I call to order the 17th meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance.
I want to thank everyone for being here this afternoon. We have eight organizations who are presenting, but there will be one presentation on behalf of four organizations.
First of all, by video conference, from Calgary, Alberta, we have the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
Second, we have the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
Third, we will hear from the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada.
We have Oxfam Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
I want to thank you all for being with us this afternoon.
We will begin with the video conference presentation from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
As an Edmontonian, I'll just request that you remove the jersey behind you, if at all possible.
Voices: Oh, oh!
The Chair: You did win the first battle of Alberta, last night, but not the last.
You each have up to five minutes for an opening presentation.
Great. Thank you very much.
You know, these jerseys are on every wall in Calgary. I'm not sure if you have the same policy at the city, but we can't remove it. It's part of our heritage, if you will.
Thanks very much for the opportunity to present to the committee today. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce represents over 3,200 members in the Calgary business community.
My remarks today are informed by our 2012 pre-budget submission to the committee in August of this year and are structured around the consultation framework. The three key questions are how to balance the budget, how to achieve sustained economic recovery, and how to attain high levels of job growth and business investment to ensure shared prosperity.
First, on balancing the budget, the chamber urges the federal government to apply prudent fiscal management policies relating to program expenditures and debt levels to balance the budget and position the Canadian economy for stable growth. The chamber was pleased with the strategic operational review announced in 2011 as well as the reduction of corporate tax revenues to 15% from 16.5%, which, as we have seen, has led to increased corporate tax revenues in general.
To undertake further efforts in this regard, the chamber is suggesting that government adopt what we call a “bandwidth” approach to spending by targeting expenditure increases within a range delimited between population and inflation and real GDP and inflation. Using a five-year average, this range is between 0.03% and 3%.
This approach is beneficial in that it establishes future spending parameters in the context of the current fiscal climate and spending constraints, and sends a credible signal to the business community that Canadians and the federal government are committed to returning Canada to balanced budgets.
The 2011-12 federal budget proposes a spending increase well within this range, at approximately 0.2%. For 2012-13 the chamber suggests targeting increases at the lower end of this bandwidth, estimated at 0.03%, while earmarking the remaining capacity of the bandwidth for deficit reduction on an annual basis, estimated at approximately $6.6 billion.
Second, in regard to achieving sustained economic recovery, we're proposing some R and D changes. With Canada seeking to grow its economy and create new jobs, we believe research and development is the key to enhancing productivity, particularly in this economic climate, beginning with ensuring and strengthening the equity of the scientific research and experimental development tax credit, or the SR and ED credit.
The SR and ED program itself is a federal policy lever for incentivizing R and D. However, it creates an unlevel playing field for business through differential tax treatment based on ownership. The credit favours Canadian-controlled private corporations by giving them a 35% investment credit for expenditures up to $3 million, with 25% on amounts above that. Public companies and non-Canadian-controlled private companies get only 20%.
In addition, companies lose the cash refundable portion of the SR and ED claim when they go public, which lowers the amount of money they can use for R and D.
Effectively, the tax creates inequities across companies of different ownership structures and discourages private companies from becoming publicly owned. This ultimately hinders R and D investment and prevents the Canada Revenue Agency from benefiting from the improved disclosure records and audit trails offered by public companies. The chamber recommends that the government extend the 35% credit to all companies in Canada, provided the R and D activities are undertaken here.
Second, on the SR and ED, government has been challenged to apply and enforce the SR and ED tax framework on a consistent basis. The chamber suggests structuring the tax credit to more closely represent a fee-for-service model, similar to the patent office approach, as it would then be possible to write a more principled and consistent framework for administering and enforcing the SR and ED credit. That would further strengthen the effectiveness and integrity of the system and improve its use.
Finally, on the SR and ED, and more particularly on research partnerships, the federal government provides funding for research partnerships that represents up to 37% of total federal support for science and technology. All but two provinces provide additional subsidies--
Good afternoon. I am the secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, and I'm a working nurse. I work in the recovery room of the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, so hello to my fellow Albertans.
CFNU represents over 156,000 nurses and student nurses. Our members work in hospitals, long-term-care facilities, community health, and in our homes. We thank the Standing Committee on Finance for the opportunity to share our views today.
Budget 2011 focused on innovation, education, and training as key drivers for economic recovery. Our first two recommendations build on this trajectory by targeting education, training, and innovation programs to health care workers. Our final recommendation will ensure sustainability in public health care, improve health outcomes, and put more money in Canadians' pockets.
The federal government has recently invested in pilot projects to support partnerships of health care employers, governments, health care worker unions, and professional associations to improve workplaces. These pilot projects were called “research to action”, applied workplace solutions for nurses, and have supported research that shows that a small investment in changing the culture of a workplace can reduce overtime, turnover costs, and increase patient satisfaction.
To provide some perspective on the need to support innovation at the workplace, Canada is currently short by 11,000 full-time-equivalent registered nurses; that's approximately 16,500 people. Without immediate intervention, this labour shortage will increase to a 60,000 FTE RN shortage, approximately 90,000 people by the year 2022. The cost of this shortage, in paid overtime alone, is $660 million annually.
Our applied research shows that innovation pays off. Improvements in working conditions and opportunities for professional development and skills upgrading would convince at least half of the nurses contemplating retirement to extend their careers. I'm not one of them, just so you know.
By strengthening leadership and empowering nurses, we can reduce the turnover rate by more than half. In other words, we can reduce the nursing shortage and all the costs associated with the shortage and improve patient outcomes by simple innovations that increase productivity and improve retention rates.
We therefore recommend a health innovation pilot project fund of $30 million over three years, fashioned after the wait time guarantee fund.
Budget 2011 proposed to combat the shortage of health care professionals by forgiving a portion of Canada student loans for new family physicians, nurse practitioners, and nurses who practise in rural or remote communities. We encourage the federal government to expand this program to health care workers who have gone back to school to upgrade skills. A personal care worker who is seeking to upgrade to become a licensed practical nurse, an LPN seeking to become a registered nurse, or an RN seeking to become a nurse practitioner are some examples. They could all benefit from student loan forgiveness, as financial cost is a common barrier to skills upgrading.
We encourage budget 2012 to extend loan forgiveness to health workers entering programs that upgrade skills. We also recommend that an apprenticeship-like program be developed to support job laddering in health care.
A similar tiered pathway approach that allows EI support at various stages in training would provide health care students with the option to enter into the workforce at various stages of their education and training. We believe this would be of particular value for engaging aboriginal Canadians and internationally educated nurses in skills upgrading.
Our last recommendation is for a federal commitment to universal pharmacare. Premiums for private drug insurance soared by 15% annually between 2003 and 2005, while drug costs rose by 8%. Canadians pay 30% more than the OECD average for prescription drugs.
Research has shown that savings can be gained from implementing a public insurance plan for pharmaceuticals by changing drug pricing practices. If Canada modeled its pharmacare program after New Zealand's in how it tenders and prices drugs, Canada could reduce its drug expenses by as much as $10.2 billion annually. With additional savings from dispensing fees, cheaper administration, and removal of tax subsidies, total savings could be $10.7 billion annually.
A national pharmacare plan is a spending program that pays for itself.
We urge the federal government to enter into a cost-sharing arrangement with the provinces and territories on a comprehensive national pharmaceutical program. After all, it's a win for the federal government that introduces it, it's a win for the provinces and territories, and most of all it's a win for all Canadians.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee.
I would like to begin by thanking you for inviting FCFA du Canada to appear today, on behalf of Canada's francophone and Acadian communities.
Commitment to linguistic duality and the influence of both official languages are matters that concern all parliamentarians. This committee is showing that today by taking an interest in the repercussions of the next budget on the 2.5 million French-speaking Canadians living in nine provinces and three territories.
It is with these 2.5 million French-speaking citizens in mind that we prepared the brief you have before you. In their actions, the FCFA and the organizations serving Canada's francophone and Acadian community share one commitment: to ensure that these citizens can live and thrive in French, one of Canada's official languages, through access to a wide variety of services and activities in all aspects of daily life.
Faced with increasingly limited resources, those organizations have come up with innovative solutions and have succeeded, despite everything, in producing real results in the form of services, programs and activities for individuals and families who wish to live in French.
Although insufficient, federal investments intended for those organizations and institutions still provide some leverage. Each dollar invested by the Government of Canada generates at least $8 in volunteer services and enables organizations and institutions to seek out additional funding from other sources. Those investments help the government spend less money on meeting its commitments to francophones in minority communities. Therefore, improving those investments is far from being unreasonable in this time of budget restraint. It is more akin to a strategic realignment of resources.
That's a summary of our brief.
That being said, I would like to raise two issues concerning the ongoing strategic review of current expenditures and programs. First, we were pleased to learn, during a meeting with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mr. Moore, that the investments included in the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality would not be compromised by this exercise. We are talking about the current roadmap. However, yesterday, the Commissioner of Official Languages said something that is relevant to this committee. It was during the launch of his annual report. And I quote:
||Departments are being asked to find ways to reduce their expenditures by 5 or 10% [...] The government must ensure that the decisions that are made during each department's budget review take into account potential consequences for official language communities. [...] if each institution independently makes cuts to official languages programs, the cumulative effect will be much greater than 5 or 10%.
We share the commissioner's concern in that respect, and we strongly encourage the committee to take a very close look at that cumulative effect.
We are also interested in other aspects of public funds management, and we want to support the government in its search for ways to save money and increase efficiency. So, I would like to take advantage of my time here to talk about two other important issues.
The first has to do with expectations when it comes to the Canadian government's fund transfers to provinces and territories. Like all Canadians, francophones expect to benefit from those transfers in education, health, human resources development and other areas of activity. The government does include a linguistic clause in some of its agreements. However, those clauses are often very weak.
For instance, that it did not stop the Government of British Columbia from announcing, in October 2010, the closing of five francophone employment centres. They were closed even though they had been created thanks to Service Canada's support and funding provided under an agreement between Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the provincial government. That also did not stop the Government of Yukon from redirecting funds that had been transferred specifically for French-language education to immersion.
The conclusion is that linguistic clauses, as they are currently worded, do not make it possible to reach the government's efficiency objective and that they must be improved so that the investments reach Canadians, as intended. In addition, this is not an issue limited to official languages. Generally speaking, as soon as the Government of Canada transfers funds—
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Oxfam is pleased to be with you here today to share our thoughts about the federal budget for 2012. Oxfam, as you know, is an international development and humanitarian agency working in 90 countries around the world.
We have three proposals for the budget plus two suggestions on how to finance the costs that may be implied.
First, we'd like to propose that there be a modest increase in the aid budget in 2012. We know that the government declared a freeze the year before last. A modest increase of 8% would help put Canada on track to achieve our fair-share contribution to the poorest people in the world.
We know the government has taken many very positive steps to improve the effectiveness of Canada's aid program to make it even more effective. We believe that Canada has one of the best aid programs in the world, the only fault being that its size is relatively small.
I'll give you two reasons as to why we should increase aid. One is a moral reason; the other is a practical one.
Aid saves lives. The poorest people in the world depend on our assistance to go to school, to get health care, to be able to improve their own lives and survive and prosper.
Secondly, it saves us money in the long run. It's a practical thing; it's in our interest. If we invest in education, health care, and economic growth in the poorest countries, we're going to save later when those systems don't break down and oblige us to intervene in a humanitarian or military manner, which costs us much more in the long run. It's a good investment.
I know that when cuts are contemplated here at home, an increase in aid could be seen as controversial. If I may, I'd like to paraphrase David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who has said that he will continue to increase the aid budget despite the very dire situation they face. As he would say, in the time it makes me to make this short presentation, 15 children will have died of a preventable disease in the poorest countries.
We shouldn't let that happen. There's no reason we have to. If the United Kingdom, in a much more difficult economic situation, is going to continue to increase, then Canada, which has the strongest economy in the G-7, must increase its aid budget. We mustn't balance our books on the backs of the most vulnerable people in the world. A modest increase could set Canada on the course to achieving the 0.7% of our economy that all parties pledged to achieve in the year 2005.
Our second proposal, more briefly, is regarding fossil fuel subsidies. Canada is one of the largest emitters in the world of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Oxfam is concerned about climate change because the communities we work with in poor countries around the world are reeling from those effects. Extreme weather, changes in temperature and precipitation, which undermine agricultural yields, have caused terrible problems for the poor people we work with.
We have to begin to address this situation. Canada pledged, along with all the other G-20 countries, to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. That pledge was made in 2009. Canada should move on it in 2012, at least. According to the Department of Finance, it could save in the neighbourhood of $750 million per year.
Our third recommendation is that Canada should continue to provide its fair share of global climate finance. In the United Nations, at the big Copenhagen meeting on climate change, Canada pledged, as part of a wealthy country pledge, to help the poorest countries reduce their own emissions and adapt to changes that are already under way.
The global pledge was $30 billion over three years. Canada's fair share—which Canada provided in 2010—was $400 million that year. Canada has said that it will supply that again this year, in 2011, although it has not yet been announced and we're almost at the end of the year. Certainly budget 2012 should include an explicit commitment of at least $400 million to help poor countries adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions.
I should note that the pledge that all countries made was to have a balanced approach to this funding, between adaptation and mitigation—that is, helping countries reduce emissions. Canada unfortunately, in its funding in 2009, provided 89% of its funding for mitigation and only 11% for the poor communities who desperately need assistance to adapt to changes that are already hitting them. We would hope there will be a more balanced recommendation from this committee, that 50% will be set aside for climate change adaptation.
We propose a couple of ways in our submission that revenue could be raised to fulfill our proposal for greater spending: through taxing financial transactions and taxing international shipping, both of which are on the table at the G-20 as innovative measures to raise development and climate change finance.
Thank you again. You have hard choices to face. I hope our recommendations will help you in your deliberations. I'd be very pleased to answer your questions.
That's right. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, I want to thank you for inviting us to appear before your committee.
On September 16, at the opening of a world-class research facility in Saskatchewan, the Prime Minister said the following: “Our government will continue to support science, technology and innovation—key drivers of economic productivity, competitiveness and growth”.
I'm here with my colleagues from the federal research granting agencies to tell you how we will continue to support this agenda by enabling discovery research and making connections between academia and the private, the public, and the non-profit sectors. This is crucial to building innovative communities and driving the Canadian economy. We understand that governments everywhere are facing difficult decisions because of ongoing uncertainty in economies and markets around the world. At the same time, we are in the midst of a global innovation race, a race that Canada cannot afford to lose.
Some countries are increasing their investments in research and innovation. They know that achieving a good balance between the immediate priority of expenditure control and the long-term objectives for stimulating innovation is important. That balance will enable them to emerge out of the economic downturn stronger and be better prepared, economically, to move forward. In fact, the report published earlier this week by the task force whose mandate is to examine federal support for R & D stresses the importance of improving Canada's innovative capacity.
Since the brain drain of the 1990s, Canada has made solid choices in building its knowledge assets. Sustained investments by the Government of Canada have created a vibrant ecosystem in this country. There have been new investments in unique research initiatives, including the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research, the business-led Networks of Centres of Excellence, the Canada Excellence Research Chairs, the Vanier scholarships, and the Banting post-doctoral fellowships. Today these investments are paying off. We're now attracting and retaining top researchers from around the world and are giving them the tools they need to think big.
Only a few days ago, a respected global university survey ranked nine of Canada's universities in the top 200 in the world. Combine this with the fact that Canada is the lowest business tax jurisdiction in the G-7 and it seems clear that the time is right for Canada to capitalize on its investments and become a global leader in innovation.
CFI, NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR have played a crucial role in cultivating winning conditions for ongoing social and economic progress.
Together, we facilitate the creation of research partnerships and the sharing of knowledge between universities, colleges and the private sector. Those initiatives help foster a culture of social and commercial innovation. Through our programs, we support cooperation between those who advance knowledge and those who turn that knowledge into benefits for Canadians.
Take the strategy for patient-oriented research, for instance, which seeks to improve both health outcomes and the cost-effectiveness of health services. The outcomes of one of its projects—the Alberta hip and knee replacement project—have been adopted in provinces across the country and will save the national health care system more than $225 million a year by ensuring patients have faster access to surgery, less pain, and little decrease in quality of life.
Our support of innovative technology from concept to prototype to market readiness is particularly impressive. Look at Future Vehicle Technologies, of Maple Ridge, B.C. Last year the company partnered with Simon Fraser University to explore ways to cool the battery in its high-performance electric sports car. This $25,000 NSERC engage grant has turned into a $1.4-million collaboration under the Government of Canada's automotive partnership program to design a system that recycles waste battery heat for use in other applications.
As you know, innovation takes many forms. SSHRC provides funding for the Queen's University project that boosts rural economies and creates new jobs. That program enables researchers, students and community organizations to meet significant challenges, such as attracting immigrants to rural regions and promoting the communities as tourist destinations.
Canada's enviable research environment is based on measures introduced over several years, and on the strong signals that have been sent to the research community and the private sector here and abroad that Canada means business when it comes to research and innovation.
With budget 2012, the Government of Canada has an opportunity to address the country's fiscal challenges. Canada's research community understands this need, and it firmly believes that only through knowledge, research, and innovation can we ensure a brighter future for Canadians.
Thank you for the question.
All the departments clearly have obligations under the act. A number of departments administer programs that directly affect official language communities. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Industry Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, among others, have those types of programs. If each of those departments were to cut 5% from the programs, the cumulative effect on francophone and Acadian communities would be much greater than the intended 5% or 10% cutbacks.
Similarly, a restructuring has repercussions on services to the public. For instance, if Service Canada were to decide tomorrow morning to restructure its services, that could result in the closing of certain service points. Services would then be offered in other ways. We have to be able to provide comparable services at offices designated bilingual and ensure that we have adequate staff providing those services. Therefore, the effect would be much greater.
Currently, there is no one person who calls all the shots. No one has the supreme authority in terms of the Official Languages Act. So, Minister Moore is responsible for a part of the act, the Minister of Justice is responsible for another part, and the same goes for the President of the Treasury Board. Under those conditions, when each department is looking into the issue independently and there is no single leader or supreme authority, it is difficult to see the big picture.
We are talking about an international promise made in 1969 and supported by the UN. In 2005, all the parties in Canada's Parliament voted in favour of reaching that goal, but they failed to set a deadline.
So, it's a matter of increasing assistance in every possible way. We feel that this increase of 8% in funding, which represents about $500 million a year, could help Canada reach the 0.7% target.
Currently, Canada is the second to last G7 country in terms of total donations; only Italy donates less than Canada. At this time, Canada donates the equivalent of 0.33% of its GNI; the United Kingdom donates 0.56%. Despite their size, countries such as Spain and the Netherlands donate more money than Canada.
Therefore, I think that reaching the target is possible.
I would like to start my questions with Mr. Brunnen.
I'm sure you're aware that the tax levels were a significant issue in the last election, and there's still some great dialogue going on, with a suggestion by the opposition that we should be raising taxes.
We certainly recognize that small and medium-sized businesses are important, but really, quite substantially, small businesses might be making $500,000 into that threshold.
Can you talk generally about the impact of a competitive tax rate on the companies and businesses you represent, and how that will be important in the future during these economic times?
Starting with the tax rate, if we take a look at the recent federal budget documents we see the decline in the corporate income tax rate. At the same time we see a corresponding increase in aggregate corporate income tax revenue. That suggests a number of things, but one very clear thing is that when we decrease the tax levels, we increase the size of the pie. It increases the amount of revenue through the sheer size of increased economic activity. But we also empower businesses to create jobs and reinvest in the economy.
For example, when we look at the economic performance we're seeing for Canada vis-à-vis the global economy, of course there are some global challenges that are well beyond our control, but we are in a very favourable position. The national unemployment rate of 7.1% is a little high, but it's one of the better places to be, without a doubt.
So there are some positive benefits that we're seeing as a result of this good economic policy. While it seems counterintuitive politically, it makes good sense in terms of quality of life for Canadians and prosperity.
The other piece I'll point to is the leadership we're starting to see regarding deficit reduction, as well as the debt-to-GDP ratio. Looking at the debt-to-GDP ratio, we're in a very favourable position. It's up at around 34%, but this matters when we look at global economies, particularly in Europe and the United States. Businesses are sitting on their capital at this time waiting for some level of certainty before they start putting that back to work. So it comes down to political uncertainty. But certainly the debt levels are one component that influences investment decisions, if you will.
Setting up that good fiscal framework through competitive taxes, reducing the deficit, and eliminating the debt create a good framework for Canadians.
Sure. We're in the process of trying to get that trademarked as a Calgary national term eventually.
The concept really is that we've been trying to find ways to set good, simple rules for spending parameters around budget management. Oftentimes we hear and see population and inflation as sort of that mantra, but that doesn't necessarily enable governments to accommodate economic growth and the pressures that result.
So we've come up with the concept. We call it the smart spending bandwidth, but it's this bandwidth that suggests limiting or tracking government expenditure increases to between either real GDP and inflation or population growth and inflation. That range will change depending on the cycle, so in low economic times population growth and inflation will be higher. In better economic times GDP and inflation growth will be higher, but it always enables that rationale.
It's a very simple rule to follow. It suggests that if we keep our expenditures within this range, we're spending within our means—real growth in the economy or real growth in the population. That obviously is a suggestion for spending increases.
Of course there are suggestions about whether we're spending optimally at this point in time, and that goes back to some of the initiatives you mentioned—for example, the reductions you had been talking about, initiative in terms of looking for some savings in that regard. Ideally, we'd find some savings in that regard from an efficiency perspective, but we continue with tracking expenditure increases in a reasonable manner linked to growth.
Just very quickly, Mr. Fried, I think we need to always point out, when we talk about the commitment of the government through aid, that Canadians in general are very generous. I think in comparison to the rest of the world, we've exceed that generosity.
Would you agree with that, too, that although...? It's the same taxpayer that ultimately is giving that money. It's not a generous government; it's the generous Canadians. So would you agree, too, that there's an element of generosity not experienced in other countries, given by Canadians? I know that's the case with CARE--they've been in front of foreign affairs--World Vision, Samaritan's Purse.... Would you agree with that statement?
And thank you to all the witnesses for being here today.
My first question is to Mr. Patry. It's good to see you again.
I think we can all agree that for the jobs of the future we're going to have to use our muscles, but not what we traditionally think of as muscles. Going forward, we're going to have to use the muscles between our ears.
As you know, our government has been fairly active in promoting innovation and technology, and in funding it. We've made significant investments in all of our budgets. What would be your assessment of our government's initiative so far?
To me there are two things that this government has done that have been particularly important. One, it has made sustained yearly increases in investment in R and D--and the word “sustained” here is extremely important, because you're talking about a community that's extraordinarily mobile. Star researchers can go anywhere in the world. They also have antennas, and the sustainability and the regular increases we've seen year after year by this government in science and technology have had a tremendous psychological impact in attracting and retaining talent in this country in research and development.
Two, it has created a number of programs, but particularly programs that are specifically geared to attract talent from outside Canada. And because, at the same time, you have this sustained investment in R and D, the international reputation of Canada is now that this is a country that believes in science and systematically invests in science. So this is a country they're interested in coming to. And that's why the other programs that the government has created to attract people have been so successful.
I want to thank all the witnesses for coming.
My first question is for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce representative.
During the latest consultations, many private sector representatives had three requests when it came to R & D credits. Among other things, they asked that expenditures be immediately refundable and not to have credits applicable to future profits. They asked that there no longer be any penalties on eligible expenses when they receive provincial or municipal funding. Finally, they asked us to resolve certain issues in terms of accessibility.
Are you in favour of those requests?
For francophone and Acadian communities and for myself living in Saskatchewan, Radio-Canada is the only source of regional news in French. The same thing applies to my Acadian friends, those who live in British Columbia and even those living in Edmonton or Calgary.
As for regional news in French, the national evening news report is sometimes a source of frustration for francophone and Acadian communities tuning in. In fact, a portion of the regional news report covers national and international news. I must admit that, as a Franco-Saskatchewanian, I find it a bit tiresome to hear about the Champlain Bridge, the Mercier Bridge and the construction crisis these days. Yesterday evening, among the topics covered on the national news was the construction crisis. Only at the very end did they talk about the Official Languages Commissioner's report, although it affects the whole country.
We would like to have a national news report, which would not only cover Quebec, but all of Canada. As for the regional news report, it is of the utmost importance that we continue having access to Radio-Canada's services.
And to our witnesses, thank you.
Ms. Worsfold, I was born in Edmonton. I have the opportunity and the pleasure now of serving and representing the constituents of Kelowna--Lake Country, but I'm very familiar with Edmonton, being born there at the Royal Alexandra, a university hospital. I commend the medical professionals there and the great work that you do there and across the country--all the nurses.
I want to ask my question to your friend just about 150 miles down the road from the city of champions, in Calgary. I see he has his Flames jersey there, so I had to give him a little hard time.
I serve on the trade committee, and one of the things that government can do is not just be responsible fiscally with money, but provide economic opportunities for Canadian businesses and grow the economy. We're trying to expand our markets, as our chair has been involved with Canada-U.S. for a number of years, and myself, but we need to diversify from the U.S. We have nine trade agreements in place. We're working on 50 other countries in negotiation, 27 of those in the European Union. How would that help your members within the Calgary chamber? Are you supportive of that direction?
Mr. Patry, the other committee I sit on is government operations, and we're doing a study for small and medium business organizations, SMEs, to try to help with the innovation sector. Following up on the sports analogy, you served it back to us, and maybe I'll punt it back to you, the Jenkins report element. We heard that Canada is not short of ideas. We've been poor at taking the concept of commercialization from patent to product to profit. There is a good working relationshipwith U of A, UBC, and other universities with researchers and academics, and that's very positive.
What I've heard is the innovators not having the financing. We're saying we have $7 billion, a record investment. How do we get that money to the next stage?
My apologies for being late. I am a substitute at this meeting. I went to your scheduled place and then was sent somewhere else. Eventually I found you.
I'm sorry I missed all the presentations, but I'm a good reader, so I will take this home and read all your presentations. Specifically, I want to turn to you, Mark, for some of the stuff I've read here.
Climate change and its impact is not new to any of us around the table. We're experiencing it right here with changes in our weather. I'm interested in how you have looked at the tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and also for the biofuels and how taking a look at those could help us to save money, not only to redirect toward global climate financing but also toward some of our other projects.
Could you expand a little on the second-generation biofuels and how those subsidies to those industries are damaging our food chain?
Second-generation biofuels refer to biofuels made from cereal-based crops, essentially from corn for ethanol and some wheat, mostly canola, for biodiesel.
The problem has come because the supports to the biofuel industry were envisioned originally as a climate change measure, as a way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because when you burn ethanol or biodiesel it releases fewer emissions into the atmosphere than when you burn gasoline or fossil fuel diesel.
The problem is when you take the whole life cycle of the production it produces more greenhouse gas emissions, according to the latest science, because of the way we grow corn.
The real problem for Oxfam, though, comes on the food side, because in Canada we burn.... I did the calculation recently, and it is astounding how much corn we turn into ethanol every year. It's about four billion kilos of corn. I say kilos rather than tonnes because that's what people eat. If it were emergency rations, we would be feeding over three million people for a whole year on what we burn in that year in our cars.
It doesn't make sense to us. It does contribute to the rising food prices we've experienced around the world and the rise in hunger that has been consequent to that rise in food prices. Nearly a billion people in the world are hungry today, chronically undernourished, looking for their next meal and not knowing where they're going to get it.
That we're taking all that food and using it in our cars doesn't make the best sense to us. We think perhaps we should re-examine and redirect those subsidies and the mandate toward third-generation biofuels or solar or wind or other renewable sources.
Absolutely. Thank you very much.
Mr. Fried, I'm so glad you mentioned life cycle in the oil business, because I'm from Fort McMurray and I watched all of these naysayers for years not talk about life cycles, and I want to talk about that a little bit.
Of course, shipping fuel is used to transport oil back and forth from third world or developed countries, and other countries—Saudi Arabia, etc. A lot of people don't consider the fact that there is a life cycle to oil, from the start to the finish. Indeed, I have seen many calculations indicate that the oil sands oil is within 1% to 3% of total life cycle oil from conventional oil sources, such as Saudi Arabia.
I'm wondering if your corporation has taken a position in relation to Venezuelan crude, which has to use shipping and is actually much more carbon intense than the oil sands oil, and also the California crude, which is also much more carbon intense. I wonder if you've taken a considered approach on those two suppliers of oil.
Absolutely. Thank you, I appreciate that.
I would like to address my next question to Mr. Brunnen. I am from Fort McMurray, as I mentioned, and one of the largest issues we have right now is unemployment. I noticed in your paper that you encourage government to withdraw stimulus and restrain overall spending so Canada may once again rely on business to drive the economy.
I agree with you. As a Conservative, I have to tell you I couldn't have written it better myself. But when we have a situation in Fort McMurray, where we have no employees and we can't find any, and we have other places in Canada that have high unemployment rates, such as Windsor and some parts of eastern Canada, I have difficulty with that.
We have to treat Canada as one country. I'm wondering whether or not the Calgary chamber would support tax credits to get people from one part of Canada to another, either temporarily or full-time, both for transfers and in cases of housing.