Welcome to the Standing Committee on Finance. It is our 20th meeting of this session. We're continuing with consultations on pre-budget 2011 for next year's budget of 2012.
We're very pleased to be here in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. We want to thank all of our witnesses for joining us here this morning.
We have four organizations presenting this morning. First of all, we have the Clean Energy Association of British Columbia. The Mining Association of Canada is second. Third, we have First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. The fourth organization is the Prince Rupert Port Authority.
Thank you all for being here.
You each have up to five minutes for an opening statement, and we'll then have questions from members.
We'll begin with Mr. Kariya, please.
Let me say that I'm pleased to be invited to be here, but I have to make a comment about our setting. While I'm representing the Clean Energy Association, I'm very partial to coastal British Columbia, and what a magnificent place in which to be. Thank you for being here.
For members of the committee who are not familiar with the Clean Energy Association of B.C., our mandate is to develop a viable, independent power industry in British Columbia that serves the public interest by providing cost-effective electricity through the efficient and environmentally responsible development of the province's energy resources. We have about 300 members.
More than 1,100 workers are currently directly employed in 48 operating projects, and another 15 projects are under construction. The proven technologies include run-of-river hydro, small storage hydro, wind, biomass, biogas, and natural gas. Today these projects represent an estimated $5.4 billion in capital investments. They have a significant multiplier effect through our first nations partnerships and provide tax revenue to all levels of government at a community level and through our extensive supplier chains.
Currently, 125 Indian bands out of 203 in British Columbia have some involvement with our sector. We're very proud of the relationships we have with first nations.
This year your deliberations occur at a time when there is a unique combination of global economic uncertainty and unprecedented opportunity for British Columbia and Canada in significant new industrial activities in LNG, mining, and shale gas. I know my colleagues on the mining side have a lot of exciting news to share with you in terms of the outlook in B.C.
A key hotbed of this activity is happening in northern British Columbia, which is anchored by regional centres such as Prince Rupert, Terrace, Kitimat, Prince George, Fort St. John, and Fort Nelson. By naming those centres, I'm in no way forgetting the smaller centres that exist throughout northern B.C.
B.C. recently announced its provincial jobs plan, which serves as an excellent foundation to stimulate the investment required to realize the opportunities the province has in front of it.
Clean Energy B.C. believes the ambitious targets outlined for three LNG facilities by 2020 and eight new mines and nine upgrade expansions by 2015 are attainable and laudable goals. Clean Energy B.C. members strongly support the sustainable development of our natural resources to provide the jobs and government revenue that allow our province to enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world.
As our industrial base grows with these new opportunities, CEB.C. also applauds the provincial government's commitment to ensure the province remains a climate change leader. Around the world and within the rapidly growing clean energy sector, British Columbia's leadership in addressing climate change has puts the province on the map for investors.
What can the Government of Canada do to help out?
The first recommendation would be that we need an energy vision. Canada has bits and pieces of programs and strategies. We need to tie this together with what the provinces are doing through a strategy that underpins it all. Conservation initiatives, coal, oil and gas, renewables such as my sector, clean technologies, transmission lines, transmission developments, smart grids and distributed generation, a climate change agenda, industrial growth, and economic development all need to come under a new energy vision for Canada.
The second recommendation is more specific. British Columbia needs help to build the necessary transmission infrastructure in northern B.C. Federal participation in the northwest transmission line, which is very close to here, is welcome and a good model for what else is needed and how it can be done, but we also need a northeast transmission line and upgrades that go from Prince George, westward to Terrace, and ultimately to Prince Rupert.
Thirdly, in terms of renewable energy, Canada needs to spur development in the renewable sector. Supportive policies and instruments such as potential tax incentives or a green bond would help increase investment, innovation, and new developments.
Furthermore, we need to see harmonization between federal and provincial environmental assessments and permit regulations. We create jobs at a high level that last by having our federal and provincial investment conditions coordinated with market opportunities. Human and natural resource capital is synchronized to maximize what we create.
More specifically within the energy sector, we have new opportunities for industrial load growth that are fundamentally different from those in the past. Specific to the energy requirement for this industrial load, recent B.C. Hydro estimates show a range of relatively short-term growth specific to the opportunities that is equivalent to over three Site C dams. This is the major dam project that B.C. Hydro is pursuing in the northeast, which is a significant development. But the load growth that's proposed for northern B.C. is three times what would be met by that one project.
Clean energy fuel solutions are cost-competitive with whatever B.C. Hydro can provide. Gas and clean energy are the two options that are before the province and the federal government. We're saying that both need to be engaged and involved. We certainly ask for a place for the clean energy sector to help with the economies anchored by centres like Prince Rupert, Terrace, and Kitimat.
With that, let me conclude. Thank you very much.
We are very related. We are independent from each other, but I used to have her job until June, so I do understand this province a little bit as a result, if I haven't forgotten too much.
We're also similar in that we both represent the producing side of the mining business, so we have members who produce a whole range of commodities. In my case, because I represent the Mining Association of Canada, we represent everything from base metals, to gold, precious metals, diamonds, uranium, oil from the oil sands, copper. You name it, and you'll find it produced by our members.
I also wanted to echo the comment made about this great backdrop. This is one of the most important gateways to the emerging markets in Asia, and right here you can see the kind of underlying economic strength in Canada as a result of our natural resource sector. I wanted to emphasize that point today. We're all aware of the extreme volatility in today's global economy, and Canada's outperforming most of the world. One of the reasons we're doing so is obviously the actions taken by governments in the past to put us in stronger financial shape to begin with, but also because we have a natural resource strength that other countries do not have.
By way of example, in the mining sector just between 2009 and 2010, our contributions to government increased by 65%. Ours was one of the first sectors to rebound from the 2008 crisis so quickly. Within three months, our industry was back on track and we've been going strong ever since. Notwithstanding the volatility of the last few months, you will see commodity prices that are still at a pretty healthy range. Our industry and our companies are also today in a more solid position than they were in 2008, which caught a lot of companies off guard. We do have some underlying strengths now that position us well for the future.
I have this presentation, which I'm not going to go through slide by slide, given that it's five minutes. I'll just ask you to flip ahead to China as the mineral price driver. I think you're all familiar with this, but the underlying strength behind what's happening in the mining business is because of countries like China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and so on. They're the reason that commodity prices continue to remain strong, notwithstanding what's happening in Europe. Our industry is bullish about the future. We believe that we will remain a cyclical industry, but we are in a period now of long-term economic opportunity and growth that will probably be with us for several decades. For Canada, which has a mining sector that is homegrown, which is a global leader and a vast country with tremendous resources, we have a huge opportunity ahead of us.
What's behind some of this? There are some little facts here, but if you just look over the foreseeable future, Chinese growth is expected to be in the 6% to 9% range over the next number of years. And look at what's happening in China. Right now, only 10 people per 100 have a car in China, versus 76 in the United States; four have a personal computer, versus 76 in the United States. This is the kind of change that is happening now. As this just continues, the demand for the things that make these things that the Chinese want is going to continue to support commodity prices.
If you look at the Canadian opportunities, we have now estimated that there are some $137 billion in new private sector investment that could be spent in the next five years in the mining sector alone. A lot of this is actually already committed. Some of it has been announced. Vale, for example, has announced that there's some $10 billion going into Manitoba, Ontario, and Newfoundland. Teck here in British Columbia has announced major investments to its Trail facility and to expanding Highland Valley. So there's a lot that's already there, but there's a lot more that could come.
Why are we in this situation? Because of the steps that successive governments have made to make Canada one of the most attractive jurisdictions in the world for mining. We now capture the largest share of global mineral exploration because of tax measures like flow-through, because we have tremendous human resource capacity, and because we are a global leader. We know how to do this in this country.
We've been smart about our infrastructure. Here we have, for example, Ridley Terminals, the investments in the gateway, the new investments in the Highway 37 power line, which will open up a whole new region of British Columbia for economic development, and a huge copper resource.
So we've done a lot to plan things.
I'm nearing the end.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. Sorry for the confusion about what we were all going to be doing.
I will try to keep it brief. I think Pierre has provided a very good and succinct overview of what's going on in the mining sector in Canada.
In British Columbia, we are seeing unprecedented growth in the opportunity for a healthy and thriving mining industry in B.C. We are adopting measures that I think are going to allow us to provide more information to the public about current and modern mining practices through the adoption of sustainable mining. This is a management system that will allow us to report publicly on how we're doing business in the communities where we are operating.
What I would like to focus on, and what I think would be of interest to your committee, is the potential for mining in British Columbia. I would like to echo Pierre's comments about the extreme urgency to have an effective and timely permitting process. We have a regulatory system that dictates that both governments have a say on how projects are developed and implemented, not only in Canada but in particular here in B.C.
So for us, the primary focus will be on seeking opportunities for collaboration on finding efficiencies. Continued funding for the major projects and management offices is something we're advocating for as well.
We are leaving you with a deck for your reference later. I think—and Paul alluded to this—we do have a commitment or a strategy from the B.C. government to grow the industry over the next four years. The timelines are not only very ambitious but also very aggressive. We like to hear that message, but that does require very strong collaboration with the federal government, and we're here to say that's our intent—to ensure that we do have those partnerships and that we do have those opportunities to work with you.
One of the things that I think is going to provide that opportunity to come to fruition is the ability to not only have a very effective permitting process with the appropriate funding going into those agencies, but also to have human resources. The federal government has been a very strong contributor to the creation of programs and services that address the capacity issues we have on the labour side of the industry. We're here to let you know that is a very critical factor, going forward.
We do understand that sector council funding and some of the initiatives have been discontinued, but I think there is an opportunity to look for the creation of partnerships between industry and government to ensure that those services and programs continue to be available. I'm speaking specifically of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council and also the funding that has been allocated for aboriginal and youth training.
So permitting and training are things we're looking forward to working with you on, to ensure that not only the B.C. government's agenda is met in terms of the growth of the industry, but also the federal government’s.
Thank you very much for your interest in listening to our presentation. Seeing that it's five minutes, I must go on.
First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition is a coalition of provincial and regional organizations, individuals, and local community networks who share the belief that children and youth should have first call on our nation’s resources.
Our 90 partner organizations are committed to achieving the following four keys to success for all children and youth: a strong commitment to early childhood development; support in transitions from childhood to youth and adulthood; increased economic equality; and safe and caring communities.
Our coalition is really pleased to respond to the finance committee’s invitation for advice on how to achieve sustained economic recovery, as investments in children’s healthy growth and development form the foundation of any society’s social and economic sustainability. Similarly, we are pleased to share our recommendations with the committee for budget measures that will help ensure shared prosperity and a high standard of living for all.
This submission makes three recommendations for the committee’s consideration with regard to the preparation for the 2012 federal budget.
Number one would be to place a high priority on increasing Canada’s annual investments in early childhood care and learning, from our current 0.25% of GDP to the recommended UNICEF benchmark of 1% of GDP.
Number two would be to focus spending and redesign federal tax policy with the aim of reversing the growth of income inequality in Canada.
Number three would be to submit all budget decisions to the scrutiny of a child impact assessment, especially for impacts on members of particularly vulnerable groups, such as aboriginal children, children with disabilities, recent immigrant children, and children in lone-parent and female-led families, in order to ensure we do no harm.
Accomplishing the first two broad objectives, supporting early childhood development and reducing income inequality, is fundamental to creating a healthier, more sustainable path of social and economic development for our country. The third recommendation provides a process with little or no cost, which will reduce the risk for negative unintended consequences.
Canada’s public expenditure on early childhood services is extremely low in comparison to other OECD countries. Yet we know from extensive research on human development that the early years represent the unique window in the human life course during which citizens’ physical, socio-emotional, and cognitive potential are especially malleable to the positive effects of nurturing environments and strategic human capital investments.
Canada’s failure to properly support young children and their families through more effective social policy, such as more generous and inclusive parental leave, adequate income supports for those in need, and universal access to quality early care and learning for all children is resulting in high rates of vulnerability in children. This vulnerability translates into weakened educational outcomes, health inequities, and long-term loss of productive potential. This is a recipe for unsustainability and rising social costs.
If we are truly interested in increasing productivity and ensuring the next generation is equipped to compete in an international, knowledge-based economy, the starting place is increasing Canada’s public investments in early childhood development and education.
You've asked us to give our best thoughts on what's important, our recommended priorities for next year, and what the government can do to help us. In answering, we start from the assumption that we all want what is best for B.C.'s children, while recognizing that there will be disagreements—sometimes within the coalition and sometimes with the government of the day—about which public policies include budget priorities that will be serve our children.
We are looking for the 2012 federal budget to demonstrate the wisdom of long-term thinking, which judges every tax and program spending measure from the view of its impact on the well-being of Canada's youngest and most vulnerable, children and families, and places child and youth rights at the top of the priority list.
That's my five minutes?
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for this opportunity to address the Government of Canada's Standing Committee on Finance.
First, I would like to welcome all of you to Prince Rupert and the Port of Prince Rupert, which is becoming a household name throughout the international transportation community as a shining star and an example of how ports can create economic wealth and prosperity.
I think it's very significant that this committee has come here today to witness first-hand the type of economic growth that can be created through the strategic investment of public funds in ports and infrastructure. During the next five minutes I will propose that continued investment by the Government of Canada in the Port of Prince Rupert and the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative will continue to unleash the full economic potential of Canada's trade with Asian economies.
The year 2007 was a watershed year in the port's history, with the conversion of the Fairview facility into a highly efficient container terminal. I need to emphasize at this point that this capital project was to become the first investment by the federal and provincial governments into what is now referred to as Canada's Pacific gateway. It has made a profound and extraordinary impact on this community and the rest of western Canada, as it ushered in an amazing period of growth that has continued relentlessly despite the global recession.
In the 45 months of operation since it opened in October 2007, we have experienced an unprecedented 40 months of year-over-year growth in container volume. Last year, the Port of Prince Rupert was recognized as the fastest-growing container terminal in North America and the eighth-fastest in the world.
In 2004, and once again with the financial support of federal and provincial governments, we built and opened a new cruise ship terminal on the downtown waterfront. It was an immediate success and during its peak year attracted over 110,000 cruise passengers to this community. The direct impact on the city's tourism retail business exceeds $4.5 million annually, and when passengers come onshore this city's population increases by nearly 20%. You can imagine the economic impact that has.
Today the Port of Prince Rupert serves as the North American gateway of the northwest transportation corridor. This corridor extends to central Canada and also on to Chicago and beyond to Memphis and New Orleans. It connects the populations and industry of central North America to the rapidly growing Asian economies.
The port has a unique strategic advantage of being the closest North American port to Asia by up to three days' sailing time. In brief, we are located on the shortest land-sea trade link between two of the world's most dynamic economies.
In terms of bulk cargoes, Ridley Terminals Inc., or RTI, which is a federal crown corporation, operates the advanced coal facility on Ridley Island. It has begun a major expansion to its existing facilities that will increase its capacity from the current 12 million tonnes per year to a projected 24 million tonnes per year. A potential second phase of expansion could increase RTI's annual capacity to over 40 million tonnes of capacity, making it the largest bulk handling terminal on the west coast of North America.
This initiative alone has created dozens of local construction jobs. And more importantly, it supports the growth of the mining concerns throughout western Canada. Although we here in Prince Rupert are focused on the 20 to 25 new permanent jobs that will be created at the terminal by this expansion, that is a shadow of the several hundreds of mining jobs and the hundreds of millions of dollars of mining development investment that will be made possible by this additional capacity on Canada's gateway to Asia.
Prince Rupert is an essential component of the federal government's Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative, but currently all terminals on the North American west coast are near capacity and require expansion to facilitate the continued growth of Canada's resource-based economy.
In Canada, in the resource sector, a substantial private investment is planned over the coming years. However, none of these export trade opportunities can be realized for Canada without a gateway, a doorway to international markets. We here at the Port of Prince Rupert are that doorway for Canadian trade.
Without the continued expansion of port infrastructure, Canada's resources and products will be shut out of international markets. It would be like building a grand mansion with many rooms, but with no front door to gain access to its rooms.
But we here at the Port of Prince Rupert have a plan that will ensure that Canada's trade door remains open, and open wide, on the west coast. We have a vision that we refer to as the 20-20 development plan, and once fully realized the Port of Prince Rupert will have the added capacity of over 100 million tonnes to service Canada's expanding trade objectives with Asian markets. Nowhere on the west coast of North America is there greater availability and opportunity for such expansion.
The potential is enormous. The economic spinoffs described earlier with the container terminal pale in comparison to the promise of the 20-20 development plan. As I am sure you are all aware, Canada is primed to take advantage of the increasing trade opportunities with Asia. Seizing these opportunities means wealth and employment for all Canadians, but it also requires strategic investments in Canada's doorway to the world markets: the Port of Prince Rupert.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for your question, Mr. Mai.
I think first and foremost Canada needs an energy vision, a strategy that pulls together various elements of what our economy is about. Cap and trade is one tool. So is a carbon tax. These are all necessary, but I think without that strategy first, these are disjointed. Similarly with conservation efforts. We need to fuel our economy, there's no doubt about it, and there's a role for different fuels, including gas and including oil and coal and what not. But we need a strategy that oversees all this. Without that, I think tools in isolation can get lost.
So I'm very supportive of cap and trade, we're very supportive of the carbon tax, and in that I need to give credit to British Columbia and the vision it has had as a province. But I think first and foremost we need a strategy.
We made some really good strides last year with amendments that were long in coming—amendments made to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that put the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in charge.
Now, this may sound funny. We have had the agency for years, and probably most people thought they ran environmental assessments. Actually, they didn't. If you're a mining company, one of the biggest sources of delay was trying to get the EA started. You'd pound on the door of Fisheries and Oceans Canada or Natural Resources Canada or Environment Canada and say you need an EA and could they please start it.
It would fall on an individual department to put up its hand and say it would do it. None of them wanted to, because it was a big undertaking and a lot of time and resources were involved.
Last year the agency was finally put in charge, and it was given the resources necessary to manage environmental assessment. We have seen the elimination of about 18 months of delay from the federal approval process in Canada as a result, because it was estimated that it took 18 months just to start.
What this also means, and then I'll turn it over to Karina, is that now the federal and provincial governments can actually harmonize, because the feds aren't a year and a half behind. What we're seeing on the ground in B.C. is a much improved process.
Do you want to add to that?
Certainly we see the growth in industry leaders like Teck over the last few years, in fact garnering investment from some of the best international investors in sovereign wealth funds in the world, like CIC as an example.
The capacity to attract capital to British Columbia mining and enterprise has actually grown in the last couple of years.
You mentioned tax policy as a determinant in that, which leads me to the carbon tax of the Campbell government, subsequently endorsed by the Clark government, that was implemented in British Columbia. In fact the right-of-centre magazine The Economist referred to it on July 21, saying that “The carbon tax has been good for the environment, good for taxpayers, and it hasn't hurt the economy.”
So you have to consider tax policy in full, whether you have flow-through-share provisions, competitive corporate tax rates, and potentially putting a price on carbon with a predictable carbon tax.
Would you say, Mr. Kariya, that putting a price on carbon in British Columbia has helped create jobs in your industry?
I'll try not to poke anybody in the eye on the other side in my round, but I want to talk about one thing. The federal government is continually asked to invest in a variety of things like training, which is crucial to get people out of poverty. In my home town of Hamilton, one in five people live in poverty. We had value-added manufacturing in Hamilton, but we lost 50,000 jobs from 1988 to 1992, thanks to the free trade agreement.
As for taxes, our friends like to point to our wanting to raise taxes, but in the year 2000, the corporate tax rate was 38% and for the Americans it was 36%. Mr. Martin dropped it to 20%. Our concern is the drop from 20% to 15%, and the $16 billion it takes out of the coffers of the government to do the things that are needed in our country. That is where there's a serious problem.
We were just in the Yukon. Their population is low, but their infrastructure dates back to the 1950s. How do we address these things if we do not have some kind of strategy?
We've been calling all along, as these tax breaks occur each year, to stop at a certain level. The taxes wouldn't have been increased; they would have remained where they were. So there are mixed messages coming out.
What's the state of the infrastructure here in B.C., particularly northern B.C.?
Thank you all for this invitation. I don't know, though, we might be sticking around here for a little while.
I want to tell you that I got a call from my brother-in-law. He lives in Smithers, just a little ways down the road. He saw on Facebook that I was going to be here. I asked him about the port. He pretty much reiterated what you said, and that is that this has been a great boon to the economy.
I want to talk a little bit in defence of Mr. Brison. He's absolutely right. He is a free trader, but it befuddles me when he starts talking about carbon tax. I'm going to give you my take, if you'll bear with me a little while.
This is a great example. Ontario has a green energy program that has introduced wind turbines, and nobody would be against that. But a number of years back--we don't have to go back too far--Ontario was an exporter of energy, and today we have become an importer of energy. Here's the problem. The wind's blowing at nighttime when nobody uses the stuff, and in the daytime, when we need it, the wind quits blowing. So what we do is sell the energy at a loss, or I think at 2¢ a kilowatt, to Quebec and they dam up the dams and open them up in the daytime and sell it back to us for 9¢ or 10¢ during the day at the peak times. So it has disrupted our grid.
Again, we'd all love to see a perfectly green environment, but I look at a country like China, and God bless them, they're doing wonderfully. But Mr. Brison and I, when we went there--and I talked about this at the last meeting too--the air was thick with coal. They're buying your coal and they're running it through the port here and producing energy at 3¢ or 4¢ a kilowatt.
The result in Ontario is that our manufacturing has been totally dissipated. I'm not saying that's the only reason, but it certainly is a major cost. The fact that we can no longer compete in one of the areas, and one of the last areas in which we were competitive was in energy, is indefensible. And the Chinese have told us that they're not interested in any of those projects you're talking about, any of those green....They look at us as being the polluters for the last 200 years, and they've got a long way to go before they catch up.
How do you balance that? Ms. Sanchez, you've made a wonderful request--and I don't think there's anybody here whose heart doesn't go out to our children--but when you talk about 1% of GDP when we are in a time where tax revenues are such that we're running a deficit and we're starting to load up our national debt to the effect that we're going to become a have-not, how do you balance that? I'm really looking for a balance. When I hear about carbon tax, that simply blows me away, because now not only have we disadvantaged ourselves in the marketplace with energy, we're now going to load something else on. How do you balance that? How do we become a generous nation, as Ms. Sanchez rightly pointed out, a rich nation that rather than take moneys from an economy that we saw four or five years ago, when there was a surplus and we could have these projects, to a situation now where we're hanging by a thread...? How can you advocate something like a carbon tax? I'm curious, especially with that kind of information.
That would be great, because I might argue with you that it's maybe an incorrect number.
Nevertheless, it is a provincial responsibility, although I must admit that the federal government has put forward initiatives, such as in 2007, to try to encourage businesses to produce some child care spaces in their workplaces by providing them with tax incentives to do that, which I thought was a step in the right direction.
I would also like to know how much this recommendation you've made about the child impact assessments would cost. I'm looking at a brief with all the measures put in the budget, and you're suggesting that every single measure in the budget be submitted for this child assessment. There are things such as the $60 million for transformative technology for the environment and the value of the wood program. Having all of these things subjected to an assessment of child impact would be very costly.
I want to know how much your recommendation is going to cost the government. Do you really think it's an efficient use of government resources to do impact assessments on budget items that really aren't directly impacting children?
I'm going to take the next round.
I wanted to start off with Mr. Kariya. You mentioned a national energy strategy. I've supported this for about 11 years now. I think it's a fantastic idea. I know other colleagues have worked on it. I know Mr. Van Kesteren has worked on a natural gas initiative for a long time as part of that.
I just wanted to pose a question to you and to the mining associations. Our approach is for sector-by-sector regulation. You've outlined what's being done in B.C. If you look at the Alberta plan, it basically says that if you're a large emitter and you go above a certain amount, you pay a $15 price. It goes into a fund, and that fund is invested in transformative technologies to address carbon emissions.
Just as sort of an “open blue sky” question, for a national government, what approach do you see as better? You can compare the B.C. plan or the Alberta plan or the national plan. The challenge for us is that it's a divided jurisdiction, environment and natural resources. We don't have sole jurisdiction over that federally, so we deal with provinces with different plans.
Could I get you to just very briefly indicate what you would do if you were a national government in that situation?
One needs to recognize that because of the geographical differences between provinces, there are going to be different strategies at a provincial level. That's fine. We recognize that. It has to be that way. But on top of that, we are a federation. We need to have things that pull us together.
Take transmission lines, for example. A more national perspective rather than a province-by-province one would help with those. For example, in the case of British Columbia and Alberta, the ties between us are very weak in terms of electricity. We could not provide to Alberta. We can barely meet trading back and forth overnight.
If we had a robust inter-tie between the provinces, maybe we could help with the oil sands. We could help in terms of the gas sector and so forth. There are things that would come out of a national plan that would help those kinds of things.
Leave the provincial stuff to the provinces, but there are things that cut across, and infrastructure is one of them.
I wanted to follow up with Ms. Sanchez on a couple of points.
You talked about growing inequality, but one of the challenging questions I have is a number of measures have been put in place by our government and by past governments to address this. If you look at our government, the working income tax benefit, in my view, is one of the biggest changes for working people in terms of assisting them to move up on the economic scale. The former government introduced the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit, which to me is very good policy. Our government has expanded on it because it is a very good policy.
When I see measures like this put in place and then I still see statements saying inequality is growing, are these measures...? I take your point: you said you would want additional measures. But are these measures, combined with the increases to the provinces for health care, education, social assistance for affordable housing...? What has been done is working. I think we need to take stock of all the programs that have been put in place, and if they're working, build on them, but if they're not working that effectively, maybe we need to have a closer look at them.
I think because we're in Prince Rupert one of the last questions should perhaps focus on the Prince Rupert Port Authority. Certainly as members of the B.C. caucus, we hear regularly in terms of what's happening here. I can remember my former colleague Stockwell Day, as the minister for the Asia-Pacific gateway, being incredibly enthusiastic, and of course now has taken up that very great portfolio, in my mind.
The government has committed significant dollars over time to what's been happening up here. I think it's about $1.4 billion. I have to quickly make a note in terms of infrastructure. Of course we have had the Building Canada fund, we've had enormous extra support through the stimulus program that was needed, and we have made a commitment for a conversation about where we need to go on an ongoing basis. Can you talk about how the government should focus its infrastructure investments going forward, from your lens?
The first round—and it was over $1 billion—of Pacific gateway infrastructure funding was focused on smoothing out the supply chain, and working on the bottlenecks. I guess I would just have to say that we didn't have those bottlenecks and congestion problems in this corridor. Of the $1.2 billion in the first round—and I say the first round because we were hoping that there would be more rounds—there was only probably about $40 million that was spent in this entire corridor.
This next opportunity for Canada is all about trade, the export of our resource trade with Asia. There's a huge demand for our resources, but it also puts a huge demand on building the infrastructure I talked about in my presentation. Really, that's what I think the next round of investment should be focused on, building capacity on the west coast.
With that, I have to emphasize that the mine association and such isn't just about investments in Prince Rupert or Vancouver. It's really all about investing to enable. Whether it's a potash mine development in Saskatchewan, a coal mine in northern Alberta or B.C., or the grain fields of this land, it's all about providing the doorway and the capacity so that we can take advantage of the tremendous opportunity that is unfolding in Asia.
The investment should be placed to make sure that we have capacity at our doorway, to build the doorway larger, and build it more fluidly so that Canada can take advantage of trade opportunities, create jobs, prosperity, and opportunity right across the entire country. Actually I think it goes a long way to addressing what is being talked about right here, and this community is a good example. You build infrastructure that creates jobs and opportunities.
I would suggest that the economic gap here in this community has been improved dramatically by the fact that we have a container port and a bulk port that are growing. The level of jobs that have been created here in the last five years, on a ratio scale, has been absolutely tremendous, and it's all about that first initial strategic investment in the infrastructure.
That's a good segue into our afternoon session. We're actually going to be touring the port with the port authority and the coast guard. We're very much looking forward to that.
Colleagues, please feel free if you do want to get into somewhat more casual gear that is more resistant to certain types of weather. We need to be ready to go at 12 noon sharp, so we're having lunch here.
I do want to thank our guests very much for coming in today, for presenting, and for responding to our questions.
I know there were some comments about having further information. Please submit that to the clerk and we will ensure that every member gets that information.
Thank you so much for being with us here.
The meeting is adjourned.