We'll get the meeting started in any event, as we have quorum. Thanks for that, Tamara.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021, therefore members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website, and it will cover only the person who is speaking rather than the entirety of the committee.
I'd remind all participants that, per House of Commons rules, people are not allowed to take screenshots. They're just not permitted. Also, I'd ask folks to abide by all health protocols and stay safe.
With that, we will turn to the witness list. As I said, we are a little tighter in this panel as we have only an hour and 15 minutes. Please hold your comments to about five minutes, and then we'll go to questions.
We'll start with BGC Canada. We have Josh Berman, director of research and public policy, and Chad Polito, executive director, BGC Dawson, Montreal.
Go ahead. The floor is yours.
Let me start by recognizing and thanking the federal government, MPs, and Canada's federal civil servants, for the critical and important work you are doing to support people living in Canada through this pandemic. Thank you.
I'm proud to represent today, along with Chad, from whom you'll hear in just a moment, our 84 clubs, which together serve more than 200,000 children and youth at over 775 locations across Canada. As one of Canada's largest child- and youth-serving organizations, our early learning and child care and our before- and after-school programs help young people develop into healthy, active and engaged adults.
Over the past 100 years and during these last 13 difficult months, our clubs have been there for vulnerable children, youth and families. Today clubs are providing food for families, partnering with their local food banks. We provide safe child care and programs for children and youth, and help to share trusted information on COVID safety and vaccines with our members. We have rolled out safe and high-quality digital programs when kids can't be in clubs.
Chad and I want to focus our remarks today on four key takeaways.
First, while the emergency community support fund allowed clubs to further step forward in the early months of the pandemic to support our communities, the needs in our communities continue to outstrip our ability to fully respond. Importantly, as the demand for our programs and services rises, it means more dollars out the door, not in.
Second, while the demand for our programs and services has risen, revenue has fallen. Our revenues across the country are down some $20 million after taking into account federal and other emergency supports due to large reductions in earned incomes and philanthropy. Programs like the Canadian employment wage subsidy have been extremely important in helping charities like BGC protect staff positions in the face of declining revenues. The extension of this program to June is positive and we support broad calls for further extension as the pandemic drags on.
Lastly, frontline human service charities are still facing serious fiscal challenges that have not been addressed by government programs to date, and are severely limiting our shared capacity to deliver services to communities that have borne the brunt of COVID-19's impact. A continued response to this crisis demands more. This is why we have joined others and continue our call for a community services COVID relief fund in next week's budget. This fund would provide a temporary, 18-month operating funding program to bridge our frontline agencies to the other side of this pandemic and support a transformation fund to help community services invest in their capacity, technology, operating models and mergers in order to come out of this pandemic stronger and more resilient.
We thank you, members of this committee, for your pre-budget recommendation for bridge operating grants for essential community human services organizations. These are organizations like ours that are run by and for those who serve Black, indigenous and people of colour, and are proud members of our shared economy, one that employs, I should say, 315,000 people across Canada. BGC has supported vulnerable community members for over 100 years and done so while balancing our books. This proposed fund wouldn't make us whole but would allow us to continue to provide child care and after-school programs, run safe transitional housing programs and offer newcomer support, virtual counselling and shelters for people experiencing homelessness and women fleeing domestic violence.
With that, let me pass it to Chad.
BGC Dawson is a community organization that has recently celebrated its 60th anniversary and serves over 800 families in the Montreal area.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought on some unique challenges for our community. Food security is one of our core programs. Pre-pandemic, we were serving 40 to 50 individuals per week through our food bank. At the height of the pandemic, this number skyrocketed to 941 people per month. While we are extremely grateful and thankful for the emergency community support fund, which enabled us to meet this need temporarily, we have more requests for food than we have resources. We had to make the difficult decision to scale back our food bank and are now serving just over 400 individuals each month, but the demand remains.
Summer camp, one of our key revenue-generating programs, was moved to a virtual format last summer and was offered free of charge. This significantly impacted our ability to meet our 2020 budget.
On top of that, our building is in desperate need of repair. This year, we invested over $100,000 in building maintenance and still have to plan to replace a leaking roof and an original furnace in order to be able to keep our doors open.
Our club, like others across Canada, had to make the difficult decision to lay off some staff and reduce program offerings. Approximately 70% of our staff nationwide are women, and we know that the services we provide allow mothers who so choose to enter and stay in the workforce.
Looking forward, we are committed to being there for our community and want to be in a strong position to adapt our programs to meet new realities. An article in the Financial Post on April 8 found that “the number of Canadians close to insolvency reached a five-year high”, with 53% of those polled saying that “they are $200 or less away from not being able to meet their bills and debt payments each month”.
We know that a lot of the families we serve are struggling financially and are just barely hanging on. As we move through this pandemic, organizations like ours need to be able to offer vital programs and services to all who need them, as part of our commitment to long-term community care.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here. To echo my colleague, I would like to express significant thanks to all members for all you do daily on behalf of Canadians, during this pandemic as well as beyond.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated in Canada for over 100 years. We facilitate intentional mentoring relationships with over 41,000 youth in 1,100 communities with the support of over 21,000 volunteers.
Children and youth in our programs face toxic stress due to living with adversities caused by systemic challenges like poverty, mental illness, neglect, addiction and a range of other sources. According to our research, 63% of young people in Big Brothers Big Sisters programs experience three or more of these adversities while at the same time having only one, or often zero, developmental relationships. The pandemic has only amplified these stressors, making them more complex and deeply rooted.
Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring is needed now more than ever. For example, calls to Kids Help Phone were up by 55% and through text by 61%, and 76% of the youth reaching out to them said they had no one else they felt it was safe to turn to.
Many of these callers are referred to Big Brothers Big Sisters, as we are ideally suited to help. We just completed research with York University and the University of Victoria that found that mental health issues like depression and anxiety during the pandemic are significantly lower among youth enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters programs, and that rates of depression and anxiety drop the more youth are engaged with their mentor. The challenge is that we already had 15,000 youth on our wait list before the pandemic, and now that list is growing daily.
This increased demand comes at the same time that revenue has plummeted, dropping by $13 million in 2020, and we are projecting a further 30% drop in 2021, for a total shortfall of $25 million across the federation.
While the government has provided additional funding to the Kids Help Phone, which we fully support, funding a crisis line without also assisting community services organizations to which those youth are referred is like funding the 911 emergency call service without providing the medical systems in order to respond.
We are extremely grateful for the programs the federal government has introduced, like the wage subsidy and the emergency community support fund. Without those our losses would be even greater, but there is now nowhere else to turn and much more that needs to be done.
We are not alone in this dilemma of increased demand for our services coinciding with the most severe financial crisis in our history. That is why Big Brothers Big Sisters, alongside the YMCA of Canada, the YWCA of Canada, BGC Canada, United Way-Centraide Canada, the National Association of Friendship Centres and many others providing frontline support have come together to appeal for a community services COVID-19 relief fund.
You have heard from my colleagues at previous meetings, and Josh has spoken to it today, but I will also lend my voice to plead with this committee to ask the to establish that funding in the April 19 budget. This is about whether your communities continue to have organizations like ours that provide the services governments do not. Youth mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters will be critical to Canada's economic, social and public health recovery.
To provide a local context, I'll turn it over to my colleague, Margie Grant-Walsh, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
Think back to when you were nine. Who was important in your life? What would it be like without that person?
Our children and youth have been facing isolation, mental health challenges, food insecurity, affordable housing concerns and struggles with educational learning.
I can speak from my experience in northern Nova Scotia. Rural communities have been most affected. We have no public transportation, challenges switching to virtual mentoring, connectivity issues, and in the recent report card on child and family poverty in Nova Scotia, we have the third-highest child poverty rate in Canada. One in four children live in poverty.
Demand for service has increased. We have seen an increase in requests for essentials like food and heat. What social service organizations can say they are in contact weekly with their families? We can.
We're not only mentoring children facing adversities, but families as well, and they trust us. Staff have been overloaded, stressed, and working extremely hard to support our families, pivoting on a moment's notice on a tight budget. Top this off with the largest mass shooting in Canadian history.
Revenues have dropped substantially. Unlike many organizations, we fundraise a substantial part of our budget. At our agency, 69% is raised by special events alone. The drop in revenue in 2020 was 29%, over $270,000. In my 34 years with Big Brothers Big Sisters, I have never seen a year like it.
We are blessed to live in Nova Scotia for our low COVID numbers, but that brings the challenges of people isolating themselves to prevent spread. The biggest challenge is the lack of contact from caring adults who are invested in their well-being. Think again to when you were nine, and how you would deal with a pandemic without your mentor.
Thank you for this opportunity.
I am pleased to present today on the topic of a basic income guarantee.
I would like to acknowledge MP Dzerowicz’s private member's bill, Bill and MP 's motion 46.
Mr. Chair, if a basic income support system had already been in place, a more effective mechanism would have been available for responding to the financial needs of people affected by COVID-19.
I will begin with a summary of the benefits of a guaranteed basic income. It will help people meet their basic needs. It will improve physical and mental health outcomes. It will provide a more effective way of supporting seasonal and gig workers. It can help transition jobs from, for example, fossil fuels to renewables.
Basic income is an effective income support partner to a streamlined employment insurance program. For people living in poverty, this program gives them back their dignity and personal empowerment.
In recent decades, basic income has been supported by representatives from all parties in Canada. For example, all provincial political parties in P.E.I. unanimously support a basic income implementation project and are asking the federal government to work with them.
I have been working with basic income advocates for more than six years and have heard various concerns about a basic income. These fall into three groups: misconceptions about the details of basic income, attachment to the status quo and skepticism about changing our current systems of income support.
There are several misconceptions about basic income. Most Canadian advocates are seeking an income-targeted, not means-tested, basic income delivered to people living on low incomes. This replaces certain transfers and works in tandem with employment insurance and social support programs.
The latest PBO report estimates that basic income will lead to a substantial reduction to the poverty rate at a gross cost of $85 billion in the first year and a net cost of near zero after accounting for specific tax credits. The PBO report does not include the downstream savings a basic income could create in sectors such as health care and criminal justice.
On the second concern, attachment to the status quo, we can only hope that arises from a belief in the efficacy of the current system and not from personal or professional vested interests.
To the third concern, skepticism, I say that I respect this stance. In the face of major changes, this belief contributes to good governance when accompanied by openness to evidence-based new practices.
Mr. Chair, issues of cost are primary to your work and, for the question of a basic income guarantee, the evidence indicates that the benefits to Canada are worth the cost. Our current mechanisms of income supports are outdated, overly complicated and expensive.
The current income support system prevents low-income Canadians from developing financial independence, reduces financial incentives to work, contributes to poor educational outcomes and also adds to health care costs. As well, the evidence indicates that the existing system contributes to people remaining in abusive situations, weakens our arts and cultural industry and hinders capacity building in our farming communities.
I can make these statements because evidence supports them. Mental health problems, physical health problems and food and security are all tied to low income. The overrepresentation at all stages of the criminal justice system of indigenous peoples and those of African ancestry reflects their overrepresentation among impoverished people.
The evidence of these effects of low income and poverty come from institutions such as the National Farmers Union, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, Ontario Dietitians in Public Health, CUPE PEI and the Service Employees International Union, together with other labour unions, the Elizabeth Fry Society, social planning and research councils, municipalities and many more. These institutions support a basic income.
Mr. Chair, I am asking that FINA study the evidence about basic income in order to understand its financial and social implications with the goal of implementation.
I believe the evidence will lead this committee to recognize that a guaranteed basic income will give Canadians better value for their tax dollars and a more resilient society going forward.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, members of the Standing Committee on Finance.
It's a pleasure to be here again.
Festivals and Major Events Canada, or FAME, and the Major International Events Network, or RÉMI, represent more than 500 festivals and events in Canada that are direct and affiliate members in the tourism and cultural industry sector. This sector alone contributes more than $1 billion to the country's GDP, year after year.
In September, FAME was at the Chateau Laurier alongside the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, the Hotel Association of Canada and the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada to launch the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses.
On the coalition's website, which I invite you to check out at hardesthit.ca, there are now more than 100 business and association logos of all kinds, primarily from the two sectors where FAME acts as a bridge, tourism and culture.
In the fall, following the press conference, we were heard by the Canadian government. We were pleased to see our reality recognized in the Speech from the Throne and the fall economic statement. The Canada emergency wage subsidy, or CEWS, rate was subsequently increased.
For all of this, we are very grateful to the government.
On the other hand, faced with the prospect of a possible end to the wage subsidy in June, the coalition had to formally appeal to the government three weeks ago at a press conference.
We asked the to use the budget to extend and improve the CEWS and the Canada emergency rent subsidy beyond the June 5 deadline, to the end of 2021.
We understand that these programs are costly to taxpayers, but we caution elected officials who would want to end them too soon or opt for declining assistance.
If choices must be made, we believe that instead we should continue to support fewer businesses by making only those that continue to be most affected eligible for programs, in the tourism and cultural sectors, for example, where revenue losses can be as high as 100%.
If the CEWS is to end in June, it should only be to make way for the wage subsidy for the hardest hit businesses.
At a festival, although it varies from province to territory, self-generated revenue accounts for 85% of budgets, and government revenue accounts for about 15%. Right now, that 15% is often the only revenue our organizations have, both to organize activities for communities between now and the end of this pandemic, and to pay fixed costs and salaries. Without the CEWS, we are not there. Organizations will close down or have to let go of key staff who will be out of work. Then we will be no further ahead.
While they are still hopeful of hosting festivals and events this summer, organizations will not return to their often high-traffic business models until 2022, after the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the expected effect of vaccines, even if it is done in compliance with health regulations that will hopefully be eased. That means that festivals and events have only crossed half the desert at this point.
We are told every day that the pandemic is not over. Canadians are being told not to give up until we get to the finish line and our businesses are still being asked to make huge sacrifices. We are saying to the government: “Fine, but don't give up on us until we get to the end of this, either.” It's a pact or a deal that has to go both ways.
If governments maintain restrictions, they must also maintain support for the businesses that suffer the most, like ours.
It would be a shame to lose festivals and cultural and tourism institutions in general because we will not have been willing to pay six more months of wage subsidies, when we will have done so for over a year. We will need it more than ever after the pandemic to boost the economy and tourism and to provide social healing. We'll also need it to finally get together and party like we did before the pandemic.
We will, of course, be listening carefully to the budget announcement next week, hoping that your recommendation, recommendation 55 in your pre-budget consultation report, will be taken up in full, particularly because it incorporates our idea of a festivals and events recovery program. We will also be mindful of this because your report recommended that the government support the cultural, tourism and hospitality sectors by “providing additional financial support to these sectors until the COVID-19-related restrictions can be safely lifted.”
We won't go so far as to say that the budget announcement will be the moment when we can gather 90,000 people on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City or at the Calgary Stampede. You will agree with me that this moment could happen in July 2022, but certainly not on June 5, 2021.
Thank you for your attention.
My question is for Mr. Roy.
I come from Cloverdale—Langley City, and we have the Cloverdale Rodeo here in our downtown. I was chatting with the organizers there, and they mentioned that just missing last year cost them $2 million in revenue. The spinoff amount for Surrey was $30 million. I think of the Best Western Hotel that's on the corner right there. I think of all the fairs and markets, the small food trucks and so on, that have lost their ability to make money.
There are other things that the Cloverdale Rodeo does. They have Gone Country from Twins Cancer Fundraising. Up to now they've raised $3.9 million. They can't do their event. Ride to Conquer Cancer can't do their event. The 10K and the 5K runs can't do their events. Conventions can't be held there. Concerts, trade shows, the famous Longhorn Saloon.... All of these incredible local initiatives that make our community what it is are completely off the table.
As you mentioned, I mentioned to the Cloverdale Rodeo that we don't see things opening until 2022 at the rate the vaccinations are rolling out right now, and the line went silent. He said that will be the end of many of these things that I just mentioned.
Could you possibly talk a bit more about that?
Thank you for the question.
You've given a good description of this drama which affects us and the communities in which we are present. We have also experienced in Calgary what you experienced in your riding. In 2020, the business community was dismayed that the Stampede would not be held. We will see what happens in 2021.
It was the same with the Toronto International Film Festival, or TIFF, which normally has a huge economic impact. This was the case for Bluesfest in Ottawa, for the Montreal International Jazz Festival as well as for the Quebec City Summer Festival, which normally benefits merchants on Grande Allée in Quebec City. They have all been deprived of this revenue.
It's not just our festivals and events that are impacted economically; the communities as well as the tourism industry, which is part of this ecosystem, are also impacted. That is why we have recommended the creation of a tourism industry stimulus program that builds on festivals and events. It's a program based on a 2009 and 2010 initiative, the marquee tourism events program. We made this proposal, and the committee recently included it in this recommendation 55. We very much hope that in next week's budget, the government will have good news for us.
With respect to revenues in the coming year, own-source revenues are not likely to be there, or certainly not to the same extent as usual. A question mark remains over the Canada emergency wage subsidy. We hope it will be extended.
This program would supplement our revenues and get us through the second half of the desert, as I call it.
There is indeed no plan, which I deplore.
We are confident that we will be able to host safe events across Canada this summer. Obviously, they won't be events with the same amount of traffic, but we think we can do some things. There are a variety of options, whether it's rapid testing, vaccine passports or physically distancing festival-goers. There are ways to provide distancing between festival-goers, for example, with barriers, fences, platforms or chairs.
The problem we have in the provinces—I'm experiencing this particularly in Quebec as I've had discussions about this with public health officials—is that they are currently managing the third wave. They are following the order of the schedule, which is a problem.
I would first like to inform you that in the second round, I may yield my seat to Ms. Elizabeth May, if she wishes to take it and if there is time. I see that Ms. May is nodding. That's fine.
I would like to welcome all the guests and thank them for their presentations. Again, this is very interesting.
I will address you first, Mr. Roy.
Tell us how major cultural events act as a lever in the economy, not only for the cultural sector, but also, as you mentioned, for the entire tourism and hospitality industry.
Thank you, Mr. Ste-Marie.
I think your question is very much related to the question that your colleague from British Columbia asked earlier. Serious studies that we've done, including with KPMG, prove that every dollar spent by festival-goers gets distributed. Some of it goes to festivals and events, particularly those that have a ticketing system, but it is not the primary expenditure of festival-goers. For every dollar spent, about a quarter goes to hotels and a third goes to food.
When you add this up, it's clear that it's not the festivals and events that benefit directly, but the surrounding communities and the entire ecosystem that surrounds the festivals and events. This is also why we think we can play a role as a lever. I like that expression you used. The idea is to capitalize on festivals and events. This will get “centred” tourists to go to the events and spend, especially on transportation, but also on lodging and dining.
We believe that we need to support those businesses that were hardest hit during the pandemic until they no longer need that support. We will again be forced, for a second year in a row, to not perform as we would like to and as we used to. So we need to have compensation.
As I was also saying, if the Canada emergency wage subsidy is going to end on June 5, 2021, it certainly won't be in the best interest of the tourism and cultural players, and certainly not in the best interest of the festivals and events, which won't be back to their normal revenue levels until next year.
As the government and the committee have said, support must be offered until we get across the river or weather this storm. This storm is not over. So we are calling for extended support, until the end of 2021, especially for those businesses that are hardest hit. I'm not talking about all businesses, but those that have lost 80% or 75% of their revenues. Those are the ones we need to think about.
There needs to be some leadership when it comes to rapid tests, which we just talked about, and vaccine passports. Will the provinces really come up with different independent solutions in terms of the vaccine passports or does the Government of Canada need to assess this issue quickly?
Obviously, not all of us will be vaccinated by September or will have received both doses. However, once we receive the first dose, we'll have some protection and our health care system won't be under the same pressure. We may then be able to resume a number of activities as early as June or July.
For example, perhaps we could reserve part of a field or park for a group of people who have been vaccinated and we could accommodate a large number of those people. Another part of the field could be reserved for a smaller group of people and there would be more control over safety measures. We must be part of these types of discussions, especially when it comes to a real consideration of the vaccine passport.
I read that there have been discussions and decisions regarding this issue in Great Britain. There have also been discussions about the vaccine passport in Denmark and in several other countries. In Canada, we must consider the same issues as these countries.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I will direct my questions to Margie Grant-Walsh, from Big Brothers Big Sisters, who happens to be just down the road from me here, in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
The testimony from you and your colleague focused, in part, on the stressors that have been exacerbated by the pandemic for young people in our community. I would hazard to guess that we have talked to some of the same young people.
I remember, in the early days of the pandemic, there was a lot of fear about what this public health emergency might mean. Over the course of the year, people became robbed of their community activities or sports teams at school, their proms, seeing their friends, or experiences in the classroom. You're absolutely right to point out how much this has impacted the mental health and well-being of young people.
We put support towards the Kids Help Phone, I think in late March of last year, because we saw a serious surge in the need for mental health supports for young people.
One of the things I hear about, whenever we talk about telehealth or virtual health, is reservations from the public when they hear about 1-800 lines or seeing somebody through a screen when they may need access to a person. Certainly there are people who will need that in-person care for their mental health supports.
I'm curious, from your experience, whether you can highlight whether these investments in the Kids Help Phone or other similar services can help an organization like yours connect with people in real life?
Actually, they really can. The investments that go toward, for example, the Kids Help Phone have certainly impacted local organizations right across the country. What tends to happen when they get a call is that they then refer to a local agency.
You commented particularly on the increase of isolation and mental health issues. As a matter of fact, we're finding that these kids who have been isolated, particularly in rural areas, really require that intentional mentorship in their lives. Without it, they're really lost.
Here in Pictou County I can comment from my experience. We have no public transportation. There are also connectivity issues in some of the outlying areas. Many of our clients don't have access to mobile devices, whether it's a tablet or a telephone, so of course being able to connect with their mentors has been very difficult.
The other thing we've been seeing, too, is in our schools. Of course, when the pandemic first started, many of the schools were very uncomfortable—we all were, really—not knowing what to expect and how this was going to lay out. Schools were very hesitant at first to let us in. In Pictou County, we are in 19 schools. Multiply that by the 102 agencies in the country. Many of those kids have not had access to their mentors.
We know that 42% of youths said their mentor helped them feel less isolated during the pandemic. We know that 70% of youths who had regular contact with their mentor said it helped them feel less worried or anxious, and 44% of youths engaged with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada reported feelings of depression versus 51% among other youths. We know that having a caring adult in a child's or youth's life really makes a difference.
People sometimes tend to think of us as the “fluffy” organization, but we know that every dollar that is spent toward mentorship programs is reinvested back into the community at 23:1. It's very important.
My question will be for Mr. Chater, who I know has London ties. If there is any remaining time, Mr. Chair, it's the same question for Mr. Berman.
The COVID-19 emergency response programs have gone a long way for not-for-profit organizations. We've heard that at length at this committee. Of course, there are remaining gaps. When you're building the plane and flying it at the same time, there will be gaps.
From your perspective, again to begin with Mr. Chater, what is the most obvious gap that exists that the federal government can act on and deal with?
The beauty of basic income is that it provides a mechanism whenever the nature of economies or jobs is changing.
The movement towards robots and AI is a particular example. Another extraordinary example is the prediction that green jobs are going to be growing at a huge rate in Canada. I think it was noted that one of the highest growth rates for jobs is going to be in Alberta.
However, these jobs require a different skill set. How, then, do you transition jobs, for example, for people working in an oil-based economy into green jobs and a higher-skill set economy?
That's where basic income kicks in. It gives that buffer for individuals, economies and governments to allow people to retrain into different kinds of jobs. AI is one of them. Green jobs is another. Another area no one has really touched on in this discussion yet is how basic income can help build capacity in farms and in rural areas, because the EI system does not work for them.
Mr. Roy, we know tourism is going to be the last major sector to recover from the pandemic. Consequently, really, it's the hardest-hit sector as well. Festivals and major events are a huge draw for a lot of communities. Certainly the Parksville Beach Festival in my riding is critical for drawing visitors to our area. We don't expect, even with vaccination, that we're going to see much international travel this summer.
You talked about the wage subsidy, the rent program and the need for a commitment from the federal government to have certainty that those programs are going to be extended to the end of the pandemic and to the end of the year, at bare minimum.
Can you also talk about the CEBA loan? It's at $60,000 right now. The NDP is calling for it to be extended to $80,000 and for the repayment date not just to be next year. That's going to be nearly impossible for any of these events and any of the businesses that rely on it. The NDP is calling for moving that repayment date farther out, to maybe 2025.
Can you speak about the importance of those supports to save your sector and any additional supports that might help you?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
To all the witnesses, thank you for your presentations here. It has been very interesting listening to the discussion—the questions as well as the comments.
I'd like to talk to Mr. Chater.
In my riding of Provencher, in Manitoba, a lot of parents are talking to me about how their kids feel. One evening I was returning phone calls and talked to one particular father. He said he was completely exasperated. He had a son. He said, “In his group of four of five people, do you know what they're talking about? They're talking about suicide. I am so concerned about where this is all heading.”
I'm sure you're hearing a lot from your frontline people. What is the major concern you're hearing from the boys and girls clubs frontline workers, the folks who actually work with the youth in Canada?
A lot has been said here by our colleagues on the Conservative side, especially where the rollout of vaccines and rapid testing is concerned. It's worthwhile correcting the numbers and to share them with our witnesses here today and with Canadians who are watching.
We've heard our say time and time again that we've really ramped up our purchasing, that vaccines are being received and that any Canadian who wants to be vaccinated will have the opportunity to do so by the end of September. About 8.1 million vaccine doses have been administered to Canadians, and we've delivered more than 10.5 million doses to the provinces and territories.
I know Ms. Jansen finds this funny. I'm really glad I'm offering some comic relief, but this is a serious issue.
In terms of rapid tests, almost 42 million have been shipped to the provinces and territories. Of those 42 million rapid tests, only 9.7 million have been deployed, per an article from the National Post, but if you go to canada.ca you'll see that 10.5 million have been deployed.
You'll also note on that site—which is great, and I invite everybody to check it—that some provinces are doing better than others. For instance, for my own province of Quebec, we've shipped 4.8 million rapid tests, and almost 1.9 million have been deployed and administered. If I look at British Columbia, where my colleague Ms. Jansen is from, almost 2.8 million have been shipped but only 357,000 have been deployed. One has to take a step back and wonder why.
The government is doing everything it can to make sure we have the tools needed to come out of the COVID pandemic safely and reopen our economy. We're doing everything possible and more, and Canadians know that.
My question is for anyone, but maybe specifically for Mr. Roy.
What do you think the current barriers are to the use of rapid tests by businesses? Is there a role the federal government can play in supporting the provinces and their rollout of these tests? What do you think the delay is?
Hello, members of the committee. It's great to be here with you tonight, and I hope you're all doing well. I want to say, especially, thank you for your service to Canadians during this really difficult time.
I'd like to start by painting a COVID recovery vision for coastal Canada: coastal and indigenous communities thriving; new schools, new community centres and hospitals being built; young people returning; men and women equally represented in the workforce with a sense of purpose and excitement in their work and pride in their jobs; a sense of a future of great hope and opportunity; Canadian innovation and technology being sent around the world; and collaboration with other nations in an enterprise to be nothing but the best in sustainable seafood production.
Members of the committee, aquaculture can and must be a critical driver of this pride and renewal. The aquaculture or seafood-farming sector has a huge opportunity for sustainable growth in a post-COVID recovery. Canada has arguably the most marine capacity in the world, and growth in demand for seafood is among the highest for any food sector in the world, estimated at 7% to 9% per year by the FAO of the United Nations. Aquaculture is expected to produce over 60% of total global seafood by 2030, and production, volume growth and jobs will largely come through aquaculture development.
The international High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, to which Canada is a signatory, says that marine-based aquaculture is the most significant solution for reducing carbon emissions in the global food system, and that for every $1 invested in the sector, there's a $10 payback in health, environmental and economic benefits.
The livelihoods of close to 25,000 Canadians depend on seafood farming, and the economic value of our sector is approximately $5 billion. These are good, high-paying jobs, mostly full-time, in coastal and indigenous communities where there are few other opportunities. Hundreds of small businesses across Canada are supported by our sector.
The agri-food economic table recommendations from 2018 highlighted our sector, arguing that we could double production by 2030 if the proper supports were put in place, but noted that “there are significant barriers to achieving this growth”, including the fact that “there is not a strong economic development focus for this sector within the federal government”. In fact, Canada has flatlined in aquaculture production for close to 20 years. We have lost over 50% of global market share to other countries, such as Norway, the U.K., Chile and Australia.
What has happened to this sector during COVID? The shellfish sector has been hard hit, as the majority of historical production went to the food service industry. The finfish sector—mainly salmon and trout—has a more even split between food service and retail. Retail demand for fresh fish has increased during this period, and we hope this trend will continue, as Canadians historically have not eaten the two servings of fish per week recommended by experts. However, overall demand has not returned to pre-COVID levels.
The agri-food economic table recognized that there is little economic focus on the aquaculture sector in the federal system. We're an amalgam of fishing and farming, and because of this, we fall through the cracks and do not have a department that champions our sustainable economic growth. We have bits and pieces from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and temporary and sporadic supports through Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and this continued to be the same through the COVID period.
If there is one single thing for which I would ask for your support today, it's to enable our part in a strong COVID recovery. It's that you support the federal government in formally and finally identifying a department to be economic champion for the seafood sector. Our sector needs a restart in Canada. Saying yes to sustainably growing this massive opportunity for Canada and identifying and properly equipping a department to provide supports similar to those given to land farmers will provide jobs and sustainable food production and will continue to renew coastal communities.
The department can work with provinces, industry, indigenous peoples and others to develop a national sustainable development plan. The plan would set out growth targets, identify blocks, and build solutions to sustainably growing the sector in Canada. The plan would focus and drive the attention needed to recharge the sector.
The future of seafood for Canada is wild and farmed together. Both sectors, wild and farming, have come together to develop a vision for Canada's blue economy potential and for an important growth area for post-COVID: that by 2040, Canada should be the best-quality, most sustainable producer of seafood in the world. The result is a sector that strongly supports COVID recovery by contributing to thriving and flourishing coastal and indigenous communities.
I just ask one more time for your support to formalize, finally, a federal economic champion for the seafood sector as a major driver for COVID recovery.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be here today.
The Government of Canada and, indeed, all members of Parliament must be recognized for the work that they have done in providing support to businesses and Canadians during this unprecedented and very uncertain time.
The emergency supports that have been provided have spared many Canadian businesses from economic disaster and will help many Canadians through another challenging year. These pandemic-related fiscal supports have also come at an enormous price, and their cost will continue to mount for the coming months and beyond. Focusing government spending on the programs and policies that will encourage growth, create jobs and help businesses recover will provide the greatest return on investment for all Canadians. Doing so will allow us to produce the revenue needed to offset the extraordinary amount of public spending we have incurred and will help Canada achieve an economic recovery that is fiscally sound.
All of us understand the need for emergency spending to support people and businesses through the crisis, but we must avoid creating structural deficits that will mortgage the future of the next generation of Canadians. Despite the recent third wave of the pandemic, our strong GDP growth this year gives Canadians a taste of the economic rebound to come once vaccines are widely available.
Robust government stimulus spending to jump-start growth in the short term will likely be unnecessary, since pent-up demand is ready to be released once the pandemic subsides. That doesn’t mean the government needs to turn off the taps or start cutting critical programs, but this is not a typical recession that is a result of problems with economic fundamentals; therefore, it will not require traditional stimulus injections to help spur growth.
Instead, our economic recovery plan, including next week’s federal budget, should focus on addressing Canada’s competitiveness, such as our issues with productivity, business investment, and interprovincial trade and regulatory barriers. Addressing these issues will be the key to transforming our high growth rates from this year’s initial rebound into longer-term prosperity, job creation and an inclusive economic recovery.
At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that more than one year into the pandemic, businesses, especially small businesses and those in the hardest-hit sectors, continue to struggle. These sectors will require continued support to ensure they can help propel job creation going forward.
I am joined today by my colleague, Alla Drigola, director of parliamentary affairs and SME policy, who will speak to the types of targeted support that will help businesses that need it most.
If the Canadian Chamber can leave committee members with just one message today to help businesses that are still struggling, it’s this: COVID-19 business support programs must remain in place for as long as businesses, particularly those in the hardest-hit sectors, are not allowed to operate without restrictions.
The wage subsidy, the rent subsidy, the liquidity programs, BCAP and HASCAP, and the partially forgivable small business loan, CEBA, are all excellent programs that are necessary for the survival of business and that are working well for the most part.
The government’s initial focus was rightfully on creating business support programs that would be as widely accessible as possible; however, it is time to start taking a more focused approach to COVID-19 support programs and spending, and that requires a plan.
For all of the subsidy and spending that Canada has seen and will continue to see, the only path to real, sustainable growth is job creation and business investment. In the upcoming budget, which will be released just six days from now, the Canadian Chamber expects to see a clear plan from the government. This plan will need to be twofold.
On the one hand, we need to see continued support for the hardest-hit sectors. Sectors that depend on face-to-face interactions such as tourism, travel, hospitality and events are experiencing immense difficulties and are widely expected to be among the last to recover. They will need targeted policies to assist their longer recovery period.
CEWS and CERS need to continue to be available beyond their current June expiry date, with a few improvements, such as increasing the CERS multi-entity cap to ensure that struggling medium-sized businesses are treated fairly.
Relying on the growth of only a few sectors will not get us to recovery. We need a plan that lifts everyone up and that grows all businesses, large and small, from coast to coast to coast.
Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you this afternoon. We look forward to our discussion.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Nancy Wilson. I'm the founder and CEO of the Canadian Women's Chamber of Commerce. I'm here today with one of our board members, Petra Kassün-Mutch, who will help me address questions from the committee.
I'm going to stray from the notes that I emailed just a bit, so I apologize in advance to the interpreters. Very briefly, I want to define the scope of the women's entrepreneurship population and say that the group I'm talking about today is comprised of approximately 1.1 million business entities. That's 16% of SMEs in Canada. These are pre-pandemic figures. That 16% represents about 114,000 SMEs. Approximately 37% of self-employed Canadians are woman-identified. That's over a million self-employed Canadians who identify as women. These are not small numbers that we're talking about.
Going back to my notes, there's no doubt that women in general—employed, self-employed and business owners—have been disproportionately hit by the COVID pandemic. There's a wealth of research to support that. At the same time, women-owned businesses are essential and critical to Canada's economic recovery. Women-owned businesses are highly represented in sectors that were hardest hit by the pandemic. These are also the sectors that employ high numbers of women wage-earners. Therefore, a side effect of investing in business recovery in those sectors is going to be alleviating some of those labour force and unemployment issues that we're seeing for women re-entering the labour force. These issues are very much intertwined with supporting women business owners to get back on their feet and recover.
One of the major issues during the pandemic—and one of the factors that led to the pandemic being so devastating for women entrepreneurs and business owners—was the fact that a lot of the financial support measures coming from the government in 2020 that were focused on business support were designed for traditional, large business structures. As such, a lot of women business owners were simply not eligible for those support programs. CEBA, the wage subsidy and a lot of the loan and debt programs that were put in place were quite effective for larger, traditional business structures. However, they were very ineffective for the population I represent at the Canadian Women's Chamber of Commerce.
When we're talking about designing policy for recovery, we need to think very differently. I'm going to talk about two specific recommendations.
First, we would like to see a recovery fund put together, specifically with funds going directly to women entrepreneurs and business owners, and we would like that fund to be administered and managed by community-based organizations within the women's entrepreneurship ecosystem. The reasons are simply that the expertise and infrastructure exist in the ecosystem, as do the delivery method, the knowledge about women's business structure and the relationships with the people who need that money the most.
Second, we want to see the government double down on the women's entrepreneurship strategy. The women's entrepreneurship strategy, initially introduced in budget 2018, was groundbreaking. It received a lot of attention globally, and rightly so. It was starting to gain some traction when the pandemic hit.
In order to really see that strategy reach its goals, the government needs to reinvest in it. We want to see at least $5 billion reinvested into that women entrepreneurship strategy to regain that traction, to regain ground that has been lost, to support the ecosystem of organizations that support women's entrepreneurship, to provide emergency funding during the recovery and to start implementing a longer-term, sustainable women entrepreneurship strategy going forward so that Canada can remain globally recognized as a women's entrepreneurship champion.
Finally, I echo my colleagues at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. I think there is a lot to be applauded in terms of the government's response last year—its fast and nimble response to the pandemic. With the recovery, I think we need to look at lessons learned and make sure our recovery response and policies are truly inclusive going forward, and that we're able to make sure that the hardest hit during COVID, during the pandemic, are the ones who are truly taken care of the most during this recovery period, not to the exclusion of other groups necessarily, but given due consideration.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for the opportunity to join you today. Messenger RNA is the most effective vaccine technology on the planet. In the worldwide race for a COVID vaccine, messenger RNA was the fastest by months. It is the most effective at 95% efficacy. It will be the fastest vaccine platform to respond to variants. It is the most scalable vaccine technology, having gone from novel technology to rolling out hundreds of millions of doses within a single year.
The committee will recall that prior to November 2020, no messenger RNA drug—vaccine or otherwise—had ever been approved for use in humans. In fact, prior to 2020, Moderna and BioNTech, the inventor of the Pfizer vaccine, had never even run a phase three trial. However, these previously untested and unproven companies are now providing Canada a lifeline to safety and economic stability.
Providence Therapeutics looks forward to joining these companies and adding to the worldwide supply of mRNA vaccines in early 2022. I would be remiss if I did not add that Providence has always been committed to prioritizing Canada's needs. Certainly, it is clear that Canada will need additional vaccines in 2022, as the current vaccines are not up to the task of suppressing the variants.
Let me recap the progress that Providence has made over the past year. Providence designed a vaccine in under four weeks. We negotiated and paid for the licence to the necessary intellectual property with Genevant of Vancouver. We established productive collaborations with the University of Toronto, Sunnybrook Research Institute and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. We completed over five preclinical animal trials to establish the safety and efficacy of our vaccine. After we qualified our good manufacturing practices, or GMP, we manufactured enough vaccine to complete all of our early clinical trials. Our phase one trial has been fully enrolled. Our last patient visit for follow-up is scheduled for April 20 of this month. The final results will be unblinded and available to the public in approximately six weeks.
In the meantime, we have provided limited access to the Government of Canada via the strategic innovation fund and the National Research Council, plus the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba, as these groups evaluate opportunities to support phase two and three trials and manufacturing scale-up for commercialization. I am pleased to advise the committee that Providence has a vaccine that is on track to being best in class when compared with Pfizer and Moderna, specifically in the areas of tolerability, stability and immune response.
Providence met with Health Canada on March 18 for a preclinical trial application, or pre-CTA meeting, to lay the groundwork for phase two and three trials in Canada. These trials will be non-inferiority or comparator trials wherein the Providence vaccine will be tested directly, head to head, against an approved vaccine. The primary readout will be a surrogate marker of immunity. This will allow Providence to run these trials in Canada. All participants will receive a vaccine, either Providence or competitor, and no participant will be given a placebo.
One critical item required for these trials that has not been resolved yet is that Providence must have access to the competitor vaccine to run the trial. We approached the Canadian government and were instructed to ask the company in question. We did. We have been informed that they are not willing to provide doses. We have circled back with the Canadian government and are currently waiting for a further reply. It has been suggested that we should speak to the provinces. We have. However, because this is a multi-provincial trial, it would be difficult to guarantee that all doses came from the same production lot.
It is Providence's opinion that if the Canadian government is committed to supporting R and D and trials in Canada, then providing access to doses should reasonably fall within its responsibilities. We respectfully ask specifically for that practical support, keeping in mind that all doses received will in fact be administered to Canadians in the end.
This committee and other witnesses are certainly aware that COVID variants are currently threatening the success of Canada's vaccine rollout.
I would like to state for the record that Providence has been warning of this outcome for months and in fact brought up the need for a broader-based vaccine to the Government of Canada back in March 2020.
Providence has a funding application currently under review with the NRC to advance a variant vaccine forward to approval by Q1 of 2022. This variant add-on trial is set to start in October 2021. This is relevant, as right now variants are successfully evading the currently approved vaccines and Canadians will need these variant vaccines as early as possible in 2022.
If Canada desires to avoid future loss of life and lockdowns with all the attendant economic and mental suffering, absent a broad-based universal COVID vaccine, updated variant vaccines will be required yearly for the foreseeable future.
As I am speaking to the finance committee, I will note that Canada's financial contribution received in 2020 from the NRC and NGen totalled $1.6 million. In 2021, Providence has received $1.8 million to date from Canada. The total authorized refund amounts awarded to Providence to date are $4.9 million from the NRC phase one grant, and $3.5 million from NGen.
I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
Good evening, everyone.
I want to thank the witnesses for their presentations.
My first question is for Mr. Stratton or Ms. Drigola.
I agree that it's important to maintain measures such as the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy for the duration of the pandemic to help people through the crisis. My question is about after the pandemic.
In the fall 2020 economic statement, announced a $70 billion to $100 billion post-pandemic stimulus package. This echoes the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion package in the United States. However, there's some debate in this country about the package. Some economists say that it's a good idea and others say that it isn't necessary.
What are your thoughts on this? What's your organization's position on this stimulus package?
I really appreciate that, especially as someone who comes from an area that's dominated heavily by tourism. You can imagine how that sector has been impacted.
Ms. Wilson, you just talked about child care. The number one priority, pre-pandemic, of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce in my riding was affordable and accessible universal child care. We look at Quebec, where 70,000 individuals went back to work. Like you said, all genders benefited from that program, but it was predominately women who benefited from their child care program. Their GDP, as you know, grew 2%. It's been instrumental for their economy.
Right now, we've seen women disproportionately impacted by the COVID crisis. Can you speak about how critical this is to the economic piece and to helping bring people back to work, especially women?
My questions will be for Mr. Stratton, because it's seldom that we have an economist at the table. Thanks for coming, both of you, from the Canadian Chamber.
Mr. Ste-Marie has already taken us down that path, but there are a few different pieces I want you to help me put together. Like so many other central banks around the world, the Bank of Canada pursued a policy of aggressive quantitative easing, especially early on in the pandemic, and it still hasn't tapered off its purchases of government bonds. You layer on top of that the massive stimulus that's happening in the United States and the infrastructure spending they're hoping to get passed down there. Add to that pretty strong GDP growth, and then on the sidelines you have corporate and household savings at record levels.
When you put all of that together, do we still need a $100-billion stimulus program in Canada? What could be the impact of all of these influences on our economy?
Certainly central banks in Canada and all over the world have pursued quantitative easing, and we saw how this tool can be used successfully to address economic downturns during the 2008 crisis. That being said, a lot of central bankers themselves would agree that there are limits to how much government debt central banks can buy.
There are risks of inflation. Our economic growth projections have started to tilt toward upside risks, that the growth will actually be higher than was initially projected. I like the way it was framed in terms of putting the pieces together, because I really think we need to think about it holistically and systemically and macroprudentially. It's thinking about the combination of monetary policy, fiscal policy and potentially pent-up demand at the same time.
Certainly there are risks for inflation if the desired amount of easing required is overestimated and too much money is created by the purchase of liquid assets.
That being said, the bank has said that it will stop quantitative easing efforts once the economy has recovered, so it will be very important for it to keep an eye on that. The bank has said that if there is more inflationary pressure, then we can expect it to adjust policy accordingly.
In terms of government investments, certainly there are some things that can help with that: like I mentioned, investments in broadband infrastructure, for instance, enhancing productivity over the longer term, and also economic opportunity.
There are certainly other things that could be useful that don't even have to do with government investments or spending. Looking at a review of the SR and ED program to be able to really spur our scientific research and development going forward would be a great way to do it.
Looking at how we might alleviate some of the tax burdens temporarily, and then, of course, tax competitiveness over the longer term, specifically for small businesses to actually encourage that investment, or productivity-enhancing technologies or skills going forward would be other ways to do it.
There are a lot of different policy measures that don't only have to do with spending but also have to do with other aspects of economic policy too. We have definitely made some submissions when it comes to the budget regarding that.
Thank you very much, Nancy.
As an entrepreneur, I can answer that question by saying that I think extending the repayment and offering larger opportunities is a good thing. However, the reality is that most women entrepreneurs don't have the kind of credit facility, rating or net worth to be able to access some of those funds, because at the creditor or bank level, you are still asked to personally guarantee these loans. You're still on the hook for it.
Many of the entrepreneurs we see are reluctant. They would love to be able to leverage that, but I work in a number of different entrepreneurship spaces in the ecosystem and I know so many who simply tried and could not get access to it, or are reluctant because they're not sure. That's especially the case for early-stage businesses.
I've run both. I've had an established one and a start-up. In my established business world, I would have been able to predict what the change in demand and all of that would have been, and my ability to repay. However, in a start-up, where you're still spending on innovation, market-building and community-building, you don't actually know whether you are going to be able to repay that money in three or four years, because you're still at that stage of placing a bet.
I'll stop there just by saying that I think we need to reframe and reconsider how we support entrepreneurs, especially women, who tend to have less of a net-worth balance sheet for a host of reasons, like pay equity gaps and so on. How do we help those women entrepreneurs get access to these funds, given that we still are relying on traditional creditor criteria?