist today and can easily be expanded and improved.
One, increase the amount of the caregiver and infirm dependant credit, which would help caregivers with more of the costs they incur. And again, there is sufficient research that shows that families incur significant cost out-of-pocket.
Two, allow the caregiver credits to phase out more gradually with the dependant's income, which would assist more caregivers. Currently, if somebody earns $18,000, they no longer qualify for this credit. According to Human Resources and Social Development Canada, although nobody will call it the poverty line, the poverty line is around $28,000 a year. So we are cutting off caregivers, who are giving their health and their resources, at $18,000.
Three, make the caregiver credit refundable, as Quebec has done, which would extend support to lower-income caregivers. Quebec has done a very good job of it over the years, and there is a lot for us, as a nation, to learn from it.
Just to give you some context, as I said, four million to five million Canadians are family caregivers. Often we who are going to the homes see one client, but by the time we finish taking care of that client, there are two clients, because often Mary is looking after Sam, who is 78 or 85, and there is nobody there at night.
Many of you are nodding your heads. I am sure you all hear this in your constituency offices, and we all have that experience. So if five million Canadians are caregivers, then literally we can do the math: one in six persons you encounter provide some form of caregiving support. Many of them quit their jobs, so we're looking at productivity and success in this country. There is a lot we can do for them in simple ways to demonstrate our support and as health givers, caregivers to our own. VON, for example, fundraises for over 20 charitable programs. We have 9,000 volunteers to support family caregivers, whether it's respite or volunteer driving or other initiatives.
So I call upon you to consider those three or more options that you have in your power, to make the lives of caregivers in this country better.
My name is Chris McLean. I'm here representing the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Thank you for this opportunity to present to the committee.
In its August 14 submission to the pre-budget consultations, CNIB proposed two recommendations, which I will try to address very briefly today.
First, CNIB is calling upon the Government of Canada to assume a role in the establishment of a nationwide accessible public library network for persons with print disabilities.
Second, CNIB is calling on Canada's federal government to work with Canadian vision health stakeholders to develop and implement a Canadian vision health plan.
Established in 1918, CNIB is a nationwide, community-based registered charity committed to research, public education, and vision health for all Canadians. For over 90 years, CNIB's library has provided access to library materials for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. For CNIB clients, these library services represent an information lifeline to a knowledge-based world. At present, our digital-based library delivers about 5,000 books to print-disabled readers every week. We offer access to a collection of 80,000 titles. We build our catalogue by negotiating international partnerships with libraries of the blind all over the world. The books that we can't acquire through other libraries of the blind we record ourselves in a suite of studios housed at CNIB and employ hundreds of dedicated volunteers.
As such, CNIB is the only dedicated provider of English-language alternative format Canadian content, and a partner in the provision of French-language content with the BAnQ, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. We are very proud of this history. However, we know that Canada's system for the provision of library services for print-disabled readers needs reform, and we've known this for quite some time. According to StatsCan, there are about 836,000 Canadians identifying themselves as having significant vision loss. In addition, an estimated three million Canadians have a print disability. Only a very small fraction of library materials are available to this population in a format they can use.
Access to literacy is a fundamental right of all Canadians. Equitable, accessible public library services are the bedrock of Canada's commitment to literacy. CNIB provides these services currently at an annual operating cost of $10.8 million, entirely from charitable fundraising. That is not a sustainable practice; neither is it a practice that will address the widening information gap, nor will it address the expansion of the print-disabled population because of aging.
To this end, CNIB is seeking a partnership with provincial and territorial governments and the federal government to form a foundation for a nationwide equitable library service. In 2006, Library and Archives Canada committed to the initiative for equitable library access, also known as IELA. This initiative would define the framework for an equitable library system for every Canadian.
CNIB supports the objectives of IELA and we're committed to its successful implementation. In the spirit of this support, CNIB is consulting with Library and Archives Canada on a business case to establish a network hub for the production and distribution of alternative format library materials, founded on the CNIB library's existing infrastructure.
In March 2009, CNIB delivered proposals to all Canadian governments, federal and provincial, on a budget requirement to sustain services from coast to coast. In October 2009, CNIB met with Library and Archives Canada to finalize its business case for your consideration and to establish a new and non-governmental organization mandated to serve all print-disabled Canadians.
Moving forward, we ask the federal government to ensure that the conditions for an accessible, equitable library service for all Canadians are in place.
What would that look like? First, all readers must be able to access services in their communities through the public libraries, and public libraries need a centralized resource to fulfill this commitment.
Second, services must be sustainable. That means services must be publicly supported and not have to rely on charitable giving.
Third, services must be equitable. All print-disabled Canadians must be able to access services regardless of the nature of their disability.
Finally, services must be universal. Readers must be able to access services no matter where they are in Canada. Simply, no reader can be left behind; we need more books for more readers, and we need sustainable funding for an equitable system.
So I leave you with a request for the committee's support of CNIB's business case, the Library and Archives Canada, to quickly and urgently implement a model for library services for everyone.
My name is Allyson Hewitt, and I am the director of social entrepreneurship at the MaRS Discovery District here in Toronto. It's one of the nodes of SIG, the Social Innovation Generation. SIG is a national network, a collaborative of the McConnell Foundation in Montreal, the PLAN Institute in Vancouver, the University of Waterloo, and MaRS. I'm very pleased to be here speaking on behalf of SIG.
Our mission is to promote the use of social innovation to address intractable social challenges, and much of our work is focused on the non-profit sector, so it's been a great learning for me to sit and listen to my colleagues here today.
Our objective in being here is to impress upon the committee the very important role federal public policy can play in stimulating and supporting social innovation in all parts of Canadian society, particularly in the charitable community non-profit sectors.
SIG is proposing to make Canada's non-profit sector more financially stable and less dependent on decreasing revenue streams from government and philanthropy in order to bring more innovative ideas, services, and products to meet the social needs of Canadians. In our work, SIG looks for ways to create environments where ideas can flourish, and the Government of Canada plays a major role in facilitating and encouraging the growth of this environment for those engaged in what we call social purpose work.
As outlined in our August brief to the committee, our proposal asks that the Government of Canada introduce a new optional legal structure under federal law that enables the creation of hybrid public benefit corporations, or community enterprises. A hybrid structure would encourage access to capital, a critical issue for the social purpose sector. The model we're suggesting has been successfully incubated in the United Kingdom and in a different form in the United States. We all know the importance of the non-profit and charitable sector, both in terms of the services it provides and the millions of people it employs, but we may not be aware of the revenue model that supports this work.
Overall revenue for core non-profit organizations in Canada can be broken down as follows: 36% from government, and--this is a number you may not be familiar with—43% from earned income, 17% from gifts and donations, and 4% from other sources. However, in the past 15 years we've seen significant shifts in the funding profile of this sector. The federal government expenditures as a percentage of GDP have decreased from 21.5% in 1992 to 17.1% in 2007. This has meant reductions in government funding for services and activities in the sector. Charitable donations as a percentage of core revenues also declined between 1994 and 2004.
I know previously you heard from the Wellesley Institute. In a report they published in May 2009 they said the most significant charitable issue--selected by 63% of the respondents--was that all of a charity's activities must be charitable. It's a requirement that is at odds with the funder expectations that charities be sustainable, be entrepreneurial. It's also at odds with reality; 43% of the income in this sector is being generated entrepreneurially. So if you take into account all of those issues, you'll see we're at a bit of a disconnect.
The existing legislative and regulatory regime was designed in a different era. Canada's community non-profit and social sectors have challenges accessing capital and diversifying their operating income because of restrictive tax regulations and capitalization options. These financial barriers are unnecessary obstacles for an emerging new breed of the people I work with, which is social entrepreneurs, and they limit the potential impact of their innovations. This sector needs the flexibility to explore new forms of social finance.
As part of our work at SIG, at MaRS we have advised hundreds of clients on their marketing strategy, business plans, funding options. Outlined here is just one example of a social enterprise that has encountered problems due to regulatory restrictions or lack of capital options.
In Toronto we have an organization called Eva's Phoenix. They run something called the Phoenix Print Shop. It's an award-winning print training program for homeless youth. It works with businesses to offer them an environmentally responsible print option. The challenge is that they are competing with others, but they are doing a training program. In order to stay competitive, they need to buy state-of-the-art equipment. They can't be competitive without access to capital. It's not something they're going to get grants and donations for.
The proposal outlined in this document represents an opportunity for the government to support the community non-profit sector in ways that build sustainability and resilience, language we hear all the time without the supporting structures behind it. It will demonstrate that the Government of Canada wants to unleash creative energies, to release previously unexploited financial resources and capacities to support this sector.
I'm going to stop right there. I thank you very much for your time and look forward to your questions.
Congratulations for getting through this part.
I'd like to address that, if I could.
When you buy house insurance and your house burns to the ground, the insurance company builds you a new house, regardless of how much money you have in the bank. When people put money into the unemployment system, which is collected by the government, it's in trust for them until they have a time of layoff.
I come from the auto industry, where we have long periods of downtime, and people end up collecting. When we get back to work, for the balance of the year you may end up making enough that you exceed the threshold. Because of that, come income tax time, people are faced with thousands of dollars of debt they owe the government, because they collected from a system they paid into. They shouldn't be penalized for that, when, if you look back over the last two years, the EI surplus has been about $3 billion per year. That money belongs to the workers. If I lose my job tomorrow, why should I be penalized because I have a good-paying job? I don't think that's fair.
As for the two weeks of waiting time, that was initially put in place a long time ago by what was the Unemployment Insurance Commission. It was designed because when you lost your job today, tomorrow you went and stood in line, filled out forms, and handed them to somebody who had to process the paperwork. It took time to get you into the system. Today that's all been downloaded onto the worker. If you lose your job today, tomorrow you can go online and fill out your forms. You do all the work yourself. If you go into the unemployment office, you go to a computer and you do all the work yourself. You input it right into the system. So why are there two weeks when you have to go without any benefit? You're not allowed to work during that time.
Thank you for joining us today. I only have a few questions and I only have five minutes anyway.
I am going to ask Mr. Denis a question. I appreciate what you have put in front of us today. Obviously, based on your answer, you have thought the issues through very well and gave what I thought were reasonable answers. Understanding that it's an insurance program, and regardless of what your situation is, if you pay an insurance fee you should get the benefit that you thought you were getting.
I personally think we should be more proactive as a federal government in making sure there's a mobility of labour so that you go where the jobs are. Now, my family has been in Canada for many generations, but my in-laws came from Italy for work. They made a big move. I'm just looking forward to seeing if you or your colleagues have been thinking about the question of whether the federal government has a role that it's not playing now in making sure that if jobs aren't available in Windsor, they might be available in Winnipeg. Should that be our role or not? If it is, do you have any ideas on what we should be doing?
I know of people personally who have moved for employment. I know some people who have gone out west. I know some people who left Windsor because we've lost plants, who have transferred up to Brampton, for example, because there's employment there.
Certainly in terms of supporting people who are looking for employment, I think that's a good thing. And if there's some sort of credit that you could provide to them to allow them to move so that they can find work, that's a good thing.
The problem we have in Windsor is 15% unemployment, so if we could get to 10%, that would be a good thing. Right now, we have an unemployment rate of between 14% and 15%, and the people there are looking for work, but there is just no work for them to find.
In our industry, part of that is because of the loss of the Auto Pact, and now we have all the foreign imports coming over—but that's another issue completely. I'm here specifically for the people who are unemployed, who are running out of options in terms of trying to find a job. There are just no jobs available in Windsor. So moving is certainly a good thing, but if you lose your job, why should you have to wait five or six weeks before you see any money? You're not going to move right away.
I understand your arguments on EI. I think you made some decent arguments and you've obviously thought it through. I just don't know whether, based on your discussion with your colleagues, moving to where there might be employment is an option. If it's something you're forced to do, is there something we should be doing to help encourage that?
There are parts of Canada that may not be as lucrative as they were at one time, such as Saskatchewan and parts of Manitoba. Alberta was at one time, but now unemployment is high there. But I appreciate your position.
Ms. Hewitt, I have a question for you. I'm a little confused about the structure. I don't want the details, but I want to know why. Is this new corporate structure that would be in the tax act to help not-for-profits?
I was on the board of the Burlington Arts Centre. They have a store, and it helps fund their cause.
Are we trying to help not-for-profits? Are we trying to find entrepreneurs? We had Mark Chamberlain here earlier, who's definitely a business guy, but he has a social conscience that he wants to do some things with.
Who are we targeting, and why do we need it? What's the end goal?