FINA Committee Report
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In launching its pre-budget consultations in advance of the 2017 federal budget, the Committee posed the following question: What federal measures would help Canadians generally – and such specific groups as the unemployed, Indigenous peoples, those with a disability and seniors – maximize, in the manner of their choosing, their contributions to the country’s economic growth?
In responding to this question, the Committee’s witnesses focused on health, education, employment, personal taxation, and additional proposals in support of specific groups.
In commenting on health issues, the Committee’s witnesses highlighted health care financing and research, medicines and other health products, health care locations and support for caregivers, mental health, healthy living and particular medical conditions.
Selected Health-Related Federal Tax Measures
The Province of Prince Edward Island informed the Committee about the need for the government to take action on health care funding, and the Canadian Labour Congress proposed that the government commit to long-term health funding. The Quebec Employers Council believed that, in cooperation with the provinces, the government should consider changes to health transfers and the Canada Health Act.
The Canadian Labour Congress said that the government should enforce the Canada Health Act and its five fundamental principles. Similarly, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, a new Health Accord should contain measures that would ensure stronger enforcement of the Canada Health Act and national standards for health care; as well, all additional health care programs under this new Accord should receive government funding. The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour and the Canadian Cancer Society also requested a new Health Accord.
In focusing on Canada Health Transfer amounts, the Canadian Nurses Association said that an accountability framework should be included in federal-provincial/territorial health agreements that would enable monitoring of the ways in which health funding is used. Furthermore, the Canadian Medical Association identified a need for increased annual funding through Canada Health Transfer “demographic top-ups” to support an aging population.
The Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting proposed that the government work with the provinces/territories to develop a national approach to informing Canadians about long-term planning for health care expenses, and to create a more cohesive approach to determining subsidized access to long-term care services.
The Canadian Cancer Society stated that the government should consider continuous investments in health research, and the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario highlighted the potential for growth in vaccine and isotope research through funding.
The Canadian Association of Radiologists suggested that the government provide financial support for diagnostic imaging equipment and the clinical decision support system for diagnostic imaging.
The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation requested funding to develop and implement its Canadian stem cell strategy, and asked that additional funding be provided following a successful review of the strategy.
In mentioning Canadian prescription drug prices to the Committee, the Alberta Federation of Labour, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism and the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour requested the creation of a publicly funded drug plan that would ensure universal access to prescription drugs. As a step towards such a plan, the Canadian Medical Association suggested that the government create a funding program for catastrophic coverage of prescription drugs. Similarly, the C.D. Howe Institute called for the establishment of a grant for families for whom prescription drug expenditures represent more than a certain percentage of their income.
VIDO-InterVac asked the government to support the installation, at its facility, of a human and animal vaccine manufacturing unit that would be compliant with Health Canada’s Good Manufacturing Practices for drug production. As well, it stated that the government should provide operating funds for overhead costs and salary expenses for emerging infectious disease researchers.
Consumer Health Products Canada called for prescription drugs and medically necessary qualifying consumer health products, including over-the-counter and natural health products, to be taxed similarly; that said, like the Canadian Health Food Association, it highlighted a need for preferential tax treatment for natural health products. Furthermore, Consumer Health Products Canada said that the medical expense tax credit should not exclude therapeutic health products that contain ingredients that have been switched from “prescription” to “non-prescription” status, or that have a prescription counterpart. It suggested that these therapeutic health products be exempt from the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax. As well, it asked the government to address overlapping and inefficient federal and provincial regulations pertaining to the switch in product status from “prescription” to “non-prescription.”
With a focus on health care locations, the Committee was informed by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Oxfam Canada, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Medical Association and the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism about the need for more support for equal delivery of – and access to – home care, community care and palliative care across Canada, especially for seniors. The National Pensioners Federation, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Cancer Society and Pallium Canada encouraged the government to support palliative and home care innovation through targeted funds and strategies, such as Pallium Canada’s proposed capacity-building fund.
The Information Technology Association of Canada called for government funding for telehealth services in Canada’s rural and remote communities.
The Canadian Nurses Association advocated support for caregivers through a pan-Canadian caregiver strategy and for government consultations. It also called for tax measures that would protect caregivers’ incomes while providing supports and guarantees for workplace leave protection. Similarly, the Canadian Medical Association said that the government should consider making the caregiver amount and the family caregiver amount refundable.
In speaking to the Committee about mental health, the Canadian Mental Health Association urged the government to introduce a mental health parity act that would reinforce the equal value that it believes should be given to mental health and to physical health.
To improve mental health care delivery and understand mental health better, the Canadian Mental Health Association suggested that the government collaborate with the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association to collect data on mental health services and their delivery.
The Canadian Mental Health Association advocated the appointment of an expert advisory panel on mental health.
Regarding mental health care funding, the Canadian Union of Public Employees proposed that the government work with the provinces to create a national mental health strategy that includes additional funding for mental health in a new Health Accord. The Canadian Mental Health Association said that the government should consider increased social spending and funding for mental health, and should ensure that transfers to the provinces for mental health are used specifically for mental health care.
To improve mental health research and innovation, the Mood Disorder Society of Canada, the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia suggested that the government support the international cluster for science and digital innovation in the field of mental health and wellness that is known as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Digital Hub. The Canadian Mental Health Association and the Canadian Association of Social Workers advocated the creation of a mental health innovation and transition fund to finance sustainable change and projects related to mental health.
The University of Regina highlighted the importance of funding a hub for post-traumatic stress disorder treatment at that institution.
In relation to measures and strategies that the Committee was told would lead Canadians to be healthier, the Canadian Union of Public Employees said that a new Health Accord should focus on prevention and healthy living, to be achieved through expanded community and primary health care centres. The Sport Matters Group proposed that, to achieve healthy lifestyles for all Canadians, the federal and provincial/territorial governments establish a coordinated national physical activity plan.
The Canadian Nurses Association urged the creation of a national commission for integrated health care that would address the social determinants of health.
The Canadian Association of Social Workers encouraged the government to adopt a social care act that would help to direct the Canada Social Transfer and other social spending. In its view, this proposed act should have principles that are similar to the Canada Health Act.
In highlighting the health crisis among Canada’s Indigenous peoples, the Heart and Stroke Foundation identified the need to improve access to clean drinking water and nutritious food. As well, it requested that the government support cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator training for Indigenous youth.
Moreover, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada suggested that the government create an excise tax to be applied on sugary drinks, with the resulting revenue used to fund healthy food and greenhouse gardening initiatives in Indigenous communities. However, the Canadian Beverage Association stated that policies, regulations and taxation in relation to the food and beverage sector should be principle- and science-based, and it proposed that the government refrain from creating a tax targeted at sugary beverages. Furthermore, the Canadian Beverage Association said that the requirement for front-of-package labelling of non-caloric sweeteners should be removed.
The Canadian Convenience Stores Association thought that the government should develop tax incentives, grants or rebate programs to enable convenience stores to provide healthier options, especially in under-serviced communities.
Regarding tobacco, the Canadian Convenience Stores Association urged the government to reconsider the implementation of plain-packaging requirements, and to work with retailers to identify alternative solutions to plain packaging. It also pointed out the need for regulations regarding the sale of electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine. The Canadian Cancer Society asked for greater support for Canada’s Federal Tobacco Control Strategy.
The Sport Matters Group requested support for Canada’s high-performance able-bodied and parasport through continued and greater funding for the Athletes’ Assistance Program.
In making comments to the Committee about particular medical conditions, the Rick Hansen Institute advocated for more government funding for three purposes related to spinal cord injuries: to improve understanding of the biology and physiology of such injuries; to develop therapies in relation to these injuries; and to enhance evidence-based care for Canadians who have this type of injury.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada highlighted five research areas regarding the heart and strokes that it feels require government funding: heart failure; Indigenous heart health and strokes; early indicators of heart disease; good nutrition as a means of preventing heart disease; and stroke and dementia.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada urged the creation of a Canadian Alzheimer’s disease and dementia partnership that would focus on the following areas: research on dementia and Alzheimer’s; the development of evidence-based standards in preventing and managing Alzheimer’s; activities designed to raise awareness regarding Alzheimer’s; the implementation of a surveillance system for policy, planning and prevention in relation to Alzheimer’s; the development of financial incentives for those who provide informal care to individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia; support for the dementia-related workforce, including physicians and professional care providers; efforts to prevent and identify, as early as possible, dementia and Alzheimer’s; and measures to involve First Nations, Inuit and Métis people with dementia in all aspects of the proposed partnership.
Recognizing that Canadians are better able to contribute to their family, workplace and community when they are healthy, the Committee recommends:
That the Government of Canada, in negotiating a new Health Care Accord, ensure that the accord honours the principles of the Canada Health Act, and includes an accountability framework. The accord’s areas of focus should include:
That the Government of Canada participate in the creation of a national Alzheimer’s disease and dementia partnership to support the implementation of a comprehensive and integrated national dementia strategy.
A number of the Committee’s witnesses commented on education and skills training. In doing so, they mentioned the following: work-integrated learning; literacy, numeracy and digital skills; and financial support for students and educational institutions.
Educational Attainment, Canada, 2015
Note: The total number of persons represented in the figure is 29,279,800, which is the number of individuals aged 15 years and older at the time of the survey.
Source: Figure prepared using data obtained from: Statistics Canada, Table 282-0004, “Labour force survey estimates (LFS), by educational attainment, sex and age group, annual,” CANSIM (database), accessed 13 November 2016.
The Committee was told about work-integrated learning, including apprenticeships and internships. For example, Polytechnics Canada said that the government should launch a pilot project to connect apprentices to employers, and fund a centre of excellence for vocational training. The Canadian Construction Association asked the government to provide leadership in harmonizing provincial/territorial apprenticeship training programs, and proposed that existing funds – such as Employment Insurance-funded training programs – could be used to finance part of the cost of employing apprentices. Colleges and Institutes Canada and Universities Canada advocated greater financing for students’ international mobility and experiential learning, the latter of which was also supported by the Information Technology Association of Canada, the National Farmers Union, and the City of Fredericton and Ignite Fredericton.
Polytechnics Canada and Colleges and Institutes Canada identified a need to support internship opportunities for students, with Polytechnics Canada also indicating that undergraduate students should be matched with businesses and not-for-profit organizations that provide work experiences related to innovation and applied research. According to Universities Canada, vouchers or tax credits could provide the private and not-for-profit sectors with an incentive to offer more paid internships and co-op placements. Similarly, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and General Motors of Canada Limited suggested that incentives would induce employers to hire more post-secondary students during their studies, thereby encouraging work-integrated learning.
Restaurants Canada called for greater support for tourism-specific training programs.
The City of Fredericton and Ignite Fredericton requested that the knowledge economy be integrated into educational curricula.
With a focus on literacy, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Union of Public Employees informed the Committee that the government should restore funding for the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills. The P.E.I. Literacy Alliance, the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick and Literacy Nova Scotia advocated increased funding to maintain and improve literacy and essential skills training services, while the Canada West Foundation noted a need to support literacy skills development for adults with disabilities, immigrants and Indigenous peoples.
According to the C.D. Howe Institute, the government should improve the understanding of Canadian students’ literacy and numeracy levels, as well as their needs, through funding to the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program and the Programme for International Student Assessment. It also suggested that Indigenous on-reserve schools that offer these assessment programs be provided with a “bonus” in order to ensure that Indigenous students benefit from the achievement evaluations.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees and Colleges and Institutes Canada highlighted a need to integrate literacy and essential skills training into college and pre-apprenticeship training programs, with Colleges and Institutes Canada suggesting that this integration could be achieved through a partnership among colleges, institutes and employers. The Vancouver Community College Faculty Association commented on a particular college-level English language literacy program, and asked the government to consider reversing recent funding reductions in relation to this program.
Opportunities NB and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada requested more support for improving financial literacy for Canadians generally and entrepreneurs specifically. The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada also asked the government to meet the goals outlined in the National Strategy for Financial Literacy, and to provide more funding to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
Regarding digital literacy and skills, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce called for the Youth Employment Strategy to incorporate digital skills training. Similarly, Ladies Learning Code supported coding training for young women, and requested funding to expand its organization and services. The Information Technology Association of Canada urged funding for CareerMash in order to prepare high school students for jobs in the technology sector.
The Committee was told about financial supports for students, with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce highlighting a need to increase support for youth and recent graduates. The Canadian Federation of Students said that post-secondary tuition fees and loan-based financial assistance could be eliminated through provincial/territorial transfers and an equal federal-provincial/territorial cost-sharing model. The National Farmers Union suggested that the government examine the United States’ program that eliminates student debt for those who work in the public service after graduating, with the agriculture sector participating in any similar program that might be introduced in Canada.
Regarding student grants and scholarships, the Canadian Federation of Students mentioned that the Canada Student Grants program should be expanded to include graduate studies, and urged the government to increase the annual amount allocated to the Canada Graduate Students Scholarship program. To improve post-secondary students’ entrepreneurial skills, Polytechnics Canada suggested the creation of a grant to fund their participation in a mentorship program with small-scale entrepreneurs.
In commenting on education-related tax measures, the Canadian Union of Public Employees stated that the government should ensure that students are not required to pay tuition fees, with such a change funded through the elimination of education-related tax credits. The C.D. Howe Institute proposed that the education amount and the textbook amount be changed into refundable benefits that would be paid to a student immediately after his/her taxes are filed.
The Canadian Construction Association urged the government to increase the annual value of the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit, and to expand the credit’s eligibility criteria to include all provincially recognized apprenticeship programs.
The Canadian Association of Physicists asked that more funding from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada be allocated to merit-based post-graduate and post-doctoral fellowship programs. Polytechnics Canada requested financial support to expand the research talent programs at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in order to increase the participation of college and polytechnic students.
Believing that education and skills training must be the most important federal priority in order to support economic growth, the Committee recommends:
That to meet the demands of an increasingly knowledge-based economy, the Government of Canada increase funding to organizations and initiatives that deliver literacy and essential skills programs and services.
That the Government of Canada work with the provinces/territories, trade unions and post-secondary institutions to develop and/or expand pre-apprenticeship training programs.
That the Government of Canada work with the provinces/territories to launch a pilot program that identifies and establishes regional or sectoral consortia of firms that connect apprentices to employers.
That the Government of Canada increase funding to initiatives aimed at filling Canada’s information and communications technology skills gap through programming in digital skills and coding education. In particular, these initiatives should be targeted to those working to engage diverse communities and to improve the representation of women in technology.
That in relation to the federal portion of any loan, the Government of Canada establish a six-month, interest-free grace period for those accessing the Canada Student Loans Program.
The Committee’s witnesses mentioned a range of employment-related issues from the perspective of individuals. In particular, they commented on the following: the Employment Insurance program and the Canada Pension Plan; labour market information, integration, participation and mobility; and the Labour Market Development Agreements and Canada Job Fund agreements.
Unemployment Rate, Canada, by Region, 2015 (%)
Note: The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed persons expressed as a percentage of the labour force. The employment rate (formerly the employment/population ratio) is the number of persons employed expressed as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and older.
Source: Figure prepared using data obtained from: Statistics Canada, Table 282-0123, “Labour force survey estimates (LFS), by provinces, territories and economic regions based on 2011 Census boundaries,” CANSIM (database), accessed 9 September 2016.
Regarding the Employment Insurance program, the Committee was told by the Good Jobs for All Coalition and the Inter-Provincial EI Working Group about the need for a review of the program. More specifically, the Union des Producteurs Agricoles, Unifor, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Inter-Provincial EI Working Group and the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour said that the government should expand access to – and benefits provided under – the program. The Canadian Labour Congress suggested that the government review the valid job separation eligibility requirement under the program in order to protect claimants’ benefits if they accept employment and subsequently leave their job because it is “not a good fit.” The Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Canadian Labour Congress urged greater support for claimants who reside in regions of high seasonal unemployment, while the Good Jobs for All Coalition indicated that the government should lower the eligibility criteria for new claimants. The PEI Coalition for Fair EI said that Employment Insurance contribution rate reductions should end.
The PEI Coalition for Fair EI said that measures should exist to ensure that funds from Employment Insurance contributions are used solely for Employment Insurance program payments, while the Inter-Provincial EI Working Group indicated that contributions should be paid into an account that is independent from the Consolidated Revenue Fund; in addition to employees and employers, the government should contribute to this independent account. The Regina and District Chamber of Commerce called for the Employment Insurance program to become a pure unemployment insurance program.
A more universal approach in the Employment Insurance program was advocated, with the Alberta Federation of Labour and the C.D. Howe Institute asking for the elimination of regional differences in entrance requirements and benefit periods, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Canadian Labour Congress supporting a universal qualifying period.
The Cooper Institute, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour and the PEI Coalition for Fair EI said that the government should reverse the 2012 changes that were made to the Employment Insurance program. In relation to Prince Edward Island, the PEI Coalition for Fair EI said that the government should do the following: revert to one economic region; restore the 14-week pilot project; eliminate the seasonal class of workers; re-establish local processing centres; restore the three-party juror system; and require parliamentary approval for changes to the program. Likewise, the Canadian Labour Congress requested that the government reverse the 2014 decision to create new economic regions in Prince Edward Island and in Canada’s three territories.
In commenting on the Employment Insurance program’s sickness benefit, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Labour Congress supported a longer time period for receipt of the benefit, and the Canadian Labour Congress also called for a lowering of the rate at which the benefit is reduced as a claimant earns income. The National Pensioners Federation urged the government to implement its promise to remove the requirement for a terminal diagnosis prior to qualifying for the compassionate leave benefit under the Employment Insurance program, and it also said that the government should allow greater flexibility in the manner in which this benefit can be used.
Regarding Employment Insurance program–related training, the Inter-Provincial EI Working Group supported an Employment Insurance training benefit. The Good Jobs for All Coalition highlighted the need to direct Employment Insurance training funds to upgrading workers’ skills, especially when employees are replaced by technology. Unifor suggested that surplus Employment Insurance funds be used to expand access to training programs for those receiving benefits, with a focus on developing the skills required for “the green economy.” According to the Canadian Labour Congress, the Employment Insurance Part I benefit should be extended to cover the full duration of Labour Market Development Agreement training programs.
As well, the Canadian Labour Congress mentioned a need to ensure that workers receive timely advice from Service Canada about – and thereby are able to choose between – the current and previous versions of the Working While on Claim pilot project.
Regarding the Social Security Tribunal, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour urged a review, while the Community Unemployed Help Centre indicated that the Tribunal should report to Parliament.
In commenting on retirement savings and the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Employers Council indicated that the government should encourage Canadians to work longer, and educate the Canadian population about various retirement savings options. The C.D. Howe Institute said that the government should recognize longer life expectancies by increasing the age beyond which contributions to tax-deferred retirement savings vehicles can no longer be made.
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters thought that the government should not implement mandatory Canada Pension Plan contribution rate increases, while the National Pensioners Federation believed that the government should reduce poverty rates among seniors – especially senior women – through expanding the Canada Pension Plan.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees identified the need for a preventative leave program for pregnant women doing hazardous jobs, with this measure funded through workers’ compensation plans.
In informing the Committee about labour market information, Economic Development Winnipeg Inc., the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, the Regroupement québécois des organismes pour le développement de l'employabilité, the Conference Board of Canada, Restaurants Canada and the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce said that improved information is needed. The C.D. Howe Institute highlighted a need to fund the proposed labour market information council and to create a national stakeholder advisory panel on labour market information, while the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce advocated greater communication with businesses in order to understand their labour needs. According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, a national labour market strategy should be implemented, with the goal of creating a tripartite labour market council.
With a focus on labour market integration and the participation of certain groups, the City of Fredericton and Ignite Fredericton highlighted the need to implement policies that would enable international students to work and to have an expedited path to citizenship. The Conference Board of Canada said that older workers should be provided with incentives to remain attached to the labour market for a longer period of time.
The Conference Board of Canada also stated that the government should support displaced and vulnerable workers, including unemployed individuals and temporary workers, and Supporting Employment & Economic Development Winnipeg Inc. advocated support for the training of employees who are transitioning from unemployment to employment and who are facing barriers to workplace participation. Restaurants Canada proposed financial incentives to encourage businesses to hire individuals from under-employed groups.
According to the Community Unemployed Help Centre, the government should support unemployed workers who belong to a minority group and are ineligible for Employment Insurance benefits, and help them to participate fully in the economy. The Regroupement québécois des organismes pour le développement de l'employabilité highlighted the need to ensure that all vulnerable individuals have access to employability and career development services, and called for the creation of a pan-Canadian career development framework that would allow provinces/territories to implement the measures that they deem appropriate. The Good Jobs for All Coalition urged the government to use community benefits agreements as a model for securing jobs for those who are vulnerable.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees suggested that the government extend collective bargaining rights, increase social protections, and ensure minimum wages that could be characterized as decent, living and fair. Oxfam Canada asked the government to address what it described as the unequal economics of women’s work.
Regarding childcare, which can facilitate the labour market participation of parents, the Alberta Federation of Labour, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, the Childcare Research and Resource Unit, Unifor, the Good Jobs for All Coalition, the St. John’s Status of Women Council, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees advocated a childcare and early childhood education system that is national, publicly funded and adequately supported. According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, this system should include proper training and wages for childcare workers.
The Childcare Research and Resource Unit and the Canadian Labour Congress stated that, in developing policies related to early childhood education and care, the government should work with the other levels of government, Indigenous communities, researchers, educators and service providers. Oxfam Canada, the Conference Board of Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress requested increased funds for childcare and early childhood education.
As well, the Childcare Research and Resource Unit asked for increased financial support for applied research, capacity building and advocacy to enhance the participation of – and contributions by – childcare and other civil society organizations.
In highlighting individuals’ labour mobility challenges, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers indicated that tax incentives to encourage inter-provincial mobility of temporary workers should be enhanced, and Canada’s Building Trades Union asked the government to introduce a labour mobility tax credit that would allow mobile workers to deduct the costs they incur when relocating for employment reasons. Restaurants Canada suggested that Employment Insurance claimants be eligible for labour mobility and transportation allowances, while the Canadian Construction Association requested that the Employment Insurance program be changed in order to permit unemployed construction workers to obtain an advance on approved benefits under the program. According to Canada’s Building Trades Union, the government should introduce an Employment Insurance travel voucher, in the form of an advance on future benefits, to compensate for Employment Insurance claimants’ relocation costs.
Regarding labour mobility, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers called for credential recognition to be improved in order to facilitate the ability of workers trained in one province to work in another province. It also requested that apprenticeship training be more transferable between provinces.
The Committee was told about Labour Market Development Agreements. For example, the Canadian Labour Congress said that the government should fulfill its funding commitments in relation to these agreements. As well, it indicated that eligibility for accessing programs provided under these agreements should be expanded to include young workers, women and immigrants, all of whom may make Employment Insurance contributions but lack sufficient hours to qualify for benefits. It also suggested that a portion of new Labour Market Development Agreement funding be directed to the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities and the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities proposed that support for people with disabilities in the workforce be prioritized, and requested increased funding for Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities.
The Canadian Labour Congress encouraged the government to fulfill its funding commitments in relation to the Canada Job Fund Agreements. The Canadian Labour Congress highlighted that the government should ensure that new funds for these agreements remain dedicated to supporting the original policy objectives of the predecessor Labour Market Agreements: encouraging participation in the labour market for under-represented groups. For example, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour said that immigrant retention should be encouraged. To create additional labour market opportunities for those facing specific employment challenges, the Canadian Construction Association indicated that the Canada Job Grant program should be expanded. The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities proposed that the Canada–Saskatchewan Job Grant program be available to municipal employees, and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities urged the government to reconsider the exclusion of certain municipalities from the Canada–Manitoba Job Grant program.
Feeling that Canadians need to be supported as they pursue employment, the Committee recommends:
That the Government of Canada review all federal spending on skills training and labour market development, whether cost-shared with the provinces/territories or otherwise, in order to determine the relevance and responsiveness of this spending to labour market needs across the country. This review should consider the priority that should be given to the following:
On the topic of personal taxes, the Committee’s witnesses highlighted the following: personal income tax rates, credits and deductions, and capital gains taxation; and retirement savings.
Personal Income Tax Brackets and Rates, 1987–2016
Source: Figure prepared using data obtained from: Canada Revenue Agency,Tax packages for all years.
In relation to personal taxation, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada told the Committee that the government should monitor the effects of the new top 33% federal personal income tax rate, while the C.D. Howe Institute indicated that the recently introduced tax bracket and rate for high-income earners should be repealed. Oxfam Canada suggested that the government repeal the recent personal income tax rate reduction for individuals in the second tax bracket in order to finance additional social supports. According to the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, personal income tax rates should remain low.
The Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick suggested that, because most individuals with an annual income of $25,000 spend nearly all of that income on living expenses, the basic personal amount be increased.
Regarding the stock option deduction, the Association of Canadian Financial Officers stated that the deduction should be eliminated. It also said that eliminating this deduction on income that exceeds $100,000 would be a suitable alternative to total elimination.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees asked the government to review individuals’ use of the small business deduction to reduce their personal income tax, and – perhaps – to eliminate this use.
In relation to capital gains taxation, the Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick urged an increase in the capital gains exemption, while Donald Johnson – who appeared as an individual – proposed that capital gains on the sale of private shares or real estate to an arms’-length party be exempt from taxation, provided that the proceeds are donated to a registered charity within 30 days of the sale. The Canadian Union of Public Employees advocated a review, and potential elimination, of the capital gains deduction.
The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada said that government should rely more on consumption tax, and less on income tax, to raise revenue. Oxfam Canada suggested that amounts paid in value-added taxes be offset through other tax measures.
With a focus on retirement savings, the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce told the Committee that the government should consider allowing individuals to choose between increasing their contributions to the Canada Pension Plan or to locked-in registered retirement savings plans.
The C.D. Howe Institute made several proposals regarding retirement planning and financing. For example, it asked the government to introduce measures to limit the pension plan contributions that it makes as an employer. As well, it indicated that the government should remove federal payroll taxes from employers’ contributions to group registered retirement savings plans, and allow sponsors of and/or participants in these plans to deduct administrative expenses for taxation purposes.
The Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting requested that one of the following two options be implemented: permit long-term care insurance to be a qualified investment for purposes of a registered retirement savings plan or a registered retirement investment fund; or permit tax-free withdrawals of a certain annual amount from a registered retirement savings plan or a registered retirement income fund in order to finance the purchase of qualifying long-term care insurance.
The C.D. Howe Institute called for consultations about changes to – or the elimination of – minimum withdrawals from registered retirement income funds in order to ensure that Canadians do not outlive their savings.
As well, the C.D. Howe Institute thought that such tax provisions as the pension income amount and pension income splitting should be made available to all taxpayers, regardless of age and type of pension income.
Believing that some Canadians should receive particular consideration in relation to personal tax matters, the Committee recommends:
That the Government of Canada review the effectiveness of the disability tax credit and consider making it refundable.
That the Government of Canada either expand the Canada Revenue Agency’s interpretation of the Income Tax Act, or amend section 118.3 of the Income Tax Act, to include all activities related to insulin administration in the disability tax credit’s eligibility criteria.
That the Government of Canada ensure that the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program operates throughout the year and assists individuals in determining their eligibility for benefits.
The Committee’s witnesses made proposals that were focused on specific groups, including seniors, persons with a disability, Indigenous peoples, those with limited means, veterans, immigrants and refugees, francophones, Hutterites and those who reside in other countries.
Selected Federal Measures for Specific Groups of Canadians
The Committee was told about a number of issues related to Canada’s seniors with – for example – the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism requesting increased funding in order to improve seniors’ access to community services.
The National Pensioners Federation and the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism advocated an increase in Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits, while the C.D. Howe Institute supported an increase in the latter benefit when there is a federal budgetary surplus. The Canadian Labour Congress proposed a review of the reductions in the Guaranteed Income Supplement benefit that occur when recipients have income from certain other sources.
The Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism urged expansion of the Canada Pension Plan.
The National Pensioners Federation said that the government should implement the promised seniors’ index, and indicated that it should be tied to wages, rather than to prices. However, the C.D. Howe Institute suggested that such an index not be created.
According to the National Pensioners Federation, the government should establish an expert panel to examine the issues of income inequality and a guaranteed minimum income for seniors.
The C.D. Howe Institute stated that clear rules regarding single-employer target benefit pension plans should be adopted.
With a focus on financial support for people with disabilities, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities informed the Committee that the government should consider establishing a basic income program for these individuals, and – through Employment and Social Development Canada’s Social Development Partnership Program-Disability component – expand funding for targeted initiatives and disability advocacy organizations. As well, it requested greater financial support for the Opportunities Fund, and it highlighted a need for targeted measures to increase employer confidence and the participation of people with disabilities in the workforce. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities also called for more support for small and medium-sized businesses to create accessible workplaces.
As well, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities identified a number of actions that the government should take in relation to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention; develop a strategy for Canada to implement the Convention; and identify the Canadian Human Rights Commission as the body responsible for monitoring Canada’s compliance with the Convention.
The Association of Manitoba Municipalities said that creating an accessible environment is important in fully supporting people with disabilities, and asked for support and guidance for provincial governments in implementing nationally consistent accessibility models.
In advocating increased accessibility and inclusion in Canada, the Rick Hansen Foundation requested funding for the Foundation’s accessibility innovation strategy and urged support to change attitudes about people with disabilities through the expansion of several awareness-driven initiatives. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities highlighted the need for increased funding for accessible transportation, and suggested that American Sign Language/Quebec Sign Language be recognized as an official language.
In commenting on services and caregivers for people with disabilities, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities said that the government should implement measures to meet disability-related needs, such as increased community and health care services, as well as caregiver needs, such as adequate rest times. It specifically mentioned the need to ensure accessible health care for people with disabilities who reside on reserves, or in rural or remote regions.
Regarding disability-related tax measures, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities suggested that the government make the disability tax credit refundable, and expand the child disability benefit for moderate-income families with children older than age 18 who have severe and prolonged impairments. As well, it indicated that the eligibility rules for the disability tax credit and receipt of disability benefits under the Canada Pension Plan should be harmonized so that individuals receiving the latter would automatically qualify for the former. It also proposed an increase in the amount received by eligible recipients of the working income tax benefit’s disability supplement through the following: decreasing the earnings threshold at which the supplement applies; reducing the rate at which the supplement is phased out as recipients earn income; and/or increasing the amount of the supplement. The Canadian Labour Congress also stated that the disability tax credit should be made refundable, and said that the credit’s value should be increased.
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities proposed that, because people with disabilities are a particularly vulnerable population, the government should ensure strict implementation of the safeguards specified in the recently enacted legislation that addresses medical assistance in dying.
The Committee was told about various issues related to Canada’s Indigenous peoples. For example, the Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Finance Authority, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Oxfam Canada, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Association of Canadian Financial Officers, the Canadian Association of Social Workers and the Saskatchewan Mining Association identified a need to increase support to Indigenous communities, governments and peoples through physical or social infrastructure, resource development, organization-specific and core program financing, child-specific services and access to education.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers stated that the financing gap that exists in relation to First Nations education should be addressed. Colleges and Institutes Canada highlighted the same need, and specifically advocated increased funds for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program and for non-repayable student financial assistance for Indigenous peoples pursuing post-secondary education. It also said that funds should be allocated to reconciliation programs at post-secondary institutions.
The Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Universities Canada, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, the Saskatchewan Mining Association and the Canadian Federation of Students advocated greater support for Indigenous students, while the C.D. Howe Institute urged the government to improve the educational attainment levels of First Nations youth.
Colleges and Institutes Canada suggested that the Northern Adult Basic Education program be expanded to colleges and institutes serving other northern, rural and remote communities.
The Opaskwayak Cree Nation requested funding for intellectual disability testing among members of its community.
Dechinta Bush University asked the government to provide it with a grant so that it could complete the process of becoming an accredited university, thereby ensuring long-term post-secondary education for northern Indigenous students.
Gabriel Housing Corporation and the Opaskwayak Cree Nation advocated funding for Indigenous employment training and skills development programs delivered through their organizations, while the Assembly of First Nations urged increased support for the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy and for the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Program. The Opaskwayak Cree Nation said that the criteria for accessing social support programs should be less restrictive, especially for individuals who leave the reserve to pursue training programs that are less than two years in duration. Western Economic Diversification – British Columbia and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers proposed joint government and business supports to provide training in Indigenous communities.
According to the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, a collaboration between First Nations and the government that involves service providers would be effective in identifying funding resources, economic opportunities and human resource development issues. As well, to reduce Indigenous unemployment, it supported an effective developmental component in all employment-related opportunities and policies.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers highlighted the importance of supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce proposed assistance for Indigenous businesses to build their capacity and to help them become financial partners in projects.
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada said that the government should make efforts to eliminate discrimination against Indigenous peoples, and it requested that – for First Nations and other Indigenous peoples – all federal programs and services respect the rights contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act. Specifically, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada proposed that all federal officials undertake mandatory training about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Similarly, it stated that all administrators and staff working on issues related to First Nations child welfare should receive training about child development, past and present policies related to First Nations children, and all relevant reviews and orders.
As well, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada requested that the government comply fully with Jordan’s Principle. It also urged the government to provide all data and information to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in relation to three cases between the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (representing the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs).
The Opaskwayak Cree Nation advocated support to develop value-added processing capabilities in relation to certain regional wild fur and fish resources.
The All Nations Hope Network proposed that the government address care, treatment and support for Indigenous peoples living with human immunodeficiency virus.
In informing the Committee about those with limited means, Supporting Employment & Economic Development Winnipeg Inc. requested that the government commit to reducing poverty rates, and to ensuring that financially vulnerable people are able to access government entitlements and benefits. Oxfam Canada proposed that the government provide greater funding to social protections and public services in order to reduce poverty, and the Canadian Association of Social Workers and the Cooper Institute suggested that the government implement an initiative that would provide a basic income guarantee.
Regarding children in low-income households, the Boys and Girls Club of Canada urged the government to implement after-school programs and to fund the Rogers Raising the Grade program.
The Committee was told about Canada’s veterans, with Veterans Canada highlighting the need to implement a range of programs to support them and their families. In particular, it mentioned a de-indoctrination program, an assertive community treatment program, an education and life enhancement program for veterans with disabilities, and a supported employment program to reintegrate veterans into the public and private sectors. It also called for funds to be allocated to military family resource centres, family psycho-education, and photo identification cards for all veterans and their families. Similarly, the Canadian Naval Association commented on the need to assist veterans and their families, and requested additional funding to ensure appropriate levels of support and care.
Veterans Canada asked the government to collaborate with veterans when programs that are specific to them are being designed. It also urged the government to implement the priorities outlined in the Minister of Veterans Affairs’ mandate letter from the Prime Minister of Canada.
To support veterans’ participation in the workforce and the economy, Veterans Canada indicated that government-funded post-secondary education should be available to all veterans, and suggested that an educational co-op placement program could assist veterans who wish to reintegrate into the workplace slowly. It also advocated assistance for employment programs, as well as start-up support for veteran-owned businesses.
In highlighting financial support for veterans, Veterans Canada commented on the need for changes to the Earnings Loss Benefit. It said that employment income should not be entirely deducted from the benefit, and it requested that the benefit reflect the salary increase that the individual would have received if he/she had been able to continue with his/her military career. As well, it asked the government to contribute to the Canadian Forces’ pension plan after a soldier’s release from military service if he/she is receiving the Earnings Loss Benefit. The Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society stated that the government should create a disability pension fund for soldiers who are returning from conflict.
In mentioning the needs of refugees, Supporting Employment & Economic Development Winnipeg Inc. informed the Committee that the government should consult with the Canadian Council for Refugees and sponsorship agreement holders about changes to the Immigration Loans Program, and fully finance transportation costs as an alternative to loans. Similarly, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance said that the interest-bearing transportation loan should be eliminated, and the Canadian Council for Refugees suggested that the government fund the cost of refugees’ transportation expenses. The Canadian Labour Congress urged new funding to support Syrian refugees who need language and essential skills training, and the Canadian Council for Refugees highlighted the need to ensure immediate access to work permits for refugees.
The City of Fredericton and Ignite Fredericton identified the need to improve the rate at which immigrants remain in New Brunswick, and to expand the immigrant partnership program. The Advisory Council on Economic Growth suggested that the government increase the number of immigrants, and ensure that the immigration process attracts foreign high-skilled labour. It also said that the government should reduce the restrictions on international students remaining in Canada after completing their education.
Supporting Employment & Economic Development Winnipeg Inc. stated that the government should collaborate with the provinces and regulatory bodies to implement policies that facilitate access to the education and training that immigrants need for requalification. The Vancouver Community College Faculty Association and the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance commented on the need to improve access to language and employment programs for immigrants. In particular, the Vancouver Community College Faculty Association identified the need to support a volunteer-led English as a second language training program that is known as Homefront Learning.
With a focus on immigrants’ integration into the Canadian workforce, Supporting Employment & Economic Development Winnipeg Inc. requested that the government support organizations in the immigrant settlement sector that are working directly with these individuals. The City of Fredericton and Ignite Fredericton suggested that new immigrants have better access to jobs and increased opportunities to purchase businesses, especially in Atlantic Canada.
The Canadian Council for Refugees stated that immigration policies should be changed to grant permanent residency to temporary foreign workers, survivors of human trafficking and international persons who cannot be removed from Canada because of a moratorium on removals to their country of origin. As well, it said that the government should commit more resources to accelerate the family reunification process for refugees, and to settlement services for both refugees and immigrants. The Cooper Institute indicated that the government should ensure that all migrant workers are eligible for permanent residency status.
The Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance proposed the implementation of an immigrant trauma support program.
The Committee was told about Canada’s francophone and Acadian populations, with the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada stating that the government should ensure the existence of funding to implement the Official Languages Action Plan for the 2018–2023 period. It also asked for an increase in funding for the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Official Languages Funding Programs.
As well, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada urged the government to ensure access to vocational training in French, and to create support measures for skills development and training provided in that language.
Regarding youth, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada indicated that the government should support francophone and Acadian youth employment through community measures, and ensure that francophone and non-francophone youth benefit equally from the Youth Employment Strategy.
Also, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada identified the need to develop a community support strategy for francophone media, specifically radio stations and newspapers providing content that is in French.
In focusing specifically on Canada’s Hutterite communities, MNP LLP informed the Committee that section 143 of the Income Tax Act should be amended to allow eligible Hutterites to claim the working income tax benefit, and to reflect the Hutterian Brethren Church’s beliefs regarding property ownership. As well, it urged the government to consider changes to section 143 so that the Hutterite Congregation would be entitled to deduct amounts deemed payable to their children in a way that is similar to non-Hutterite farmers.
The Committee was told about the need to support those in other countries, with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Oxfam Canada, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation and the Canadian Union of Public Employees highlighting a need to increase the amount of Canada’s international assistance, as well as the overall and annual Official Development Assistance budget. In particular, the goal should be a contribution of 0.7% of the country’s gross national income to that budget.
The Canadian Council for International Co-operation and the Canadian Union of Public Employees urged that a specific portion of Canada’s international aid budget be allocated to the least developed countries and fragile states. The Canadian Council for International Co-operation also suggested that Canada become one of the top three donors in several of its focus countries, and said that the government should make a commitment to annual public disclosure of international assistance amounts.
Oxfam Canada advocated the prioritization of health and education in the government’s international aid and development policies. With a focus on women, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank stated that the government should provide funding to organizations that conduct gender-based analysis in developing countries, to international women’s rights organizations and movements, and to agricultural initiatives that empower women. Oxfam Canada also indicated that the government should ensure that international aid funding includes a specific focus on advancing women’s rights, empowerment and equality.
Regarding the 2016 federal budget’s announcement about assistance to developing countries for addressing climate change, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation stated that this assistance should be in addition to Canada’s existing development cooperation budget.
Oxfam Canada urged the government to help developing countries with their efforts to strengthen governance and fight corruption, support developing countries that wish to reform their tax systems, facilitate global tax reforms that include all countries and that address issues outside the scope of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project, and assist in the domestic and international implementation of the recommendations made in the context of that project.
Recognizing that some groups of Canadians require additional supports that are specific to them, the Committee recommends:
That the Government of Canada implement a senior’s index to determine the amount by which Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits should be increased.
That the Government of Canada support the aims of the First Nations Financial Authority to improve economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples, and explore whether its funding model should be expanded nationally.
That the Government of Canada conduct an immediate review of, and undertake reforms to, the First Nations child welfare system in order to keep children with their families and strengthen communities.
That the Government of Canada ensure that federal employees receive training on the recommendations contained in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
That the Government of Canada review the Post-Secondary Student Support Program to ensure that it is as efficient as possible, and that it is resulting in the maximum amount of student success and motivation. As well, the Government should remove the 2% funding cap in an effort to address the program backlog in relation to Inuit, Métis and First Nations students.
That the Government of Canada invest in reconciliation education at post-secondary institutions that request such education.
That in building on a Nation-to-Nation relationship, the Government of Canada invest in Indigenous leadership and education programs that enable youth, elders and community members to serve as environmental stewards of lands and waters in traditional territories.
That the Government of Canada provide additional funding to the Indspire Building Brighter Futures: Bursaries, Scholarships and Awards program to support Indigenous students pursuing post-secondary education, with particular attention paid to those with the highest financial need.
That the Government of Canada fund the establishment of Indigenous-controlled universities that respect traditional knowledge and Indigenous languages, have a strong Indigenous governance structure, and demonstrate a commitment to Indigenous values.
That the Government of Canada, in partnership with a province/territory, undertake a multi-year, longitudinal study and implement a pilot project consistent with the concept of a guaranteed income.
That in relation to veterans, the Government of Canada recognize the loss of career progression in its financial benefits. The Government should ensure that those who have incurred a serious service-related illness or injury and who have had their careers end prematurely receive an income support that includes an escalating feature that accounts for this lost career opportunity.
That the Government of Canada implement a life-long benefit as an option for injured veterans. As well, the Government should ensure that injured veterans have access to financial advice and support in order to determine the form of compensation that is the most advantageous for them and their families.
That the Government of Canada create a veterans education benefit in order to help veterans re-enter the workforce and to expand Canada’s skilled labour force. This benefit should fund the full costs of up to four years of college, university or technical education for Canadian Forces veterans after they complete their service.
That the Government of Canada continue to work towards the implementation of a national post-traumatic stress disorder program for veterans, as well as other safety and security personnel under the federal jurisdiction.
That the Government of Canada invest funds to reduce wait times for processing immigration applications and work visas.
That the Government of Canada amend the Income Tax Act and the Copyright Act in order to provide for artists’ resale rights in Canada.
That the Government of Canada increase funding for the Athlete Assistance Program in order to reflect the increasing costs of living. In doing so, the number of athletes funded through the program should not be reduced.
That the Government of Canada support Canada’s cultural sector by increasing funding for the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Music Fund, and by creating a music export fund.