Interventions in Committee
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Erica Phipps
View Erica Phipps Profile
Erica Phipps
2015-06-18 16:01
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this important discussion.
I'd like to share a few perspectives based on our work to raise public awareness, particularly among families with young children, about the lung cancer risk posed by radon and what can be done to reduce that risk.
My name is Erica Phipps. I serve as executive director of the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment, CPCHE, a collaboration among public health, medical, legal, and child-focused organizations that have been working together for nearly 15 years to advance children's environmental health protection in Canada. The 10 core CPCHE partners include the Canadian Environmental Law Association—you've just heard from my colleague, Kathleen Cooper—and the Canadian Child Care Federation, which has been actively involved in our work to promote radon action in the child care sector.
Much of our work within CPCHE involves engaging with and learning from service providers, such as public health nurses and child care providers and others, who work with families on a day-to-day basis and empowering them to integrate children's environmental health protection into the support they provide to families.
I thought it would be fitting to start with one of their voices. These are the words of a child care provider in Winnipeg, who was one of the participants in the radon vanguard initiative that CPCHE and the Child Care Federation undertook last year, with support from Health Canada. She said:
I wouldn't want to work in a centre that had [high radon] and didn't do anything about it. I wouldn't want to do that. I wouldn't work there. And I wouldn't put my children in the centre either.
This child care professional had known very little about radon before getting involved, but she, like others in the project, was motivated to learn more because of her dedication to the children in her care and because she desired a healthy workplace. It did not take her or any of the other staff involved in the project very long to get that this is a critical issue and one that demands action.
Through the vanguard project, she and other child care providers shared information on radon with their client families and voluntarily tested their child care centres for radon. Through that process, the project participants made the transition from a group of people who had hardly even heard of radon to being nearly unanimous in rating it as a high priority for health in their centres.
When asked what they thought would need to happen to protect children and staff from this lung cancer risk, most felt that radon testing would somehow need to be made mandatory. In the words of another participant:
...what I see in child care tends to be...people don't take action unless they're forced to, unfortunately.... It's like carbon monoxide detectors, right. We never had them before and then finally we were forced to have them and so everybody got them. And you know meanwhile they're only like $40 dollars or $50, and yet people didn't do that before it was made sort of expected of [them].... I think unless [radon testing] was made mandatory or there was some kind of assistance in ensuring that it was done, I think it would be unlikely to get done...when it should be.
This viewpoint was echoed by others and supported by the results of the vanguard project. Despite good intentions and the fact that radon test devices were supplied directly to the participating day care centres, only two-thirds of them were able to complete the testing. What this suggests is that for a sector in which staff are already stretched, providing them with information—and even providing them with do-it-yourself test devices—is not likely to be enough.
CPCHE has been putting significant effort into radon outreach over the past few years, including developing a plain-language tip card for families and teaming up with Health Canada, the Canadian Lung Association, Parachute, and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs in a campaign that links radon testing to the more familiar home safety messages of smoke detector use and carbon monoxide detector use. I've brought copies, which you should have before you.
We have prioritized radon as a focus of our collective work because of the well-established high level of risk posed by radon and because we firmly believe that protecting children is an investment in lifelong health. The harm from radon exposure is cumulative, which means that if we can ratchet down exposures during childhood by promoting radon safety in homes and by zeroing in on those six to eight hours that many children spend per day in child care or other learning environments, we can give Canada's kids a better start towards lifelong health, such that their generation and future generations are less likely to suffer from the devastation of lung cancer.
There's also an equity question here. Radon exposure is a prime example of a housing-related health risk that is beyond the ability of low-income people, especially tenants, to address on their own. Knowing about radon is not enough if you can't afford to buy a test kit, let alone pay for a remediation. It is just this sort of issue that we are seeking to address in a new CPCHE-led initiative called “RentSafe”, which will build social service sector capacity to respond to health concerns in low-income housing.
Reducing the financial barrier to radon mitigation should be a matter of priority if we are to achieve the goal of healthier housing for all Canadians. That would potentially include the Green Budget Coalition ask that Kathy mentioned in her remarks, of having an income tax credit for radon mitigation. Federal leadership to help families get action on avoidable health risks in their housing, including radon, would be a well-targeted investment in the health and well-being of the people of Canada.
In our toxics work within the CPCHE partnership, we frequently bump up against the complexities of scientific evidence, fraught with great debates about cause and effect and proof of harm. Radon, regrettably, is refreshingly simple. Radon causes lung cancer, full stop. We know how to test for it. We know what to do if levels are high. We know that it amplifies the risk posed by the other big lung cancer culprit, tobacco smoke. Now we need the courage and investment to ensure that the homes and buildings where we spend time, and especially where our children spend time, are not a source of this preventable lung cancer risk.
Thank you.
Natasha Leighl
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Natasha Leighl
2015-06-16 15:37
Thank you so much. Paul and I are honoured to be here to address the committee. We both are medical oncologists at separate institutions. We treat lung cancer. We have an interest in the treatment of lung cancer. We also volunteer with a charitable organization, Lung Cancer Canada, devoted to supporting people with lung cancer.
As you've heard from Paul, this is a major public health problem. I want to talk a bit more about the toll this has on people who are diagnosed with lung cancer here in Canada. I also want to talk about what holds us back from progress, the very low survivorship rate, and the stigma, which I'll touch on a bit more. This results in a disproportionate amount of public support for people diagnosed with this disease and their families, and a disproportionate amount of research funding. Like Paul, I want to highlight some of the opportunities where we think this group can really help us change outcomes for people with lung cancer in this country.
Lung cancer, as you've heard, is, sadly, the number one cause of cancer in the country. I am quite competitive, but to be number one in this is difficult. Lung cancer is, sadly, far and away the leading cause of cancer-related death.
Although 80% more women die from lung cancer than breast cancer, breast cancer is the women's cancer here in this country. Over 200% more men die from lung cancer than prostrate cancer, and yet prostrate cancer is the cancer people remember on Father's Day and associate with the men in their lives. We feel this really does need to change. It's estimated by Statistics Canada that cancer remains the leading cause of death for Canadians, but lung cancer by itself causes one in fifteen deaths: 8% of Canadians who die every single year die from lung cancer. That's really second only to cardiovascular disease.
Who gets lung cancer today in Canada? Of course, we do see people with smoking histories: 15% of the patients I see smoke currently. But the vast majority, over 60%, have quit smoking at some time, anywhere from the year before diagnosis to as many as 60 years before. A growing proportion of people—in my practice it's up to 25%, and in other people's practices it's as low as 10% to 15%—were never smokers, and never had that association with tobacco.
Most people, 75%, are diagnosed as already at an incurable stage, which I think really speaks to some of the lack of early detection here in this country and some of the lack of awareness of how we can find lung cancer early.
At least half of the people I meet with lung cancer in my clinic must quit working. Only about 15% are actually able to continue to support their families. Lung cancer is a major cause of financial distress for families in this country. More than a third of patients perceive that this has a devastating impact on their family and their finances. We know that people with lung cancer—this is from a study in the U.S.—have a higher rate of bankruptcy than do people without cancer. Of all the cancers surveyed, lung cancer actually has the highest bankruptcy rate. I'm hoping you get a sense of the devastation that lung cancer inflicts not only on an individual but also on a family.
We've also learned that many of the people we diagnose with lung cancer are diagnosed too late to receive treatment. Through some work we've done and recently published, we've found that only a quarter of people diagnosed with advanced cancer are actually well enough to have some of the incredible therapies that Paul has just talked about. Again, this really speaks to the need for early detection and a shift in our mindset to how and when we diagnose this disease.
This is really a high-mortality cancer. Although the five-year survival in lung cancer has risen to 18% with a lot of effort, it's 88% for breast cancer, 95% for prostate cancer, and 65% for colon cancer. You can see the huge disparity here in survivorship alone. With low survivorship, we have a very low voice for advocacy. There's also stigma, the very common public perception that if you have a diagnosis of lung cancer, you smoked, and so you deserve it.
Some of the low survivorship is because of the late detection. I think you'll hear later from Dr. Stephen Lam about the availability of organized screening that, for those at high risk, can significantly reduce mortality potentially to a greater extent than currently existing screening programs for such things as breast cancer and cervical cancer.
This is a virulent disease. While we are making progress, it has a very high case-fatality rate. Currently, most people diagnosed do die. There's a real lack of research funding. The Charity Intelligence Canada report from 2011 suggests that only 7% of the national research funding goes to lung cancer, despite causing 27% of the cancer deaths in this country, and less than 1% of the public donations. I think that speaks volumes about the stigma.
Some of the other work we have looked at suggests that even though lung cancer funding is increasing—between 2005 and 2010 it doubled from $10 million to almost $22 million—it's still only a fraction of the $536 million that was spent on cancer research that year. Again, you can see that's only 4% for a cancer that takes the lives of more than one-quarter of Canadians who die from cancer.
I also looked at just this past year, and CIHR, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, awarded five grants for lung cancer research, for a total investment of $230,000 per year. That's an organization with $1 billion budget to fund research on all diseases in this country. When we compare this to the situation for breast cancer, over the past five years we've seen over 500 grants for breast cancer research worth over $140 million; by contrast, for lung cancer research there were 159 grants worth $39.6 million. Again, that's a disproportionate amount of funding and support.
At Lung Cancer Canada we conducted a survey. We asked 1,600 Canadians online what they knew about lung cancer, and half of the people did know someone who had had lung cancer. Only one-third knew that it was the leading cause of cancer-related death. Again, most women thought breast cancer was the leading cause for women and prostate cancer the leading cause for men. Most people, including smokers, had not spoken to their doctor about their risk for lung cancer, and only 2% knew that there was a lung cancer awareness month, November.
The association with smoking was very well known, but as you'll hear about later, there are other important risk factors such as radon, and only 1% of the people we surveyed correctly identified that as an important cause of lung cancer, and only 7% of homeowners had had their homes surveyed for radon exposure.
Two-thirds of the people we surveyed felt that people were very responsible for what they'd done to themselves because of their smoking habit, but instead of identifying things like heart disease or even other cancers as a consequence of smoking, which we know they are, they felt that people with lung cancer were the least deserving of their support, and certainly, smokers were the least deserving of sympathy, followed by those who drink too much and overeat. Again, there seems to be this disproportionate stigma against people with behaviourally related cancers and those who have smoked, and for all of those tobacco-related diseases, including heart disease and others, the burden of the stigma really seems to be aimed at people with lung cancer.
So what about screening? About one-quarter of Canadians know that there is a screening test for lung cancer, and 90% said they would support a national screening program for those at high risk. Currently we know that screening is approved and funded south of the border, in the United States. It's been estimated by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer that 1,250 Canadian lives could be saved every year through the introduction of screening programs. I think this really has a dramatic potential to change survivorship rates.
With that, I want to again highlight some of the priority areas in which I think this group could really help us. We need national leadership to raise awareness and to really raise sympathy, tackling stigma while still working towards a smoke-free Canada. We need a national mandate to reduce lung cancer mortality. The United States has a bill to decrease the incidence of lung cancer mortality. I think we have a similar challenge here in Canada and a similar need. Through the establishment of screening we can really change the face of this disease, change the survivorship rates, and make a major change to the progress we can make in lung cancer. We also need to have a mandate to increase national research funding to an amount proportional to the impact of this disease on our citizens, and also to increase the chance of curing more people with lung cancer here in this country.
We need our own national campaign to combat high-mortality cancers, and the highest of these is lung cancer. Thank you.
Tovah Barocas
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Tovah Barocas
2015-06-11 8:57
Thank you very much.
I'd like to thank you first for providing me with the opportunity to speak before the committee today, and I'd like to congratulate you for addressing this important topic. At Earth Rangers we believe strongly in the importance of collaboration among all sectors of society in order to achieve environmental goals, and this includes the private sector.
Earth Rangers is a national ENGO focused on engaging children and their families in conservation. Our programs are based on research indicating that the number one environmental concern for children across Canada is protecting animals from extinction.
We travel to over 650 elementary schools each year and give a fun and dynamic presentation featuring live animals, which captures the imagination of students and introduces them to environmental science themes. We also have a membership program, which just last week grew to over 100,000 children all across Canada.
Through this program, we provide our members and their families with tangible activities they can do to positively impact the environment, things like planting pollinator gardens in their backyards and recycling.
Tovah Barocas
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Tovah Barocas
2015-06-11 8:58
Earth Rangers is funded through a variety of sources, with about 30% coming from the corporate sector. We have partners across a variety of industries, including natural resources, technology, finance and insurance, pharmaceuticals, and consumer packaged goods.
Today I'd like to share with you three distinct examples of successful and innovative corporate sector partnerships from the past few years.
The first relates to our Bring Back the Wild program. Bring Back the Wild educates our members on the importance of protecting animals, and empowers them to take action by starting a fundraising campaign. Each year Earth Rangers works with our conservation partners to identify four unique Canadian species that are facing threats in the wild. We then develop tangible projects to protect those animals, ranging from conservation research to land acquisition to habitat stewardship.
Last September we launched a Bring Back the Wild project focused on the western screech owl in the Elk River Valley in southeastern British Columbia. The project was developed in collaboration with Teck, a large B.C.-based mining company, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Teck and NCC have been working together since 2012 to protect significant portions of land in the ElkRiver Valley. We at Earth Rangers felt that this could be a great opportunity to bring national attention to this commitment while ensuring continued funding for ongoing stewardship and conservation research in the area.
The project has provided the opportunity for Teck to leverage the Earth Rangers' network to promote its work with NCC to a much broader audience, highlighting its environmental commitment. The benefit to Earth Rangers is significant funding from Teck to provide educational materials to our members about the screech owl project. As of earlier this week 5,200 kids across Canada, members of Earth Rangers, had raised over $65,000 for the project, with a significant portion of these funds being donated by Earth Rangers to NCC to conduct important conservation research on the western screech owl. As you can see, this project is the true definition of a win-win-win.
The next partnership I want to talk about is one with Schneider Electric Canada, which is focused on our headquarters, the Earth Rangers Centre for Sustainable Technology. The Earth Rangers Centre is one of the most efficient buildings in the world, using nearly 90% less energy than other buildings of its size. One of the most unique and impactful aspects of the building is the Schneider Electric building automation system. The automation system controls the heating, cooling, and ventilation, and the operation of day-to-day systems in the building. It can turn on a light, open a door, heat or cool a room, and provide additional fresh air when needed. This sophisticated system allows the Earth Rangers Centre to operate more efficiently and to lessen our environmental impact. Schneider Electric not only provided this system at no cost to us but also continues to provide funding every year for its continued operation and maintenance. It has used our building as a testing ground for new products and innovations, as a sales tool for new customers to see their products in action, and even as an event venue for global executive meetings. This partnership is a perfect example of how the private sector can not only support ENGOs but also leverage that support to achieve its own business objectives.
Finally, I'd like to discuss another form of private sector partnership that has been highly successful for Earth Rangers. We have formed this type of partnership with many different companies, but today I will focus on the example of the Imperial Oil Foundation.
The natural resource sector is unique because while oftentimes head offices are located in places like Calgary or Vancouver, their core operations are in smaller, more remote locations. Many resource companies have put a priority on giving in the communities where their employees live and work and in which they are having the most significant environmental impact.
Earth Rangers' in-school education programs are unique in their ability to travel almost anywhere in Canada. For the past four years Imperial Oil has been supporting our program in Cold Lake, Lac la Biche, and Bonnyville in northern Alberta. Not only does this provide a great opportunity for Imperial Oil to bring something exciting and different to the community but it also provides Earth Rangers with the opportunity to expand our programs and access to children in an area we wouldn't otherwise have access to.
In some other instances, we provided our partners with the opportunity to directly engage their employees in selecting the schools we visit. The employees nominate their children's or grandchildren's school, and the company then sponsors the program in the schools with the most nominations. The employee feels like a hero to their child, and the company knows that they're impacting the communities they care most about.
Without the support of the corporate sector, we would not be able to do nearly as much as we currently do. In order to encourage corporations to continue to give back and to increase their charitable dollars each year, it’s important that ENGOs recognize that support and engage in honest and positive dialogue with the companies that have taken a leadership role.
I also believe the government can play an important role in encouraging these types of partnerships and collaborations. Things like promoting best practices, using its position as a regulator to convene multi-stakeholder groups around certain issues, and providing seed funding for innovative partnerships would all be very valuable.
Thank you. That concludes my statement.
View Dennis Bevington Profile
The biggest issue right now with corporations in resource development is social licence. That's a factor that has built up over the last number of years into what it is today and will certainly increase in importance going forward. Is this something your organizations are very aware of?
When you're dealing with an area, say with the Earth Rangers in Cold Lake, where there is lots of opposition to potential development and companies absolutely require social licence, is there a sense when you're working with schools there that you're avoiding prejudicing the social licence aspect of the relationship?
Tovah Barocas
View Tovah Barocas Profile
Tovah Barocas
2015-06-11 9:52
We've been lucky enough to have a really positive response from schools, from the parents of our members, and our members themselves. I think that goes back to just how much importance we place and time we put into ensuring that every message that we put out there to our constituents, if you will, to the kids who are members, is scientifically based.
We've had situations before where a company in the energy sector is supporting our program and then the school program that year is primarily about climate change and the importance of reducing our impact on the planet. I think that because of that they feel they can trust our programs, so we've been lucky enough not to have met a lot of resistance.
In fact, we've had in the past on a few occasions a parent call us and say, “I see that you've partnered with this company and they are looking to develop very close to our home, and we're against that, and we're disappointed that you would partner with them.” When we explain our thinking around it, they usually end up seeing it our way and being okay with it. We've been lucky on that.
View Mark Adler Profile
View Mark Adler Profile
2015-06-02 17:10
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you, Minister and your officials, for being here this afternoon.
I do want to begin by thanking you, and certainly your predecessor, the late Jim Flaherty, for keeping a steady hand on the tiller. We all know that we're not out of the woods yet, and that the global situation is certainly still fragile. Starting back in 2006, initially paying off $38 billion in national debt put us in good stead for future growth in our economy.
What I want to say first of all is that your riding and mine both have very high immigrant populations. We're adjacent to each other in Eglinton—Lawrence and York Centre. A lot of people come to this country for hope and for opportunity for themselves and their kids. I remember that when my dad, a holocaust survivor, came to Canada he worked hard, just as many of these immigrant families work hard, and I see it every day. They are grateful for less taxation.
You mentioned that taxes have been lowered 180 different times. An average family of four is now saving $6,600 in tax. The tax burden is the lowest in 50 years.
Could you speak to the family tax cuts? Particularly I want to ask you how many families stand to benefit from the family tax plan and what the government is doing to ensure every single middle-class family takes advantage of these generous benefits and receives more money in their pockets. We all know that middle-class people work very hard for their money, and our aim is to make sure they're able to keep as much money in their pockets as possible. Could you please speak to that?
View Joe Oliver Profile
This package of family benefits would benefit every single one of Canada's four million families, so every single family with children would benefit. The plan would put more money in the pockets of everyone with kids. Under the UCCB, families would receive even more generous benefits—an additional $60 a month for families with children up to 17 years of age. For families with children under 6 years the amount would go from $100 to $160 a month; and for families with children between 6 years and 17 years they'd now be receiving $720 per year for each child.
The families would automatically receive the enhanced UCCB or would be contacted by the government to confirm their information. But there are a couple of hundred thousand families that may be eligible but won't receive the money unless they apply. That's one of the reasons we have an advertising program to inform them of this potential benefit, because we're talking of millions of dollars in unclaimed benefits potentially. So we're telling Canadians across the country about the benefits available to them and we're doing that at the same time that the Liberal opposition leader is undermining our approach and would take these benefits away.
I'm proud that the bill would ensure that the benefits can become law.
View Mark Adler Profile
View Mark Adler Profile
2015-06-02 17:14
I'm glad you mentioned advertising these programs, because we all know what the Liberal plan is. It is to take these benefits away from hard-working middle-class Canadians. Their idea is that the less people know about these benefits, the easier it will be to take these away from them. So let me ask you, how can the government make people aware of our family tax cut plan?
View Joe Oliver Profile
We can do that by an advertising program. We want to make sure that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are aware of the measures. The campaign will highlight key policies, such as the doubling of the children's fitness tax credit, the increase in the child care expense deduction, the new family tax cut, and the enhancement of the UCCB. It's important that Canadians are aware of these measures and that every family with children who stands to benefit should benefit right away.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to thank the officials from my department and Mr. Siddall from the corporation for being here as well to provide parliamentarians with answers about the estimates.
Of course this is a vast job for us to do. This department is the largest in dollar terms, about $112 billion. It touches on everything from old age security, guaranteed income security, Canada pension plan, to employment insurance, job training, and of course hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgage insurance. We have a vast array of matters that will come before the House in the estimates for authorization.
I always like to simplify, though, the purpose of this department. It really does come down to jobs, families, and communities, the three pillars of good social policy. I've always believed that the best anti-poverty plan is a good job. The best social safety net is a strong family. For those who, through no fault of their own, do not have a job or whose family struggles, we have a third pillar called community.
Let's start with jobs. Our jobs plan is based on the three Ts: trade, training, and tax cuts. Trade is self-evident and it's not directly under the purview of this department, so while I support the Canada-EU trade agreement, the trade agreement with South Korea, and the trade agreements we've signed with roughly 40 countries in total, I won't spend a lot of time talking about them.
Training is definitely a big part of what we do. Our approach at Employment and Social Development over the last several years, especially under the leadership of my predecessor, Jason Kenney, has been to reorient our training programs towards matching Canadians with jobs that actually exist. For too long we told our young people that there was only one way for them to succeed and that was to get a job after going to university, wearing dress shoes in a white collar position. We now know that those jobs are great, but there are a million skilled positions that are needed, many of them in blue collar trades where we don't need dress shoes, where we need hard hats and workboots.
That is why we have reoriented our program to renew respect and value for the skilled trades. We believe that trades deserve the same respect as professions, colleges and polytechnics the same respect as universities, and blue collars the same respect as white collars. So we have created the Canada apprenticeship grant to help with the cost of initiating and then concluding an apprenticeship. We supplemented that recently, in fact just this year, with the Canada apprentice loan, a $4,000 loan that helps students with the in-classroom costs of being an apprentice. Already, I think we have over 10,000 young people who have taken advantage of this interest-free loan.
Finally, the Prime Minister recently announced that the Canada student grant, which had been available only to programs of a duration of 60 weeks or more, will now be available for more vocational-style training of a duration of as little as 34 weeks. That, of course, opens up that grant for a vastly broader array of training opportunities for young people.
Finally, we had something called the labour market agreement, with which all of you are familiar. That gave half a billion dollars a year in training dollars to our provinces. But we found, unfortunately, that it wasn't matching people with jobs that actually existed, so we've transformed that into the Canada job grant whereby an employer pays one-third of the cost and the Government of Canada pays the other two-thirds of the cost of training an employee for either a promotion or a new job within the work setting. That means that the employer gets a tailor-made employee, and the employee gets the guarantee that their training will actually lead to a job. We've had many successes with this already.
That is a small sample of the changes we're making to our training program.
Finally, with regard to tax cuts, in my department we are strongly supportive of measures to reduce the costs on employers. That's why I'm pleased to confirm that in 2017 we will reduce employment insurance payroll taxes by 21%. That will make it much less expensive for employers to hire. When they do, their employees will pay less payroll tax as a result of this change. That means more money in the hands of people who work and more money in the hands of those who would hire them.
We also announced in our recent budget plans to cut small business taxes from 11% to 9%. This is the largest small business tax cut in 25 years. The CFIB confirms that this will help small enterprises hire more people, build their payroll, and strengthen our economy.
Mr. Speaker, that brings me to our next point, which is families. We believe the child care resources that the government has should go directly to the child care experts, and those are the eight million people we call moms and dads. I see that Mr. Cuzner already knew what that line was, so I'm very impressed that he's coming around to our point of view. We hope he will convince his leader to do the same one day. We have cancelled bureaucracies that were erected by previous governments on the child care front, and replaced them with direct cash payments to parents that they can spend on anything they believe is appropriate.
I've asked my department to look into the impact this has had on child poverty, and we have some good news in this area. Colleagues, the universal care benefit—it's the original $1,200 payment—has already lifted 41,000 children out of poverty and into the middle class.
The methodology of this calculation is simple. We looked at families who would be below the low-income cut-off line if that benefit did not exist but are above it because of its existence, and there are 41,000 kids, based on the original program. That does not include the recent increases to the universal child care benefit announced in the previous fall economic update. That increase will mean $2,000 for every child under six and $720 for kids six through seventeen. It augments the family tax cut or income splitting, and a whole variety of other pro-family, low-tax measures instituted by our government. The overall approach is to put money directly in the pockets of parents so they can lift their kids up and strengthen their families. It's working.
UNICEF looked at child poverty in this country. They looked at child poverty all around the world. What they found was that during the great global recession, while you would have expected that children would suffer the most, in Canada, the opposite happened. We had 108,000 kids lifted out of poverty between 2009 and 2011. UNICEF specifically said that was the result of government policies to put money directly in the hands of moms and dads.
Finally, with respect to community, probably all of us can think of great philanthropic community leaders, people who have gone out into the world and done great things and want to give back. Often when they make these impressive donations to build hospital wings or university libraries or expand food bank operations, they don't have that money sitting under their bed; they have it invested in a small business, in real estate, or in shares. You all know what happens when they sell those assets. They pay taxes. That never hurt the philanthropist; they were planning to give that money away regardless, but it hurt the charity. It was a tax on charities. I'm pleased to share with this committee a recent announcement by our government that any sale of assets for the express purpose of donating to a non-profit will be exempt from all capital gains tax going forward. That means those donations will go 100% to the charities to which they were destined rather than to the government and the taxman.
Another inspiring area where communities have stepped up is in helping our new Canadians achieve their full potential. We have a problem and an opportunity in this country. Here's the problem. Despite the fact that we have 24,000 skilled tradespeople and professionals who immigrate to Canada every year, only about 26% of immigrants work in the field for which they were trained.
Thirty-six per cent of immigrants report difficulty getting their credentials recognized in Canada. Despite the fact that immigrants are more likely, vastly more likely, to have Ph.D.s and master's degrees, they have more difficulty putting those credentials to work in the Canadian economy. Now one of the reasons is that, in the licensed professions and trades, it can often be difficult to get a licence to practise and to get credentials recognized. It's very costly. Many newcomers have no credit history or collateral, so they can't get a loan in order to go and take the training, testing, and time off work necessary to get their credential recognized.
A group of business leaders in Calgary came up with a really innovative idea. They said that if they can't get a traditional bank loan, they will sign loan guarantees for them so the banks can be sure the money will be repaid. A group called the Immigrant Access Fund administered the initiative and helped these newcomers with charting a course to obtaining credentials, planning their studies, and preparing for a job find after the credentialization was finalized. They took small loans of about $7,000 a year. Our department, under the leadership of Jason Kenney, funded the administration at the outset of this. Then we provided a little bit of extra loan capital and loan guarantees to support it as well.
We're starting to get the results of this pilot project. Roughly 1,800 immigrants took these loans. On average, they were about $7,000. So far, the default rate is well under 3%. Employment is up by 47%. At one of the sites where these loans were delivered, incomes have doubled from before they took the loan until after they paid it back, and there's been a very large increase in licensing in the original field. We are still waiting for additional information and data to come, but I am almost certain and very confident in saying that the very small amount of money that we put into this will be paid back many, many times over through the increased taxes that will result from the growing incomes of participants in the program.
We announced in the recent budget that we would transform this pilot project into a full-blown program. The terms of that program have not yet been established. We are not yet prepared to announce how many loans will be available or how exactly they will be delivered, but I can tell you that we are going to keep the budget commitment to institute a micro-loan program to help newcomers get fully credentialed in their fields and working in high-paying jobs so that they can fulfill the outstanding potential that they bring to Canada.
View Lawrence Toet Profile
What about the whole-of-family approach? When I speak of that, I'm talking about the need to include all family members in the process. I think it's actually very beneficial even for younger children—I wouldn't say very young children—to have a better understanding of what's occurring and to be supportive in the family structure.
I just look back to the time at the end of the life of both my mother-in-law and father-in-law. They spent that time at the end with us in our household, and I see the positive impact that actually had on my children, being part of that process, understanding the need for care, and understanding the need for support.
Do you see that whole-of-family approach as something we should be looking at going forward?
R. Nicholas Carleton
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R. Nicholas Carleton
2015-05-28 17:03
Absolutely. Again, I would emphatically support that.
When I'm treating my own patients, one of the important things I speak to is the notion of how it's important to keep your family in the loop, so to speak, to make sure they have access to evidence-based education. There's a lot of misinformation out there, and I believe that misinformation is causing additional problems. For example, people still believe that post-traumatic stress disorder is a lifelong and unresolvable disorder, and that's simply not the case.
So there's a lot of misinformation. The more information we can provide not only to the individual who's having difficulties but also to their family members, the better our chances of supporting them in the long term for ongoing success with any mental health challenge are going to be.
David Macdonald
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David Macdonald
2015-05-28 9:15
The income splitting has come into effect for the 2014 tax year, and the TFSA doubling is in effect at present.
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