We'll call the meeting to order.
Pursuant to an order of reference of Wednesday, November 8, 2017, the committee is studying Bill , a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017, and other measures.
Welcome to all the witnesses. We appreciate your coming.
Before I go to the witnesses, we will just change the agenda a little bit.
At 6:15 we will deal with Mr. Dusseault's motion, which was tabled on Tuesday and has had the proper amount of notice. After that discussion, we will have to go in camera to deal with some of the business issues of the committee and the costs of holding hearings. If a second panel is here at 10 minutes to five o'clock, we will make the switch then between the panels.
As an individual we have Ian Lee, associate professor at Carleton University.
Ian, the floor is yours. We will try to hold the comments to about five minutes, if we could.
I thank the committee for inviting me to speak on the issues before us today. First, here are my disclosures. I don't consult to anyone or anything, anywhere, not governments, not unions, not corporations, which means I'm not a registered or unregistered lobbyist. I don't belong to or contribute to any political party. Salient to what I am about to say in the next three and a half minutes, in about 70 days from now, I am passing, involuntarily, into that club called the “seniors of Canada”.
I want to talk briefly about the whole issue of deficits but only as the prelude to talking about the greatest crisis that is facing Canada and every western country, the grey tsunami over the next 20 years or so. It is going to profoundly affect every OECD country.
Before and after the great downsizing of the 1995 federal budget and deficit, there was then, and still remains or continues, extensive debate in Canada concerning what I believe are two false premises concerning deficit reduction. First, it's argued that Canada is a very wealthy country and deficits will not break or bankrupt this country, so don't worry about it. The second argument that's put forward, which I believe is a false argument, is that policy X, let's say the Canada benefit, is an excellent policy; therefore, deficits are justified.
I just want to put those arguments to bed and then get on to the bigger issue.
Of course, Canada is a wealthy country. I've travelled all around the world, in many developing and developed countries, and we are fabulously wealthy on a per person basis, one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It is approximately equal with Germany on a per person basis, and Germany is indeed the wealthiest country in Europe. However, that's no justification to squander scarce public resources. Secondly, yes, there are excellent policies on the books, but that does not justify deficits. Rather, it justifies pruning and judicious program review of, to paraphrase Governor Carney, “dead programs”.
In the very few minutes I have, I want turn to this issue because I really do think it's the biggest crisis facing us. The IMF has said so. It has said that it's going to exceed, far more greatly, the financial crisis of 2008-09.
I first became interested in the subject after reading a book in 1999, called Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America—and the World. It was authored by Pete Peterson, the former commerce secretary under President Ronald Reagan, who later founded what became the very prestigious Peterson Institute in Washington.
In the years since, a plethora of authoritative empirical studies have been published by the OECD, the World Bank, the IMF, and reputable think tanks such as Brookings, the Peterson Institute, the C.D. Howe Institute, and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute on the subject of aging, on the macro-economic economy, and on tax receipts and economic growth and productivity.
Both the IMF and the OECD have produced increasingly dire studies and warnings about the increasingly serious squeeze on fiscal revenues caused by a smaller percentage of the workforce, the employed paying taxes, and the concomitant dramatic increase in health care costs for the exploding number of seniors.
As one American demographer recently noted, in approximately 20 years, all of North America is going to look like Florida but without the warm weather. In other words, one in four people will be over the age of 65. As I've already mentioned, the IMF has argued that the aging crisis is going to impose far larger costs on our society over the next 10, 20, or 30 years than the 2008-09 crisis.
Closer to home, former governor and former deputy minister of health David Dodge published in 2011 a superb report called “Chronic Healthcare Spending Disease”, showing the gargantuan amount of health care per capita for those over age 75. The numbers of people over age 75 are skyrocketing.
Very recently, the PBO published a report showing that provincial budgets are going to become increasingly bleak going forward, because most costs associated with aging are funded by the provinces.
Having read and absorbed a number of these excellent studies, I've come to the conclusion that the cost of pensions will not be the problem that the OECD argues they'll become in Europe, precisely because of Canada's prudent, responsible, risk-diversified, four-pillar pension system, which is unfortunately criticized by some of my colleagues in academia. This is not to minimize the drag and loss of productivity and economic growth caused by the enormous loss of workers, but every serious economic study, including by Finance Canada, shows long-term GDP declines of 1% to 2% annually.
I've concluded that the vulnerability in Canada, and likely elsewhere, is health care. As Dr. Dodge demonstrated in his report using CIHI data, the older we are above 65, the more we consume per person per year.
As we move from our seventies to our eighties—and this is in his report from CIHI—we consume an average of around $25,000 per person per year. This is the equivalent of consuming a new Honda Civic every year. Do we believe the young people in this room or across this country are shouting, “Whoopee! I'm going to get to pay a lot more taxes in the future to support Ian Lee and all the boomers in the years ahead”? For these reasons the overarching purpose of government policy concerning seniors should be focused on keeping this huge increase in seniors in their homes for as long as possible.
What follows is what I really want to talk about very quickly, and then I'll wrap up.
Firstly, in terms of pension reform, we need to be discussing a lot more about what we can do, such as eliminating early retirement before 60 across the board and penalizing retirement between 60 and 65. We need pension reform to eliminate incoherence within our policy frameworks, such as OAS allowing 65 retirement, CPP a range of 60 to 70, while employer pensions allow retirement as early as 65. We need to standardize there. We need to end the rule that prohibits RSPs and pensions after 71, in other words, that we have to take it.
Then, secondly, and then I'll finish, Mr. Chair, we need to completely invert the paradigm of health care to a model where we assume health care is delivered within the home. We assume now it's delivered within what I characterize as legacy hospitals—large, enormous, expensive hospitals—rather than local decentralized regional hospitals or community clinics, as a second instance, again, to encourage seniors to remain in our homes.
In conclusion, policy can ameliorate but it will not eliminate the great tsunami that is inevitably coming to Canada and other OECD countries.
Good afternoon, colleagues and committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you here today. I will discuss the CLC position on two of the issues in the bill, family violence leave and changes to part III of the Canada Labour Code.
For years, the Canadian Labour Congress and the labour movement have insisted that domestic violence must be recognized as a workplace issue. CLC has been a strong advocate for workplace protection and support of victims of domestic violence. Bill creates a new leave to allow people experiencing domestic violence time off to deal with the effects of the violence and to take steps to address it, and we welcome this action. Unfortunately it falls short of providing support for job protection for people experiencing domestic violence. Designated paid leave is a vital component of helping survivors keep their jobs and their economic security.
Employment is a key pathway to leaving a violent relationship. Dedicated paid leave gives workers the job protection time to do the things they need to do, things to keep them and their children and family members safe. Whether that is obtaining counselling, getting a new bank account, meeting with lawyers or police, it is something people need time to do during standard daytime hours. Dedicated paid leave also gives employees the financial security they need to take steps to leave. This can be an expensive undertaking.
Paid leave is also important given the dynamics of power and control in abusive relationships. Research shows that 90% of domestic violence survivors experience financial control. If accessing unpaid leave results in a lower paycheque than the abuser is expecting, there may be serious consequences for the victim. The unintended result of not providing paid leave is that it may increase risks to workers and create barriers for victims.
We'd also like to flag a concern about the exception clause. We understand that the intention is to ensure that the leave is reserved for victims of domestic violence, and not abusers. However, the exception clause may pose a barrier to victims who end up being accused and charged themselves. This could happen in a situation where they retaliate or stand up to the abuser, or in a situation where the police lay dual charges in regard to domestic violence.
In our opinion, the language of being a victim should suffice to limit the perpetrator's right to the leave. No one should have to choose between not being abused and getting a paycheque. We urge the committee to ensure that the 10 days of family violence leave be paid leave. We also urge that careful attention be paid to the potential barriers created by the details in the provisions.
Regarding the changes in part III of the Canada Labour Code, Bill contains several important changes to the federal labour standards. Among these steps, the bill reverses the previous government's approval of unpaid internship outside of the approved educational program, requires advance notice for changes to scheduling, allows time off in compensation for overtime work, and provides a limited right to refuse overtime. These are significant and positive steps in the right direction.
However, I would say something about the process. In the spring of this year, the labour program began consulting broadly on the recommendations of the 2006 Arthurs report. It proposes strengthening the compliance and enforcement in part III rights. Our preference continues to be to have integrated and comprehensive discussion about strengthening the federal standards, and constructing an effective compliance and enforcement regime under the code.
I want to thank the committee for the opportunity to present here today and I welcome any questions committee members may have.
Thank you and good afternoon.
Elizabeth and I are pleased to be here this afternoon to speak to you on behalf of the 651,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
I want to start by echoing the comments that were just made by the Canadian Labour Congress about consultation and process. CUPE is disappointed that these changes to the Canada Labour Code are being made in an omnibus budget bill. This means these changes will not get the fulsome scrutiny and debate that they deserve. We recommend that division 8 be separated from Bill and be studied and voted on separately.
We are also concerned that the changes in Bill do not go far enough in providing important protections and reasonable access to leaves for workers in the federal jurisdiction. We believe that the federal government should be setting a high standard that meets or exceeds the best provincial standards. Unfortunately, some of the new standards proposed by Bill C-63 are well below the strongest provincial standards. For instance, we are concerned that giving employees only 24 hours' advance notice of schedules or shift changes falls well below the standard of one week's notice set by Saskatchewan.
We are also concerned that the broad exemption in the act could render the requirement meaningless. Advance notice of working hours is important for workers to be able to carry out other activities like child care and education. We also know that uncertainty over work schedules contributes to precarity, stress, and work-life conflict.
Given this, why should the ordinary working of the employer's establishment take precedence and be given the same kind of priority as a serious threat to health and safety? We recommend that the requirement for advance notice be extended from 24 hours to one week, and that the third exemption relating to the ordinary working of the employer's establishment be deleted.
We have the same concern about the right to refuse overtime for family responsibility. Allowing an exemption for the ordinary working of the employer's establishment is too broad, and it means that the employer's rights are being prioritized over the well-being of families and children.
What kind of society are we if a child can be left waiting at day care for mom or dad to pick them up for no other reason than because an industrial establishment would otherwise not be working as it ordinarily does? We recommend that this exemption be deleted, which would also make this proposed section consistent with the best provincial standards.
With regard to the right to request flexible work arrangements, we are concerned that this change does not create a meaningful new right. The proposed section does not require employers to consider a request any more seriously than they might have before. It simply requires employers to provide a response in writing.
CUPE believes that instead of making a symbolic gesture that fails to accomplish real change, the government should be making significant changes in support of the most vulnerable workers: precarious workers who are forced to be flexible against their will.
Good afternoon, and thank you for providing me with the opportunity to speak here today.
I'm here representing all Canadians who are affected by MS on the provisions put forth in this budget implementation act.
MS is a chronic, often—but not always—disabling disease of the central nervous system affecting the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve. Different people experience different symptoms and outcomes, and there is no one kind of MS.
MS is one of the most common neurological diseases affecting young adults in Canada. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, ages when many are in the workforce.
In consideration of Bill , division 8 of part 5, we support the amendment to make work work by including more flexible employment policies to allow people with MS and other episodic disabilities to remain in the workforce. This would be good policy for compassionate reasons, for social reasons, and for economic reasons. This would include making improvements to income and disability supports for people who are unable to work or who can work only on an intermittent basis, thereby providing them with a more flexible environment in which they could work.
We support provisions in part 1 that would, first, give more authority to nurse practitioners for tax purposes, allowing them to sign off on a person's health issues, and second, introduce changes that would improve the accuracy and consistency of the income tax legislation and regulations, allowing people living with an episodic disability like MS to receive the disability tax credit, for example.
I could get into a technical discussion, but as you deliberate on the various provisions, please reflect on the following stories from real people living with MS.
Penny worked full time until her MS symptoms took over. She needed a different position. She could still work but needed the flexibility to work part time so she could manage her health. She left her job and is trying find a more flexible environment, but in the meantime, Penny must rely on social assistance. If there were a flexible work-sharing program in place, Penny could have reduced her hours while receiving partial El support, allowing her to stay in the career she loved and costing the social development system less money.
Dave was recovering from a significant relapse of his MS and required full-time nursing for a period of time. However, because he was not gravely ill with a significant risk of dying, his wife couldn't take compassionate care leave. There was no flexibility with this leave, so she had to quit her job to look after Dave, leaving this family with no income at all for several months. Everyone loses in this situation: the family, the individuals, and the labour market. It simply doesn't make sense.
Sharon has been unable to work full time for the past several years because of her MS. Sometimes, when she's feeling well, she can work, but the short-term work keeps her income low. She doesn't fit into the current definition of disability, so she doesn't quality for the disability tax credit, and because her income is low, the credit wouldn't make a difference anyway. Sharon spends an inordinate amount of time trying to navigate the complexity of multiple avenues of partial assistance. A flexible work arrangement could allow Sharon to work consistently but within the parameters of her MS symptoms, giving her financial security.
Time and time again, we hear that people want to work. They can work. They are able, mentally and physically, but it may not always be in the traditional sense of nine to five or regular shift work. There needs to be an avenue for employees to request flexible work arrangements. The current income and social support systems create an environment that forces people with episodic disabilities to be either in the workforce or out. Episodic illness is a square peg in a round hole, with no flexibility at all.
Half of working-age Canadians with disabilities have a disease that is episodic. It comes and it goes. It could be MS, mental health, arthritis, and/or a host of others. Implementing small changes would alleviate some of the financial and human resources burdens on the current system. These changes include allowing more flexibility for employees living with an episodic disease or illness so that they can continue to be in the workforce, contributing to our economy; making the income tax legislation and regulations consistent; and improving the parameters around the definition of disability. These changes would better support people with episodic illnesses, allow them flexible environments in which to contribute to the economy and workforce, cost support systems less, and alleviate economic, emotional, and social stress. They would also decrease pressures on employers to rehire and retrain new workers.
These amendments are the right thing to do for individuals, for families, for society, for the labour force, and for the economy.
Thank you. I'm happy to take any questions.
Mr. Chair, thank you very much for the opportunity to present today.
The Portfolio Management Association of Canada represents over 240 investment management firms from across Canada that collectively manage over $1.6 trillion for Canadians, much of which is pension plans and group and individual RRSPs.
We've presented to this committee frequently over the years, and our recommendations typically are focused on retirement savings and ensuring fair tax treatment of retirement savings, which are typically tax exempt, with the overriding principle that Canadians deserve increased access to low-cost investment opportunities and fairness to help grow their pensions and RRSPs.
Segregated funds are insurance products very similar to mutual funds, but produced by insurance companies that provide returns based on a segregated pool of assets. According to a 2017 report by Strategic Insight, Canadians invest $117 billion in segregated funds. We were very pleased that federal budget 2017 extended the tax-deferred merger rules to segregated funds, which allowed for these funds to merge and gain efficiencies, when appropriate, without negative tax consequences to Canadians holding these hybrid insurance and retirement savings vehicles.
We are here today because there was a bit of an oversight in the budget, we believe, and we would like to request that these rules be extended to prospectus-exempt pooled funds. As you know, most Canadians working for companies typically have one of three types of retirement savings plans. There's a traditional defined benefit plan, which is not growing. The more common types nowadays are defined contribution plans and group RRSPs.
Defined contribution pension plans and group RRSPs frequently invest in pooled funds, as they are much lower cost than traditional retail mutual funds and provide the asset mix diversity needed for Canadians to save for their retirements. Pooled investment vehicles offer Canadians, particularly the middle class, with access to various asset classes on a cost-effective basis, given the ability to find economies of scale by pooling investments and sharing costs.
Unless the investment merger rules are extended beyond segregated funds to the underlying pooled funds that they invest in, a merger at the segregated fund level will be impacted by the tax consequences of the mergers of the underlying pooled funds. This would result in lower investment returns for the average Canadian with an employer-sponsored defined contribution pension plan.
My colleague, Eric Adelson, will now provide more detail and a specific example.
Investment fund companies manage many funds for insurance companies that are accessed by Canadians through group retirement savings programs or defined contribution pension plans. According to a 2017 report by Strategic Insight, Canadians invested $65 billion in pooled funds, and the main source of this investment is employer-sponsored defined contribution pension plans.
Funds grow and decline with employee population, and to manage these on a low-cost basis to optimize returns, companies need to be able to merge funds on occasion without negatively impacting the end investor. The extension of the tax-deferred merger rules to prospectus-exempt pooled funds would provide consistent tax treatment of mutual funds and segregated funds for the benefit of Canadian savers. The most common example of this is what we would call “target date” funds.
In most defined contribution pension plans, target date funds are the default investment option, so a great many middle-class Canadians own target date funds. These funds have a maturity date, which is included in the name of the fund, and use an asset allocation strategy that gets more conservative the closer you get to maturity. If someone anticipates retiring in 2030, they would invest in a fund with 2030 in the name of the fund.
At maturity, the investor typically retires, and they don't necessarily want to take a lump sum immediately. They can take that, but more typically, we would merge the fund into a broader, diversified fund through which the investor can draw down over time. This gives investors an easy-to-exercise choice of what to do with their retirement savings.
The problem is, if the target date funds hold stocks and bonds directly, we can merge the funds and defer taxes until the investor withdraws money, but if the target date fund holds pooled funds, which in turn hold stocks and bonds, the target date fund merger would give rise to immediate tax consequences, which differs from regular mutual funds and insurance company segregated fund products.
I've mentioned it, and I'll just reference it again. There has been a plethora of studies in the past 10 or 15 years by very prestigious and authoritative institutions. The World Bank, the IMF, and the OECD have published on this.
First and foremost, the exit of such large numbers from the workforce is going to slow down GDP. That's going to reduce the flow of revenues to federal and provincial governments. This had been modelled. It has been shown by these various forecasting agencies. Finance Canada, I'm told, has studies internally that show this. The impact is going to show up in reduced economic growth and reduced revenues down the road. That's the first problem.
The second problem is that the dependency ratio is collapsing—and I mean collapsing—from the late 1960s, where it was somewhere around seven workers for every dependent or retiree. The dependency ratio is going to go down to 2.4. I guess I have an understanding of basic arithmetic, and to think there's going to be 2.4 young people supporting one of me, is a scary thought. We're living a lot longer, and as we get above that 75 point—and the break point is somewhere between 75 and 80 when health care costs start to absolutely skyrocket—something's going to give. That's why the OECD is using very apocalyptic language in its predictions, so is the IMF.
I've talked to colleagues in the universities, and they say, “Yes, yes, okay, revenues will be down a little bit tighter.” I don't think it's going to be like that. Every forecast I've looked at shows it's going to be far worse than that. There are things we can do to mitigate it, such as trying to keep seniors in their homes and trying to keep them working longer.
Very quickly, I've met Fred Vettese, the chief economist at Morneau Shepell, at several pension conferences. He's a brilliant individual, one of the leading authorities on this. He says our pension policies are incoherent. Private pension plans allow you to retire at 55, the OAS age is 65, and the CPP age is 60 to 70. We could start by standardizing and adopting the CPP model, say, and amend OAS and the tax act for private pension plans. There are things we can do to mitigate this tsunami that's coming.
Thank you all for joining us today.
I especially want to focus on the planned changes to the Canada Labour Code. I am happy to be able to hear your point of view. The officials who have made presentations to us about the Canada Labour Code seem rather to be saying that everything is great, everything is rosy, that the consultations have been wonderful, and that everyone is on exactly the same page.
But today, we have been told about possible solutions that can specifically improve certain clauses in the bill; I am glad about that. When we do the clause-by-clause study, we will be able to try to come up with some amendments. But no one has talked about the documents that are requested in clause 206.7(5), which deals with leave for victims of domestic violence. It reads as follows:
206.7(5) The employer may, in writing and no later than 15 days after an employee’s return to work, request the employee to provide documentation to support the reasons for the leave.
In other words, the employer can ask the employee to prove that the leave was justified.
I would like to know whether that provision concerns you, or, conversely, whether you see no problem with it. My question goes to Mr. Yussuff, Ms. Pasma, Ms. Dandy, or to anyone else who wants to reply.
I'll answer that in English, if that's okay.
Obviously, sometimes it's difficult for people who are experiencing domestic violence to provide the traditional kinds of documentation, and we don't want the requirements for documentation to impose barriers on people who are already going through very challenging situations. You don't want to do things like require a restraining order or something like that because there are many different types of domestic violence and people experience it in different ways and have different needs, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Ideally, employers shouldn't require that kind of evidence, certainly not before. After the fact they could provide a letter from a lawyer or a statement from a worker at a women's shelter, for example, or another support service, as long as there is some flexibility in the type of documentation, but we would prefer that there not be a requirement.
That's the kind of stuff, though, that I think we could work out in regulations as opposed to putting it in the legislation per se.
I'm giving you a bit of a mixed answer. If you're going to have it in there, then after the fact makes more sense than requiring it up front.
I would like to thank all the witnesses who have joined us here today.
Each witness has spoken about the importance of having social cohesion in Canada. There are a number of ways to achieve that objective, not only through prosperity, but also in the way we treat the less fortunate. I am not only talking about the less fortunate in terms of income, but also those who are less fortunate than all of us around the table today.
Mr. Davis, I would like to start with you.
Through your stories and your analysis, you mentioned the importance of ensuring a degree of flexibility in the Canada Labour Code, so that people with chronic diseases, like multiple sclerosis, feel included by the amendments made to the labour code.
Can you tell us more about the importance of allowing people with chronic diseases, like multiple sclerosis, to work with dignity? To what extent are these changes important? Are there any other solutions we could explore for the next amendments?
Without a doubt, I think that the ability to go to work and deal with reality, which we all enjoy, is paramount in our lives. When individuals are going through situations such as domestic violence, it's critical that their workplace be as supportive as possible, but in addition, that it be a safe place where they can go to escape the violence.
Too often, the abuser will reach right into the workplace. If employers are not cognizant of that fact and do not screen the call if somebody calls up, they just leave the situation the same as in the violent home, with the person on the phone disturbing you from your work. Recognition of this as an issue has to be dealt with in the workplace.
Of course, in the regulations there will have to be other things. It will have to be dealt with so that the employer truly provides a safe environment for those who are experiencing domestic violence, to ensure that the workplace does not become another place where they're going to experience violence.
We have been working with our affiliates across the country, trying to raise the consciousness of Canadians, our own members, and employers at the bargaining table. I think there's obviously recognition and change going on, but as you know, the statistics on domestic violence are quite sad. Despite all that we have done, we haven't done enough, and I want to be blunt. For the most part, this violence is coming from men.
We have to do a better job. As a society, we have to figure out a way to elevate this conversation, because in 2017, when you look at the number of women still experiencing domestic violence, I think the reality we see is that we haven't done a good job.
This is not just about the federal government. It's also about the provincial and territorial governments working together as to how we can deepen the conversation and also change attitudes and behaviour so that this reality does not continue to be part of our society moving forward. This is one small step, but it's an important step.
More importantly, we need to make sure we get it right, because it can be a vehicle for the provinces and the territories to follow when they are not yet in that domain.
My question is for Dr. Lee. He was speaking about the economic and financial challenges associated with a massive wave of retirements—the “grey tsunami”, as he called it. I want to ask him about what I believe is an accounting problem, one for which I don't have a solution but one that I believe incentivizes governments to make short-term financial decisions at long-term costs.
Let me give you one example. We have a rule in our registered retirement savings plans that requires that retired people convert their RRSPs into RRIFs—income funds—and that they begin withdrawing funds at a fairly precipitous pace out of their RRIF so that they can have it as income and it can be taxed. There is no long-term financial benefit to the government in requiring these withdrawals, because the money will be taxed later anyway. If the person kept that money until they turned 85 and then took it all out, well, they would be taxed all in that 85th year of their life. By virtue of the fact that they're forced to take it out at 71, they are taxed earlier, it is true, but they are not taxed more.
Now, why do governments do this? This answer is that if a government today were to get rid of the mandatory withdrawal rule, that government would have to take all of the revenue loss. Some future government would get a revenue gain. Ten years down the road, people would start to take that money out, and it would be taxed in some future government. No present-day government would want to accept the revenue loss of allowing that deferral to go on. Even though there's no long-term cost to the crown, there is a short-term cost to the political government of the day.
When it comes to expenses and obligations that governments accept, let's say the government were to settle a lawsuit to pay out millions of dollars over three decades. Under our accounting system, the full cost of that decision is actually borne in the year the decision is made, not in the year the money is paid out. That's to ensure that a present-day government has to account for the financial costs of the future obligations it decides to take on.
Is there some way that principle, which applies to expenditures and obligations, could be embedded in the accounting of tax revenue?
Thank you. That clarification is important.
Both the CLC and CUPE spoke about this, so to whoever wants to jump in, that's fine.
In terms of the documentation for, let's say, an issue of family violence, Mr. Dusseault's questions were around documentation after the fact. I appreciate that you have both said that after the fact is certainly better than before.
When officials appeared, again these types of questions were raised. The response from the officials was that the intention—and I'm paraphrasing—of these changes was to ensure that those victims or their direct family members could quickly access work flexibility. The idea was that if there were a longer-term or larger issue, those types of things could be dealt with by the employer. The intention, however, is that this would provide quick access to time off, either to seek medical attention or for mental health reasons or for other things of that type. That's really the intention.
With that said, and with the documentation coming after the fact—I hear the concerns about documentation—can you see why quickly accessing that flexibility is the important aspect here?
I would take a step back and say that with prospectus mutual funds, you are allowed to do that, and the tax code has provided for that for a long time. I would turn it around and ask why we would distinguish from one vehicle to the other. If it's good enough for one, it's good enough for the other.
That question raises a whole host of other issues that PMAC has views on as well, which we'll raise in due course.
The pooled fund itself, first of all, comes more cheaply to the insurance companies, so they are able to charge less to the end investor, which obviously is desirable for retirement savings. It increases the amount you have at the end of the day.
When you have a merger, typically you have to have a unitholder vote to approve it, especially when there are real differences among the funds. Therefore, if you had a target date fund, which has a very specific investment objective, and it would merge into, say, a Canadian equity fund, if it were a mutual fund, you'd be guaranteed to have an investor vote, because the investment objectives are radically different.
In seg funds you don't have the same rules, but you do have what they call “free exit” in that situation, so if investors don't like the merger proposal, they can always redeem out of the fund.
One of the reasons we often propose fund mergers, as opposed to just terminating the fund, is if we terminate the fund or if you redeem your money, it's the same tax consequence. The one shot you have to defer the tax is if you have a fund merger.
Offering a fund merger as a possibility gives the investor control of their destiny. They have the widest array of choices. If they decide they want to trigger their tax now, they'll vote against it or just withdraw their money. They can also just defer it and see how this new investment does.
CPP offers a range between 60 and 70 years of age under the recent changes, which were prudent. If you go below 65, you're penalized. If you go between 65 and 70—and a lot of Canadians still don't know this—you can push up your CPP by about 42% by pushing back the drawdown.
With OAS, we take it at 65, and that's it. With company pension plans, under the Income Tax Act, you can go as early as 55.
What I was suggesting was that maybe we should look at—you, I should say, you, the members of Parliament, the finance committee—recommendations to standardize one model, the CPP model, which offers a range between 60 and 70. It allows flexibility. You can choose to go before 65, but you're penalized. If you decide to push it back, you can enhance your pension. That seems to be a more reasonable and prudent policy than the arbitrary OAS age of 65 or the often insolvent private employer pension plan.
I think that the changes that have been put forward are welcome. As you know, the section of the code that many of these provisions come from is part III, which is outdated by about 60 years. The Arthurs report was submitted quite some time ago, over a decade ago.
Arthurs had reviewed and made some significant recommendations about how to upgrade part III of the code. While this is only part of those recommendations, and I think we have a long way to go, this is certainly going to deal with the variety of challenges facing individuals from different communities in the workforce, at the same time recognizing that we can do different things in the code to help individuals meet their needs, and I think it's a good step in the right direction.
My colleagues from CUPE have put forward some suggestions on how we can improve these provisions, but I think they are welcome, because it has been long overdue. In the absence of having these provisions in the code, most workers, to a large extent, couldn't exercise these rights even if they wanted to, because there was no legal context for them to even ask their employers to give them that. If workers were fortunate enough to have employers willing to do it, it was an arrangement that was made by themselves, unless it was in their collective agreements.
I certainly welcome most of the recommendations, but the Harry Arthurs report was much more comprehensive, and I hope you'll get to that sometime in the new year.
Good evening, Mr. Chair, esteemed committee members, fellow witnesses, and members of the gallery.
My name is Michael McDonald, and I am executive director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, otherwise known as CASA. Thank you for your invitation to speak about Bill .
Broadly speaking, CASA was pleased see the continued investments in students in budget 2017. We were especially encouraged by new supports for first nations and Inuit learners, expanded access to grants for students with dependents and for part-time students, and new rules on unpaid internships.
For the remainder of my time, I am going to be focusing on the proposed amendments on unpaid internships, which are part of this bill. This move fits with the broader efforts to make Canadian workplaces more modern, inclusive, and effective. We applaud, for example, the framework announced a few days ago to fight harassment and sexual violence in the public service and in federally regulated workplaces.
Tens of thousands of students work in federal government jobs and in federally regulated sectors each year. Alongside all their colleagues, they deserve a safe and respectful workplace that allows them to thrive. For the same reason, we support Bill proposed changes to ban uncompensated internships.
At CASA we are firm supporters of quality work experience for students. Recent research links participation in co-op programs with higher pay and better jobs after graduation. Surveyed students who did co-ops as part of their studies give their overall post-secondary education experience better reviews than those who did not, and employers also speak highly of the skills and job readiness of co-op graduates.
While we know that the quality of work experience pays off for students and employers, uncompensated experiences do not. An American study found that far more graduates who did unpaid internships did not land jobs as compared to those who did do paid internships. Indeed, an unpaid experience did virtually nothing to improve job prospects, according to a recent study by the Canadian Internship Association.
The likely explanation is simple: when an employer is invested in the experience, they give the student more attention, more responsibilities, and more opportunities.
Ultimately, we would like all internship experiences to be paid. However, we do recognize that compensation in the form of credit is better than no compensation at all, and Bill proposes to end unpaid internships in federally regulated sectors except when those internships are part of formal education programs. We support this move, as it is an important measure to promote high-quality work experiences and safety and to fairly compensate young workers.
We recognize that like paid internships, quality is generally also higher for work experiences that are built into formal post-secondary education programs, and we support the budget 2017 promises to ensure that all interns, including those working for credit in formal programs, receive labour standard protections. Moreover, we think it's important to highlight that unpaid interns tend to be far more prevalent in fields that are dominated by women. We think this is particularly problematic and we hope it is something that this bill addresses.
Another important consideration is for students from low-income backgrounds who have less flexibility when it comes to choosing between experience that might help them now and paying their bills.
We are pleased with the steps taken by the budget to protect interns; therefore, we will continue to be advocating for federal investment in new paid work opportunities for students. This is why we're a big supporter of some of the work-integrated learning opportunities that have been presented most recently.
We'll continue to support high-quality compensated student work experiences. We are pleased to see the changes presented in the bill and we think it's moving in the right direction.
Good evening. My name is Kate McInturff, and I am a senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. I would like to thank the committee for inviting me to speak today.
The government's decision to include gender-based analysis in the federal budget is an important step forward for gender equality and, as I argued in my pre-budget submission, for our economy. Budget implementation bills are an important moment for the government to act on that analysis.
To date, the analysis presented in both budget 2017 and the fall economic update identifies how men and women are affected differently by, for example, tax policy. I was very pleased to see the fall update take note of the negative impact on women of income splitting and income sprinkling. It is important, however, to ensure that the analysis actually forms the basis for action and better policy. That is to say, our government policies need to be designed with the analysis in mind.
The scope of Bill is understandably narrow. However, I would like to take this opportunity to demonstrate how gender-based analysis can make the government's policies more effective and go further in setting us down the path to gender equality. I am going to speak specifically to the issue of leave for victims of domestic violence.
In the 2017 budget's gender statement, the government recognized that “[w]omen and girls are more likely than men to experience poverty, violence and harassment”, noting that “[w]omen are more likely than men to experience the most severe forms of self-reported spousal victimization”.
The government's decision to implement leave for victims of domestic violence is a very welcome step in addressing the relationship between economic insecurity and susceptibility to domestic violence. However, a deeper analysis suggests that there are two further steps that need to be taken to ensure that this policy achieves its goal. Bill provides an excellent opportunity to take those steps.
First, leave for victims of domestic violence needs to be paid. The evidence is clear that when women remain in violent settings and return to those settings, it is because they cannot afford to leave. A study from the University of British Columbia found that survivors of intimate partner violence experienced financial hardship as a result of that violence, regardless of their income status prior to leaving their abusive partner. That is to say, this has an impact on women from all economic groups. That financial hardship continued for years after they had left the violent setting.
In the short term, when a woman leaves a violent setting, she faces immediate financial challenges. One of the primary reasons given by women in shelters for returning to a violent household is that they cannot afford housing. Additionally, women with young children fear that if they are unable to financially support themselves and their children, those children may be apprehended by child and family services. This not only means the tragedy of a victim of violence being separated from her children, but in small communities this can also result in the children being placed with, for example, a relative of the violent partner, potentially putting them at further risk.
The costs of lost work, lost wages, and lost productivity are significant. Justice Canada estimates the cost of lost wages due to domestic violence at $33.7 million annually. The cost of lost productivity to employers is an estimated $68.5 million annually.
What does this look like in the life of a survivor of domestic violence? When you leave an abusive spouse, you leave with almost nothing—your children and a few suitcases at most, not a fork, not a pot, not a chair, not a bed. When it's time to find housing, a survivor of domestic violence is starting from scratch. If she has children, she has the additional pressure of having to demonstrate to child and family services that she can provide the basic necessities of life for her children.
Three days of wages, three days of paid leave, for a woman making $25 an hour amounts to $600. That is enough to buy a mattress, a few plates, and a fork. That can make a world of difference in the life of a woman trying to build a new, safer life for herself and her family.
The second recommendation I would make to ensure that domestic violence leave is effective is to eliminate the exclusion of those facing police charges. While I understand the desire not to extend this leave to someone who is charged with a violent crime, the exclusion of those who have been charged with domestic violence has the potential to exclude victims of abuse as well. This is because in some jurisdictions in Canada the police practise the policy of automatic or dual charging. Automatic charging means that when police respond to a domestic violence call, they are required to charge those involved. This may result—and does in fact result on occasion—in both the abuser and the victim of the abuse being charged.
Automatic charging is intended to ensure that charging occurs and that the police response to domestic violence is robust. However, the result is that in some cases victims are charged. Under the current proposal, under the legislation proposed here, those victims would be excluded from eligibility.
The government is leading the way by recognizing the role of financial hardship and lost work in the lives of those who experience domestic violence. With these additional changes, the policy will set a new standard in supporting survivors of that violence. Further, it is precisely in implementing its policies that the government has the opportunity to put gender-based analysis to work and to ensure that this analysis leads to action.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. You should have a slide presentation on your tablet that I was hoping to walk you through over the next few minutes.
CFIB is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization that represents more than 109,000 small and medium-sized businesses across Canada. Our members represent every region of the country and are found in every sector of the economy.
Today I want to touch on three aspects of Bill : introduction of flex-work arrangements, implications of the changes to the multiplication of small business deduction, and the Canadian free trade agreement.
Allowing employees the right to request flex-work arrangements is unprecedented in Canada. Though only a small number of small businesses are federally regulated, provincial governments often implement similar changes, which then affect many more.
We would argue that such legislation is actually not needed among small companies, because as you can see on slide 4, CFIB found that many small business owners offer some form of flexibility to help their employees balance work with other responsibilities. In fact, most do.
Also, an Ipsos poll that was conducted earlier this year of those working in firms with fewer than five employees showed they tend to be more satisfied with the flexibility given to address personal needs, as you can see on slide 5.
In addition, the same employees are more likely to be very satisfied with their job in general, compared to workers in larger firms.
This is because most smaller employers already understand the importance of being flexible for retaining employees, attracting new workers, and maintaining good work morale.
We believe this new legislation could pose several challenges for the small businesses, as listed on slide 6.
First would be the added administrative burden, such as reorganization of responsibilities to deal with employee requests and complying with regulations related to applications. Also, small businesses have limited resources to address any potential complaints or appeals processes that may result.
Second, in some businesses it is difficult for employers to offer certain types of arrangements, such as working from home, which may also require specialized equipment, which can be quite costly for smaller firms.
Third, there can be significant costs in terms of temporary reductions of productivity due to disruptions of regular schedules. Moreover, many small-business owners may have concerns regarding the fair treatment of other employees, who may end up taking on extra work, causing resentment among co-workers.
Finally, such legislation could lead to undue pressure on those small employers who are unable to accommodate the requests due to the nature of the work they do, such as those in the transportation sector.
Each business faces its own unique challenges. That's why it's really best left with employers and employees to work out the most suitable arrangement between them. In our feedback to the government, we recommended that they not proceed with this legislation, and if they did, that they potentially exempt smaller businesses. If they still planned to move forward, we had put forward a series of reasons that an employer should be allowed to refuse such a request, and we were pleased to see that many of those were incorporated into this legislation. However, we would like to see more than 30 days allotted to the employer to respond to a request. We had suggested three months, which is the period that's allowed in the U.K., and there were a few details about the enforcement of this bill and whether there will be an appeals process. These are areas that we remain concerned about at this time.
Next I want to talk about the multiplication of the small-business deduction.
In Bill changes were made to the treatment of farmers and fishers selling to co-operatives so they can remain eligible for the small business deduction. This was welcome clarification of the changes to this multiplication of the small business deduction that was introduced earlier this year, but, really, more needs to be done with it. In budget 2016, the government announced changes that would seem to be targeted at those who had created certain structures that enabled access to the small business deduction more than once, but this now seems to be affecting more businesses than we were first led to believe. Under these new rules, active business income is not eligible for the small business deduction if a corporation earns that income from providing services or products to a direct or indirect interest; however, no guidance detailing what exactly “indirect interest” is has been given.
What does this mean? Well, it seems these new rules are having a broader impact on some small businesses, especially in rural areas. For example, we have one member from a small town in Alberta who owns a restaurant and purchases fresh produce from her father's farm. Our member has a very limited number of suppliers, as there are few other businesses in her area that provide fresh produce, so she purchases it from her father. However, under these new rules, any active business income generated from their arm's-length relationship may no longer be eligible for the small business deduction, even though they both run completely separate businesses.
The rules have also created additional administrative costs, as it requires increased effort to determine whether these rules apply to one's corporate earnings, and to what extent. If a business is affected by the rules, it has been recommended to them that they keep two sets of accounting records: one for income not eligible for the small business deduction and one for the part that is eligible. We believe more needs to be done to fully understand and address the impacts of these changes.
Finally, I want to mention the importance of the Canadian free trade agreement and how pleased we are that this budget bill confirms the federal government's commitment to this important and historic agreement. It's clearly important to small businesses, but now the really hard work begins. We need the federal government to continue to play a key role in making sure that progress is made on the agreement, and this starts with making sure the regulatory reconciliation and co-operation table is active in addressing key issues for small business.
On slide 11 you can see the list of regulatory areas that require greater alignment across Canada and that should be tackled quickly by the RCT. They include corporate registration and reporting, agricultural and transportation regulations, professionals and trade licensing, and workers' compensation and health and safety rules. We would encourage the federal government to use its influence in keeping discussions going and finding solutions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the invitation to come to speak to Bill .
My name is Cory Mulvihill, and I'm the lead executive for policy and public affairs at the MaRS Discovery District. MaRS is North America's largest innovation hub and is located in the heart of Canada's largest research cluster. We bring together entrepreneurs, educators, researchers, social scientists, investors, and corporate business experts under one roof, giving innovators what they need most—a home with connections to networks of talent, customers, and capital to grow and scale.
MaRS provides advisory and programming support to over 1,100 start-up ventures, with our reach extending to partners in start-ups across Canada. Since 2008, MaRS-supported ventures have raised $3.5 billion in capital and generated $1.8 billion in revenues. Today they employ more than 6,100 people in knowledge economy jobs.
Today I'd like to speak specifically to the importance of nurturing a strong ecosystem of smart capital for Canada's emerging companies, particularly in our four focus areas: health, energy and environment, finance and commerce, and work and learning. A critical element to the success of these companies is their ability to access the right amounts and types of capital for their stage of growth, along with the effective advice that comes along with it.
Budget 2017 will commit a further $400 million to stimulate growth in the Canadian venture capital ecosystem, following on the success of the previous government's venture capital action plan. As Canada's foundation of high-growth companies is accelerating, this investment through the Business Development Bank of Canada will play a critical role in ensuring that the momentum built through VCAP to strengthen the VC ecosystem will continue and that these companies will be able to access capital during their critical stages of growth.
While this year's deal flow, according to the Canadian Venture Capital Association, is said to outpace that of last year, the Canadian economy continues to face a systemic challenge in scaling firms to compete globally due to their undercapitalization. At MaRS, we have used our role as a centre of convergence in the innovation ecosystem to nurture the growth of capital in areas where we've seen gaps. This includes the management of the investment accelerator fund, Ontario's most active seed fund, which has invested $52 million through 115 investments, and ArcTern, which was launched to address a gap in funding for clean tech-focused companies.
We look forward to the launch of the venture capital catalyst initiative, which will be a critical component in maintaining the momentum of Canada's venture capital ecosystem.
Hello, everyone. My name is Theresa Agnew, and I am the chief executive officer of the Nurse Practitioners' Association of Ontario. With me here today is my colleague, Dr. Dawn Tymianski, a director on the board of NPAO. Dawn will shortly become the interim CEO of the NPAO as I step down from this role after five years.
We thank the Standing Committee on Finance for giving NPAO the opportunity today to provide feedback on Bill . I will start by providing the committee with a short background on the role of NPs and NPAO.
The Nurse Practitioners' Association of Ontario is the professional association representing more than 3,100 nurse practitioners and NP students in Ontario. The NPAO formed in 1973 as an independent association representing NPs. NPAO has the largest percentage of voluntary members of any professional nursing association in Ontario.
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with advanced university education and experience who provide a full range of health care services to millions of patients across the province and across Canada. In Ontario, NPs can order and interpret all laboratory tests and most diagnostic imaging tests. NPs are also able to refer to specialists and admit, treat, and discharge hospital patients. Nurse practitioners can also do minor surgical procedures.
Nurse practitioners are authorized to prescribe controlled drugs and substances, and this long-anticipated change to scope of practice now enables nurse practitioners, as primary care providers, to deliver all aspects of palliative and end-of-life care to their patients across the province, including medical assistance in dying for those eligible patients who request it. You will be interested to know that in Ontario more than half of the practitioners on the ministry's MAID registry are nurse practitioners.
Nurse practitioners work across the health care system in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, family health teams, community health centres, NP-led clinics, and long-term care centres. Nurse practitioners work with individuals and families, from newborn babies to the elderly, and serve many vulnerable and marginalized populations.
I'm going to jump now to our support of Bill .
As you know, Bill C-63 is an omnibus budget bill. We have not read all 275 pages of the bill, nor have we examined the many pieces of corollary legislation that would be amended if the bill is passed, so we will keep our comments to a very high level.
First, NPAO is pleased to see proposed changes to the Canada Labour Code that would provide Canadians with greater flexibility to take vacation time, to add more bereavement days in the event of losing a loved one, and with time to attend traditional healing practices. In addition, we strongly support statutory time off work to recover after experiencing family violence. This is a compassionate approach, and we know that all of those affected by family violence can be traumatized and need time to begin to heal. NPAO would, however, recommend that the statutory time off be with pay, rather than an unpaid leave. This would help to ensure that families are not penalized financially when they have already been through so much.
Potentially, the bill could also go further in supporting families experiencing domestic violence. I speak in loving memory of Zahra Abdille, who was a nurse practitioner I had the honour of getting to know when she was an NP student. Zahra was passionate about the care of the elderly. Sadly, she kept the fact that she was a victim of domestic violence from her colleagues and friends.
In July of 2014, Zahra had left her husband and had taken the boys to a women's shelter. She then sought legal assistance to pursue leaving her abusive husband. She worked as a nurse practitioner and was the family's sole breadwinner, and because it was determined that she earned too much money, Zahra was denied access to free legal aid—this despite the fact her husband controlled the family's bank account. Feeling that her options were limited, she and the boys returned to her husband. On November 29, 2014, Zahra and her two children, Faris and Zain, were killed by her husband. He later killed himself.
On behalf of women like Zahra Abdille, NPAO implores the government to ensure that all women who are victims of domestic violence have access to free legal assistance. If this amendment cannot be made as part of Bill , we urge the government to find a way to enshrine this access into legislation.
NPAO also supports measures within Bill C-63 that seek to make our tax system more transparent and fair. Canadians pay tax to support the programs we hold near and dear, such as medicare, affordable housing, and subsidized day care. Those who make more should pay more. We support any amendments that would close tax loopholes that unjustly benefit the top income earners. Revenues from fair and equitable taxation could then go to improving the social determinants of health, thereby improving health for all Canadians.
We also speak in favour of proposed amendments within Bill C-63 that provide enhanced incentives to use geothermal energy.
Finally, we'd like to thank the committee and thank the federal government for introducing changes in the omnibus bill that enable nurse practitioners to sign many federal forms. Despite the fact that nurse practitioners are independent assessors of patients, make diagnoses, and treat and manage health conditions, there are currently many federal forms that do not accept the signature of a nurse practitioner. This results in patients having to return to a clinic or health care setting to see a physician who may not know them. This causes additional expense for the client and the system.
We're thrilled with the omnibus changes in Bill C-63 that enable nurse practitioners across Canada to serve clients in a more expeditious and efficacious way. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Canadian Nurses Association and the Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada for their extensive work and advocacy to make these changes a reality.
Again, we thank you for the opportunity, and we look forward to your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the presenters today.
I have a few questions. The first one is for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. I listened with real interest when you talked about the issue of housing and how it affected employers. You pointed to domestic abuse as something that has resulted from poor housing.
I just sat on a committee that reviewed the issue of suicide in aboriginal communities across the country, and the numbers that we found and the despair that people are exposed to are horrific. There are many issues that are causing the despair among our youth, but housing was pointed to as one that was fixable.
It was mentioned many times that if we could fix the issue of housing, which has worsened over the years, we'd solve 50% of the social issues that are challenging us. Housing is a factor in domestic abuse, but in our aboriginal communities it's also a real factor in sexual abuse. It's also a factor when it comes to suicide. It limits our people being able to hang onto gainful employment. Students have a hard time studying, and it causes lower grades.
I'm assuming you have some research you could share with us.
Mr. Chair, maybe she could provide that to us.
My next question is for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I represent the Northwest Territories. Almost all our communities are aboriginal. We really have a challenge, because the way we live has changed. Many things are causing that, and our culture is being diluted. A lot of our elders say that our youth have to live in two cultures now: they have to have a foot in both worlds. Some of the elders of the Tlicho Nation say that you have to be strong like two people, because you have to be able to know how to hunt, fish, berry pick, trap, and all these traditional pursuits that we've done historically, but at the same time you have to have a full-time job to look after your family.
We were quite happy to see the flexibility in the labour code changes. We know there was a lot of work done with indigenous governments and people in terms of consultation. I wonder why you're making a recommendation not to go ahead. Have you talked to indigenous people? Have you gone out and consulted with indigenous governments, first nations, Métis, and Inuit? There was a lot of work done on this, and I'm not sure where you're getting your direction from. I'm assuming....
I'll let you answer that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. With your permission, I would like to thank the witnesses who are now leaving us.
Thank you for coming.
Mr. Chair, thank you for setting time aside for us to discuss the motion that I gave notice of last Tuesday. It is very appropriate, given what is in the news these days. I am going to read it again, so that we are fully aware of what we will be deciding on today.
That, given ongoing media revelations that could implicate some Canadians in aggressive tax avoidance or tax evasion, the Committee invite Stephen Bronfman, Revenue Chair for the Liberal Party of Canada; and Leo Kolber, former Senator and former chief fundraiser for the Liberal Party of Canada, to appear before the Standing Committee on Finance before November 30, 2017, to answer questions relating to their offshore assets in jurisdictions that are considered to be tax havens.
The goal of this motion is quite simple. I quickly explained it on Tuesday when I submitted the notice of motion.
The intent is to enlighten the committee on the tax strategies that have been used by these two individuals. The goal is not to put them on trial here, or to determine whether it is legal or illegal, but rather to have the facts and the strategy explained to us.
Of course, all Canadians whose have seen that information were shocked to learn that some strategies, like the ones these two individuals have used, foreign trusts, allow them to hide some of their wealth and their assets and to make profits from those assets. The investments bear fruit and are invested in all kinds of places around the planet, while the assets generate income in foreign countries with tax rates that are practically nonexistent.
It would let us hear what they have to say in explaining the way in which, legally, in their view, they can move their assets abroad to generate income tax free. The ultimate goal is to find out about their strategy. That would then allow the committee to address the shortcomings in the Income Tax Act, as well as the fundamental problem: that these individuals can use strategies of this kind and avoid paying their fair share in our society.
The individuals benefit from our health care system. I do not know Mr. Bronfman or Mr. Kerber personally, but I would not be surprised to learn that they have been to hospitals in Canada at one time or another. They benefit from our health care system. As they are in Canada, they travel on our roads and highways and they use our infrastructures. But they pay little or no tax. So they get along fine by taking advantage of our society and of the services that our government provides.
Our governments are having difficulty providing quality services to Canadians because of a tax system that is quickly eroding. That does not come from me. A lot of work is being done internationally on the issue of the eroding tax base and the transference of profits to foreign countries. For the committee then, this is an opportunity to learn more about it. This study has no set end date, but I would like them to appear before November 30. However, the motion does not set a deadline. In my opinion, the deadline is when we find possible solutions that will put the situation right.
I feel that Canadians would be happy to see the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance tackle this situation, which is very much in the news. Above all, they would be happy to see the committee identify solutions that would put an end to these scandals, which pop up from time to time in Canadian news, and even international news.
So I hope I will get the support of my colleagues so that we can respond to a concern shared by Canadians, including the constituents of my colleagues. To do so, I hope that I can count on the support of all my friends around the table, so that solutions can be found.
That's the reason. You asked the question of me, and I'm answering that question. I move:
That, given ongoing media revelations that could implicate some Canadians in aggressive tax avoidance or tax evasion, the Committee invite Stephen Bronfman, Revenue Chair for the Liberal Party of Canada; and Leo Kolber, former Senator and former chief fundraiser for the Liberal Part of Canada, to appear before the Standing Committee on Finance
—here's where the difference comes in—
before November 25, 2017, to answer questions relating to their offshore assets in jurisdictions that are considered to be tax havens.
Mr. Chair, I understand if members want to shut down this debate, as they did the last one. I would just seek the opportunity to state very briefly why I think it's important.
In the public interest, related to the finance committee, the government claims it's in favour of tax fairness, yet it is favouring well-connected and wealthy insiders, allowing them to avoid paying their fair share of taxes while raising the tax burden on everyday Canadians. The fact that the government is fighting so furiously to keep this debate from happening, to shut it down before anyone can speak, demonstrates that it doesn't don't want any transparency in this particular area. The government members have not even given a single piece of rationale as to why they wouldn't want to have the debate if their party and their government have nothing to hide on the subject.
They said tax fairness was their number one priority. Then Mr. Dusseault put forward a motion that would allow them to prove it. I know the problem they had was with November 30, as opposed to November 25, which I put forward as a date.
Because it's such a priority of the government, maybe we should move the date forward rather than moving it to the 30th. Maybe the members across the way were so anxious to get started with this examination that they couldn't wait until November 30, so I'm giving them an alternative.