My name is Steven Grenier, and I am the president of the Association des camps du Québec.
I'm delighted to be appearing before the committee this afternoon on behalf of our association.
Founded in 1961 by overnight camp administrators, the Association des camps du Québec, or ACQ, represents 346 non-profit organizations, municipal and private organizations, that operate 691 sites and welcome more than 300,000 campers every year. Our members generate combined annual revenues of over $100 million.
Our association's mission is to “recognize and promote the quality and educational value of the camp experience in Quebec”, by bringing together organizations that provide programs for overnight camp, day camp, nature classes, family camping and group camping. The goal is to support, promote and ensure quality programming.
Thanks to ACQ accreditation, members are known for the quality and safety of the services they provide, a fact that is all the more important in the current circumstances.
The “accredited camp” designation is assurance that all of our members adhere to more than 70 standards, meeting safety, supervision, programming, environmental and dietary requirements. In other words, ACQ accreditation is synonymous with a commitment to the highest quality.
However, as you all know, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our industry has been hit with major financial challenges, while having to navigate an environment of great uncertainty. Although we recognize that the current crisis is affecting every sector of the Canadian economy, there is no denying that some of the things that make our industry unique also make us more vulnerable to the challenges that COVID-19 poses.
Keep in mind that camps are seasonal businesses that, for the most part, operate only in July and August. Contrary to most sectors, camp operators have just eight weeks to generate revenues for the entire year.
For many camps, those eight crucial weeks of business are in jeopardy because of the pandemic. Even more importantly, the services camps provide help foster fulfilment and well-being among campers in a safe environment.
For obvious reasons, the ability of camps to offer those services in the current environment has been seriously undermined. To keep children safe this summer and adhere to public health guidelines, camps are going to have to put extraordinary measures in place. Those measures will inevitably mean significantly higher operating costs for camp managers, who need government assistance to get through the crisis.
That reality, combined with the reduction in day camp participants this summer, as required by public health authorities, will definitely lead to losses for camp operators in Quebec and the rest of Canada. As troubling as these issues are for day camp managers, they pale in comparison with the challenges overnight camps in Quebec are facing.
Not authorized by the Quebec government to open for the summer for safety reasons, overnight camps will lose almost all of their revenues for 2020. Clearly, despite being closed, they will still have to cover a host of fixed costs—rent, electricity, upkeep and insurance, just to name a few. That will put them in an untenable financial situation and call into question their ability to open in the summer of 2021. What's more, they will have to find a way to refund the deposits of parents who registered their children in camp, adding to the financial burden on overnight camps.
For all these reasons, without government support, there is no doubt that numerous overnight camps will have to close their doors permanently. We think that would be beyond tragic, given what an integral part of Canadian culture overnight camps are, and have been for over a century.
Much more than just places to sleep, overnight camps are truly places that foster fulfilment and growth, where children can have meaningful experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives. The importance of overnight camps in the lives of Canadian youth must not be underestimated. That has been confirmed over and over again by the hundreds of parents and children who have told us how disappointed they are at the announcement that overnight camps will not open this summer.
We want to reiterate that we are ready and willing to work closely with the government to find solutions tailored to the needs of overnight camps, so they don't disappear from the Canadian landscape forever, taking with them a piece of our cultural heritage.
With the Government of Canada's help, we remain optimistic that Canada's overnight camps will eventually go back to doing what they do best—providing Canadian youth with unique experiences—as they have for decades.
On behalf of the Association des camps du Québec, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee.
Thank you for listening to what we had to say.
Good afternoon everyone.
My name is Benoît Fontaine. I am a chicken farmer in Stanbridge Station, Quebec, and I am the chair of the Chicken Farmers of Canada. Our executive director, Michael Laliberté, is with me today.
Our sector contributes $8 billion to Canada's GDP, supports 101,900 jobs and generates $1.9 billion in tax revenue. The country's 2,877 chicken farmers are proud to be raising the number one meat protein in Canada, in the good times and the more challenging ones.
Chicken Farmers of Canada was pleased with the government's announcement in support of the agriculture and agri-food sector, but we need to highlight that these measures do not go far enough in supporting chicken farmers. In order to continue to ensure food security, farmers need support as they navigate the unprecedented stress and pressures of the pandemic.
Currently, the Canadian chicken sector is seeing unprecedented market conditions. Food service, which usually represents approximately 40% of the market, has experienced a rapid decline in sales almost overnight. In retail, there was an initial surge in sales caused by consumer stockpiling, but that demand has now stabilized, resulting in a total demand that is below usual volumes.
The rapid decrease in food service led to surplus production for a short period of time. Thankfully, the flexibility provided by supply management allowed our board of directors to quickly react and adjust production, hoping to avoid a worst-case scenario of depopulation, or euthanasia.
The board of directors reduced allocation for May to July by 12.6% and readjusted allocation for July to August by 9.75%. While we have been able to adjust production, that does not entirely alleviate the stresses on farmers and processors during this time. Some processing plants may have to reduce their slaughter volumes owing to physical distancing requirements, absenteeism of plant employees and complete shutdown.
Processors are working closely with one another and with farmers to redirect birds if and when needed. This reduced throughput and risk of plant shutdowns significantly increases the risk of farmers having to depopulate flocks.
Farmers do not take depopulation lightly. In addition to impacting the food supply of Canadians, depopulation is a loss of the flocks farmers have spent time, money and energy raising, and it also means extensive losses. In the event that processors do not have the necessary capacity to process chickens, farmers will have to work quickly with their processors to determine next steps.
At this point in time, they do not have government assurance that the live price of the birds will be covered. Our understanding is that the AgriRecovery program will cover up to 90% of the costs of depopulation. This does not address the value of the flocks being depopulated, the administrative burden on the farmer or the lobbying of provincial governments to provide their portion of business risk management funding.
Throughout numerous conversations with government officials, they have been reminded that, under the Health of Animals Act, depopulation is supported in instances of disease. We are well aware the act was specifically designed to cope with animal disease, but we believe what the sector is experiencing now—with processing capacity, depopulation and the overall impact on operations—follows the intent of the act and results in the same impacts for the farmers.
We are disappointed that government has not looked to this model to support the chicken sector should depopulation be necessary. While the business risk management programs are designed to address fluctuations in income to support farmers in times of need, they do not work for chicken farmers in cases of depopulation.
The uncertainties resulting from COVID-19 are in addition to the financial stress farmers were already facing with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP.
As you know, Canada's chicken farmers lost a significant portion of their domestic market and have been waiting on government to announce programs to strengthen the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of the sector for over a year. We certainly acknowledge that government has greater priorities right now; however, since the government has not communicated when the federal budget will be presented, Canadian chicken farmers continue to wait for the support that they were promised.
I hope this presentation helps members of the committee understand that the measures announced to date do not address the financial implications for chicken farmers if depopulation becomes necessary. In addition, we continue to patiently await the promised CPTPP support package that will help give us some certainty at a highly uncertain time.
Thank you for your continued support for our sector, and I hope you will raise these issues with your fellow members in government. Canadian chicken farmers are here for Canadians, and always will be.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It's a pleasure to be here.
Thank you to the committee for the opportunity to present to you today.
I am the executive director of Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières, and I am joined by my colleague, Dr. Jason Nickerson, our humanitarian affairs adviser.
Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF as we are commonly known, is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides impartial medical assistance to people in more than 70 countries. We deliver hands-on, essential health services in some of the world's most complex environments, and we are no stranger to disease outbreaks.
Today we are facing an unprecedented crisis, created both directly and indirectly by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reached all of the countries where MSF works. We are witnessing COVID-19 cases occurring alongside existing emergencies and creating a dangerous mix of public health risks. In the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, nearly one million Rohingya refugees live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions that are perfect for spreading COVID-19 in a place where it is virtually impossible for people to physically distance and where access to clean water is a persistent challenge.
In Central African Republic, years of conflict have left millions of people displaced and dependent on humanitarian assistance. MSF's teams on the ground are among the only providers of direct health care in the country, and the budget we require to operate effectively there exceeds that of CAR's own ministry of health. That means there is little capacity to provide medical care for everyday health problems, and it is certainly not sufficient for a pandemic.
COVID-19 is straining our own response capacity. It is critical, especially in the midst of this pandemic, that the Canadian government continues supporting and funding humanitarian action. This funding ensures that humanitarian organizations can continue their existing operations while also responding to new pressures created by the pandemic. In Canada, we can rely on our strong, stable health system. In other places, health systems struggle to meet people's everyday needs. For example, just yesterday, the Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed a second Ebola outbreak, meaning that the country is currently responding to two Ebola outbreaks, the largest measles epidemic in the world and COVID-19, all in a country that has been affected by armed conflict for decades.
To respond to the COVID-19 crisis and to meet the needs it is creating in Bangladesh, Congo and around the world, MSF has identified a budgetary need of $226 million through our COVID-19 crisis fund. Additionally, we are asking the Canadian government for a contribution of $10 million for this fund so that we can keep our people on the ground responding to this unprecedented crisis. COVID-19 has already caused an immediate expansion of our global activities, including in places we do not normally work, such as Canada itself.
Our delivery of medical care depends not just on funding. We also rely on affordable access to and innovation for new medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tests. These advances are crucial for the health and well-being of countless people around the globe, just as they are in Canada. However, the global research and development system is not designed to prioritize affordable access, especially outside of wealthy countries. Access to life-saving medicines is not equitable, and this is not acceptable.
As Canada spends more than $1 billion in public funding to develop and deliver COVID-19 technologies—a very welcome investment—it is essential that Canada demands a fair return on investment by including specific requirements in funding agreements with, for example, pharmaceutical companies or universities receiving Canadian public funds to ensure that any resulting health technologies are globally accessible and affordable, including for Canadians. Today, to our knowledge, no such requirements exist in Canadian funding agreements. It would be tragic and unethical if a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 or a medicine to treat it were developed with Canadian public funding and subsequently priced out of reach. We risk excluding billions of people from the life-saving benefits of these innovations if we don't act on this now.
As you consider Canada's essential funding contributions for COVID-19 R and D, I urge this committee to demand that such funding come with safeguards, so that the vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 developed with Canadian public funds are made affordable and accessible to everyone who needs them. Public funding must result in public goods.
The global pandemic will not end here until it ends everywhere. Now is the moment for global solidarity and smart public investment to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to the medical care they need.
We look forward to your questions. Our contact information is available from the committee clerk, and we would welcome any members follow up directly with me or Jason Nickerson.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for inviting the Friends to appear today. We have many worthy causes appealing for your support, and I'm here to talk about those that are related insomuch as the news is what brings the plight of these various industries to Canada's attention.
Last week, investors linked to Postmedia bought Torstar, once an extremely profitable journalism juggernaut, for a mere $51 million. This acquisition sets the stage for a duopoly in Canadian print media.
Today I'd prefer to talk to you about another duopoly, Google and Facebook, that is systematically exterminating Canadian journalism. Because of Google and Facebook, our concern today is not whether there will be enough Canadian media outlets left, but whether there will be any at all.
In 2019 digital advertising was a $7.7-billion business in Canada. Google and Facebook took almost 85% of that. As for the remainder, well, COVID-19 has cut Canada's share by more than a half. Since mid-March, more than 2,000 media jobs have been lost, bringing the 10-year total to close to 20,000. At least 300 outlets are gone for good, and hundreds more have cut staff and service.
This market dynamic, however, is not natural. It's the result of policy choices made over 15 years.
It's possible someone is not on mute.
In recent years, Parliament has debated how to support Canadian journalism. Many members are justifiably worried about government subsidies compromising newsrooms' perceived impartiality. However, there are other options, and today I would like to highlight one that won't cost a dime.
Facebook is Canada's number one news source, and news is actually the number one reason Canadians use Facebook, according to Abacus Data. Yet, Facebook itself produces no news. They don't employ a single journalist. Instead they take a free ride on the investment and talent of Canadian newsrooms by taking their content without permission or payment and selling it as their own at a steep discount. Some would call this theft. At the very least, it's a parasitic and unfair practice that fatally distorts the market.
I challenge you to think of one other industry in which one or two firms are permitted to raid their competitors' output without even asking, let alone paying, for it and then reselling it as their own for a fraction of the price. I, for one, can't think of any. Yet this is exactly what Facebook does millions and millions of times a day.
Today Friends is proud to be launching a national advertising campaign called “WANTED”, featuring the poster that appears behind me, to alert Canadians to Facebook's unfair news appropriation practices and to rally support for urgent, reasonable regulations that would require these platforms to pay Canadian newsrooms a fair price for the content they publish, much as radio stations pay royalties for music they broadcast.
I refer you to newsthief.ca or ilnousvole.ca for more details.
In April, Australia became the most recent country to enact such measures, and Canada should do the same.
Let's be clear. Canadians value Canadian news and consume it in great quantities. Profits may have plummeted, but readership has remained strong and is now even stronger thanks to COVID-19. Canadians understand that “uncle Larry's” off-the-cuff opinions are no substitute for professional reporting, just as uncle Larry's hot takes are no substitute for thoughtful, professional parliamentary deliberation.
Our appetite for news has not changed. All that's changed is who gets paid. It used to be the people who create the value. Now it's the parasitic middleman who creates none. If you value free markets as I do, this situation should concern you greatly.
Recent events have shown that Facebook could not be a less-deserving company of such artificial competitive advantages. A recent Leger survey found that 53% of Canadians believe at least one COVID conspiracy theory that circulates widely on Facebook. This is not an accident. Facebook was recently exposed for proactively helping advertisers to target people interested in pseudoscience so that those most susceptible to COVID lies would be most likely to encounter them. This practice is not just immoral, but it undermines Canada's unprecedented and unprecedentedly expensive public health efforts. Recently, Facebook's response to police brutality and the protests against it have caused employees with $300,000 salaries to walk out on Facebook because they just can't stomach working there anymore.
What happens in Canada matters. Your work matters. The work that happens in provinces matters. Local news matters. Media is the only way for us to maintain a common national identity across great distances, and news is the only way for us to participate together in a unified democracy.
Australia's approach befits a confident sovereign nation. It's time for Canada to prove that we belong in that league.
No single action will solve the news crisis, but requiring Google and Facebook to pay for the news they use is a very good first step. This is something you can do to drive extra revenue to Canadian media without spending a dime of public money. I strongly encourage you to take up this policy without delay and I look forward to answering any questions you might have about how best to do so.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to address the finance committee today.
I represent Precision Drilling, a proud Canadian oil and gas drilling and well-servicing contractor.
I believe the Canadian conventional and in situ oil and gas drilling industry has been an unintended victim of an international anti-oil sands mining campaign. As a result, our industry has been weathering a deep and severely damaging multi-year downturn, and now we're facing a total collapse as the downturn is further compounded by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 shutdown and the recent oil price war.
The drilling industry is a labour-intensive service business that creates jobs for hundreds of thousands of Canadians from every province and territory of this country.
I was born and raised in Alberta, a third-generation oil and gas worker, and I am one of those several hundred thousand prospective oil and gas workers. There should be no doubt that the Canadian conventional oil and gas industry is perhaps the cleanest, the most efficient, and without a doubt, the most socially responsible hydrocarbon energy source globally.
Canada is viewed as a model for operational and environmental excellence. As a result, Canadian oil and gas workers are sought out globally for leadership, engineering, regulatory and operational roles.
During my 38-year career, I've worked in oil and gas fields around the world, from Saudi Arabia to Kuwait, Norway, Russia, Colombia and, of course, the United States.
This Canadian excellence is due in large part to a very unique combination of comprehensive federal and provincial regulatory frameworks, our harsh winter conditions, the Canadian entrepreneurial spirit, and most importantly, our deep Canadian social and environmental conscience.
Canadian oil and gas leads the world with innovations in drilling processes, reducing our environmental footprint, reducing GHGs, delivering exceptional operational efficiency while leading socially for workers' rights, and creating successful first nations partnerships, all while investing socially in the communities in which we operate.
While the macroeconomics of supply and demand drive the commodity prices and strongly influence the ability of our industry to function, several uniquely Canadian challenges have manifested over the past several years and threatened the sustainability of our industry.
As I mentioned at the start, the Canadian conventional oil and gas industry has been collateral damage to what amounts to a war against oil sands mining. The anti-pipeline and anti-oil sands rhetoric, all designed to constrain oil sands investment, has decimated the conventional oil and gas industry. Further, we have domestic and foreign NGOs, and even Canadian political leaders, demonizing the oil and gas industry as a whole. For example, natural gas, which has excellent lower emissions and a clean replacement for coal, has become a target. Gas pipelines and gas exports have also become a target, and this is incomprehensible.
The major impact has been a swift and severe reduction in foreign investment in the Canadian natural resources sector. In fact, many investors now view Canada as having a significantly higher political risk, resulting in investors moving their capital to other jurisdictions. An un-investable Canada is an economic problem for all Canadians.
For Precision, this means that today we employ less than 800 Canadians. In 2014, the comparable number was over 4,000. The majority of our 600 corporate staff positions have migrated to Houston, and our leadership team, including myself are now domiciled in Houston where the long-term prospects remain strong.
As a Canadian, I could not be more disappointed by the destruction of good and responsible energy opportunities here in Canada, and especially the jobs. Canadians have been endowed with excellent geology, a strong and noble social and environmental conscience, and most importantly, a dedicated and productive workforce. It is our obligation as leaders to continue to demonstrate to the world how Canada is the preeminent model for conventional oil and gas development.
Recently, the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors wrote to the Minister of Finance, calling on the federal government to support our beleaguered industry. The federally funded well reclamation program is a good start, but I am afraid the industry will need much more.
Also recently, the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors submitted to the Province of Alberta a construct for a financial grant package. The program is intended to encourage drillers to accelerate investments in the safety, recertification and maintenance of our drilling equipment. These investments will provide immediate industry employment while positioning the drillers to respond safely and efficiently for an eventual rebound in activity. Like the well-abandonment program, this could be a joint provincial-federal program and I encourage you to look into this.
I firmly believe that the federal government must encourage all types of conventional oil and gas investments and must not tolerate the destruction of our conventional oil and gas industry as an unintended victim of the ill-informed anti-oil sands movement.
Canada needs its oil and gas industry, and for this industry to be healthy, as we embark on a resilient economic recovery from the COVID pandemic. We can balance both economic recovery and achievement of our environmental goals. Canada’s oil and gas drillers are exceptionally well positioned to assist, through quality jobs, technical excellence and environmental stewardship. Our industry is a good news story.
Thank you for your time today. I look forward to your questions.
Good afternoon, and thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
As was said, my name is Michael Wood. I am a partner at Ottawa Special Events.
I want to thank the Standing Committee on Finance for the opportunity to hear my concerns and recommendations on behalf of small businesses across Canada. I would also like to thank Pierre Poilievre for putting my name forward to the committee and allowing me to address you today, and Sean Fraser for hosting a round table with Ottawa's small businesses about a month ago. Thank you, sir.
Furthermore, I thank the Government of Canada for the programs that have been developed so far to support small business. Unfortunately, there are gaps that have not been addressed.
Ottawa Special Events is a small business that rents equipment to festivals, conferences, individuals, all levels of government, and essentially anywhere there is a public gathering. Like many small businesses, mine has been devastated by the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. We became a zero-revenue business overnight. Our expenses continue to mount. We have tried to mitigate our cost exposure. We have laid off 20-plus employees—all of them. We have negotiated with suppliers to try to obtain relief and payment deferrals. Despite this, our exposure, both corporately and personally, is huge and continuing to grow.
Our company is just one example of thousands of companies facing financial ruin as a direct result of COVID-19. There are several crisis situations that will require urgent attention from the Government of Canada and the provinces.
Crisis number one is personal guarantees. Many businesses are facing closure and bankruptcy as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. These closures and bankruptcies are not the fault of small business operators, yet somehow we're expected to bear the brunt. Existing loans taken out prior to the pandemic will be called and personal guarantees will be pursued by the lenders. This will result not only in businesses going bankrupt, but also the owners who made those guarantees.
We need an action plan that will protect small business owners from losing their livelihoods and potentially their personal assets. We need regulations or legislation that will prevent lending institutions from pursuing personal guarantees.
Also, small business needs much more than the $10,000 that's forgivable on the $40,000 loan. We need new grants. We need subsidies. The federal government needs to help us through this crisis. Additional loans are not the answer. I know you have heard this. We just simply cannot take on more debt. It's impossible for those to operate under a one-size-fits-all program. Some businesses can survive for months on $40,000, while others can't cover three weeks.
Here are my questions to you right now. Is there more financial support coming? What time frame did you think the $40,000 intended to cover? Was it for one month, three months, six months? We just want to know.
The second crisis that you're well aware of right now is with the commercial rent program. The commercial rent program is not benefiting many small business owners. Landlords are not obligated to participate in this program. has said this. Premier Ford has said this. In fact, if you speak to your constituents, you'll find it is the largest landlords in Canada who are the least likely to want to participate. Tenants who should benefit are not able to apply and are at the mercy of the landlord to do so.
The program has created deep animosity between some landlords and tenants, while their energy should have been put into trying to find a solution. Giving tenants the opportunity to apply directly for the relief is one. Alternatively, landlords with tenants in need of rent support should be obligated to make the application.
Measures to prevent evictions of commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent are also urgently required, although I do understand that this is a provincial jurisdiction.
In addition, the commercial rent relief program covers us until the end of June. The application process just opened and no money has started to flow. It's clear that this program needs to be extended for several more months until the restrictions imposed on businesses are completely lifted.
Crisis number three is this: What happens after we've applied for the fourth time for the CERB and our businesses are still shut down due to government regulations? We aren't allowed to contribute to employment insurance. How are we expected to cover our basic costs and look after our families?
My question is this: Does the government have a plan to extend CERB payments?
Lastly, the fourth crisis is big box dominance. As you know, small business has been the backbone of the Canadian economy for years. How is it possible that stores such as Walmart were allowed to remain completely open, selling the same products that small businesses that were forced to close had on their shelves? Outside of groceries and pharmacies, why were the other sections not roped off? This created a totally uneven playing field.
While some businesses with a storefront are now able to offer limited access, this divide is unacceptable and must not be repeated in the future.
I will close with this. While I understand that at some point all storms run out of rain, the question is this: Until it does, how are we expected to survive this flood?
Thank you very much for your time today.
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for this opportunity to comment on the effects of the pandemic at Western and across our sector.
I want to thank the Government of Canada for its leadership in responding to the pandemic, and I'd like to thank my local community for its extraordinary efforts.
The substantial allocation made in support of post-secondary students has been impressive on a world scale, and the new research allocations are helping Canadian researchers contribute to global efforts. At Western, that support has been augmented by our own $2.6 million student relief fund, donated, in part, by our alumni, faculty and staff. We have assisted more than 3,400 Western students who were in immediate need—a surprising number.
In early March, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research invested new funds to fast-track a national response to COVID, and two of these pan-Canadian teams are led by Western faculty members. In late March, $1 million in federal funding was awarded to vaccine researchers at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, where our new level 3 biohazards lab is being put to very good use.
In April, the government launched CanCOVID, a network of health care professionals, university researchers and policy-makers united against the pandemic. Western faculty members play a leading role there, and we added $1 million of our own money to support COVID-related research and interdisciplinary projects on our campus.
Amidst all of these research projects, Western has also donated a significant amount of PPE to local hospitals. We've offered free accommodation to front-line health care workers and have designed, manufactured and given away for free thousands of face shields for hospital staff and more.
Looking ahead to September and beyond, we're working hard to ensure that our students are able to access the high-quality learning environment and transformative student experience they and their families expect of us. To achieve these goals, we're taking a number of steps. We're hiring a number of new Ph.D.-level instructional designers to help transition the courses. We're hiring 250 advanced Western students to help portage face-to-face courses into virtual online experiences. We're creating free online summer modules for first-year students to help them catch up academically and begin forming social networks and so forth. Importantly, we've also increased our undergraduate bursaries and scholarships by almost 45% to $44 million, and our graduate student support will rise to $60 million next year.
I would say that we've not been particularly surprised by the additional costs to the university's operating budget, but these additional costs are already in the multiple tens of millions of dollars and rising. Some of the new expenses are obvious—moving thousands of undergraduate courses online, for example—but other expenses are less obvious, such as the loss of meaningful amounts of ancillary revenue or the anticipated decline in private-sector research partnerships as the private sector itself contracts. Of course, the most important cost, the human cost, for all of us can't actually be calculated.
For this fall term, assuming public health regulations make it possible, we intend to operate in-person academic experiences for roughly 25% to 30% of our courses. The rest will be delivered almost entirely online. Assuming that we have government approval, our campus will be open.
So far, enrolments are holding strong, but with the effects of the pandemic still unfolding, the impact on enrolment will not be noted until the fall—for us or for any university—and it hangs over all Canadian universities. There is, of course, even more uncertainty around international enrolment. At Western, that number is just under 15%. In a post-pandemic world, with all of the crazy things going on and the new geopolitics, it is plausible to imagine Canada as an even greater beacon of hope and opportunity for international talent.
As we emerge from the pandemic, Western looks forward to responding to other global challenges that will affect Canadians, and climate change comes to mind. Western would strongly support a national infrastructure program addressing key global challenges, knowing that such investments would also help stimulate the economy here in southwest Ontario. The SIF project, for example, was a great success. We saw two nationally recognized buildings, which strengthened our ability for research and innovation.
We greatly appreciate the substantial investments already made by the Government of Canada. We also recognize that our efforts to advance the academic missions of Canada's great universities will have substantial additional costs as well. Our missions are robust, and they're fundamental to the well-being of the students and the communities we serve, but our missions are also vital to the health and the future of Canada itself.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to appear.
You have put your finger on the question that has basically been haunting us since COVID became a reality three months ago and really came onto our radar.
There is no good answer to that question. As you put it, we have been witnessing health systems across the world, particularly in the 70-plus countries where MSF is operating, that were not able to cope and meet the demands on them in the absence of a pandemic. Now you layer on top of that COVID-19, and it is potentially absolutely disastrous.
It is just now, in the last few weeks, that we have been starting to see cases in the Rohingya refugee camps, at Cox's Bazar, for example. We are seeing really an increase in cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in CAR, in South Sudan, in some of the contexts where the health systems are really at their weakest.
What we've been doing, as an organization and with other emergency responders, is to provide a kind of emergency set of supports and preparations to health systems. How do you do the IPC stuff, set up the infrastructure and do the PPE work? We are really trying to work very closely with health workers and systems to get that in place.
We don't know how bad this problem is going to get. We don't know what that curve you just described is going to look like or whether there's going to be a spike or a longer term challenge in coping.
Your question is what the government can do about that. In the most simplistic terms, there are two sides to this. One is to make sure there is funding and support for the emergency response right now. It's the gearing up. It's getting the PPE to the right places. It's the training and support for front-line workers right here and right now. Then that needs to be supplemented and supported by the sustainable and more development-oriented work that the Canadian government also does.
We could talk about this for hours and hours. Given the time allotted, I would divide it into two segments, the public and the private.
On the private side, the government can take measures to ensure that the people who produce the content get paid for it. That's the nature of our “WANTED” campaign, which I announced earlier. We are launching it today. It talks about the fact that these very big platforms are making billions of dollars, and the people who produce the content get nothing.
If you don't get paid for long enough, you stop doing what you're doing, and as you pointed out, there will be no one in these places. By the way, it's not just in small towns and hamlets. We're talking about provincial legislatures in some cases, so this is a very serious problem where all kinds of chicanery can go on unnoticed.
The second option is public. We do have a public service broadcaster in Canada, a national one. As well, some provinces have public broadcasters and public service media in general. If the market has failed and the government doesn't want to take action to level the competitive playing field, they can't have a public intervention. Just as we think that people who cannot afford health care don't want to be sick, but the law of supply and demand says that if you break your leg and don't pay, you don't want to be healed. That's obviously not the case. The same is true with news. People want and need to be informed. It's a fundamental part of our democracy.
The previous gentleman was talking about Rohingya refugees now starting to get COVID-19. Many of them were displaced because of activity that was incited on Facebook. It was a genocide incited on Facebook. It's been well reported, and this is the downstream effect.
We need to step up for real information. We need to make sure that journalistic creators get paid. That's part of the market intervention, and failing that, a public supplement is necessary and valued.
Thank you very much for the question.
Before I answer, I have a very quick clarification to make. It was bugging me that my last answer could be interpreted to mean that Friends only supports increased funding for the CBC in the event that the private marketplace is not regulated, and that's not true. We advocate for both.
To answer your question, Mr. Julian, you're entirely right that taxpayers are subsidizing these companies, both through writeoffs and other activities. What we have now, and your finance committee will be particularly sensitive to this, are thousands of industries asking for help because the government had to shut down the economy for health reasons and the subsequent devastation that has arisen.
Meanwhile, there are two companies that earn almost $7 billion in Canada and pay zero taxes. They don't collect sales taxes. They put Canadian competitors out of business due to the artificial and unfair competitive advantages that are created simply by government inaction. More than that, we allow Canadian businesses to write these expenses off in contravention of section 19 of the Income Tax Act, which would suggest that foreign media expenditures not be tax deductible.
What we have here, without getting too far into the weeds, is a situation in which successive governments have decided not to act, and this has sort of crept up on them. Our first and foremost imperative is that the government sincerely declare its intention to do something about this. We have not seen that. This is not a problem that is technically challenging to solve; it requires will and courage.
When is the government going to say enough is enough? After that, we can talk about the details, and there are various options. Getting these companies to pay for the news they use is one such option Canada can pursue quickly and without direct public expense or direct public subsidy to the news industry. That's why, especially at this time, we are drawing attention to that.
I'll try this. I hope that's better.
With respect, Mr. Julian, you mentioned that these companies, the platforms, Facebook and so on, should be better citizens. Respectfully, I think that's perhaps not the right frame. Their viewpoint is irrelevant. The Government of Canada should govern the way that business takes place in Canada. We should not be dependent on their goodwill for taxation or for compliance with hate speech law, libel, defamation and other circulation of illegal content that would land anyone else in jail.
What I would submit is that if the Government of Canada wishes to live up to its name, it should try to govern Canada, especially this majorly influential and politically impactful industry where one set of players is allowed to not just pay no taxes but also incur no costs to gather the news, to verify it, to edit it, to distribute it and so on.
We often hear that people are reluctant to interfere in this market, and I understand that there is fear that this is political manipulation. Ensuring that companies are paid a fair price for the product that they produce seems to be a very politically neutral, easily actionable and feasible first step, so I'd recommend starting there.
Thank you. I have a question for Mr. Neveu.
Let me start this way. I really appreciated your opening remarks, but I find it so troublesome that our innovators, our brain trusts and the experience we've had in the oil and gas industry have to move south of the 49th parallel, to the benefit of a competing nation rather than where we are in Canada.
Secondly, it's a debate in Canada between the environment and oil and gas, but I really firmly believe, and I'm thinking this more and more, that both sides are shouting over each other. At the end of the day, both are going to lose and Canada is going to be the biggest loser.
How do you see us solving that problem? Our oil and gas industry is under attack. Yes, we have to deal with climate change, but on the positive side we have a pretty good industry, especially in conventional oil and gas, which has done so many innovative things. We're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Do you have any solutions for us? I guess that is what I'm asking you. I really see this as troublesome.
I will call the meeting to order.
Welcome, witnesses, to panel two of meeting number 33 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.
We're operating pursuant to the order of reference from the House, and we are meeting on the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the information of the witnesses, today's meeting is taking place by video conference, and the proceedings will be made available on the House of Commons website.
With that, I would like to welcome each and every one of the witnesses.
I would ask you, if you could, to try to keep your opening remarks to about five minutes or thereabouts. We don't have as many witnesses on this panel, so we could stretch it to six if you want.
We'll start with Katherine Scott, senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Thank you so much for the invitation. It's tremendous. I've never done a presentation like this to a parliamentary committee. I'm in new territory here, as certainly the country is on new, uncharted grounds.
I'm from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. We're a research shop, with offices across the country. I'm based in the national office here in Ottawa. We've been spending a considerable amount of time and resources lately trying to wrap our collective heads around the scope of this public health crisis, which has precipitated, obviously, an economic crisis.
What I'd like to talk to you today about is the impact of the economic crisis, certainly for women and girls in Canada. We can be under no illusion; this is having a devastating and profound impact in communities across the country, and my presentation will stress the impact on women and girls.
I was able to distribute a few research slides in advance. I'm not sure whether members of the committee got those slides. I want to focus on a few key messages from our research and analysis of the labour force survey in the last couple of months and what that would suggest for, I would hope, a feminist recovery plan or when we pivot and start to think long-term. Hopefully we can take up some of that in the questions.
Certainly the first message I'd like to deliver today is that women are at the forefront of this economic crisis. Over half of all female workers currently are employed in the five Cs: caring, clerical, catering, cashiering and cleaning. These are precisely the types of jobs that are directly involved in containing the pandemic and extending needed support and care to those affected.
Again, I'm not sure whether you have the chart, but it reveals and looks at the disproportionate representation of women in many of these categories. That includes, for instance, the fact that 90% of all nurses in Canada are women, 90% of PSWs working in long-term care homes are women, and two-thirds of all those who clean and disinfect our hospitals are women. These are the same women who go home to their families to start the double shift with the worry that they're bringing the virus home with them. Of course, other women work in sectors such as food and accommodation, financial services and retail, all of which have been profoundly affected by the government-mandated shutdown of service.
As the chart shows, many of these same occupations have a high representation of racialized workers, whether that's long-term care homes populated by migrant and racialized workers, or whether it's caregivers, cleaning professions and the like. When we're thinking about the impact on workers, it's critically important to understand the diversity and certainly the concentration of racialized workers.
The other piece or the second message I'd like to stress is that many of the jobs, of course, as we said, are at high risk of exposure to the infection. These are precisely the same jobs that tend to have fewer protections in the form of paid sickness leave or other health benefits. In fact, our research at the CCPA has shown that, for instance, last year, in 2019, only 19% of workers in accommodation and food and only 30% of workers in the retail sector had access to paid leave.
As I said, these are high-risk jobs, especially for those who make the least amount of money. According to our research, 43% of all workers who earn less than $14 per hour were in high-risk jobs, as compared to only 11% of the wealthiest workers. A majority, fully one-third, of all women workers are in these high-risk jobs. Women are at the forefront of this crisis, both in the care and in their paid work, and they are the ones going into the labour force every day and being exposed to the pandemic.
The economic crisis that's unfolding, of course, is rolling out and impacting communities across the country, and women were significantly hit. With the first labour force survey, we saw that 70% of all job losses in the month of March were experienced by women, as retail, accommodation and the like shut down. We're expecting the next labour force survey on Friday, but the April numbers showed hugely that there were now three million Canadians out of work, and another two and a half million who had lost the majority of their hours. All in, as of April, that represented 32% of all female workers and 29% of male workers.
Obviously, generationally we've never seen this type of precipitous drop in such a short period of time, but what was most shocking about these statistics was that over half of the workers earning $14 an hour or less were laid off or lost the majority of their hours, as compared to only 1% of jobs of the richest 10% of workers.
This is very much a pandemic and an economic emergency that's impacting the lowest-waged among us, and this group is overwhelmingly female and racialized. In the chart that I included in my package, you can see that well over half of all women in the lowest-earning decile lost their jobs. Fifty-eight per cent of all women earning less than $14 an hour lost their jobs or the majority of their hours between February and April.
With that in mind, the other piece of what's unfolding, of course, is not only the scale of job loss but that the unemployment data doesn't actually capture the number of people who are leaving the labour market altogether. We now know that there has been an increase in the number of women who are now formally outside the labour market altogether, an increase of 34%. These are women who have left to take care of responsibilities or obligations—to care for people who are ill, members of their family, or to take care of their children with schools and child cares now closed—but who have no immediate prospect of return to the labour market. This is a really important number to watch. We're already seeing the drop in the employment rate. We're seeing a widening of the gap between men and women in this regard, so the number of women who are being pushed out of the labour market portends a rollback of economic security among women and certainly of gender equality for decades to come.
A good piece of this, of course, are the moms with kids under 12. Fully one-quarter of all moms with kids under 12 lost their jobs or the majority of their hours between February and April. This is critically important. The other three-quarters of them are still employed, but they are at home with children, without the support of child care, doing 24-7 child care. You know, you have to think: What about single parents? As of April, there were over 200,000 single moms who were still working—God knows with what kind of support or child care arrangement—and there were another 122,000 who were laid off and wondering if they could possibly ever go back to work, as the majority of child cares and schools are closed.
Certainly, the question is now in front of us. Will the women who've been laid off from work be able to go back or increase their hours without child care? This really is a critical dimension of the recovery, and it's one thing I can stress to you today. There's no recovery without child care. It simply and mathematically does not work. A survey that's being currently fielded by child care advocates suggests that only 60% of the centres that were surveyed are actually planning to reopen, and those that are planning to reopen, of course, will open with fewer spaces in order to accommodate physical distancing. Without child care, will women be able to go back, and what does that mean by way of setting back the project of gender equality? It will all have a devastating impact on household incomes, and we can't fool ourselves. As women withdraw from or are unable to go to work as we're seeing there—that's, on average, 40% of any household's income—we're going to see a precipitous drop in household spending, dragging the Canadian economy down in the process.
Really, the impact and positioning of women in this stress session is unique. My colleague Armine Yalnizyan has talked about the she-session, and we will not have a recovery without a she-recovery. Certainly, that's an important....
I see that my time is up. I have talked about things that we could do by way of a recovery plan, and perhaps we can take that up in the questions.
Thank you so much.
Good afternoon and thank you, Mr. Chair. It's a privilege to speak today to the committee.
I'm a master's-prepared registered nurse by profession and currently the CEO of a faith-based, not-for-profit care provider to 460 seniors in Winnipeg.
I understand that I was invited to speak on the impact of COVID on women in Canada. As a female CEO leading a predominantly female workforce in one of the highest-risk health care environments during COVID, it's my privilege to share with you my experiences during this pandemic and the disproportionate impact it has had on women working in long-term care specifically.
Long-term care is indeed dominated by women, as was already mentioned. In my home, 96% of my staff are female, and across Canada over 90% of the sector is represented by women.
Before I can tell you how women in this sector have been impacted by COVID, I'd like to paint a picture of the challenges women faced prior to the pandemic.
My staff work days, evenings, nights and every other weekend. More often than not, they are carrying the primary responsibilities of their households. Given the nature of the sector, they typically juggle more than one part-time position, equalling more than one full-time job. They are often members of minority groups, sometimes recent immigrants, and most have very limited opportunities to save for a rainy day. The majority of these absolutely courageous women are also care providers in unregulated roles, with minimal education to effectively prepare them for the complexities of caregiving in long-term care.
Added to these stressors, women working in long-term care have chosen a tough road with inadequate respect for the work they do and for the seniors in their care. Let me take a moment to share what “tough” looks like.
Tough is giving someone a bath in an 18-year-old tub, eight years older than its expected usefulness. Tough is providing care on hot summer days when the 40-year-old air conditioning doesn't work reliably, but there's no funding to replace it. Tough is moving an elderly resident into a shared room to spend their final days with a complete stranger. Tough is trying to be innovative in care while still trying to secure funding for basic Wi-Fi.
My staff and leadership team continue to personally offset the costs that are not recognized by the existing system of care. Our supporting community and staff have been propping up the system with sheer force of will to prevent it from failing. I will give some concrete examples. Staff regularly donate their own money to support fundraisers for equipment and programs. Staff work extra time, essentially volunteering, because the care needs are great. Leaders are on call 24-7 without compensation in order to be accessible and supportive to direct care staff, and our supporting community members provide 100% of the salary for full-time spiritual care, an integral part of holistic health care to seniors that receives no funding.
COVID has pushed this remarkable, women-led workforce in long-term care to a breaking point. It is harming their families, their finances and their health. My staff, who are moms, now stand in long lines to pick up groceries. They prepare meals, coordinate family schedules and now are home-schooling their school-aged kids. Financially, some of these women have lost income and are unable to find suitable child care for people working shift work. From a health and safety perspective, these women are also at a higher risk of COVID exposure merely from working in long-term care, where we know the majority of deaths in Canada have occurred. Also, very tragically, some women are experiencing an escalation in domestic violence.
COVID has had a multiplier effect on the underlying challenges in my sector, which we know disproportionately impacts women. If the Government of Canada wants to demonstrate its dedication to improving the lives of Canadian women and Canadian senior women, many of whom end up in care, it needs to start by addressing the foundational challenges in long-term care and the devastation that this pandemic has illuminated. Long-term care can no longer rely on the heroics of the informal support and funding provided by the primarily female caregivers, leaders and volunteers.
In closing, let me say that caregiving is honourable work, but we no longer have the option of cobbling together a system of seniors care that undervalues the contributions of women and fails to respond to the actual needs required for operating and capital investments.
Good evening, everyone. It's really nice to be with you this evening.
The London Abused Women's Centre is a feminist agency that takes systemic action to end the oppression of women and girls while providing immediate access to service for women and girls across this country who are over the age of 12 and who are abused by their partners, trafficked and/or sexually exploited. Last year, the agency served 8,137 women and girls.
The critical gap that we see in the government's COVID response is the lack of a feminist analysis. The response does not reflect fundamental power differentials between women and men in any of the measures taken to address COVID. A feminist analysis is essential to the government's response to this life-threatening virus that disproportionately impacts women, and in particular indigenous women and girls.
The $50-million measure to help manage or prevent outbreaks in sexual assault centres and shelters, including in indigenous communities, is woefully inadequate. According to my Liberal MP's office, this federal envelope excludes at least 600 agencies across Canada, including the London Abused Women's Centre. During this pandemic, when women are isolated in their homes with their abusers and their children are exposed to violence regularly, no funding is provided in the COVID response to allow women to have immediate access to potentially life-saving services.
The Canada emergency response benefit excludes eligibility for Canada's most vulnerable women and girls: those being trafficked and those trying to leave their abusers. Trafficked and sexually exploited women and girls require funding to leave their traffickers, funding that allows them to move back to their homes in other provinces and cities across this country, to re-enter the school system, to attend job training, to attend substance use services, to find housing and even to eat.
Trafficking and sexual exploitation is not a job. It is male violence against women. These women are not provided with T4 slips by their traffickers. They have no record of ever receiving money, because actually they rarely do. It is their traffickers who keep the money. Sometimes these girls experience paid rape for up to 20 times a day to satisfy their trafficker's quota.
Leaving a trafficker is extremely dangerous and difficult. This is especially the case during COVID, but the chances of being able to leave and be free are much better with comprehensive supports and funding to allow victims to live in freedom.
What of those women trapped in their homes with their abusers? Many have no work experience because many of those women are trapped in their homes, with or without COVID, and are unable to do anything without their abusive partner's permission.
There is no COVID funding available for women to help them leave their abusers in this plan, and while women abused by their partners and/or trafficked and exploited women will have no government funds, unfortunately their abusers do. Business owners in the sex trade—also known as traffickers or organized crime—are permitted access to an interest-free loan, with up to 25% of it forgiven if it's repaid before December 2020. While victims of trafficking are being raped every day, their trafficker will be taken care of through the Canada emergency business account.
We have serious concerns about the government's betrayal of Canadian women and girls. COVID has made their lives so much more dangerous.
Notwithstanding an announced $75 million to address sex trafficking, the Government of Canada has discontinued its funding to at least 11 agencies in Canada, all working to give freedom and hope to trafficked and sexually exploited women and girls. Instead, according to the and the , the government has decided that a third year—a third year in a row—of consultation on the issue is necessary. Three years of consultation is unnecessary. We know the problems and we have the solutions. Consulting around the country during COVID is costly and a waste of time.
The approximate cost to keep 11 agencies across this country open is $1.5 million per year. Refusing to fund these organizations until after further consultation is not based on a feminist analysis and it is not based on logic. It’s harmful and life-threatening to women and girls in need of services. That keeps my team up all night and it should keep all of you up all night as well.
Thank you very much for the invitation to be here.
Wow, that was very powerful. Thank you very much, Ms. Walker.
I'm a serial entrepreneur. I've been an entrepreneur my whole life. I'm absolutely unemployable by anyone. It's a wonder that I'm actually on a call with government at the moment, but here I am.
I have a phrase that I've been saying for a long time: “Everything's broken. What a great time to be alive.” This is sort of the entrepreneurial spirit, and unfortunately we're experiencing that in such a wave right now.
On March 9-10, we had a big global summit in Toronto with SheEO, to celebrate that 2,500 Canadian women have come together and contributed $1,100 each, each year, for the past five years to fund women-led businesses that are working on what we call the world's to-do list: the United Nations sustainable development goals. All of their businesses are focused on these. We loan out money that has been gifted by Canadian women at 0% interest, and entrepreneurs pay those loans back over five years.
Not only do these entrepreneurs get about $100,000 each from this loan, but they get access to all of us: thousands of connected women who are well resourced. We bring our networks, our expertise, our buying power as customers and our influence to help them grow their businesses.
This extremely rich ecosystem of support has all of our ventures outperforming their peers significantly in terms of revenue, export, social impact and, most important perhaps, the creation of socially and environmentally sustainable jobs.
After five years in operation in Canada, we announced at our global summit, where the was actually in attendance—the last big event before the pandemic—that we had reached perpetual fund status in Canada. These five-year loans are paid back with a 100% payback rate. If no one ever signed up again to contribute this capital, we would continue to fund female entrepreneurs in Canada forever with this revolving loan fund. It's a completely different way of keeping capital in flow.
We've taken this model to five different countries, and our goal is to have a million women and a billion-dollar fund that will fund 10,000 female entrepreneurs every year forever, and leave it as a legacy.
The reason we do this is that only 4% of venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs. It has been like this for decades, globally. It hasn't changed at all, despite the fact that we create business case after business case, research after research, showing the impact that women-led businesses have on the economy and how strongly they perform.
There are just so many biases built into the system, so 51% of the population gets 4% of the capital. It's statistically impossible for that to happen without massive biases being built into these systems. We know that most of the structures and systems we're living in were not designed by us or for us. Add on top of that the pandemic.
It's interesting, because I've been struggling with these systemic barriers for many, many years. I'm really a student of systems change, behaviour change, and I've been trying to redesign.... If we were starting over again, how would we redesign the system? SheEO is my response to that.
Here's what's happening in our community, which is quite unbelievable. On March 16, we gathered the 68 ventures we funded together to do a very quick triage to ask what was happening: “Are you red, yellow or green? Are you at risk, your business, based on what's going on?”
One of our ventures had lost 95% of her revenue by noon on that first day. She actually has a really innovative social hiring model where she hires people at risk of homelessness to do laundry for restaurants, and all the restaurants have shut down in Calgary. She got on this call, extremely upset, wondering how she was going to lay off these people who were already at risk of homelessness. As she struggled.... I'm a crier; everything's fine. This is normal for me.
She brought this to us and said, “What can I do?” One of the ventures in our community asked, “What do you need to keep people employed for the next month while we figure this out, and to get you to pivot?” She said her amount, and they said, “Consider it in your bank account by the end of this call.”
That was the beginning of the bar just being raised in our community. Instead of helping people figure out how to lay people off, how to get government grants or how to go bankrupt, we set a bar in our community that we would not lose any jobs, and that none of our businesses would go down. We have this incredible community of people to support each other, and we've built relationships very strongly over the last five years to make that happen.
We are demonstrating an example of what's possible when you redesign an ecosystem in support.... It's beyond just the money—“Here's your money; off you go”—but the money and the kindness. We call this “radical generosity”, to support one another.
Women are massively undercapitalized to start, and we've been hit quite hard by this pandemic. We have less runway, less support.
Honestly, just to say what another person has already said today, the one significant barrier that is really not hard to solve and that would make a fundamental difference is child care. We currently have a wage subsidy for businesses that can't be used for child care. We have an agricultural innovator in our community who can get 75% of her salary covered if she hires someone new to go out and do the work. But she wants to do the work. She doesn't want to hire somebody to go do that work; she wants to use part of the grants to pay for child care.
The fact that we're still talking about this makes me so crazy. Child care is literally the simplest policy intervention we could have that would have the biggest impact on the economy. When we made up the system.... Women weren't sitting at the table when we designed this. We're here now. Let's just change this. If one thing came out of COVID and it was this, that would be huge.
The other big thing I would say is that COVID is really giving us a chance to reboot what we value. To witness before our eyes every day the biases we've built into our systems and the impact we have by valuing jobs and growth over humans and development.... We need to rethink what we value and what matters to us and build a society that works for all.
Coming out of this pandemic, I really hope that we're only putting taxpayer money to work for the benefit of all. The investments we're currently making in AI and in our tech solutions obsession are gap-widening. It's creating more inequality in this country, and we don't seem to have any mitigating investment strategies around that.
We have a very narrow definition of innovation. We have a very narrow definition of what success is: Go big or go home. However, 98% of our economy is small and medium-sized businesses. There are only 1,200 companies in this entire country that have more than 500 employees, and half of them are foreign offices. I wonder who the people are whom you are regularly in conversation with when you're making these policies. We would like it to be more small business, because this is really a huge opportunity for all of us to rethink what we have.
Finally, I'd just like to say that at SheEO we really value diversity. We fund cis and trans women, non-binary, gender-fluid, non-conforming people from all cultural backgrounds. We're in deep relationship with the indigenous community. We do calls every Sunday with 140 indigenous women entrepreneurs, getting them connected into our community, making sure they thrive so they can bring the whole next generation with them. We're building a new economic model based on radical generosity, on inclusion, centred on the critical priorities of our time that benefit all.
We're honoured to be part of this committee. I really look forward to the rest of the conversation.
I want to take a moment to thank you all very much. I know you have absolutely thankless jobs of service. I really appreciate the probably many sleepless nights you've had trying to figure this out in this unprecedented time. Thank you.
I'm very happy to have the presence of my colleague from London, regarding the issues of conjugal violence and the ways in which COVID has affected women.
The Shield of Athena was established in 1991. We have a network of services that include two day centres and an emergency shelter, and we are planning a second-step resource. We have, more or less, an integrated system regarding services for women and their children. We do work with vulnerable clientele and presently we give outreach and services in up to 17 languages. We see a lot of people who are in vulnerable situations, particularly women from immigrant communities, particularly women who present with severe linguistic barriers.
Forced confinement and quarantine during the pandemic may compound the issue and increase the dangers and consequences for women victims of conjugal violence. First of all, they can't access the phone in order to call for services. They can't access information. They can't access anybody to help make a protection scenario for them and their children. The pandemic limits their actions and isolates them even more.
Doubly vulnerable clientele such as the ones that we work with—women who present with severe linguistic barriers; women who do not know the system that we live in; women who do not know their rights and the laws; women who have many children or who have children with specific needs, such as autism; women who live in remote areas where there are few services—are also put in danger as their potential for accessing information and resources is even more limited.
Within this COVID pandemic, a key factor for us—and something of major importance—is the fact that women who don't speak the language have a problem accessing services.
This situation is further compounded by the difficulty women have had getting into shelters in Quebec. I don't know the solutions that are used in other provinces, but in Quebec we have quarantined women before transferring them into the shelter system. That means another 14 days as an added step for the women before they are filtered through to the shelters. I have to say that a lot of them left the quarantine. A lot of them did go back to their abusive relationships.
A complicating factor for women who are victims of conjugal violence, who are doubly vulnerable such as immigrant women, is their economic dependency. Many women who work have had their money taken away from them. Many women who are isolated have never been allowed to work, making them totally dependent on their abuser. This is a point that has been brought up before. We have seen this situation. This is something that occurs even more now during the pandemic.
Our job as workers is to make sure that these women are finally autonomous or financially independent. I heard the other presenters speaking about trying to provide job opportunities, but a lot of the women who we're working with can't even speak their language well. Trying to access employability programs or trying to get into the system under the best of circumstances is very difficult for them. Within the context of a pandemic, you can imagine what the situation is.
Many are put on welfare. The first thing social workers do is to put the women on welfare once they get into the shelter, but how far does $600 go?
You can say that there are child benefits, but in the case of abusive relationships and women who can't speak and can't understand the issues, the child benefits may not be given to them. They might have to sign over their child benefits if there's a joint account. In cases where the abusive partner has total custody, then he's the one who gets the benefits.
What can we do to rectify this horrible financial dependency that exists normally for all the aforementioned reasons for women who are victims of conjugal violence?
I think there has to be a financial stipend, an allocation that goes specifically to women who are victims of conjugal violence.
Earlier, somebody mentioned the issues surrounding single moms. Let me tell you, children are poor, but if their mom, who is a single mom, is poor, then they are very much poorer. We have to bolster the women. If the women are also victims of conjugal violence, then they need this stipend, this allocation, even more.
I just want to say a final point. Underlying issues that were important before now for victims of conjugal violence, such as the lack of social housing, are even worse now. Never mind the second-step resources. There are so few of those in Quebec. There are thousands of women who go in and out of the shelter system, and there are maybe 19 seconds to have resources. Never mind those. What about social housing?
We have women clients who are waiting for up to four years in order to access social housing. There are dire consequences for women during this period of a pandemic. We feel that we have to have a specific allocation, a specific pension, a specific fund, that goes directly to women who are victims of conjugal violence, be they single or be they single moms with their children.
Thank you very much.
It's a great question, and I wish I had an answer for you. We've been trying to get this information for many months.
We are not a shelter. We provide emergency access to women and girls who need long-term counselling, support and advocacy.
However, during COVID, there was no shelter space. We have a great relationship with our police service in London, and we knew that if police were responding to a 911 call and a woman needed to leave that minute, that officer needed to have a place to take her. We negotiated in the city of London with various facilities, so that women could be taken with their children immediately to a safe place where they could stay until we could find them an alternative space and they could receive ongoing counselling and support.
That is not funded by the government and is not seen as providing shelter space.
With respect to sexual assault, of course, we provide many women with services to assist with being sexually assaulted. We do not have sexual assault in our name. I don't think the government understands enough about the work we do to understand the relationship between sexual assault and trafficking, for instance, childhood sexual assault in the women who come to us, and also the overlap between all of the areas of male violence against women, by the abuser at home sexually assaulting her or her children, or being sexually assaulted by a stranger or in a dating situation.
I have no understanding as to why we didn't receive any money. Originally we thought, well, we're sort of stand-alone. We're probably one of the only agencies that provide the level of advocacy that we do. However, I later found out from Peter's office that in their research, they determined that at least 600 other agencies also did not receive the funding.
I just want to say what an unbelievable panel we have here today. I really want to thank you for your respective leadership and for your unbelievably hard work. I really appreciate your being here today.
I'd like to get to three different questions, and I don't have a lot of time. I'm going to start with Ms. Scott at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and move into a question around child care.
You talked—and I think all the presenters have talked—a lot about the impact of COVID on women. I think you've talked about how the vast majority of those on our front lines and essential workers are women. I think you know, Ms. Scott, that in 2005-06 the Liberal government of the day signed a number of bilateral agreements with provinces. We tried to bring in a national child care program at the time. The NDP, unfortunately, didn't support our minority government at that time, so we fell and we ended up with a Conservative government that did not follow through on that national child care program.
We are where we are here today, and I can assure you there's not one female MP in office right now who doesn't want to move immediately to a national child care plan.
What is the model that you're proposing? One of the big issues is the delivery mechanism, that it has to be delivered through the provinces, because education and day care are in their bucket. What would be the model that you would propose moving forward?
Child care is critical to any recovery. It's necessary. Simply put, women will not be able to go back to the labour force. The child care sector has been mobilizing in different provinces and putting together plans, not only provincially but federally. Certainly, the current ask of the federal government, as I understand it, is to contribute up to 75% of the full operating costs of licensed child care, conditional on provinces covering the remaining 25%.
The concern now is that monies are needed immediately to stabilize the supply of child care. Many of these municipal, non-profit, private sector centres have lost parent fees over the last number of months. They are in financially precarious situations, and many will not be able to reopen, as per the statistics I alluded to. They need an immediate infusion of cash to sustain their businesses and also to prepare for what will be coming, which is modifying their models of practice to accommodate what will be a year or two years of new methods of delivering social supports and community supports that will require physical distancing. How are the many child care centres that don't have access to those types of resources going to do that?
Certainly, the child care community is looking for the federal government to step up in a leadership role. Historically it has delivered money for child care, such as through the ECE monies back in the early 2000s. You referred to that. Under the Chrétien government, there were transfers designated for that.
There is concern about how you target that, in terms of supply in particular. We're not looking for more money for parent subsidies. The question, critically, is having supply and stable supply. Those centres need those resources to expand. I think it's really important to attach requirements around what it will mean in terms of staffing ratios and quality of care.
This is the opportunity to lay the foundation for a pan-Canadian response, the “child care for all” model that we're going to require.
Thanks so much for that question.
No, the whole issue of paid sick leave obviously has risen to the top of considerations. We're looking at different models now about how you would implement that. Certainly that's been an issue on our radar. My colleagues in British Columbia are looking at different models, and also in Ontario. We don't have a particular model that we would be proposing now. It remains a critical problem.
Canada, actually comparatively, has really fallen quite behind in terms of the amount of paid leave typically that's available to Canadian workers. The issue here, of course, is that such large numbers of workers don't have access either. They might have access to the EI system but many workers actually don't qualify for EI. It's estimated that only 40% of workers do.
The sick leave there isn't widely available. Labour and employment legislation and regulations at the provincial level don't provide necessary leave as well, particularly for precarious, marginalized or migrant workers, which is another critical group of workers who are hugely vulnerable right now and are being felled by the illness.
Yes, we're looking at different models. Hopefully that will be one of the lasting impacts of the model. We have to revisit all of our income security support systems. This has graphically revealed the gaps and the failure of our social security system safety net to protect upwards of a third of our workforce that is engaged in part-time, precarious, temporary contract work.
That's really something that we have to pay attention to, going forward, as we start to track the polarization between workers: those of us who can stay home and do our work and enjoy that privilege, versus the many workers in Canada who simply cannot do that. Reforming labour legislation and income security has to be a piece of what we're doing.
Thank you so much to all of you for joining us today.
One of the last things that the status of women committee looked at about a year ago and submitted a report on was shelters and the fact that there is in fact a lack of funding and a lack of policy from the government in terms of supporting the vulnerable women who would use such centres.
Further to that, we've once again seen a cut, actually in the midst of this pandemic, where, Ms. Walker, you've said that your centre isn't receiving funding. We know of about 600-plus centres across the country that are not receiving funding. This seems to be contrary to the report and what it called for just last spring. What a time to cut or to reduce that funding when we're in the middle of a pandemic and we're seeing a dramatic increase in domestic violence against women and girls.
Further to that, funding was also cut with regard to conquering or going after those who would victimize women and girls through sex trafficking. Ms. Walker, you talked a bit about this and the impact it has had on your organization, and about the fact that it has of course stagnated or threatened to stagnate some of the really great work that you folks are doing there in London, Ontario.
Ms. Walker, just to begin with, I wonder if you could address this misnomer that trafficking happens in other countries and perhaps, the perception is, even in developed countries, but surely not in Canada. We know that is not in fact the case, but I think it's really difficult for many people to wrap their heads around what trafficking looks like here in our own country. There was a recent report just this winter that came out from CTV news. They reported that 93% of those who are trafficked within this country are in fact Canadian citizens.
I wonder if you could shed light on what it looks like to be an individual who is trafficked within the nation of Canada. In a really practical sense, how does that work?
Ms. Walker, the fund that was put forward in order to support the combat of human trafficking in 2009 was $57.22 million, which is a significant amount of money. Certainly there could be more, but now there's zero due to the reduction by this government.
You've outlined a few ways that women and girls can be trafficked. Further to that, it's my understanding that women and girls can also be trafficked through their schools, in shopping malls. You mentioned colleges, universities, online, massage parlours. All of these serve as venues through which women and girls are trafficked.
You mentioned earlier in your testimony that they are not actually paid; it is the person who traffics them who is paid. These women and girls unfortunately go without a sum of money.
What I find interesting is that the current government is giving a wage subsidy to many of these organizations that are responsible for the trafficking of these women and girls, but providing zero when it comes to helping the women and girls themselves.
Can you comment on that further?
Thank you to all the presenters today. This is a very interesting discussion, for sure.
I am the member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories. I represent a large indigenous population; over half of my constituency is indigenous. When word of the pandemic started to surface, we were all very concerned. The history of epidemics and pandemics shows that indigenous people always pay the highest price. A lot of times—almost all the time—we've been left to fend for ourselves, with very little government support.
We've been quite happy, then, to see the investment made by this government. It's very significant. It's actually historic. Over 500 shelters and sexual assault centres have been funded. Money is flowing to the north. We have many people who are unemployed, and we've seen some really significant and new types of investment in the north. We've seen it across the country, for that matter.
In terms of indigenous community support, we've seen money for on the land programs, which has really helped us out. Our friendship centres got support. That really helped us out. This is the first time we're seeing that type of support. It's bringing communities together. At the same time, more people are venturing out into the wilderness and back on the land than I've ever seen. It's been a long, long time. It's allowed our communities to do different things. It's allowed our communities to restrict alcohol sales. It's allowed our communities to put more security on our highways. It's stopped a lot of the bootleggers and drug dealers. Of course, we're able to do that because we're fairly isolated. We've also been able to set up on the land counselling camps, where people who are traumatized, people who are having a difficult time, can go and talk to elders and talk to some of the knowledge-keepers. It's working really well for us.
I don't think it's the same in the south. Different issues challenge people in urban centres versus rural. I know that there are differences when it comes to how indigenous women are dealing with the pandemic versus non-indigenous.
To SheEO, is there any information pointing to the fact that indigenous women and non-indigenous women are affected differently by the pandemic?
Thank you to all our witnesses today for your compelling comments.
I'm a new member. This is my first mandate as an MP and the first time I'm participating on a committee as important as this finance committee. I have to tell you, some of the comments that I heard here today have made me scratch my head a little bit, because I'm part of a government that, I think, has provided historic funding, and it would be a miss on my part if I did not outline for the record some of the funding that we've already done. We haven't cut funding. We have created more than 7,000 shelter spaces since taking office. The original goal was to do that by 2027. We've already met that.
A third of the national housing strategy investments have gone to benefit women. We have funded more than 420 shelters and 90 sexual assault centres, and we have $10 million slated to support women's organizations that fall outside of those categories. We provided new funding in response to COVID-19. We provided Quebec alone with $6.46 million on April 22. We have provided $4.25 million of that to 118 shelters and $790,000 to 49 sexual assault centres. However, as this is jurisdictional and all provinces are very sensitive to this, Quebec insisted that all funding flow through that province. In the budget of 2019, we had $160 million earmarked over five years for women's programs.
Can we do more? Can we do better? Absolutely. All governments can do more and do better, but I think that this government has stepped up and has provided, has heard and has listened. Our programs have flexibility. I'm sorry if I'm speaking so passionately, but I believe so much in what we are doing that I had to set the record straight.
My question is for Ms. Kamateros. Thank you very much for your compelling comments and for all the work that you and your team do at Shield of Athena. I've known your organization for many years and I congratulate you for all the good work, as I congratulate everybody here for the hard work and great work that they do.
Several times, you mentioned specific funding for an allowance. Can you elaborate a little bit more on what that would look like? What would an adequate amount or schedule of payments be? Have you or has an organization that you know of done a study that could come up with a figure that would make sense?
Whatever I've said is based on the experience we have had when women have come to us at the shelter or at the centres. A lot of women do have jobs, but if a woman doesn't have a job and has been accustomed to being financially dependent, the first thing we do is to get her onto welfare. This welfare is $600. If she has to pay $500 a month for rent because there is not enough affordable social housing, then that's an issue for her. If she has children, that issue is compounded.
I would say that if a study were to be done, it should be to look at a sliding scale of needs, because we don't want abuse of the system either. This is not what we're advocating for. We have to make the women autonomous. That's a basic thing in the feminist perspective as well: How can a woman become autonomous and not fall back into an abusive situation? I'm sure that a study could be done, but $600 of welfare is not enough.
On the other side of the spectrum, what are we supposed to do with women who come to us in order to get more funding? Are we supposed to tell them how they can get money in cash and that they should not divulge money that they get? The circle of poverty that a lot of women who are also victims of conjugal violence have is a circle that should be broken at some point. Again, conjugal violence is not a poor woman's issue; it's just that women who are poor feel it so much more.
What can we do? We have received help at the level of the shelters and we have to thank the government for that, because every shelter in Quebec got, through the funding, approximately $50,000 for the COVID situation. But let's see what we can do for the woman, the victim, herself. Is there something that we can provide her in terms of financial assistance that will help her on her road towards autonomy? This is so important and it's particularly important for women who don't have the choice, which is what I was trying to describe before.
No, I have no perspective on what this issue would be, but I'm sure that if we set up a committee, we could arrive at some logical outcome. However, there is a crying need for the women who are victims of conjugal violence to get this financial stipend or allowance. I don't know what to call it.
I'll start by responding to the statements made by my colleague, Ms. Koutrakis. From my perspective, the issue is that the federal government significantly withdrew from its role in health and social services, basically in the mid-1990s, to take care of the deficit. It no longer took care of social housing. It no longer took care of funding for health and social services. Since then, there has been an issue. The Liberal government has made reinvestment announcements. However, these are nothing compared to the cuts that it made a few decades earlier.
There's an excellent book on the topic entitled Combating Poverty. The book shows that, after this, the level of poverty soared, particularly in the case of single women, and even more so in the case of women heads of families. However, Quebec was an exception. With limited means, the government implemented a family policy, which is very effective. The policy helps women remain active in the labour market. My question for Ms. Scott is related to this issue.
Ms. Scott, your presentation was full of valuable information. In terms of this issue, you showed that, because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, a significant number of women are at risk of permanently leaving the labour market. We know the long-term solution, which is the Quebec model, the comprehensive family policy. In the short term, what can be done?
I'll ask you a second question right away. In your opinion, does the $500 million invested by the federal government in health care systems seem sufficient, or should the federal government be doing more?