Good morning, everyone. I now call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 48 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
Today’s meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. The webcast will always show the person speaking, rather than the entirety of the committee.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I'd like to outline a few rules to follow. Members and witnesses may speak in the official language of their choice. As you know, interpretation services are available for the meeting. Please select your preference at the bottom of your screen.
Again, before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. All comments by members should be addressed through the chair. Of course, when you are not speaking, your microphone should be on mute.
As is my normal practice, I will hold up the yellow card for when you have 30 seconds remaining in your intervention, and I will hold up the red card for when your intervention time has expired.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in the first hour of the INDU committee meeting, we will be meeting to begin our study of Bill , an act to amend the Copyright Act, concerning diagnosis, maintenance or repair.
I'd like to now welcome our witnesses to INDU. We have with us today, Mr. Bryan May, member of Parliament for Cambridge and the sponsor for the bill.
With that, we will allow the member to present his bill for five minutes and [Technical difficulty—Editor].
MP May, you have the floor.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I thank you all for the invitation to speak to Bill , my private member's bill. Most importantly, thanks to everyone who voted for the bill at second reading, bringing the bill to the INDU committee. I look forward to hearing your questions and discussing the bill.
As you know, the bill passed second reading with unanimous support in the House, and it has garnered interest and support from individuals, businesses and environmental and technological activists from across the country, and in fact, internationally. I trust that you all recognize the significance of the bill and realize its potential, as I have. I want to say that I'm happy to discuss amendments and ways to strengthen the bill, and I hope there is ample opportunity for me to hear your thoughts on the legislation.
Bill addresses some concerns that the Copyright Act is being used and interpreted in areas far beyond its scope—in particular, the provisions of copyright that are actually able to prevent the repair of digital devices and systems, even when nothing is being copied or distributed and where the owner actually owns the device.
The Copyright Act contains certain mechanisms that make it impossible—or extremely difficult—for consumers to repair their own goods. Technological protection measures, or TPMs, are used to protect the intellectual property found in devices. TPMs can inadvertently prevent repairs and can shut out independent repair shops, home DIY repairs and replacement of simple parts. This system can even prevent repairs after the company has gone out of business, because breaking TPMs would still be illegal even if the company was no longer making the product and there were literally no other options for repair or replacement.
This goes against everything that Canadians understand, instinctively, when they purchase something. As technology becomes more sophisticated, and with the introduction of digital systems integrated into these products, there are technological protection measures embedded by the Copyright Act that can prevent any repairs, even simple ones that consumers should be able to complete.
If passed into law, this bill could change the repair landscape entirely. Imagine when your smart appliance breaks down. You would not have to wait for a licensed repair person with the TPM bypassing passwords or tools to come to your house. You could order the part yourself, install it yourself or hire another company to do it for you.
This keeps the control of the product in the consumer's hands and reduces the manufacturer's ability to leverage their product long after it has been sold, which is not only inappropriate but also anti-competitive. A case could be made for those acts to be illegal under Canada's Competition Act. As a result, Canadians would not have to face the dilemma of throwing out their quality—and sometimes new—products as a result of a small malfunction. This would have drastic effects on our waste and would increase our ability to work efficiently with our smart devices.
I'm aware that other private members' bills have been brought forward in the past to address concerns about right to repair. Please be aware that this bill is substantially different in structure and design, and that's on purpose. I've aimed to carve out a very specific and limited allowance for consumers to circumvent a TPM, but only for the purpose of diagnosis, maintenance or repair.
I am well aware of the legislation that must be moved by the provinces to address some other components of right to repair, including availability of spare parts, mandating repair manual availability, instituting additional measures to protect consumers and regulating the sale of goods that do not allow for repair.
The key here is that Bill is a precursor to many of these other items. Without a change to the Copyright Act, those other legislative and regulatory changes will not have their desired effect because TPMs cannot be bypassed for repair. This bill is important because it's not a matter of “if” but of “when” this legislation will be required.
Legislation for right to repair has been considered at the provincial level, and it is in place or being written in the EU and across multiple jurisdictions in the United States. With our shared interest in avoiding waste and keeping consumers in control of their own products, we must make room for repair.
Thank you for your time today, Madam Chair. I would be happy to answer any of the committee's questions.
I've carefully read your bill and, frankly, I think you have it right. I think there are two extremes in this debate. One is that the government, as we do now under the Copyright Act [Technical difficulty—Editor] to respect the exclusive repair rights of the vendor. The other is to ban the vendor from applying technological protections.
You've done neither of those things. What you've done is basically remove the prohibition on circumvention technology to allow those customers who want to attempt to repair something themselves and to attempt to go around a technological protection measure to do that. By the amendment to the Copyright Act that you propose, effectively, I think you are legislating the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller”. I think that's where we need to be on this.
That's more of a comment than a question. I'd invite your response to it.
Thank you, Mr. Poilievre.
I agree that this is not an overreach. This is actually my second opportunity to present a private member's bill in the House. I learned a lot in the first go-round.
When we drafted this bill, we wanted to make sure, first, it was broad. I had no delusions of grandeur that it would receive unanimous support in the House, but I was very pleased to see that. We also wanted to make sure that it would support all Canadians, and it would be a step in the right direction. I think a lot of times private member's bills are drafted trying to get across that finish line, and when we came across this issue, we very quickly realized that was not how this was going to work. We needed to take a step forward and give the provinces the opportunity to determine what the landscape of “right to repair” was going to look like for them.
I think the bill does that. I think the bill is reasonable. It has an approach that, as you say, Mr. Poilievre, is fair. I think that's quite frankly why we were able to achieve that unanimous support in the House.
MP Jowhari, thank you for the question. I do not have specific data regarding savings on this. It's a very good question, but it's one that, hopefully, if we have other witnesses appear on this subject from industry, they might be better able to answer.
The obvious reality is that consumers make their choices based on a lot of different factors, but the number one choice they make is based on price and cost. We know that if something is cheaper to replace than it is to fix, we'd rather have the new one and the other one goes out to the curb for the dump.
That's what we're seeing here, a system that allows the manufacturer of that device to control the cost of repair, so it's in their interest to make that cost of repair so significant that somebody is consciously looking at the cost of repair versus replacement and is looking to replace it.
This really goes to the next step of the bill, which is, of course, the environmental focus.
I apologize that I will have to respond in English. I'm working on my French, but it is not nearly good enough to present here today.
The environmental side of this was a huge motivator for me to want to move on this private member's bill. Clearly we will see less waste, less e-waste, as we allow for more items to be repaired. We see a huge growing desire for the DIY culture.
You can go on YouTube and learn how to fix almost anything. I think that is something we want to instill in our culture. I have two children. I teach them as much as I possibly can how to fix things and repair things on their own. It's not just the right thing to do from an environmental perspective, but it's a skill that we are potentially losing in our generation. The question about planned obsolescence is one that we see all the time. My mother-in-law has a washer-dryer from the sixties and it's still running perfectly fine. She had to replace a fan belt on one of them a couple of years ago and it's running perfectly fine.
We don't see that anymore. We see devices that are designed to ultimately fail and that's a choice from a manufacturing perspective, but it's also been driven by consumers. I think we have to recognize this is something, again, that won't be solved by this private member's bill, but potentially provincial legislation and regulation around requiring manufacturers to provide parts or manuals, or things like that, in order to repair some of these devices. I think we need to look at that a little bit deeper in terms of how we move forward.
I agree with you, sir, the idea of planned obsolescence is a challenge, but it won't be solved by this bill.
Again, as with the other question we had about the costs associated with this, I would have to defer to industry experts, who I hope you will call to witness on this bill, but common sense would suggest that it would be significant. We know that waste and waste management, if not the biggest challenge for our municipalities and regions, is up there, and we know that the cost is significant.
We're looking at this from an environmental perspective and we're looking at this from a consumer rights perspective, but we also need to look at this in terms of an affordability perspective and in terms of what consumers, what Canadians, are spending their money on. If they're not spending it on a new appliance, what then could they do? Could they pay down their debt? Could they save for retirement? Could they help their kids through school? There are a whole bunch of other aspects to this, a ripple effect that could result.
I'm excited by what is to come. Hopefully this bill does have enough runway to see royal assent, but maybe not. Again, given that it was unanimously supported in the House, maybe the minister may choose to pick it up as well.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. May, for your work here on this bill. We support it, as New Democrats, and, in fact, we would go much farther. In fact, in 2009, my private member's bill passed in the House 247 to 18 on the automotive aftermarket, and it's now a voluntary agreement. Then former minister Clement was able to work with the industry, being the automotive sector and the aftermarket, and that agreement needs to be updated as well.
What would you suggest in terms of this bill here that would advance.... It's not just rights for consumers. You noticed that the environment and consumer protectionism are there. What would you suggest your message would be to all those innovators out there that, once they purchase a product and understand the warranty, if they undermine the warranty, they still don't become a criminal for purchasing a product and then adapting it, changing it, improving it or innovating it? I think this is a key point that shouldn't be lost.
Thank you, MP Masse. I agree with you. I think there is a real potential to open up a lot of different industries with proper “right to repair” legislation.
Thank you for the work you've done in the past. I, along with , chair the auto caucus on the Liberal side. We've talked a lot about the auto industry in relation to right to repair.
You're absolutely correct. It was a voluntary agreement. It has worked well. It's not perfect. There are a number of holes in it and it definitely needs to be updated. We're seeing companies such as Tesla, of course, not following that voluntary agreement. A lot of companies, such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, don't follow that agreement.
We can use the auto industry, though, for those who are concerned, in terms of stakeholders who might be harmed by something like this. It clearly has not harmed the auto industry. What it has done is spin off a whole bunch of other options, whether it's independent mechanics, parts providers or service providers. This could be what you would see in a right to repair for digital devices. I think you would absolutely see that space starting to fill and making sure that the people have those choices and options.
We've had a number of stakeholders reach out to us, virtually the entirety of which have been supportive of this bill, a lot of them around the environmental components of this and the reduction of waste in landfills.
We know that a lot of incubators or groups that are trying to figure out new ways to do things are working on this kind of stuff. In fact, just down the street from where I am right now is a brand new incubator called Grand Innovations. Their almost entire focus is on dealing with what they call the “new waste”. People are throwing out, for the first time, a large flat-screen TV. How does the industry break that down? How does it separate the precious metals versus the recyclables to things that have to go in landfill? This is what they're trying to work on right now, things such as batteries, technology designed to sort and recycle small batteries. These are all things that I have talked to different groups about in terms of what they're working on.
What this bill would attempt to do is to reduce the incredible load of waste that is heading their way and try to manage that. This, of course, is going to be driven by the consumer, but again, it comes down to cost. If something is cheaper to repair than it is to replace, people will likely make that choice.
Thank you very much for the question.
As I said in response to a previous question, no, my bill does not in fact do that. It is the first step that could lead to that type of legislation, that could allow the provinces to move forward with different regulations around manufacturing, parts availability and access to manuals. That isn't affected by this bill; that would be an overreach.
What this bill does is simply allow for a circumvention of the TPMs around diagnosis, maintenance and repair. With that, it opens up.... I agree with you. The outcome that we would like to see as a result of this private member's bill could in fact be those things that you discussed. However, this bill specifically does not snap its fingers and make that all happen. It would all be up to the different provincial jurisdictions to determine for themselves what that right to repair landscape is going to look like.
I really appreciate that question. This was one of the reasons we moved forward with the bill. I am the member of Parliament for Cambridge. I'm seen by many as an urban member of Parliament, but in reality, if you look at my riding map, 70% of my riding is actually rural.
This is a really big issue with the farmers in my community and across Canada. We've heard from many of them who, as time has gone by and they've replaced certain pieces of equipment, it's been replaced with equipment that has these digital components in it. As a result, they can't so much as replace a tire on a combine because a sensor in that tire is connected to the motherboard, which is connected to the GPS that identifies that there's a problem with that tire.
I'm one generation away from being born on a farm. I can tell you that the culture is to fix your own stuff. It's not just a point of pride for the agricultural sector; it's a necessity. A lot of people are in rural communities not like Cambridge, which is close enough to urban centres that they can maybe drive or get a technician come out to the farm easily. A lot of our farmers across Canada don't have access to technicians to come out. They need to be able to fix their own stuff.
I've read stories, seen articles and talked to farmers about having to put tractors on trains to send them away to be repaired. That is not only incredibly expensive for farmers, but it is debilitating for our ability to produce the food we need for this country.
I know there was a push in the United States specifically toward John Deere to identify and provide a way around these TPMs for farmers. They put on a push with the lobby effort against the legislation and agreed to a voluntary measure. That measure was supposed to be provided by John Deere in January 2021. We have yet to see that measure in place.
Voluntary agreements are great if they are done. Historically, that has not been the case in this industry. I think that as we move forward, everything from combines to simple tractors and other devices are all connected in some way, shape or form to these technological protection measures. There is nothing about copyright that would be infringed by a farmer being able to replace a tire on a combine.
No. Again, I haven't spoken directly to the individual provinces about this.
This is not about creating a bill that the provinces will have to adhere to. This is about removing a roadblock that the provinces currently have that doesn't allow them to move forward, if they so choose—they don't have to but if they so choose—on legislation or regulations around consumer protection or around the right to repair. Because the technological protection measures exist within the Copyright Act, anything that the provinces do until that is changed would run up against those legal challenges. All this bill is trying to do is remove that barrier in order for the provinces to be able to make those choices.
Now [Technical difficulty—Editor] what choices they do make. I know that there was a private member's bill or a piece of legislation that was introduced by a former Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that failed. One of the reasons it failed or was challenged was that the technological protection measures within copyright still existed.
My motivation and my hope is that the provinces see this as an opportunity to be able to move forward, to be able to recognize benefits to their citizens by creating that regulation or legislation around the right to repair.
You brought up Apple. This is probably one of the biggest targets with things like this. You can't replace even a screen on something like this. Even if the part is available and the person has the know-how, you don't have the ability to do that.
They're very pernicious in how they've set up some of these systems, not just the TPMs but the requirements for things like passwords and tools that will unlock a device in order for the repair to even be done.
I'll give you an example. PlayStation has two major components to it. It has the disk drive and it has the motherboard. If the disk drive were to fail for some reason and you were able to take a disk drive from another PlayStation that maybe has another problem with it, or you're able to find the part online somewhere and you have the know-how to replace that part in the PlayStation, the motherboard will not recognize the perfectly fine disk drive because the serial numbers will not match up.
That has nothing to do with copyright. These are the types of things that manufacturers have done using copyright legislation as a shield. Even if you have the know-how and the parts, you still cannot get that device to function because of the way they have set up that device to not allow it to work.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you, MP May, for bringing this very timely legislation to us. My relaxation is driving a tractor, so I'm quite familiar with the significance of what is being asked. Of course, when you take a look at things like your DEF emissions control modules, when they start to go down it's not like an air conditioner where maybe you could open the windows. That shuts it down and you only have a small time frame when you can actually do the work you require.
One of the examples that I had was from a constituent. They have about a 1,200-acre farm around Olds, and quite frankly their average repair costs are probably $75,000 a year. Of course, that's not all related to the types of things that you're discussing, but it does show the significance of the cost of repairs. I think that really becomes a critical aspect of it.
The thing that we depend upon, of course, are the great repair shops that we have in our communities, where basically whenever you have trouble they know how to fix it. This becomes one of those issues that I think we really have to pay attention to.
One of the things we've heard from equipment dealers and manufacturers in the past is that the right to repair argument is more about demanding the right to make these illegal modifications to farm equipment. Because no doubt we're going to hear a lot about that issue, I'm just wondering if you can speak to that for a moment.
Thank you, MP May, for bringing forward this legislation. I'm happy we're discussing it here.
It's great that you're doing this, because a lot of middle-class Canadians and people can't necessarily afford to replace things or to go back to the company to get it fixed at the expensive rates that might be. I hope it gets full support going forward.
I do have questions, though.
I know that some companies purposely create these barriers and make it so that certain technologies get outdated. For example, with cellphones, iPhones, every couple of years they change the technology and the software so that you can no longer use the same charger, or when you update your phone it slows down and is eventually phased out.
Do you think this is going to have an impact on how companies, moving forward, will continue to do this, or will they try to make it even more difficult for people to be able to repair things on their own?
It's a good question, but this is the difference between [Technical difficulty—Editor
] the philosophy of manufacturing in general. With this bill, we are simply saying that you have the right. It's no longer against the law to circumvent the TPMs in order to repair or replace or diagnose the situation.
As to what you're talking about and what others have talked about today in terms of that planned obsolescence, these are business decisions. Consumers are also going to look at, “Okay, I can effectively replace the part in my phone or replace the part in this device or that device, but this device has this new innovation and I want that.” That always is a contributing factor in that consumer decision. This isn't going to slow that down at all. Industry is going to continue to innovate and continue to bring out new products with more conveniences.
I personally don't really find that kind of thing [Technical difficulty—Editor]. For example, my lawnmower has literally nothing on it that is a perk, if you will. You almost have to go searching for something like that now, something that's basic that someone like me can repair on their own. There are so many little features that industry is adding to products to make life easier, to add more convenience to this device or that device.
With the whole smart concept, the whole 5G connecting everything, the fact that your toaster is going to be 5G in the future and refrigerators already have that kind of capacity to say when you're out of milk and things like that, we have to recognize that this type of innovation is not going to slow down just simply because somebody has the right to repair their own device.
What we are looking at, really, is for industry to acknowledge that using the Copyright Act is simply not the way to do this. If provinces want industry to be protected in that way, fine. They need to pass a law to say that, and not simply use the Copyright Act as a shield in a way that was never intended.
I'll call this meeting back to order.
I won't go over the normal procedures, as I know our witnesses were with us a little earlier. This is just a gentle reminder, though, that when you see the little yellow card, that means you have 30 seconds remaining. The red card means that the time is up.
With that, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Thursday, June 3, 2021, the committee is meeting to begin a study of the order-in-council appointment of Monique Gomel, interim chair of the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Today we have with us Ms. Monique Gomel, interim chair of the board of directors, and Ms. Marsha Walden, president and CEO.
We will allow you to present for five minutes, after which we will go to rounds of questions.
With that, I turn the floor over to you.
Hello, and thank you for inviting me to speak to the committee today.
My name is Monique Gomel, and I am the interim chair of Destination Canada’s board of directors. I am joined by Marsha Walden, president and CEO of Destination Canada.
I would like to acknowledge that I am joining you from Vancouver, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples: the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam nations.
I was appointed interim chair in March of this year. However, I've been vice‑chair of the board of directors since 2017. I'm also a senior vice president at Rocky Mountaineer, where I oversee global marketing, communications, data and insights, and sales operations.
Today I would like to give you a brief overview of my role as interim chair, the state of the tourism sector in Canada and Destination Canada's near- and longer-term plans.
First, as interim chair of the board, I work collaboratively with a team of eight directors with tourism experience from small business owners to renowned entrepreneurs to former executives from multinational corporations.
The government has appointed some of Canada's best and brightest tourism business leaders to help provide strategic advice to the executive team and the president and CEO of Destination Canada. Directors are actively involved in long-term strategic planning, prioritization of objectives, financial oversight and risk management. The board assures itself that appropriate systems of governance, leadership and stewardship are in place while empowering the executive team to manage the organization.
Before I provide an overview of the state of the sector as a whole, I would like to share my perspective as an operator. In my role as senior vice president of Rocky Mountaineer, a Canadian luxury rail company, I'm seeing firsthand the devastation of the COVID‑19 pandemic on our business. We weren't able to operate in 2020, and we've delayed the start of our 2021 season.
The impact of the pandemic on tourism is greater than that experienced after 9/11, SARS and the 2008 crisis combined. Women, youth, immigrants and indigenous workers, who make up the engine of the visitor economy, have been the hardest hit by the impact of COVID-19 due to reduced operations, business closures and job losses.
We are forecasting that the sector [Technical difficulty—Editor] until 2024.
At this point in my presentation, I would like to acknowledge that the speed and scale of the government's response to the pandemic has never before been seen in times of peace.
The government has provided over $15 billion in federal government investments to support tourism in the past year. This includes important programs like the Canada emergency wage subsidy program and the highly affected sectors credit availability program. There was also robust support for Canada's tourism sector in budget 2021, which, I will note, still needs to pass the House and Senate, including an additional $100 million to Destination Canada for marketing.
While government subsidy programs are helpful for survival, recovery can only happen when revenues return.
The good news is that, although the sector is struggling now, we're seeing strong signals of future demand. Our latest research shows upward trends in feelings of safety about travel and a greater willingness of communities to welcome visitors.
With these signs of hope, Destination Canada is focusing its strategy to help revive market revenue in the near term and support a thriving and resilient industry that delivers net benefits to communities in the long term.
A key part of our plan to revive revenue is a multiphased domestic campaign that reflects the evolution of health restrictions. Recent research from Destination Canada finds that, if Canadians shift two-thirds of their typical spending on international travel towards domestic tourism this year, it will make up for the estimated $19-billion shortfall in international visitation. It will also support 150,000 jobs and help accelerate recovery by a full year. Simply put, we need Canadians to keep their holiday dollars in Canada this year to speed up our sector's recovery.
In its early stages, our campaign aims to increase Canadians' understanding of the importance of travel to their communities, inspire confidence and a desire to travel domestically, and finally to reignite the welcoming spirit of Canadians from coast to coast.
While our industry is first and foremost concerned with protecting the health of our employees and guests, we are eager to welcome travellers again. When the time is right, we will start introducing more aggressive calls to action and encourage Canadians to book their travel. We are also key in our international markets, ensuring that Canada stays top of mind for business and leisure travel alike when it is safe to do so. The efforts are now intensifying.
In order to help our industry ready itself to reopen and compete in a ferocious marketplace, we are hearing three main areas of concern.
They are seeking clarity around reopening milestones—
They are seeking clarity around reopening milestones, consistency in protocols between levels of government and between countries, and the need for governments to move with urgency to save the 2021 season. No business can survive two summers without revenue.
As you will appreciate, much of Destination Canada's strength is found in the relationship it has with its partners, including provincial and territorial counterparts, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and the private sector partners.
As the interim chair of the board of directors of Destination Canada, I am confident our work will elevate Canada's competitiveness as a tourism destination, enabling Canadian culture to thrive and place-based regenerative economies to emerge.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to Ms. Gomel and Ms. Walden for being here.
First of all, congratulations to you, Ms. Gomel, on your appointment as our interim chair of the board for Destination Canada. Both you and Ms. Walden have assumed your responsibilities during truly one of the most devastating times, with impacts that we've never seen on our Canadian tourism sector. I appreciate the work that you're doing and that your team is doing. I look forward to asking some questions, working with you and seeing what we can do about assisting that recovery that we all want to see in the tourism marketplace going forward.
Moving forward, you did talk about working with those eight directors. I was wondering if you could quickly just update us on the number of vacancies still on the board that need to be filled for Destination Canada.
That's very timely and good to know. Thank you, Ms. Gomel.
As you know, I'm from Niagara Falls and the Niagara region. Niagara is Canada's top leisure tourism destination. We have some 40,000 employees and 16,000 hotel rooms. We generate about $2.4 billion in tourism receipts alone. The government just committed $1 billion for assistance to tourism, while Niagara generates on its own $2.4 billion.
For 11 years, Niagara was proud to have a representative on that board to speak to the importance of that sector, of that [Technical difficulty—Editor] and as the number one leisure tourism destination, of having that voice on the board. I just wanted to see if I could get your opinion on whether you believe Niagara should still have a seat at the table of the Destination Canada board.
Certainly. You're absolutely right. We've pivoted to a mostly domestic plan, given the current times. We're very sensitive to the health restrictions and have aligned our activities with those restrictions as they unfold. The first step for us has really been to communicate the importance of tourism for communities across Canada and to increase that understanding of the visitor economy among Canadians.
Second, we've begun to do more work towards inspiring confidence in travel as restrictions open up, by communicating all of the safety measures that our operators have taken across the country.
Third, we are working to reignite that welcoming spirit for visitors among Canadians. The second stage, as restrictions start to open up, will be to be more aggressive in terms of offers that we put out there for Canadians to increase conversion and to really get them to book trips across the country.
Fourth, we are still keeping a presence in international markets to ensure that we remain top of mind during this time, and that our brand remains strong among those international guests when the time is right for them to travel back.
Thank you so much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to both witnesses, Ms. Gomel and Ms. Walden, for being with us today.
I think we're probably all feeling that pent-up demand to get travelling. For most of us, that will probably mean Canada this year. It might also mean the opportunity, potentially, for international travel as well.
Turning to our domestic market, Ms. Gomel, you referenced your work with Rocky Mountaineer. I think we've all seen those very intriguing ads for that particular tourist product. Could you give us a bit of your background in terms of your experience in the various jobs you've had through the years and how you bring that expertise in marketing to Destination Canada?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First, Ms. Gomel, I want to congratulate you on your appointment. Second, I want to thank you for being here today.
In your remarks, you said something that surprised me. You said that you were particularly grateful for Canada's generosity, which I acknowledge, and the speed with which it helped tourism companies. Frankly, this isn't what I've been hearing throughout the pandemic. On the contrary, we were told that, if any industry wasn't receiving government support and needed to wait to get help, it was the tourism industry. One reason was that the programs were poorly adapted to the reality of tourism, including the Canada emergency rent subsidy or the emergency wage subsidy. We know that jobs in the tourism industry are often seasonal. We must remember the programs in place during the March, May and June qualifying periods.
Are you really ultimately satisfied with the federal government support for the tourism industry throughout the pandemic? Are you concerned about a fourth wave?
How do you see the future, with a possible opening of the borders and the emergence of the Delta variant?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Congratulations. That's quite an extensive background. Actually, I toured Electronic Arts when I was in Vancouver, probably about seven or eight years ago. It's really interesting. I'm an Apex Legends player. It's a fun thing to do on the side. I really do appreciate the fact that you have this experience, because I think it is going to be about marketing, in a different way, experiences for people.
I was curious as to your discussion about Parks Canada. How valuable are our parks in terms of rebuilding the tourism industry as a destination point, especially for American tourists? Has there been some new data? Are there some strengths that you can see, especially when we try to build back from COVID and the border is eventually, hopefully, reopened?
Is that something that could be exercised very successfully for Canadians to push that, especially with more people doing outdoor stuff because of COVID?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses again.
I'm just following up on what my colleague Mr. Masse says. Destination Canada does provide some great information in terms of statistics and forecasting. Their last visitor economy forecast update in June was really more than helpful, so thank you for continuing to put that information out. It's quite helpful.
I just want to quickly go to the budget. In 2021, $100 million was provided to Destination Canada.
Ms. Walden or Ms. Gomel, do we know if that's a one-year commitment or two-year? Is it building on the existing, I believe, $96 million in funding that Destination Canada has?
Thank you for sharing that. There is an urgency here. I'm fearful that we've lost another summer tourism season in Niagara with those borders continuing to be closed.
As you alluded to, speaking with both those national and provincial organizations, there was yesterday's announcement, which many people were holding out hope would be an indication for the tourism sector. Chris Bloore, the president of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, just called yesterday's announcement “devastating”. He said, “It's absolutely a gut punch.”
As tourism businesses are trying to find that notion of consistency, timelines, a formal plan that needs to be in place, I want to ask this, because those same kinds of views are held by most of the tourism organizations with regard to the need for a tourism reopening plan. Does Destination Canada agree with the Tourism Industry Association and the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable when they call on the government to immediately release an implementation plan to reopen our borders?
It's my understanding that those plans.... Not only the Tourism Industry Association but, Ms. Gomel, Rocky Mountaineer is even a member of the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable.
Do you share those views that we need those metrics in place and that formal reopening plan in place, and in place now?
Thank you to our witnesses for being with us today. I'll be splitting my time with my colleague Mr. Erskine-Smith.
My question goes to Ms. Gomel.
I know that many of us have asked you about border reopenings, especially for fully vaccinated people. Currently, as it stands, on July 5, rules will be changing for Canadians and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated upon entry to Canada. However, we know that there's no talk of anyone else being allowed to enter Canada.
You've said that you really don't have much of a say in this matter but that you provide science and you provide the with information. Are you ever able to have a more involved role in that kind of conversation?
I'll ask my second question now. With regard to interprovincial travel, which is the role that you said you play, and promoting interprovincial travel, when certain provinces still haven't accepted this going forward for the summer, what are your plans on encouraging provinces to open their borders, at least to other Canadians? In what capacity are you able to do this?
You've acknowledged that you are not in a position to comment on the border reopening or give advice to the government. You're not involved in those conversations explicitly. However, we obviously know that the border closure has a deep and lasting impact on the tourism sector here in Canada. In regard to, in your words, the “devastation” of the COVID-19 pandemic, you have said that you need clarity around reopening milestones, consistency in protocols, and governments to act with urgency.
On July 5, we're going to say fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents don't need to quarantine, and there will be freer travel as a result. When we look at Americans and the importance of allowing those fully vaccinated Americans to come into Canada, I wonder if you can comment on the fact that when I look at the numbers, in 2019, we welcomed 22.1 million international tourists. Of those, over two-thirds were Americans. Over 15 million international tourists came from the United States.
If we said, as an initial phase, that we're going to open our border to our American cousins who are fully vaccinated, what would be the positive impact on the tourism sector in Canada?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
In the current situation, the tourism industry is calling for planning over the next two or three years in order to maintain its expertise and receive special financial support. In particular, the industry is calling for the extension of the Canada emergency wage subsidy for this sector.
I'm thinking specifically of all the tourism events, such as festivals, which can require up to two years of preparation. Above all, they require a great deal of work over a whole year. You seem very satisfied with the measures implemented by the government.
Will you lobby for a long‑term vision for the various festivals?
There's not much of a team Canada approach if you can't have American visitors. If you're dependent upon American visitors and the focus is going to be on interprovincial travel, you're basically sacrificed at the end of the day.
I just think that, if there's going to be a decision made like that, then organizations that are supported by the government and in the government—that's a different story in itself—need to have a plan to help these places once there is a final opening again. They're going to have to cling to their lives over the next number of months and, hopefully, if they do make it through, organizations that receive government funds are going to do things to help those areas later on, because it's going to be a terrible summer.
You don't have to answer that. It's okay.
Thank you, Madam Chair. That's my rant.
That's excellent. Good for you.
I encourage all Canadians to give the Rocky Mountaineer a look and to consider spending their tourism dollars here in Canada with great companies like yours and other tourism enterprises across the land.
I hope that VIA Rail will provide services the market is not already providing. We don't need to subsidize a state business to go after a private business—especially when you're paying taxes, ironically, to subsidize your own competition.
I'll leave it at that, as I can tell you're being very cautious in your words, which I understand, given your business. Best wishes for a great reopening and much prosperity to you, your workers and shareholders.
Yes, we have a hard stop at one o'clock because of some interpretation service limitations.
If you're okay with that, Mr. Ehsassi, we'll stop there.
Thank you so much.
With that, I'd like to thank our witnesses, Ms. Gomel and Ms. Walden, for being with us today.
Thank you so much for your time and for sharing the concerns of the industry but also the opportunities that present themselves, and also for reminding Canadians to go out there, discover our great nation, spend their money here in Canada, stay safe and, obviously, visit our great country coast to coast and make sure they have a chance to visit when they can.
With that, I will bid you adieu.
Before I adjourn, I just want to say that this is our last meeting before we return in the fall. I want to thank everyone—the analysts, IT folks, the clerk, the folks in the room, the sanitation workers and the interpreters—for allowing INDU, which has been sitting consistently since February 2020, to be able to do what we're doing. Without you, we would not have been able to.
Again, to our support staff, all of our staffers who make what we're doing possible, I want to thank you. This has been a great committee.
All my colleagues will agree that we've worked in a spirit of co‑operation.
We get a little feisty sometimes, but that makes it interesting.
I want to thank you all, because we've really come together as a team. We were able to produce some [Technical difficulty—Editor] and I want to thank you because it's made my job a lot easier. I promise to bring the cards back in September, because I know how much you all love them.
Take some time off this summer, guys. Go and visit MP Baldinelli because, supposedly, he needs us to come visit him. Go and visit and take care of yourselves and I will see you all in the fall. If there are any updates with respect to reports and so on, we'll definitely be in touch.
With that, I call this meeting adjourned.