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Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities


NUMBER 006 
l
1st SESSION 
l
42nd PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (1550)  

[English]

     Good afternoon, everybody.
    Sorry for the delay. We had a vote in the House as well as a lovely ceremony for the outgoing clerk. If you didn't see it, take a look. It was a really inspirational moment. I thought she was going to break down. Some of us in the cheap seats were holding back some tears as well.
     I want to welcome everybody here. I know we were really popular on Monday. I did not expect to be as popular today, so I do apologize for the lack of chairs for those of you in the back. But we welcome large crowds and I understand that many of you here are giant wealths of knowledge that we hopefully will be able to tap into today. Thank you for being here.
    Just a couple of points of order and some housekeeping. We are going to carve out about 15 minutes at the end of this meeting to do some committee business. We have some things that have lingered that we want to take care in a timely fashion.
    Because I embarrassed him in the House, I'll do so again today. A giant happy birthday to Mr. Wayne Long, who is 63 today, right?
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    Without further ado, I'm going to ask the deputy minister of the Department of Employment and Social Development, Ian Shugart, to introduce the fantastic panel we have here today.
    Thank you, Mr. Shugart, for being here.
     Thank you, Chair, and members of the committee, for having us today.
    I'll start at my left and just move around the table. Tony Giles is the assistant deputy minister of policy, dispute resolution, and international affairs in the labour program in the department. Next to him is Brian Naish, who is the chief financial officer for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
    You had with you on Monday afternoon, Evan Siddall, who's the CEO and president of CMHC.
    On my left is Louise Levonian, who is the chief operating officer of Service Canada. On my right is our chief financial officer, Alain Séguin. Paul Thompson is the senior assistant deputy minister for the skills and employment branch, and Kathryn McDade is the senior assistant deputy minister for the income security and social development branch.
    We have other ADMs who I may feel at liberty to call to the table if your questioning gets into their areas of responsibility.
    We've come in such numbers, Chair, to support the committee and answer your questions as fully as we can. It's good for the committee to get to know who are the senior officials in the department and for us to get to know the committee as well.
    Would you like me to begin with some short remarks?
    Yes, fantastic, if you would.
    As you know, Chair, the 2015-16 supplementary estimates (C) were tabled on February 19 and the 2016-17 main estimates were tabled before the budget on February 23. I'm going to speak just by way of highlights to the main estimates as they pertain to the department.
    The main estimates forecast spending for 2016-17 at approximately $61.5 billion. The estimates do not include charges against the Canada pension plan or employment insurance accounts for program benefits, which are about $44 billion and $20 billion, respectively, or for operating expenditures to administer these programs, which are about $243 million and $1.2 billion, respectively. Admittedly, these are very large numbers, and you get used to that with this department in time.
    Of this, $59 billion is allocated to statutory programs. This represents an increase of about $7.3 billion over the previous year. This increase is mainly attributed to a forecasted increase of $2.4 billion for old age security pension and guaranteed income supplement payments. That, in turn, is due to the changes in the average monthly rate and an increase in the number of beneficiaries. This increase also includes an increase of $4.8 billion for the universal child care benefit as a result of the 2015 budget.
    Operating costs are forecasted at approximately $600 million, a net increase of about $45 million, mainly due to additional funding to administer the temporary foreign worker program, to implement the old age security service improvement strategy, and to address old age security workload requirements.
    Finally, an amount of approximately $1.7 billion is forecasted in grants and contributions.
    An important consideration for the committee is that many of the budget 2016 items are not accounted for in the main estimates. These projections will be included in supplementary estimates, which will be tabled in Parliament over the coming months. As I indicated, our chief financial officer is here to help the committee with the financial details, if you wish, and my colleagues can also get into substantive issues.

  (1555)  

[Translation]

    We will make sure that the implementation of these initiatives will be made according to the new operating principles outlined by the government, including providing sound and politically neutral advice based on solid evidence; putting in place mechanisms to track, monitor and report on impacts and results; working with a wide range of partners in the public and private sectors, stakeholders, not-for-profit organizations, and other levels of government; and being transparent in all our operations.
    We have several thousand extremely competent and dedicated employees who are deeply committed and proud to serve the public interest and implement the government's agenda.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.

[English]

     Thank you, Deputy Minister.
    Again, thank you to all for attending today.
    Without any preamble, we'll get right into the questions—
    I am prepared to make an opening statement, Mr. Chair, if you'd like me to.
    I beg your pardon. Yes, absolutely. Forgive me.
    Mr. Siddall.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    It is a pleasure to be here.
    As the deputy minister mentioned, I am joined by my colleague Brian Naish, chief financial officer.
    Some members are new to the committee and to CMHC, so I thought I would take this opportunity to provide a brief overview of the work we do at CMHC to achieve our dual mandate of facilitating access to housing and contributing to Canada's financial stability.
    As Canada's national housing agency, our mission is to help Canadians meet their housing needs. When we help low-income households access the housing they need, we are doing more than putting roofs over their heads. We are helping to build a foundation for broader social and economic success for these families.
    Good housing cannot take the place of other key ingredients for success—such as family and community supports, education and employment opportunities—but it does provide the stability from which to leverage better social and economic outcomes. And its absence makes it that much harder for vulnerable Canadians to get ahead.
    So, clearly, housing matters at a micro-economic level—to individual families and households. It also matters at the macro-economic level—to Canada's broader economic and financial stability.
    Overall, housing added $334 billion to Canada's gross domestic product in 2014, roughly one-sixth of the GDP. And the construction sector alone accounts for about 7% of total employment in Canada.
    International research confirms that housing security and housing markets play an important role in supporting social and economic stability. It points to the benefits of housing affordability and ensuring stable, secure housing, both rental and ownership. The dignity of housing stability pays.
    So what is CMHC's role in Canada's housing system? At CMHC, we help Canadians meet their housing needs in three basic ways.

  (1600)  

[English]

    First, CMHC's housing finance activities—mortgage loan insurance and securitization—contribute to the stability of housing markets and to Canada's financial system. As a crown corporation with a public policy mandate, we serve all parts of the country and support all forms of housing, including home ownership and large multi-unit rental properties, through all economic cycles. Effectively, we act as a shock absorber in the event of housing slowdowns or even crises. This is a fundamental way in which we provide Canadians with access to housing while contributing to Canada's overall financial stability.
    Importantly, our commercial programs are operated at no cost to taxpayers. Indeed, over the past decade CMHC has contributed $21 billion in profits and income taxes to help improve the Government of Canada's fiscal position. We also provide market analysis, information, and research to support informed decision-making.
    As Canada's authority on housing, we are the most comprehensive and trusted source of information on housing and housing markets in our country. But we also recognize that significant gaps in information on housing markets exist. We're committed to strengthening our analysis and research to better understand these gaps. I'm pleased to say that this year's main estimates include increased funding for this important work, and yes, our research plan includes further work on the magnitude and implications of foreign investment in Canada.
    The third way CMHC helps Canadians meet housing needs is by working with provinces, territories, indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders to support the 20% of Canadians whose housing needs are not being met by the marketplace. The federal investment in housing assistance is provided under various programs and initiatives funded and appropriated through Parliament.
    For the current fiscal year, CMHC had estimated budgetary expenditures of $2 billion. Most of this funding will be used to provide assistance to over half a million Canadian households in housing need, including low-income families, seniors, people with disabilities, indigenous people, and victims of family violence. Close to $1.7 billion of this amount will be used to support Canadian households living in existing social housing units across the country, including in first nations communities.
    As well, the main estimates include some $286 million for new affordable housing, renovations of existing units, shelter allowances, rent supplements for affordable housing, and accommodations for victims of family violence.
     The majority of this funding is delivered through the investment in affordable housing initiative, a collaborative initiative with the provinces and territories, which match federal funding and are responsible for program design and delivery, facilitating tailored programs for different housing needs across the country.
    Also included in these figures is approximately $156 million to improve living conditions on reserve by building new social housing units, renovating existing homes, and building capacity within first nations communities. We're very proud at CMHC of our ability to have made even better use of these funds on reserve. In 2015, we built 626 new homes on reserve. I know that's a small amount, but that's 26% higher than the year before. This coming year, we will construct over 700 new homes on reserve in places where they're most needed. In addition, our active management and capacity-building activities helped reduce by 12% the number of first nations communities with high-risk housing portfolios this past year.
    As I said, this is what's included in our main estimates. Not included in these numbers are the significant investments in affordable housing proposed in budget 2016, most of which will be delivered through CMHC.
    As Minister Duclos mentioned to committee members on Monday, the budget proposes to invest an additional $2.3 billion over two years, starting this year, in the following manner: over $500 million to be matched by provinces and territories to build and renovate affordable housing and provide rent supplements to support housing affordability; $200 million to build or renovate affordable housing for low-income seniors; $90 million to build or renovate shelter spaces for victims of domestic violence; $574 million to repair and improve the energy and water efficiency of existing social housing units; $30 million in transitional support to help preserve affordability for low-income households living in federally administered social housing where operating agreements are expiring; $178 million to address the unique housing challenges in the north and in Inuit communities; and $554 million to be delivered by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and CMHC in partnership to first nations communities.
    This additional $2.3 billion of federal housing funding, together with provincial matching funds and the $2 billion of existing annual federal commitments, will bring the combined federal, provincial, and territorial investments in housing to at least $7.3 billion over the next two years.

  (1605)  

[Translation]

    In addition, these planned investments are to be supplemented by the proposed $208 million Affordable Rental Housing Innovation Fund to be administered by CMHC. The fund will be used over the next five years to test innovative financing, partnership and business approaches to encourage the construction of affordable rental housing.
    CMHC will also consult with stakeholders on the design of the proposed Affordable Rental Housing Financing Initiative to provide a further $2.5 billion in low-cost loans over five years to municipalities and housing developers during the earliest, riskiest phase of development.
    Importantly, CMHC will also support Minister Duclos on the development of a national housing strategy.
    The government has announced its intention to re-establish the federal leadership role in housing. As the committee can see, our support for assisted housing, our market analysis and research functions and our significant commercial operations put CMHC at the heart of Canada's housing system.
    As a crown corporation with the sacred trust of managing public resources, CMHC is determined to be a high-performing organization: accountable, transparent, efficient and innovative, in order to serve the housing needs of tomorrow.
    Thank you again for the opportunity to be here.
    My colleague and I would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.

[English]

     Thank you very much. Now we move on to questions.
    I believe first up is Mr. Mark Warawa.
    Thank you, Chair. Before the clock starts, I'm going to raise a point of order and then I would like to speak.
    What we've heard is very informative and very helpful, but it would have been even easier to digest and make better use of if we had had a copy of these presentations or speeches prior to today's meeting. I have Mr. Shugart's speech today, but I don't have Mr. Siddall's. He has provided a lot of important information, and I think that if, in the future, we can get—
    You should have gotten one. They were distributed today at the meeting. We didn't get them ahead of time. You're getting one right here.
    We do not have any on this side.
    You don't? Okay, we'll correct that.
    If we can get these before the meeting, all the better, because then we can be better prepared. That's just said as a suggestion on a point of order. Thank you. You can start the clock on me.
    I want to thank the witnesses for being here.
    Mr. Shugart, you're always known for your riveting speeches, and maybe that's why we have so many people here. I've known you and respected you over the years, and it's good to see you again.
    My focus in the questions is going to be on seniors, because I'm the critic for seniors. When the minister was here, I asked him about the splitting of the guaranteed income supplement. I'm glad that the government is increasing the guaranteed income supplement by 10%, but it's only for single seniors. In the consultation I've been doing around Canada, I've met a number of people. There are some very wealthy seniors, but there are many seniors who need that guaranteed income supplement, so increasing it is good.
    In a scenario, however, in which you have a single senior who has no assets and is living from what they get month by month—maybe a couple of thousand dollars—in the Vancouver area it's not a lot of money; it's like $24,000 a year. They're relying on that, so the boost up is going to help them with the situation of their drugs, their food, keeping their home warm. That little boost is good.
    Another scenario I have also seen, however, is that it may be that $2,000 a month is from two people living together in the same home: spouses together have this combined income of $2,000 a month. I'm using approximate numbers just to make a point. In a situation like this, in which you have double the drugs, double the food, double the need, the advantage in it is that they can take care of one another in a number of wonderful ways. That helps, but if the net income of that family is two people with $2,000 a month or one person with $2,000 a month.... In the new program, the single person would qualify.
    I've heard of families for various reasons being split apart because there's an economic benefit to splitting apart. That's my concern. If we are now increasing the guaranteed income supplement if you're a single person in need, but it's based on income instead of on how many people there are, are we possibly going to create a scenario whereby we're forcing people to come apart or we have people who are in dire situations, whose needs are not being met?
    I can't ask questions on policy and your advice to the minister, but my question to you is, in the scenario that I present, is it possible that by only including single seniors we are going to miss out on some Canadians who need help through increasing the guaranteed income supplement?

  (1610)  

    I'll invite Kathryn McDade to fill in on this.
     Maybe I can give a sense of the rationale behind the choice to move forward on a supplement for single seniors. I think your key point is that the guaranteed income supplement is now available to both singles and couples, and that in the budget initiative announced in the past few weeks, the government made the choice to increase the supplement for singles but not for couples.
    As Minister Duclos said when he was here on Monday, the basic rationale is that, of the Canadian seniors who currently live in low-income situations.... As you know, our statistics on the proportion of seniors in low-income situations are quite impressive. The proportion has declined quite dramatically over time. The most recent year for which we have data, which is 2013, tells us that about 3.7% of Canadian seniors are living with income below Statistics Canada's low income cut-off.
    Of those seniors—it's about 190,000 senior Canadians—close to 80% are in fact singles, so about 151,000 of seniors who live on low incomes are single. That is the basic rationale for the government's decision to focus on that sub-population.
    With respect, and my apologies for interrupting, that is not answering the question. The question was that if we just keep it for single people, and if the combined funding is similar to a single, the situation is even more dire. Is it possible, by making it just singles, that some Canadians in a couple setting, with a similar low income, are going to be missed? Are they going to be left in a worse situation?

  (1615)  

    The situation of couples who are currently in receipt of the guaranteed income supplement won't change going forward. I guess the point I was making is that there's a relatively small number of couples who remain low income in Canada, and those would be couples living in very high-cost cities—I think you mentioned Vancouver—where the benefit doesn't meet the cost of living.
    Mr. Chair, I've met some of them, and it's a sad story. We need to take care of all Canadians.
    We move on to Mr. Robillard.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for your testimony today.
    Let me proceed to my question.
    In Mr. Duclos' mandate letter, he is asked to work with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to develop a strategy to re-establish the federal government's role in supporting affordable housing. This includes undertaking a review of escalating home prices in high-priced housing markets and considering all policy tools that could keep home ownership within reach for more Canadians.
    In my riding, as in those of my fellow members of Parliament, a lot of young families are trying to become homeowners. So would like to know what those policy tools are that could help to bring home ownership within reach of families.
    Thank you for your question.
    If I may, I am going to answer in English.
    Fine.

[English]

    Right now, in the province of Quebec our affordable housing policies are administered through the Société d'habitation du Québec, our partner. They would have a range of programs available to young families, as well as to any families, indeed, or to Canadians who are in need of affordable housing. Those would range from social housing, depending on their income levels, to affordable rentals, which as you know is one of the initiatives we're pursuing through the budget.
    Thank you.
    Are you sharing your time? You have about three minutes left.
    We'll go to Ms. Tassi.
    Mr. Chair, my question is with respect to the Canadian child benefit. It is understood that it has been well received by Canadians across the country.
    I would like to present a couple of quotations.
    Campaign 2000 said, “Budget 2016 is a historic step forward in Canada’s battle against child poverty.” The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said, “The new child benefit actually exceeded our Alternative Federal Budget recommendation”. Also, the Broadbent Institute, Canada Without Poverty, and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, to name a few, said that it's an excellent change of tone and a great policy and that it's very welcome.
    Can one of you elaborate on how the CCB will help reduce the child poverty rate in a more effective way than the previous government's plan and how it will be implemented?
     The main features of the CCB I think are essentially its advantages. It is, in the first instance, more generous than the previous benefit. Probably the main differentiating feature is that it is more targeted, which is where you get the disproportionate benefit for low-income and modest-income Canadians.
     As you know, it replaces the mix of existing benefits with one integrated benefit. In that sense, from the perspective of the family recipient, it is a simpler benefit administratively.
    These features are discretionary to the government of the day in terms of setting the level of the benefit, but I think those are the key design features that allow it to be targeted at those families in greatest need and middle-income families.
    Thank you.

  (1620)  

    With the new CCB, families that are more disadvantaged are going to benefit under this program. More children will be raised out of poverty under this new plan. Is that correct?
    Yes, our analysis shows in the neighbourhood of 300,000 children will come out of poverty as a result of this measure. Of course, we'll be monitoring, measuring, and reporting on that.
    Very good. Thank you.
    Thank you.
    Moving on to Ms. Sansoucy.

[Translation]

    On Monday, Minister Duclos told us that, at the beginning of February, he started consultations with the provinces with a view to developing a Canadian poverty reduction strategy.
    Since no support for developing this strategy was announced in the budget, I would like to know what timelines have been set. Does this mean that nothing will happen until next March 31, especially since, at the moment, we know that there is no official definition or measurement of poverty in Canada?
    Here is my question: does your department intend to develop such a definition or measurement of poverty in Canada?
    Thank you for the question, Ms. Sansoucy.
    We are starting discussions with our provincial and territorial partners. Each level of government has its own poverty-reduction policy and programs.
    The government is determined to work with its partners and to act according to its own capacity as the federal government. Some programs were already announced in the budget, such as the Canada Child Benefit and the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, have already achieved their goals of reducing poverty for some Canadians. However, each level of government has its own priorities and programs.
    As for having a common definition, we will look at that after the discussions with the other levels of government. The priority is to bring all the programs together, to discuss gaps that presently exist and to consult with Canadians on future ways to continue fighting poverty. That is our national objective.
    It should even be to eliminate it.
    Let me make a comment before I ask my question. I hope that, above and beyond consultations, the federal government is going to demonstrate some real leadership in poverty reduction.
    On Monday, the Minister replied a little too quickly to a question about temporary foreign workers. We know that a number of exemptions are granted to some industries so that they can call on temporary foreign workers. Which areas of activity did you target before granting those exemptions? What data was the decision based on? Are Canadians going to find out how those exemptions are justified?
    I will ask my colleague Paul Thompson to provide more details about those specific questions.
    First of all, I would like to point out that the program affects a very delicate aspect of the Canadian labour market. The objective is to offer work to Canadians in the first place, but at times, situations arise when access to Canadian workers is limited for a number of reasons. The Canadian labour market is very diversified; consequently, the current program must also be diversified. We are studying trends and the situations that arise.
    The exemption that has been established is not so different from previous measures. Mr. Thompson will be able to give you more details on the situation. We continue to study the state of the Canadian economy very closely.

  (1625)  

[English]

    As was indicated, this was an extension to a previous exemption that was put in place to deal particularly with the low-wage stream of the program and the challenges faced particularly by seasonal industries. It was available last year and was extended for this season. It was expanded and modified somewhat to deal with some of the specific needs of industries, heavily driven by the seafood processing industry which was facing the most acute pressures in terms of seasonal worker issues. The demographics of the workforce and the intense seasonality of the workload were some of the underlying factors driving the need.
    This was an exemption put in place for seasonal industries on a time-limited basis as the government and this committee, in fact, continue to look at the program and its design going forward.
    Thank you very much.
    Now over to the birthday boy, Mr. Long.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you to everybody for coming today and for your presentations, which were very good.
    My riding is Saint John—Rothesay in southern New Brunswick. We're a riding of two stories, if you will. There's lots of wealth and success, but there's also many people in need, and many people who are using or need unemployment insurance.
    My question to start is for Mr. Shugart.
    I have a very good friend who recently needed EI. He called Service Canada, and he waited and waited. In my MP office, we get constituent after constituent coming in looking for help. My colleague across the room here was talking about the wait times and how long people have been waiting to get a response.
    What I did after that was a bit of checking. Under the last government, service standards were really decimated. There were 600 positions cut from EI processing, EI call centres. I did some more investigation, and 100 out of 122 processing centres closed. Two remained open, obviously, MP MacKay's and MP Keddy's.
     Two out of 12 call centres closed, and again, that's the 600 service positions eliminated. Service standards were dropped from 95% answered within three minutes to 80% answered within three minutes. They didn't meet the reduced standard, so in 2014 it went to 80% answered within 10 minutes, and they only achieved 45% success even with that lower standard.
    My constituents are asking me, my friends are asking me, what's going to be done?
    So I ask you, what can we do as a government to correct that?
     Mr. Chair, I'm going to ask Louise Levonian, the chief operating officer, to elaborate on this.
    We have been concerned about the call centre situation in particular, because this is how people increasingly find out what their status is or raise concerns. As you know, the budget did provide increased funding for us to buttress the capacity specifically in our call centres. That is a direct answer to your question as to what is going to happen, but perhaps you'd permit Louise to elaborate a little on the situation regarding call centres.

  (1630)  

    I will jump in quickly. It came to light...and, again, I'm new to it, but my constituency office is becoming the de facto service centre. I can't believe the amount of people. We want to help everybody, but we're back to calling the same 1-800 numbers they are, and it's the same thing. It's wait after wait, and people are extremely frustrated right across the country.
    We are definitely concerned about service to Canadians. In particular we're very concerned about the call centre wait times and accessibility. There are two layers of data that you can look at. You can look at how long people wait once they get in the queue and whether or not they even can get in the queue. Accessibility has been not what one would want it to be over the last while.
    We have strong service standards. We have them for the Internet, we have them for the telephone, and we have them for in person. We focus on things like access, timeliness, quality, and cost. There's no question that the funding that was provided in the 2016 budget is going to go a long way in putting the accessibility back to a reasonable level.
    I believe right now accessibility fluctuates, depending on the time of year and what the demand is. It can fluctuate between 40% and close to 20%. What we're hoping to accomplish with this additional funding is to get us closer to 60% or 65%. There are other actions that we're taking to help that as well. We're putting in a new telephony system that's going to help us be more efficient as well in answering questions.
    Thank you.
    Back to Mr. Shugart.
    The Prime Minister's mandate letter to Minister Mihychuk outlines 31 changes he wishes to see within the mandate. With the recent tabling of the budget, many of these changes have been made. The wait times, unfair acceptance, entrants, and re-entrants have been dealt with, along with several more. What do you foresee as the most difficult points of the mandate letter to get through and why?
    I would say that a number of measures have already been taken in the area of student financial assistance, which I think are going to be significant. Some early steps were taken on EI, the new entrants and re-entrants, and those who faced a higher hurdle but who had been contributing. We think from a policy design perspective, the ability of those, frequently, young people to form attachment to the labour force, which is so critical at that stage of their lives, is going to be good for the economy, as well as for individuals in the long term.
    We don't tend to think about what is going to be particularly hard versus something else. We just follow our instructions and get on with it.
    Excellent, thank you.
    Mr. Ruimy.
    Thank you all for coming. I'm sure this whole room belongs to your team, right.
    I have a couple of comments. I'm going to echo my colleague's sentiments. What I'm noticing in my riding is that some people are starting to realize if they come to my office they might get a quicker route to what they need to get done, which is not good for my staff.
    Another comment is that during the pre-budget consultation process that we had through the year, I held my own. I separated the groups into low income and seniors, middle class, and small business.
     In the middle class I had a smart gentleman, an executive, whose family made probably in the neighbourhood of $140,000. He was quite irate because we're cutting taxes, we're cutting the disability tax credits, and about everything else that went on. He was upset about all of that.
    Last week, back in the riding, he made another appointment. He came in, and he had done his numbers. Surprisingly he comes out about $2,500 ahead. He was ecstatic about that, and thumbs up. I think that's working.
    I'm going to move my comments now to Mr. Siddall. Yesterday Minister Duclos spoke about increased investments in social and low-income housing. In my riding of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, we're currently facing an unfortunate increase in the number of homeless people in our community. This is an unfair reality for too many Canadians.
    Could you please provide further information about the increases in investments to the homelessness partnering strategy, as well as how this money will be most effectively allocated and utilized to provide homeless Canadians with the support they need to escape poverty?

  (1635)  

    I would clarify, for the committee, that the homelessness partnering strategy is a program that is run within the department of employment and social development. The affordable housing and so on is the...so I'll ask Kathryn to provide the detail on that.
    Thank you very much. The homelessness partnering strategy is currently pre-budget funded at about $105 million per year. That money is distributed to communities across Canada. The agreements that the ESDC has are with community entities, as we call them, in each community. That typically means the municipal government.
    Budget 2016 announced additional funding of $112 million over two years, which is a significant increment. It's in the neighbourhood of a 50% increase in the annual funding. The government hasn't yet announced the specific details of how that funding will flow to communities, but plans to do that shortly.
    Thank you. I will go back to CMHC. In the category of federally subsidized co-ops, that's under your purview, correct? Can you explain to us what is being done and the funds that are being committed, and how that process will work?
    Included in the budget was $30 million for federally administered co-ops to continue to provide income support for those residents who were receiving rent subsidies.
    We believe, based on our research, that's more than sufficient for the next two years. That bridges us to a national housing strategy that will address the longer term needs of those constituents and those Canadians.
    Currently there are some that have already expired, and there are some that are going to expire in the next few months and certainly in the next few years.
    Yes.
    What will happen with the ones that are currently expired?
    For the already expired, there's about 100,000 units in Canada that have already expired and come off operating agreements. Those are being supported effectively, Mr. Chair, through the investment in affordable housing.
    We provide $280 million a year, which has now been doubled. That money is available to provinces and territories to continue to support a range of different housing programs, including rent subsidization.
    Who manages this? I'm curious to know what role the CMHC plays in that. Are you funding it, or is money being pushed to the provinces?
    We are funding it—
    Okay.
    —within four parameters. One of those four parameters is that provinces have to report to us on the use of that money. One of the correct uses of that money is rent subsidization. It's about 23% over the last number of years of the investment in affordable housing program that has gone to rent subsidy payments. It has been used by provinces and territories for that purpose in significant amounts.
     If I understand correctly, then, for the next two years, the $30 million is transitional until we get to the national housing.
    Yes, so let me elaborate, if I may.
    The $30 million, again, has been set aside for federally administered programs that are coming off operating agreements. In addition to that, we're communicating to our provincial and territorial partners our expectation that they will make use of the substantial investment in affordable housing money to do the same thing.
    Okay, thank you very much. I think I've pretty much run out of time.
    Chair, may I elaborate on a prior question to Monsieur Robillard?
    Very quickly, yes, absolutely.
    I responded with respect to affordable housing units.

  (1640)  

[Translation]

    I am sorry. You asked me a question about buying a house. The CMHC provides first time homebuyers—

[English]

mortgage loan insurance, and we provide that across the country. About two-thirds of our business, Chair, is to first-time home buyers and young families.
    Excellent.
    Now we go over to Member of Parliament Zimmer.
    I thank you, too, for your work as our bureaucracy, which has to balance a lot of dollar figures, and I'm going to ask you some questions about those dollar figures.
    Specifically to Mr. Thompson, I see that there's been an expenditure increase in the skills and employment. I'll refer to the Library of Parliament document, page 4, table 3, to warn you what I'm looking at.
    Do you have it there in front of you?
    Yes, my colleague does.
    I have three questions for you.
    First, I have a dollar question. I see the increase on expenditures with skills and employment. I'm a carpenter and former teacher of the trades, etc., and one thing that I'm concerned about is that we increase the number. One concern of mine is that we can throw money at issues, but what is the net benefit of the money being spent?
    I see the increase in expenditures for skills and employment, “skills, adaptive and inclusive labour force”. I see an increase, quite dramatically, to the tune of $1.6 billion in 2016; $1.755 billion, to a total of $2.192 billion over the next three to four years, depending on how you look at it. What is that money being spent on?
    You're speaking to a document that aggregates the spending of quite a large number of programs together. I think it's important to unpack that to look at the evolution of different—
    Let's say, specifically, to see the increase in skilled trades. I'll single that out as something to get an answer for.
    There are a number of programs within the skilled trades area that the department is very active on. There's the apprenticeship loan program, which was rolled out recently. It is a new program to provide a loan for those individuals who are in an apprenticeship program. That's one of the main features. We have an ongoing support as well for the Red Seal program, which we administer in conjunction with provinces.
    Do you have the numbers attached to each one of those expenditure increases? That's what I'm trying to dig down to.
    I'm not able to disaggregate it here, but we could certainly unpack that aggregate number and show you the component parts of that.
    It's because part of what I see as well are 1,000 FTEs as part of that expenditure. I see it as FTEs listed in the chart below. It goes from 7,875, I'm assuming employees, up to 8,872 employees, and then it drops down again. I see a net increase of 1,000 employees, and I'm wondering what those 1,000 employees are needed for.
     Sorry, would that be the report on plans and priorities? I'm just trying to find the exact document.
    It's the Library of Parliament document that we have in front of us. I don't know if you have it, but it's table 3, “Planned Expenditures and Number of Full-Time Equivalent Employees (FTEs), by Strategic Outcome and Program”.
    No, we don't. We have the report on plans and priorities. It may be similar, but we don't have that particular document.
     Excuse me, then; just hold on.
    Let me raise a point of order, Mr. Chair. Did they not receive the same documents that we received from the Library of Parliament?
    I'm just curious. I'm just wondering how they can answer a question adequately, if they don't have a reference to how we're asking them these questions. I just would ask, if they don't have the documentation, how can they give us an answer to a question that we have for them?
    The Library of Parliament briefing notes are only drafted for the members of Parliament and the committee. They are based on the plans and priorities and the documents available from the department.
    Should they not then have these numbers in front of them there?
    It shouldn't be a question. It should be yes, shouldn't it?
    It's not a question for me.
    You're the chair. Excuse me.
    No, I understand. But in terms of what they have in front of them, that's a question for them.
    I'm not trying to put you in a difficult position. I just want an honest answer to an honest question.
    There are 1,000 FTEs that I have in my chart in front of me, with this expenditure addition of $1.6 billion for the first year, but I see 1,000 FTEs in the department. I'm just wondering where those jobs are going—or how they're justified, I guess, as an expenditure.
    The bottom line to me is that the money should be going to see more skilled trades around the country, and not necessarily in the interest of building a bigger entity.

  (1645)  

    We'll be referring to the report on plans and priorities and will try to reconcile with your document. They're differently laid out.
    One of the single largest components—not the only one but the one of the single largest components—that would account for an FTE increase in skills and employment is the temporary foreign worker program. There was a significant increase in full-time equivalents announced in 2014, and the increase would have showed in the main estimates because in the previous year, in 2015-16—we're talking here about 2016-17—these were not in the main estimates. They were in supplementary estimates.
    They would account for.... I'll get the exact number for you.
    You say, then, that the lion's share is for dealing with the temporary foreign worker issue.
    That's right, and they would account.... Hang on a second; I'll have the exact number for you.
    I hope this isn't going against my time.
    We already gave you about 30 more seconds.
    I haven't had one question answered yet, Chair.
    This increase would account for some 240 FTEs for the temporary foreign worker program, bringing the total to 605, with the existing capacity. That's one of the single largest increases in the skills and employment program.
    I just have one more small question for CMHC, for Mr. Siddall, if I could.
    I'm referring to your document, page 3 of the CMHC document that we just received. It talks about Minister Duclos and the amount of money—$2.3 billion over two years, it says, starting this year. As a former carpenter who built houses up until a few years ago. I see the top amount of $504 million, to be matched by the provinces. How many houses does $504 million build?
    About 100,000 units is the number. It was in fact delivered in the budget by Minister Morneau. He estimated that it would deliver 100,000 households.
    Here's a second quick question. There's a figure down below that says “$554 million to improve housing conditions in First Nations communities”. How many houses does that service?
    I don't have that answer for you, but I'm happy to give it to you, if we can—
    I would appreciate it.
    Of course.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    We are moving on to Monsieur Robillard.
    Since the 2014 changes to the temporary foreign worker program, there has been an increased fee for applying for an LMIA, from $275 to $1,000 per TFW position. Why is Employment and Social Development, ESDC, requesting $39.3 million in funding for the temporary foreign worker program in the 2016-17 main estimates? Isn't the program self-sufficient?
    You're right. The main estimates show an increase from the previous year.
    As I said, they were not in the main estimates in 2015-16; they were in supplementary estimates. Therefore, they'll show up again as a main estimate increase in 2016-17 of $39 million. The way the program is designed, we receive in appropriation—vote 1 of our operating costs—the funding to hire the additional full-time equivalents we require to implement the program.
    On the other side, on the revenue side, there's a charge for each position put forward as a request against the temporary foreign worker program, the details of which my colleague, Paul Thompson can provide.
    The funding on the revenue side is put directly towards the consolidated revenue fund. It is deposited in the consolidated revenue fund, so it doesn't show up in our accounts. It is an offset.
    Our accounts will show the increase in funding required. The revenues will go directly to the consolidated revenue fund. For the Government of Canada as a whole, it's an offset, not a direct offset but it's very close right now, at about 65% offset.

  (1650)  

    I'll share my time with Ms. Tassi.
    Ms. Tassi.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have to apologize, I did not thank each of you for your presence here today before I asked my first question. I want to thank you for all the work that you do. We recognize that you have volumes of work in front of you, and we appreciate your preparation for today and your presence here today to answer our questions.
    My next question has to do with internationally trained professionals and employment. It focuses on the disparity with respect to the pay and employability of immigrants who have been educated versus people who are Canadian born.
    Recent university educated immigrants have poorer job market outcomes than their Canadian counterparts. Their earnings are roughly two-thirds that of those born in Canada, while unemployment rates are significantly higher at all levels of educational achievement.
    For example, in 2011, the unemployment rate of newcomers with master's degrees was 14%, compared to 3.4% for those born in Canada. That's from the 2011 national household survey by Statistics Canada. Many skilled immigrants to Canada, especially in my riding, are not finding the proper jobs that are suited to the training they have and their qualifications. They tell me that's often due to the lack of recognition of the training they've acquired abroad.
    How are we helping internationally trained professionals to get their credentials recognized so that they can put their skills and experience to work faster and more fairly in Canada?
     You've put your finger on a challenge that we have been focused on for some time now. Those disparities often arise because of barriers, many of which are regulatory or have been regulatory. Let's deal with, broadly speaking, the professional categories. This is in the domain of the provinces, and even within the provinces, the reality is that it is often within the domain of the professional associations that establish the credentials and that kind of thing.
    We have had a program of work with provinces to address systematically, picking profession after profession progressively down the list, the requirements for people who have achieved their credentials offshore to practice and to use their credentials in Canada, and to reduce the lapsed time between when they arrive and when they can be put to work.
    I think this is a broadly shared objective across political groupings and across jurisdictions. But from our point of view, we have to work through the existing authorities. I think we're getting, generally speaking, good co-operation from the professional organizations.
    We collectively as governments are keeping the pressure on. Of course, one has to be tested. If one is going to practice one of the health professions in the Canadian context, there are standards that need to be met. Increasingly, the requirements that foreign-trained arrivals to Canada are going to have to meet are being conveyed to them offshore even before they arrive, further reducing the gap. We have also recently had a loan program in various situations to make it easier for people to access training to meet the Canadian requirements.
    This has been a pretty aggressive body of work. I believe we are making progress, but I don't think any of us will be satisfied until this is a smooth, seamless, and relatively rapid transition.

  (1655)  

    Thank you, deputy minister. Now we move on to Ms. Gladu.
    You have five minutes.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you as well to the witnesses.
    I want to ask a question to Mr. Siddall from CMHC. On page 3 of your document, I see that overall there is going to be $7.3 billion spent over the next two years on housing, which seems like a huge sum of money.
    I chair the status of women committee. We are working alongside the minister on a federal program to try to eliminate violence against women. One of the things we see is that there is a huge need for shelters for women and victims of domestic violence.
    When I look at this list, I see only $90 million to build or renovate shelter spaces for victims of domestic violence. How was it decided how much money each bucket would get?
    Let me just elaborate that there's $90 million for victims of family violence, as you know, and in addition $10 million, which I realize won't quite satisfy your broader need, for victims of family violence on reserve. In addition to that, the larger pool of money is of course available to provinces and territories to dedicate to shelters as well. They're not restricted in that respect. It's just that this $100 million is specifically targeted.
    The answer is that I'm sure that as part of the budgetary process there was a balance of need versus resources.
    Sure. Is the $90 million that's there already allocated to specific projects?
    No, it's allocated by province based on prior allocations. The provinces and territories will then allocate it to projects.
    Very good. In order to achieve all of this work, do you need any extra staffing? Is there any difference in FTE projections to cover the work?
    There is some, and it's covered in the numbers. In fact, those numbers would include our estimates of required staffing. It wouldn't be large numbers. It's 20, 30, or 40 people in a population of about 1,900 at CMHC. Those requirements are included in these estimates.
     Very good.
    The other question I wanted to ask is going to build on those of my colleague Mr. Ruimy. I was on a board of a homeless shelter, so I have a great interest in trying to address the problem of homelessness. In the 18- to 24-year-old category there's a huge issue of people who are really couch-surfing. There's been work done saying that there's a need for a specific kind of housing in which you can house other services, so that people can get the life skills they need and the coaching they need to move on.
    I didn't see any of that kind of housing in your list, but I did note that you said you were going to be working with the minister on the development of a national housing strategy. I wonder whether you could comment on whether such a thing might be a part of the national strategy.
     The full range of housing would be comprised in the national housing strategy. We'll make note of that and include it as part of our consultations.
    Very good.
    My other question was related to the...hang on. Here it is. I don't think this question is for you.
    The literacy and essential skills program has a $4-million reduction. What are they cutting?
    You're referring to the main estimates...?
    Yes, it's in the main estimates. I think there's a table for reference or something.
    Some of this was transferred to programming. It's anticipated to be transferred to the pathways to education program. The money is not lost. It was transferred to the—
    All right, so it's still going to be trying to promote literacy, but in a different program.
    That's right.

  (1700)  

    Overall we talked a bit about the difference in staffing that CMHC would have. There was a budgetary expenditure for market analysis information, and its housing policy research and information transfer activities are going to be $7.7 million higher. I was wondering if you could explain why that is. That was in the main estimates.
    I'm looking for the page.
    I may ask Brian Naish, our CFO, to comment on that.
    I did mention earlier in my comments that we were going to be spending more time on data gaps in particular. For example, we don't know how many mortgages are issued in Canada every year, embarrassingly.
     I talked in my remarks about foreign ownership. We're going to be devoting some resources to that, and that's in our market analysis area.
    Brian, do you have anything to add?
    There are a number of data gaps on the housing system that we're looking to address, and the increased funding is to try to address those data gaps.
    Information on foreign ownership was one thing I mentioned, but there are several different data gaps.
    The number of mortgages....
    Indeed.
    Now we go to Ms. Sansoucy, for three minutes.

[Translation]

    Thank you.
    Last March 19, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, 300 of my constituents travelled to an information workshop about the tax credits for disabled people. In fact, I found out after the workshop that they should actually be referred to as people with functional limitations. On that day, I was sorry to learn that only 20% of the people who may be entitled to those tax credits are claiming them. Often, they have not been told that it is possible. In some cases, people are being deprived of an amount that can go up to $15,000.
    I also learned something else at that workshop that was given by my colleague Peter Julian. He is actually the one who is going around communities to provide these information workshops, given that, for four years, staff in your department have no longer had the mandate to offer similar workshops to Canadians.
    My questions deal with Canadian disability savings grants.
    Of the 300 people directly affected by the topic presented at the workshop, only three or four knew that these grants existed. In the main estimates, the government is providing for an increase of $67.2 million for the grants, because of increased participation in the program.
    I would like to know how many registered disability savings plans currently exist, how the government came to set the increase at $67.2 million and what percentage of eligible people have a registered disability savings plan.
    Thank you for your questions.

[English]

     I'll begin and then I'll let Alain jump in on spending on the Canada disability savings program.
    As of December 2015—quite recent data—about 123,000 registered disability savings plans have been opened in Canada. As you know, the Canada disability savings program is quite new. It was only introduced at the very end of 2008, and although a much larger group of Canadians, as you're saying, is potentially eligible to open an RDSP, at the moment there are only 123,000.
    That number actually exceeds what we had originally forecast. We are, then, getting more plans opened more quickly than we had anticipated when we set up the program. About 22% of the Canadians who are eligible to open a CDSP and RDSP have actually opened one.
    I'll let Alain answer the question on the expenditures.

[Translation]

    I think that Ms. McDade's answer was quite complete.
    For budget purposes, the number of registrations to the program was estimated at about 99,000. Since then, that figure has increased. That gives a good indication of the increase in registrations since last year. That estimate was set in January 2015 for the current year.
    We have conducted awareness campaigns in order to stimulate interest in the program, using direct mailings. As far as I know, this has resulted in an increase in applications.

  (1705)  

    I sincerely hope that you will contact campaigns like that again. As this affects those among the most vulnerable in our society, it is in all our interests to make them aware of the measures to which they are entitled.
    Do I have time to ask a quick final question, Mr. Chair?

[English]

    Be very quick.

[Translation]

    Fine.
    My question goes to Mr. Siddall.
    I have already asked the minister some questions about the end of the agreements, which has forced people to spend a greater percentage of their income on housing. In some cases, the percentage has gone from 25% to 80%.
    In the $2.3 billion announced, is money set aside for renewing agreements?

[English]

    I think your question, if I may respond, is very similar to the question I heard earlier. I hope I'm not repeating myself in saying that there's $30 million in the budget for the expiring social housing agreements that are federally administered. That exists; we think it's more than sufficient funding. I believe this is the same subject.
    In addition, the provincial amounts, the amounts—

[Translation]

    You are saying that the amount is sufficient. However, as we know, between the end of the agreements and the time when money was allocated in the budget, there was a gap during which people saw the cost of their housing increase.
    When you say that the amount in the budget is more than sufficient, are you considering that break? Was there a temporary gap in the benefits or does the amount really make up for the shortfall?
    Thank you for your question.

[English]

    The answer is that the amount of money we've estimated covers expiring social housing agreements over the next two years. Social housing agreements that have expired to date, which comprise about 100,000 units, have largely been covered, we believe, by provinces through investment in affordable housing.
    Excellent. Thank you very much.
    Now we go on to the fun stuff. We're going to go through the votes for the estimates.
CANADA MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
ç Vote 1—Reimbursement under the provisions of the National Housing Act and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act..........$2,027,901,048
    (Vote 1 agreed to on division)
CANADIAN CENTRE FOR OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
ç Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$3,969,600
    (Vote 1 agreed to on division)
EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
ç Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$607,999,524
ç Vote 5—Grants and contributions..........$1,692,443,880
    (Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
    The Chair: Shall I report the main estimates 2016-17 to the House?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
     Thank you very much. It's been a very informative session.
    The committee will stay put. We're going to recess for about five minutes to clear the room, as we have to go in camera.
    Thank you to all of you for attending and to all of you in the back lending moral support. We're here every Monday and Wednesday. We love these big crowds, so please come out and feel welcome. Thank you to all of you and to all the support staff here again today. I appreciate it.
    The committee will be going in camera. We'll come back in about five minutes.
    [Proceedings continue in camera]
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