Good afternoon, everyone. I now call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 21 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Pursuant to the order of reference of Saturday, April 11, the committee is meeting for the purpose of receiving evidence concerning matters related to the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today's meeting is taking place by video conference, and the proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website.
I would like to remind the members and witnesses to, before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When you are ready to speak, please unmute your microphone and then return it to mute when you are finished speaking. When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly, so that the translators can do their work. As is my normal practice, I will hold up the yellow card when you have 30 seconds remaining, and I will hold up the red card when your time for questions has expired.
Now I would like to welcome our witnesses. From the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, we have Madam Isabelle Des Chênes, executive vice-president.
From Groupe Robert Inc., we're joined by Jean-Robert Lessard, special adviser, public and government relations.
From Hoffman-La Roche Limited we have Logan Caragata, director, federal government affairs and policy, access division, and Fanny Sie, strategic healthcare partner, artificial intelligence and digital health. From the Montreal Port Authority we have Mr. Daniel Dagenais, vice-president, operations.
Each witness will present for seven minutes, followed by a round of questions.
With that, we will begin with Madam Des Chênes.
You have the floor for seven minutes.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
It's my pleasure to be with you today on behalf of Canada's chemistry and plastics manufacturers. You may be aware that Canada's chemistry sector generates nearly $60 billion a year, making us the third-largest manufacturing sector in the country. This is split almost evenly between pharmaceutical and industrial-grade chemicals, the latter of which I will speak to you about today.
Before I begin my formal remarks, however, I would like to extend our sector's appreciation to Parliament and the Government of Canada for the extraordinary and timely measures taken to support Canadians and Canadian businesses during this unprecedented time.
I have three messages to share with you today. They'll be easy to remember, as they're a bit of a take on the three Rs. The chemistry sector is resilient, responsive and well poised to lead Canada's economic recovery.
First, our sector is resilient. There have been no material impacts to our companies or their supply chains. Most of our industry continues to operate at normal levels of production. Some have seen production decreases while still maintaining operations, and others are experiencing production increases. The sector so far has not required economic supports and has experienced very limited layoffs.
Second, our sector is highly responsive. Canada's chemistry sector produces important water treatment and disinfection chemicals essential for public safety. These have been in extremely high demand to support the COVID-19 response. Plastics also play an important sanitary role for medical and food packaging purposes and are inputs into PPE, or personal protective equipment. Demand for these products has increased significantly as a result of COVID-19.
Our members have also reconfigured value chains and production activities to assist in the response. For example, Shell Canada, BASF Canada and Procter & Gamble have all reconfigured operations to make hundreds of thousands of litres of hand sanitizer, which they have donated to hospitals and community support organizations. Also, led by BASF Canada and Trimac, both CIAC members, our sector has supported the development of the rapid response platform. This platform matches PPE producers with those who have PPE needs. In its first three weeks of operation, more than 25,000 PPE matches have been successfully completed through the platform.
Finally, while being resilient and responsible, the sector is also poised to contribute to Canada's economic recovery. Over $7 billion of capital investments are currently under way and scheduled to come into production in late 2021 and early 2022, and we anticipate that a significant portion of the additional $11 billion committed or announced in capital investments that were deferred due to COVID will materialize to assist in the recovery. All of our facilities have deferred scheduled major maintenance activities, and it will be of utmost priority to get these projects under way as soon as possible. These projects can involve thousands of contractor staff and total in the hundreds of millions of dollars, injecting much-needed capital into the economy.
In addition, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia are all looking toward the chemistry sector for significant additional investment growth beyond that already announced.
Let me close by offering two pieces of advice on what Canada can do to support future growth in Canada's chemistry and plastics sectors.
First, it is essential that the Government of Canada embrace the investment growth potential of the chemistry sector. As the fundamental building blocks of the modern world, chemistry solutions will play a vital role as we build the post-COVID-19 economy. The Government of Canada should work collaboratively and in a coordinated manner with the provinces to deliver a team Canada approach to attracting global investment to the sector. Governments working together have benefited Canadians in the response to COVID-19. We need to see the same coordinated approach as we restart and grow our economy.
Second, while it needs to maintain its focus on addressing the challenging issue of plastic pollution in the environment, the Government of Canada must use tools other than the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and in particular its schedule 1 list of toxic substances to regulate plastic waste. Declaring plastics toxic in Canada will greatly undermine the confidence of global investors. It will deliver a message that Canada is indeed ambivalent about growing the sector, despite the resilience, responsiveness and economic opportunity demonstrated throughout the crisis.
Thank you again for providing me with the opportunity to speak with you today. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you for the opportunity to tell you what we did during the pandemic.
On March 12, Groupe Robert Inc. took its first steps. It addressed the situation by setting up a crisis management committee to ensure daily communication with all its employees. The committee implemented several measures, including the suspension of visits to its facilities, except for visits from critical suppliers. These suppliers had to fill out a self-identification form before being allowed in.
We stopped business travel and instead focused on the use of communication technologies such as Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Groupe Robert Inc. also funnelled all questions and suggestions from employees to a single address, email@example.com.
In addition, a series of hygiene measures were implemented in keeping with the recommendations made by public health authorities in Quebec and Canada. Employees enter through a single door, where there's a washing station and where their temperature is taken. Our drivers must follow a protocol for the use of disinfectants to clean their cabins. The housekeeping team has increased its cleaning rounds of all areas. The mechanical maintenance team must disinfect all required instruments before and after use. To encourage physical distancing in common areas, we've changed the break and meal times.
At the end of the school break, several employees who returned from trips needed to be quarantined. In addition, although the lockdown has eased, basic hygiene rules are part of daily life. These include physical distancing, hand washing and coughing into elbows.
We created a dedicated COVID-19 team. The team consists of three employees from the health and safety department. Its mandate is to research all relevant information on the pandemic. These three employees became the resource people to consult in order to avoid any wrongdoing or misinformation, including erroneous statements in certain press releases.
A number of employees are now teleworking. Our managers have received training on best practices for managing teleworking teams.
I must mention the establishment of various protocols for the steps required when an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19. We were fortunate, because only eight out of 3,600 employees contracted the coronavirus. I'm pleased to report that all eight employees have recovered.
The implementation of shorter hours and, above all, more timely support through online training has made it possible to reassign employees to other duties in order to limit layoffs. We also believe that the strong collaboration between the employer and the union should be noted. This collaboration led to the establishment of a forum that enabled the employer and the employees to work together to convey the same message.
At the height of the crisis, we temporarily laid off 459 people. In this period of crisis, Groupe Robert Inc. is pleased to see that its strength lies with its employees, who have tried to find solutions and accomplish great things.
We've been in business for 73 years. We've learned that the only way to overcome challenges such as this one is to work as a team.
Madam Chair and honourable members of the committee, on behalf of Hoffmann-La Roche, we want to thank you for the opportunity to speak today. We applaud the efforts of the federal government and of front-line health care workers to combat the spread of COVID-19 and to protect our economy.
Roche is a global pharmaceutical and diagnostics company focused on advancing in science and improving health outcomes for patients. Our combined strengths have made Roche a leader in personalized health care, a strategy that aims to tailor the right treatment to the right patient at the right time.
In 2019 we invested $284 million in research and development, with $57 million in clinical research in Canada. Most recently we announced a $500-million investment over five years to establish a global site, bringing up to 500 highly specialized jobs to Mississauga.
There are a number of initiatives Roche is working on to address some of the challenges associated with the pandemic. Phase three clinical trials are under way to study the safety and efficacy of one of our medications in hospitalized adult patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. On the diagnostics front, our molecular test was approved under Health Canada's special access program and contributes to a significant portion of testing across Canada. We have also submitted our antibody test for approval, which we are expecting shortly. We are very pleased about the potential of this test as we begin to move into the recovery phase and engage with the COVID-19 immunity task force to combine our efforts.
Another initiative we're very proud of is our open innovation challenge, a funding program supporting ideas, addressing some of the biggest challenges of the pandemic. After receiving more than 800 submissions from across the health sciences and technology community in Canada, we're excited to help develop and implement 11 of those ideas. One looks at testing climate conditions on COVID-19 transmission through an aerosol chamber designed by a team of virologists and engineers. Another project uses real-time artificial intelligence to track, monitor and predict symptoms among high-risk seniors.
We've also assembled the Roche data science coalition, a group of academic and private organizations with a common mission. This coalition endorses grassroots challenge identification, access to data and the development of actionable insights related to the pandemic. Our collaborators include Self Care Catalysts, ThinkData Works, Amii, the Vector Institute and experts in privacy. Over the last eight weeks we have secured five to seven years' worth of global partnerships and have developed over 100 artificial intelligence solutions, virtual dashboards, market reports and overall deeper partnerships with stakeholders across the globe.
This pandemic has exacerbated many existing gaps in our health care system while showing the immense value that the life sciences sector brings. Issues such as system capacity, lack of virtual care and data fragmentation across the country are igniting a pressing demand for sustainable change. We have started to see incredible flexibility and leadership in our health system's immediate response to the pandemic. However, it's important to use learnings from this crisis to catalyze meaningful long-term change.
As we shift the focus to recovery, there are great opportunities to accelerate innovation and move our country forward. The future of life sciences in Canada is extraordinarily bright. There are many actions that the government can take to promote growth at home and abroad.
First, the federal government should revive the health and biosciences economic strategy table. The announcement of the industry strategy council is a good start, but we encourage the government—with input from industry, patients and other sector stakeholders—to revitalize this work to identify specific and measurable next steps. It's also important to acknowledge the need to rethink some of the recommendations in the context of pandemic planning and of building our capacity for the next potential crisis.
Second, a strong data ecosystem is a key success factor in the response to COVID-19. The pandemic has exposed significant limitations in the ability to collect, access, integrate, share and analyze high-quality data. It has also magnified concerns that data cannot be easily compared between jurisdictions, as each province uses different data collection methodologies, standards and policies. Furthermore, most provincial data is publicly inaccessible and incomprehensive. We believe that we can win this fight through the sharing of safe and secure health care data and knowledge, abiding by local privacy laws, to better inform patient care and health system decision-making.
Lastly, there needs to be an increase in investments in programs like the Scale AI and the digital superclusters that Roche is very proud to be a part of. COVID-19 has demonstrated the catastrophic effects to both patient health and the economy as a result of a lack of constant innovation in our sector. By rewarding innovation and increasing investment into innovative technologies, such as genomic sequencing, cloud computing, digital health tools for remote patient care and monitoring, as well as medicines that deliver superior outcomes, we stand to deliver unprecedented value in both health benefits for patients and economic growth for our country. These technologies will position Canada as a leader in personalized health care and allow us to provide patients with exactly what they need from their health care systems.
Whether through diagnostics, medicines or insights, Roche is a committed partner, helping to navigate and ultimately end the COVID-19 pandemic. The life sciences sector has the amazing potential to lead the economic recovery of this country. Healthy Canadians bring a healthy economy. Through collaboration with patients, patient organizations, companies like Roche and the government, we can mobilize these ideas into action.
Thank you very much for your time today. We are happy to address any questions you may have.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak as part of the committee business. My name is Daniel Dagenais. I'm the vice-president of operations at the Montreal Port Authority.
I want to start by expressing my sincere appreciation for the port workers, seagoing personnel and all supply chain workers. They've been working tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic to ensure that all sectors of the industry across the country can continue to operate.
I also want to thank the government for its efforts to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadians. In particular, I want to thank the officials and departmental staff with whom we're in contact. They've remained available and attentive during our many calls over the past few weeks.
Naturally, I also want to thank our clients and business partners for their trust, along with our workers, who have also demonstrated their trust over the past few weeks.
The Port of Montreal is the second largest port in Canada. It's the only container port on the St. Lawrence. Our continental markets for goods are mainly Quebec, Ontario and the American midwest.
A port is a hub for goods, where all modes of transportation come together. Every day, 2,500 trucks come to the port to pick up and deliver goods. Two thousand ships a year come to anchor in our waters. Every week, 60 or 80 trains pass through the interchange area to deliver goods.
The Port of Montreal's operations generate economic benefits of about $2.6 billion and support almost 19,000 direct and indirect jobs. Last year, in 2019, over $100 billion worth of goods crossed our docks. It was the sixth record year for the Port of Montreal. However, March 2020 will certainly go down in history for us. We had record volumes in 2019, since the amount of goods kept increasing. In the first quarter of 2020, the volumes were already 5% higher than in 2019.
In March, the Canadian and Quebec governments recognized the essential status of the movement of goods. As a result, our employees were excluded from lockdown orders and closure instructions. We had to quickly adapt our business processes to comply with safety instructions.
COVID-19 is having and will have an undeniable impact on the Canadian and Quebec economies and on supply chains. For the supply chain players, the pandemic, and the resulting health crisis, is primarily a challenge for workers and employers.
What happened at the start of the pandemic? The winning conditions for dealing with this type of disaster mainly involved risk management, which had to be embedded in our culture. We needed a business continuity plan with a pandemic component, meaning the implementation of a series of health measures such as hand washing, physical distancing, the closure of our offices, and the distribution of personal protective equipment and material. Of course, we've done just about everything that you've already heard about. I echo what Mr. Lessard said earlier about the measures taken.
In addition, we've been working hard for a very long time to diversify our markets, specifically to ensure proper crisis and risk management and to thereby better withstand economic shocks and price increases.
Early on, the Montreal Port Authority mobilized its management team and employees. It established crisis management at the strategic level, but also a tactical committee on the ground to find the right measures to implement. These groups were mobilized and these committees were created to build on the trust that we already have in our workers. This aligns with our culture of resilience.
We needed to establish our priorities, get our messages out and properly convey them to our employees. Once we had mobilized our direct contacts, we mobilized our operators. Naturally, we had to remain attentive and support their activities, but also maintain the flow and align our guidelines.
We have only one work disruption to report. It happened early on, when there was a great deal of confusion and information seeking. What has made the difference is the consistent message that employees clearly play a key role in our actions and responses. This strategy has worked well not only with our employees, but also with our tenants' employees.
The third item that I want to talk about is the collaboration among all the supply chain players. We must communicate and remain factual, responsive and sensitive to concerns. Early on, we started listening. The logistics chain players asked us to work with them to resolve anticipated issues, such as shortages of containers and storage space. We quickly took stock of available space together with the CargoM logistics and transportation cluster in the Montreal area.
We also kept track of the availability of containers to avoid running out and to ensure that Canadian exporters could export their goods. As a result, there's no crisis. Traffic continues to flow through our facilities. To date, the Port of Montreal remains fully operational and free of congestion.
In addition to the collaboration with the cluster and the logistics chain players around the Port of Montreal, work was done at the national level with the network of port authorities. We also reached out to our international partners to identify, understand and share information. We tried to identify best practices and draw inspiration from them, while establishing partnerships. A great deal of work was done with the Port of Antwerp and chainPORT, an association of ports interested in logistics and innovation.
At the same time, we worked with the Scale AI and IVADO Labs innovation supercluster to create tools to help us distinguish goods and mobilize the logistics chain to improve the flow of goods through our facilities. These goods are often critical to combatting COVID-19.
In conclusion, I want to add that our infrastructure remained open. Our infrastructure is strategic, and it must be adapted to long economic cycles. We must meet needs, which requires a business continuity plan. We must then establish priorities, communicate, and maintain our clients' trust in the logistics chain.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses. It was quite informative.
Let me start by asking a question of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.
Madam Des Chênes, you mentioned the three Rs: resilience, responsiveness and recovery. Under the resilience heading, you talked about minimal impact and said that no economic incentive was needed for your industry. Under responsiveness, you specifically talked about the rapid response platform. Under recovery, you talked about the $11-billion investment that is planned to come in 2021 and 2022.
Let me start with the no impact and resilience. Was it a quick shift in the industry that helped minimize or eliminate the impact, or was it the nature of the industry that it was well suited in helping this pandemic?
Thank you for the question.
We implemented our strategy in the different sectors of the chain. Our valued assets, which I mentioned earlier, are obviously our workers and our corporate culture. They contribute to our resilience. Innovation plays a key role in our work at the Montreal Port Authority.
Our partners are aware of the various initiatives launched in the past few years. We recently launched a new initiative to decode customs declarations and ship manifests before goods arrive on our shores. We'll be using information technology tools and artificial intelligence to decode the documents, in order to properly identify shipments used to combat COVID-19.
Next week, we'll show our partners everything needed to develop the communication plans. The goal is to provide a flow of information to all logistics chain players. As a result, they can make the right decisions and they won't leave drugs, medical equipment or inputs in plastic, for example. This material is used to make personal protective equipment, which is considered necessary. The goal is for everyone to make the best possible decisions to facilitate the movement of these goods and to give these goods preferential treatment.
In addition to the movement of goods, and in keeping with the same goal of ensuring the safety of our employees, a series of measures will be implemented. These measures include the imminent introduction of proximity wristbands, which will alert employees when they're less than two metres away from each other. This will keep employees apart and ensure that they follow all the health rules. The goal is to never let our guard down and to keep the chain running.
Actually, from the outset, we were seriously concerned. We had more than 1,500 drivers all over Canada and the United States, and we wondered how we were going to supervise all of our employees to ensure safety. The measures we put in place were effective right from the start. We didn't waste any time: we went looking for the information we needed.
Within the first two days, we started taking workers' temperatures and observing physical distancing. You and I both know that's no small feat. We had to take into account the drivers arriving at the warehouse and the warehouse employees, not to mention those working at the distribution centres. We were very proactive, especially when it came to food and medical supplies. The demand was very high, indeed.
As strange as it may sound, we had to take safety precautions to track our trailers because they were carrying products that were being targeted by people who wanted to resell them. We had to be very cautious, especially with mask shipments. Obviously, that's something that was known. When we unloaded the famous Russian aircraft, the media were there and people were taking photos of the trailers. We had to transport all of those masks to specific destinations. Those were crucial steps we had to take.
What was disappointing was coming across inconsistencies in the supply chain. For instance, consideration hadn't been given to entrusting logistics experts with the product inventories, leading to a mask shortage because millions of masks were expired.
I'd like to make a small recommendation to the provincial and federal governments, if I may. It's important to deal with companies that specialize in logistics and have the ability to track expired product inventories, among other things.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Welcome to everyone for being here this afternoon.
I too would like to speak to the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada. When I look about 10 miles north of where I am, I see Joffre. There's a place where the petrochemical industry that we have in Alberta is really so critical.
On plastics and the use of them, I was in China a couple of years ago on a trade mission and they were in every place you would go in order to make sure there was food safety and security. A cob of corn would have a plastic wrapping on it. When we speak of single-use plastics, we've seen it in our grocery stores, where everyone is saying there's not going to be a charge on these plastic bags anymore. They want us to use them rather than bring in potentially contaminated fabric types of bags. There are so many things like that out there.
You mentioned, Ms. Des Chênes, that there are barriers for investment. Really, that's a critical part because it seems lost in this discussion of Canada's natural resources and the significance of them. No one looks at the 60% greenhouse gas reduction that you're speaking of. No one looks at that as far as agriculture is concerned. We recognize how much better Canada is than other places around the world, yet we do this signalling that we're going to stop this or stop that. I think of neonicotinoids and so on. There's this great push to take them away because they're going to kill bees. Well, quite frankly, the canola fields are where the beekeepers are taking their bees so that they have healthy opportunities to grow their product.
I'm really concerned about the way in which the industry is being portrayed. It seems as though we can't get through to people just how significant it is and how the money that can be made from our industries can go toward cleaning up plastics in the oceans and all these types of things if we would just unleash the power that we have in our industry.
I want to ask a question about some of those barriers or some of the things that are making us uncompetitive. One of them, of course, has to do with our carbon tax, where it is right now, what it is going to be in the near future. We are trying to compete with companies around the world. If we shut down our industry, it will be filled in from other places around the world. I'm curious as to what you feel the impacts of our over-regulating and not making ourselves a global player are going to do for our industry.
Thank you for the question.
I think one of the important things to keep in mind is that we are a natural resources country, and one of the things we forget is that our natural resources are actually among the lowest among other jurisdictions in terms of greenhouse gas emissions through the manufacturing cycle. Why is that? It's because we have more hydroelectricity than any other jurisdiction and we use natural gas in order to displace coal and other inputs. It's really important to keep that in mind.
What it means is that for our industry we have a lower greenhouse gas intensity footprint than many other jurisdictions. It means that the products that we produce are already, on a life-cycle basis, better for the environment than something coming out of China, and even sections of Europe.
Some of the barriers that we find.... We support a carbon tax. We support the idea of putting a price on pollution. The government's new clean fuel standard is a great opportunity to address transportation fuels. Our concern with the clean fuel standard is that on gaseous or industrial fuels it means that we'll be paying twice for the same molecules. Understanding that we're emissions-intensive, we're trade-exposed, we're more than happy to pay our part in terms of carbon pricing. We just don't want to pay twice for the same molecule that we're working with.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to begin by thanking all the witnesses for being with us today.
Before I begin my questions, I want to mention to the committee that, at 12:55 today, the clerk sent out my notice of motion to all MPs in this committee. I'd like for us to discuss a draft report on June 22, a day that has already been set aside for committee business. I don't want to discuss this any further today. We can discuss it further on a committee business day so as to not take any further time away from the witnesses.
I'll continue on with my question.
My first question is for Mr. Dagenais, from the Montreal Port Authority.
The Port of Montreal is the biggest port in eastern Canada. It contributes to an ecosystem of 6,300 companies and represents 19,000 jobs.
Can you tell us how much of a decline in marine transportation operations Montreal has experienced?
Also, can you tell us how many people have lost their jobs at the Montreal Port Authority since the pandemic began?
Thank you for your question.
As far as our operations are concerned, the first quarter of 2020 was quite good. However, beginning in mid-April—extending into the end of April and the month of May—we started feeling the effects of the downturn. The impact is now visible every day. Ship and train traffic is down. For fiscal 2020, we anticipate a drop in revenue of about 12%. As you know, our organization is self-financing, so we've had to make adjustments because of the 12% decrease. It's affected our capital spending plans, in other words, long-term investments in maintaining and building infrastructure. The goal is to balance cash flow.
Luckily, we haven't had to lay anyone off at the Montreal Port Authority, which employs 250 people. Our administrative staff, however, is currently working from home. Nearly half of our workforce is hard at work on the ground every single day, maintaining infrastructure, operating the port's own railway network and delivering services ranging from trucking and security to fire prevention.
Yes, of course. I would say 45% of our volume is related to the food industry so we keep a very close eye on the new markets coming out after COVID.
We also see a lot of problems with the distribution. We have 32 distribution centres related to the food industry, and we have a lot of capacity. The problem is to get access in the big cities. As you are well aware, they have closed certain streets and certain areas to trucking. We would like to deliver the food but with a big trailer it would be mostly impossible, and that would have, for sure, a real effect on the cost of the food. If we have to bring our containers back to the distribution centre and put food in a small truck, it will have an impact on the cost for sure.
Any new regulation put on imports by the government has to be very well explained, because with all the agreements you could see, like the one between Canada and Europe, Europe ships 80% of its exports to Canada and Canada sends back only about 20% of that value, so we are losing on that.
We're not complaining because we do a lot of transportation to the Port of Montreal, but in fairness to the food industry in Canada, especially if you contact Groupe Export in Montreal, they will give you all these facts about how it's working, and if Canada puts pressure on food export compared to the import of European products.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'm going to pick up on a line of questions started by my colleague, Mr. Erskine-Smith. I am interested in the concept of unnecessary versus necessary plastics. I think that's a good way of framing this debate during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of discussion about how we don't need single-use straws and single-use plastic bags because they're unnecessary. In the context of human health and environmental health, a calculation was made that was detrimental to our use of these products. Then when the pandemic hit, we had opposite advice from public health officials, who were basically saying not to bring your reusable plastic bags to the grocery store but instead use single-use plastics because of the potential impact on human health.
Ms. Des Chênes, I'm just wondering if you can speak to the industry's perspective on this. If you're arguing that the approach is not to list plastics as a toxic substance under schedule 1 of CEPA, then how can we deal with that trade-off? We know that plastics are ubiquitous. We know they're used in everything in everyday life, but how do we, as legislators, mitigate that trade-off that we're always talking about, so that the fears of the people who are concerned about the floating plastic garbage icebergs off of the coast of Indonesia are dealt with.
I'm also concerned about microbeads in our Great Lakes. I don't want those in my digestive tract.
How do we square that circle? How is the industry association going to lead on that issue so that regs aren't just happening to it, but that you are an active partner in this discussion?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you very much to all of the witnesses who have appeared before this committee.
I should, in turn, apologize because I was experiencing technical glitches. There are many aspects of the testimony I missed. I am eternally grateful for all the guidance you have each provided.
For my first question, if I may, I would like to follow up on what Madam Rempel Garner said. My question is for the chemical industry.
She rightly stated that you can't just push against regs. The reality is that there are many shortcomings in how things currently stand. As I understand it, the witness for the chemical industry has rightly pointed out, much as my colleague MP Longfield has stated, that it's all about innovation. It's about making sure we're responsive and we're moving forward.
However, the question and the challenge remain. How are we going to ensure that plastic isn't dumped all around the world? This is a problem that many Canadians were concerned about. Again, I appreciate full well that the representative from the chemical industry has said that there has to be advanced recycling [Technical difficulty—Editor] chemicals for quite some time.
If I could ask you one more time—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My question is for Mr. Lessard.
Earlier, Mr. Lessard, you mentioned the problems truckers encountered in the first few weeks.
I heard about those issues. I have family and friends who work in the sector, and they told me that they didn't have access to washroom facilities, whether in Quebec, Ontario, other provinces or across the border. When they would cross the U.S. border, any food they brought was confiscated and thrown away. They were seen almost as pariahs, so they ran into problems at loading and unloading sites.
Which of the measures put in place did the most to ensure truckers felt respected and less stressed?
As you mentioned, it was an intense experience for our people, not necessarily between Quebec and Ontario—although that is a very busy corridor for us—but more in the U.S. It's true that, when they arrived at the drop-off or delivery point, they were often treated like pariahs.
In some cases, consignees didn't want to sign documents confirming receipt of the goods. Since everyone has a cell phone, we set up a procedure where truckers would take a photo of the document and a photo of the person receiving the goods. That way, we were able to make sure we would be paid.
Obviously, truckers had lunch boxes with them, and there were a few times when they weren't allowed in with their food. What was insulting was that truckers had paid people to prepare food for them, but when they got to the border, it was thrown out.
That put tremendous strain on truckers, but things got better when the people at the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Association du camionnage du Québec got involved. They lobbied hard and were able to convince border authorities that, at a minimum, drivers were entitled to eat and to use the facilities.
I think privacy is always a very sensitive topic, and we're more careful because we know the risks relate to consequences that he can't necessarily take back. It also sets precedent for the future.
When we look at what we've done, the world has moved very conservatively and has either moved forward just a little bit or not moved at all. Because of that, we haven't been able to really see the benefits of data.
Given the particular urgency of this, we've talked to a number of patient groups. We've said, “We want to be able to empower you to contribute to science. We want to be fully transparent with you and say this is the particular dataset we need, and if we can have that under your full consent, it will go to this particular study and will be used to create these particular tools.”
There is huge traction with patient foundations and our patient advocates that this is what they want. They want to be able to contribute. Their data matters. They are valued in the system, and they want to be able to do this for science and for Canada.
I think it's important—we talk about this a lot—that are working with the ecosystem, being across the table with all stakeholders and co-developing with each another. If we do that, then we can ensure that everything we do is within proper guidelines.
We speak to our privacy experts and the appropriate authorities, but there is traction for grassroots contributions and challenge definitions. It's not insurmountable is what I am saying.
I guess that's my point, because, of course, as a farmer, I am paying a carbon tax on the propane I am using.
To go back to one of the comments earlier about transportation and everything and how Canadians are going to end up paying more for food, quite frankly, we had better understand that it's the distribution costs, the processing costs, and some of the labour costs associated with some of the more refined ones that are bringing up that cost of food. It's not money that's going to the farmers. I just wanted to make that particular point.
With regard to one last point, if I could speak with the Montreal Port Authority, I know there are millions of tonnes of fuel—oil and gas—that are coming in through the Montreal port. If there were a future government that chose to disrupt tanker traffic in the St. Lawrence, how much damage could that do to the port of Montreal?