Interventions in Committee
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Kelley Bush
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Kelley Bush
2015-06-18 16:07
Good afternoon. My name is Kelley Bush, and I am the head of radon education and awareness under Health Canada's national radon program.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for inviting me to be here today to discuss radon as a cause of lung cancer and to highlight the work of the Canadian – National Radon Proficiency Program.
Through the ongoing activities of this program, Health Canada is committed to informing Canadians about the health risk of radon, better understanding the methods and technologies available for reducing radon exposure, and giving Canadians the tools to take action to reduce their exposure.
Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas that is formed naturally in the environment. It comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. When radon is released from the ground in outdoor air, it gets diluted and is not a concern. However, when radon enters an indoor space, such as a home, it can accumulate to high levels and become a serious health risk. Radon naturally breaks down into other radioactive substances called progeny. Radon gas and radon progeny in the air can be breathed into the lungs, where they break down further and emit alpha particles. These alpha particles release small bursts of energy, which are absorbed by the nearby lung tissue and lead to lung cell death or damage. When lung cells are damaged, they have the potential to result in cancer when they reproduce.
The lung cancer risk associated with radon is well recognized internationally. As noted by the World Health Organization, a recent study on indoor radon and lung cancer in North America, Europe, and Asia provided strong evidence that radon causes a substantial number of lung cancers in the general population. It's recognized around the world that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and that smokers also exposed to high levels of radon have a significantly increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Based on the latest data from Health Canada, 16% of lung cancers are radon-induced, resulting in more than 3,200 deaths in Canada each year. To manage these risks, in 2007 the federal government in collaboration with provinces and territories lowered the federal guideline from 800 to 200 becquerels per cubic metre. Our guideline of 200 becquerels per cubic metre is amongst the lowest radon action levels internationally, and aligns with the World Health Organization's recommended range of 100 to 300 becquerels per cubic metre.
All homes and buildings have some level of radon. It's not a question of “if” you have radon in your house; you do. The only question is how much, and the only way to know is to test. Health Canada recommends that all homeowners test their home and that if the levels are high, above our Canadian guideline, you take action to reduce.
The national radon program was launched in 2007 to support the implementation of the new federal guideline. Funding for this program is provided under the Government of Canada's clean air regulatory agenda. Our national radon program budget is $30.5 million over five years.
Since its creation, the program has had direct and measurable impacts on increasing public awareness, increasing radon testing in homes and public buildings, and reducing radon exposure. This has been accomplished through research to characterize the radon problem in Canada, as well as through measures to protect Canadians by increasing their awareness and giving them tools to take action on radon.
The national radon program includes important research to characterize radon risk in Canada. Two large-scale, cross-Canada residential surveys have been completed, using long-term radon test kits in over 17,000 homes. The surveys have provided us with a much better understanding of radon levels across the country. This data is used by Health Canada and our stakeholder partners to further define radon risk, to effectively target radon outreach, to raise awareness, and to promote action. For example, Public Health Ontario used this data in its radon burden of illness study. The Province of British Columbia used the data to inform its 2014 changes to their provincial building codes, which made radon reduction codes more stringent in radon-prone areas based on the results of our cross-Canada surveys. The CBC used the data to develop a special health investigative report and interactive radon map.
The national radon program also conducts research on radon mitigation, including evaluating the effectiveness of mitigation methods, conducting mitigation action follow-up studies, and analyzing the effects of energy retrofits on radon levels in buildings. For example, in partnership with the National Research Council, the national radon program conducted research on the efficacy of common radon mitigation systems in our beautiful Canadian climatic conditions. It is also working with the Toronto Atmospheric Fund to incorporate radon testing in a study they're doing that looks at community housing retrofits and the impacts on indoor air quality.
This work supports the development of national codes and standards on radon mitigation. The national radon program led changes to the 2010 national building codes. We are currently working on the development of two national mitigation standards, one for existing homes and one for new construction.
The program has developed an extensive outreach program to inform Canadians about the risk from radon and encourage action to reduce exposure. This outreach is conducted through multiple platforms targeting the general public, key stakeholder groups, as well as populations most at risk such as smokers and communities known to have high radon.
Many of the successes we've achieved so far under this program have been accomplished as a result of collaboration and partnership with a broad range of stakeholder partners. Our partners include provincial and municipal governments, non-governmental organizations, health professional organizations, the building industry, the real estate industry, and many more. By working with these stakeholders, the program is able to strengthen the credibility of the messages we're sending out and extend the reach and impact of our outreach efforts. We are very grateful for their ongoing engagement and support.
In November 2013 the New Brunswick Lung Association, the Ontario Lung Association, Summerhill Impact, and Health Canada launched the very first national radon action month. This annual national campaign is promoted through outreach events, website content, social media, public service announcements, and media exposure. It raises awareness about radon and encourages Canadians to take action. In 2014 the campaign grew in the number of stakeholders and organizations that participate in raising awareness. It also included the release of a public service announcement with television personality Mike Holmes, who encouraged all Canadians to test their home for radon.
To give Canadians access to the tools to take action, extensive guidance documents have been developed on radon measurement and mitigation. Heath Canada also supported the development of a Canadian national radon proficiency program, which is a certification program designed to establish guidelines for training professionals in radon services. This program ensures that quality measurement and mitigation services are available to Canadians.
The Ontario College of Family Physicians as well as McMaster University, with the support of Health Canada, have developed an accredited continuing medical education course on radon. This course is designed to help health professionals—a key stakeholder group—answer patients' questions about the health risks of radon and the need to test their homes and reduce their families' exposure.
The national radon program also includes outreach targeted to at-risk populations. For example, Erica already mentioned the three-point home safety checklist that we've supported in partnership with CPCHE. As well, to reach smokers, we have a fact sheet entitled “Radon—Another Reason to Quit”. This is sent out to doctors' offices across Canada to be distributed to patients. Since the distribution of those fact sheets began, the requests from doctors offices have increased quite significantly. It began with about 5,000 fact sheets ordered a month, and we're up to about 30,000 fact sheets ordered a month and delivered across Canada.
In recognition of the significant health risk posed by radon, Health Canada's national radon program continues to undertake a range of activities to increase public awareness of the risk from radon and to provide Canadians with the tools they need to take action. We are pleased to conduct this work in collaboration with many partners across the country.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to any questions the committee members might have.
Anne-Marie Nicol
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Anne-Marie Nicol
2015-06-18 17:06
You should also have a slide deck from me. It says “Radon and Lung Cancer” on it. I recognize I am the very last person, and I appreciate your persistence. Luckily many people have also spoken to a number of the points that I wish to discuss, so I will go very quickly over the first few slides.
I am an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. I also work at the National Collaborating Centre with Tom and Sarah, and I also run CAREX Canada, which is the carcinogen surveillance system funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. I am here because we prioritized Canadians' exposure to environmental carcinogens and the leading causes of cancer-related deaths from environmental exposures, and radon gas was by far the most significant carcinogen. I admit that when I started my research at CAREX, I had never heard of radon gas either. When I went back into the literature, I realized that over time Canada has actually played a very important role in understanding radon and lung cancer.
The data from many of the studies that were done on uranium miners, at Eldorado and even here in Ontario, has been used to determine the relationship between exposure and lung cancer. We've actually been on the forefront of this issue but very much in an academic context rather than in a public health context.
We've already discussed the fact that the WHO notes that this is a significant carcinogen. I would also like to point out that agencies around the world are coming to the conclusion that radon is more dangerous than they had previously thought. In 1993 we had a certain understanding about the relationship between radon gas and lung cancer. That's doubled. The slope that Tom was talking about used to go like this and now it goes like this. Radon is now known to be much more dangerous than we had originally thought. The reason for that is that radon is actually an alpha-particle emitter.
We are a uranium-rich country. Uranium is in the soil and as it breaks down there is a point at which it becomes a gas. That means it becomes movable within the soil. That gas itself gives off alpha radiation, which is a very dangerous form of radiation that can damage DNA. On the next slide you'll see both direct and indirect damage to DNA. This information is compliments of Dr. Aaron Goodarzi. We actually have a Canada research chair studying this at the moment in Alberta.
The next slide, on radiation and DNA damage, shows that alpha radiation is powerful. It doesn't penetrate very far, so if it hits our skin, it doesn't do as much damage as it does if it gets into our lungs. Our lungs are very sensitive. The lining of our lungs is sensitive and when the cells in them are irradiated, they get damaged. Alpha particles are very destructive. The damage is akin to having a cannon go through DNA. That kind of damage is hard to repair, and as a result the probability of genetic mutations and cancer goes up.
The next slide is on strategies for reducing risk. Just to recap, the kind of damage done by the radiation emitted from radon is significant. The damage is difficult for the body to repair once radon is in the lungs.
The next slide is on education and priority setting. Radon does exist across the country. People have developed radon-potential maps. This one is compliments of Radon Environmental where they've looked at where uranium exists and where the potential for higher-breakdown products is, although we do recognize that every home is different. Also there's a map of the United States to show that we are not alone in this and that the states that are on the border have a similar kind of radon profile to that found in Canada. We know that under our current Canadian strategies, we need to educate not just the public but ourselves. Most public health professionals have never heard of radon. When we do work out in public health units, environmental health inspectors, public health inspectors, and medical health officers are still unaware that radon is dangerous. Many bureaucrats and ministries of health are unaware that radon is dangerous.
Also health researchers are only really beginning to do work in this area across the country. In order to have building codes changed, people need to know why you're changing them. We need testing and remediation training. People need to understand why they're actually doing this kind of work.
Kelley Bush alluded to the fact that they've been tracking awareness among the population. This is done by Statistics Canada. The next slide shows a representative Canadian sample. It's been done since 2007 actually, but these are results for 2009 onward. You can see that about 10% of the population were aware of radon. That's gone up to about 30%. This is the number of people who know what radon is and can accurately describe it. We're still at around 30% of the population who know that radon can cause lung cancer.
Health Canada does recommend that everybody test their homes. The next slide, which is also using data collected by Statistics Canada, clearly shows that very few people have tested their homes. Less than 10% of Canadians across the country have tested their homes. We have had a radon awareness program since 2007, so why aren't people testing? We don't have regulatory requirements, as Kathleen Cooper stated earlier. People need to be aware and motivated to change. It's up to the consumer. We have left it up to the consumer to test their own home.
I believe things like denial, the invisible nature of the gas, and people simply being unaware contribute to this. Test kits are still not that readily available across the country. You can phone and ask where you can find them, but they're not always there. In rural regions it's much harder for people to get access to test kits. People then fear the downstream costs of remediating—i.e., I don't want to go in there because I don't know how much it's going to cost me to fix my basement. In some cases the costs can be somewhat considerable, depending on the structure of the home.
Turning to the next slide, I believe to reduce the lung cancer risk from radon gas we need more leadership. The government can legitimate this as a risk. It's something that people don't know about, and we need to take a stronger role in getting people more engaged in this topic. It's not just Health Canada; it's all levels of government—ministries of health, provinces, municipalities. We need to be training people in the trades so they know what they're doing when they're building those radon-resistant homes, and why. Why is that pipe important? Why is that fan important? Again, we need to build radon out, going forward.
Other countries have shown that providing financial assistance works. People will energy-retrofit their home because they get a rebate, but the energy retrofit does increase radon levels. There is clear evidence that this exists. The tighter your home, the more the radon gas remains in your home. In Manitoba they're doing research to look at that at the moment. In Manitoba, though, you can also now get a rebate through Manitoba Hydro to do radon remediation. Some parts of the country are starting, but we need to be offering some kind of incentive for citizens to do this.
I would also like to put in a plug for workplace exposure, because I do study workplace exposure and radon. There are places in the country where people work underground, or in basements and even ground-level buildings, where radon levels are high. Some of these are federal government workers. We need more testing and remediation for workplaces.
That's it. Thank you.
Greg Zilberbrant
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Greg Zilberbrant
2015-06-09 8:47
Thank you.
Good morning. Thank you to the committee for inviting me to speak to you today on behalf of Holcim Canada.
To provide some context, I want to share briefly with you what Holcim Canada is. Holcim Canada Inc. is one of the country's largest vertically integrated building materials and construction companies. With 3,000 employees, we manufacture cement, aggregates, and ready-mix concrete and provide construction services to many of Canada's largest infrastructure projects. Our business divisions include Dufferin Aggregates, Dufferin Concrete, and Dufferin Construction in Ontario, and the Demix brand, offering concrete, aggregates, and construction services in Quebec.
In short, we build the materials that build the world around us. Concrete, one of the key products of our vertically integrated value chain, is the second most used material in the world, second only to water. We are proud of the materials we make and the solutions we provide and of how they're able to build the foundations of society.
The manufacturing of our materials is an important contribution to the social, economic, and environmental values that our company provides to Canadians. This is an important context for today's discussion about the opportunity for private enterprises to be leaders in collaboration with not-for-profit organizations and to create value through local environmental initiatives.
As a materials company, we have an undoubted environmental impact with the production of materials. We support the role of government in holding our industry accountable via compliance mechanisms. They play a vital role in ensuring that there is a level playing field among the competitors in our industry.
We produce materials by taking the most sustainable and economically feasible approach possible. We pride ourselves in being an environmental leader in our industry and in general across the manufacturing sector. This has much to do with the way in which we manufacture our materials and how, for example, we're able to reduce our reliance on non-renewable resources through the use of secondary materials such as blast-furnace slag, a byproduct of the steel industry, to produce a cement substitute; to improve our energy efficiency through the reuse of heat generated from our process to dry our incoming materials; and to reduce our carbon footprint overall through a reduction of non-renewable resources and increased energy efficiency, but also in the substitution of coal for non-recyclable residues from other industries as fuel in our cement kilns.
That is the manufacturing element of our business. However, we are able to create an impact and provide solutions beyond our own perimeter. By this, I refer to the opportunity for our materials to be used in pervious parking lots to improve stormwater management, an increased use of concrete in structures to improve the building envelope, and inflexible roadways made of concrete to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles. This complementary view of direct and indirect impact is a core part of our business strategy and a measure of the true value of a leader in sustainable development.
There is much more we can do, as we have done, beyond our core business as a member of the communities in which we operate. We take pride in our role as a good corporate neighbour and a leader in sustainable development. Holcim Canada has built a solid reputation for its commitment to the communities where we are located, to the people, the economy, and the natural environment. We proactively look for opportunities to reduce our impact on the environment and seek partnerships with trusted local NGOs where our organizations can add value and amplify each other's efforts for the net gain of our natural environment and our communities.
I would like to share with this committee a few examples of such partnerships and how they've come to be, and the net gain that was achieved for those involved.
The first such example is a very simple one, a park. A park was being built by the municipality less than a few hundred metres from our cement facility in Mississauga. We decided to get engaged, as it was a facility that our community and our employees would use for many years to come. Our involvement was to provide materials for the facility.
The material we wanted to provide was innovative in its design. The material is a porous concrete that allows rainwater to penetrate the surface and return to the ground rather than being diverted to the storm sewer, a great innovation that reduces the need for stormwater infrastructure and surges of water being moved to a large body while the groundwater remains unreplenished.
However, there were very few installations of this material in the region. We, along with the park architects and the municipality's project team, saw this as an opportunity rather than a setback. We hosted education events for the municipal roadwork staff; visited a site where the material had been installed in order to discuss best practices; engaged industry associations to provide training to the construction crews on installation techniques; and invited numerous stakeholders to witness the installation to better understand the material.
Holcim also designed an educational interactive outdoor display that shows how this material works and what benefits it provides for the environment. This collaboration has created a unique demonstration of materials and design innovation in a setting that can be assessed by our stakeholders, including our customers and members of the community, to learn more about the material and, most importantly, see it in action.
This feature is now a destination for the local conservation authority as part of its low-impact development tour that is attended by architects, engineers, and developers in the region. As such, it provides us with a business opportunity to promote a product that our company is able to deliver with high quality, as can be seen by the interest of our potential customers during this visit. Most importantly, it demonstrates that both the municipality and the conservation authority have trust in our abilities as an organization to deliver innovative environmental solutions.
The second example is that of the Holcim Waterfront Estate, a facility where member of Parliament Stella Ambler, who is on this committee, announced the funding that Holcim Canada and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority will be receiving for another project, which I will come back to in a moment as my third example.
The Holcim Waterfront Estate was again a collaboration between Holcim and the City of Mississauga. I will not delve into the details of this facility, aside from saying that it's a beautifully restored manor and a key piece of local heritage and history that has been revitalized using modern-day sustainable practices, for the enjoyment of generations to come. We are happy to be part of it.
The collaboration in this project demonstrated a level of trust that was built as a result of a previous park construction experience. Recycled aggregate was a primary source of stone for the project in using crushed recycled concrete rather than mined virgin aggregate. Low CO2 cement mixes were used for smaller features. A mix using recycled water and manufactured sand was used in some of the concrete designs, both offsetting the equivalent in natural quantities of material needed.
This example highlights the potential of adopting innovative environmental solutions in projects so that other stakeholders can understand the potential for such features within their own projects. Innovation, however, is not at the expense of quality and safety. All the features mentioned still appear and function in the same manner as designed.
What these projects have provided is an exceptional collaborative environment between Holcim and our non-private partners. This has led to continuous conversation with and support of one another by Holcim, the municipality, and the conservation authority. We provide access to conservation authority personnel to monitor birds, bats, fish, and shoreline conditions around our properties. These activities are part of larger studies; however, because of our open dialogue and our environmental commitments and the seriousness with which we take them, and based on the success of previous collaboration, Holcim was willing to grant access to have our properties included in these studies.
We also benefited when an opportunity for funding became available through the Government of Canada, as the information collected and, more importantly, the established collaborative relationship between Holcim and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority facilitated their support for Holcim to have nine acres of waterfront land enhanced to create a stopover and feeding area for migratory species at risk. This project clearly benefits these species, the mandate of the conservation authority, and the national conservation plan, but it also allows Holcim to further solidify our environmental leadership position with a project that independently would not be within our scope of knowledge or financial resources to complete.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to present to this committee and for the support the Government of Canada has provided for the natural enhancement project I just mentioned, on nine acres of land of our property on the shoreline of Lake Ontario, as a model of natural restoration and environmental leadership.
In summary, the collaborative nature of relationships between Holcim and our not-for-profit or public partners, in combination with our sustainability-minded business approach, has allowed us to take a leadership role in the private sector. All the examples provided have been realized within 500 metres of our Mississauga cement plant. These are local projects with local stakeholders that have a local and global impact.
We also appreciate the value we're able to bring to the table when discussing such collaboration. When there are innovative, creative organizations sitting at the table with us that are able to provide expertise in their area, the reputational value of their organizations, and an understanding of business needs, as well as the potential for funding to bridge economic gaps, then sustainable development opportunities are bound to find light.
Thank you.
View Andrew Saxton Profile
Mr. Farrell, if employers feel they are going to be sued because a student isn't getting the training they want, is that going to stop employers from potentially having interns?
John Farrell
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John Farrell
2015-06-02 9:58
You know that you can't prevent people from taking actions they think are appropriate, but I don't think it's necessary to concern ourselves with lawsuits.
We believe employers and interns can benefit from the balance that is necessary to give them the training they need, so they can advance their educational and work experiences.
View Laurin Liu Profile
What would be the case for new Canadians? Do you think that new Canadians should be forced to work for free to gain workplace experience?
Claire Seaborn
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Claire Seaborn
2015-06-02 10:26
Absolutely. We frequently receive emails from immigrants in Canada who take unpaid work out of desperation and for no other reason. In fact, all Canadians are taking unpaid work out of desperation. Federally regulated employers would use these exceptions to take advantage of that desperation and extract work, labour, that's useful to them. They provide training but they are certainly extracting work from people without providing remuneration and without really being accountable for what they're providing to those people.
Jonathan Champagne
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Jonathan Champagne
2015-06-02 10:27
I think the idea of providing a community service for allowing new immigrants to work for free is a guise and something that shouldn't be accepted or tolerated.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2015-05-26 16:12
May I ask a very specific question about the ending of your presentation, Ms. Hopkins? You talked about the addictions management information system. You said it sounded like a valuable database and a tool that could be used, but your problem is that despite creating a few webinars, you don't have the resources you need to make those available to the people who could use those. Have you costed how much money that would take? Which department would be the one that you would expect to assist, if it's a federal department?
Carol Hopkins
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Carol Hopkins
2015-05-26 16:12
There have been some regions of the first nations and Inuit health branch of Health Canada that have invested in training. For example, in the Quebec region, they provided $5,000 to five treatment centres so they could train all of their staff and invite community members in who would be using the system to make referrals and access to the assessment tools. So $25,000 for a whole region to be trained on this system is money well spent in terms of the data we would be able to collect over time.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-26 16:25
You say Statistics Canada was moving in that direction. Why did they stop, and how do we get them back on track so that they do keep that data?
The second question I have, which is for Ms. Hopkins, is what needs to be done? The $25,000 investment for your addictions management information system, to me, seems to be a small number. What needs to be done to implement that system?
Angella MacEwen
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Angella MacEwen
2015-05-26 8:58
Thank you.
On behalf of the 3.3 million members of the Canadian Labour Congress, we want to thank you for the opportunity to present our views today. The CLC brings together workers from virtually all sectors of the Canadian economy, in all occupations, and in all parts of Canada.
Part 1 of Bill C-59, which we're speaking to today, would implement a wide variety of income tax and related measures. Today our comments will be limited to three provisions: reducing the required minimum amount for withdrawal annually from the RRIF; increasing the annual contribution limit for the tax-free savings accounts; and renewing the accelerated capital cost allowance for investment in machinery and equipment.
First of all, in terms of retirement security, the changes to the RRIF withdrawals and the increases to the tax-free savings accounts are measures that are both related to retirement security, but it will be no surprise to members of this committee that the Canadian Labour Congress feels that expanding the Canada pension plan is a much better solution to the looming retirement security crisis in Canada. Changes to RRIF withdrawals benefit older workers who already have RRSP savings, but they do little for workers without the means to save through RRSPs. This is significant because only a third of Canadians today contribute to RRSPs, and the unused RRSP contribution room reached $790 billion in 2013. Eleven million workers in Canada have no pension plan other than the CPP. At the same time, the annual contribution limit for the tax-free savings account would increase to $10,000, as has already been discussed, and this measure would have an estimated cost to federal revenues of $1.1 billion by 2019.
Even at the maximum annual contribution of $5,500, the TFSA is projected to cost the federal government up to $15 billion annually, and cost the provinces another $8 billion when the program is fully mature. Doubling would further increase this cost almost exclusively to the benefit of higher income earners. In contrast, expanding the CPP would benefit all workers, follow workers who change employers or who have multiple employers, and be simple for employers to administer.
In terms of supporting manufacturing, we recognize that as a result of globalization, unfavourable trade deals, a high dollar, and the most recent recession, manufacturing in Ontario and across Canada has experienced devastating losses over the past decade. In recognition of this reality, we have long supported renewing the accelerated capital cost allowance for investment in machinery and equipment. This measure was first introduced in 2007, renewed in 2011 and 2013, and would now be renewed until 2026. While we support this measure, we want to note that corporate tax cuts have failed to spur business investment. In the same vein, we feel that continuing this accelerated capital cost allowance would be insufficient to support a struggling manufacturing sector in Canada.
Coming out of the recession, business investments in manufacturing have been very slow to rebound, despite the continuation of the accelerated capital cost allowance. In October 2014, the monetary policy report released by the Bank of Canada suggested that this is in part because of a semi-permanent loss of capacity in several manufacturing export sectors. Low interest rates and low taxes have not been sufficient drivers of growth. Weak and uncertain demand have played a significant role in subdued investment. All signs point to the need for the federal government investment in infrastructure to spur growth and therefore boost business confidence and private investment.
A singular focus on tax cuts has significant drawbacks. We note that while the budget 2015 documentation mentions the importance of investment in skilled labour in the same sentence as it mentions investment in machinery, government action on this front has been noticeably absent.
Let me remind the committee of some of the recommendations the Canadian Labour Congress has made in the past that would make a difference to investment in skilled workers.
One, establish a national skills council that brings key stakeholders together to identify skills gaps and develop strategies, policies, and programs to address them.
Two, establish a mandatory national workplace training fund. Employers with a payroll of more than $1 million who fail to invest 1% of their payroll in training should pay the shortfall into a public fund that is used to finance work-related training initiatives.
Three, increase funding for the labour market agreements, the LMAs, with the provinces and territories to help vulnerable unemployed workers, including immigrants, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, women, older workers, younger workers, and less skilled individuals.
Four, mandate employers to hire and train apprentices. The federal budget should ensure that those projects receiving federal dollars through the new building Canada fund and the investment in affordable housing program mandate employers to hire and train apprentices.
This budget further erodes the fiscal capacity of the Canadian state and rejects the opportunity to take advantage of exceptionally low borrowing costs and invest in the current and future needs of working people in Canada.
Thank you.
Marie Deschamps
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Hon. Marie Deschamps
2015-05-25 15:39
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
When the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Lawson, entrusted me with the mandate of examining the Canadian armed forces policy on sexual harassment and sexual assault, he told me he wanted the point of view of a person from the outside.
My report is the fruit of some intense work. I met over 700 people. I did an exhaustive and thorough study of policies, and I reviewed what are currently considered the best practices in the area of sexual harassment and assault.
I will not comment on my report here, save for two points I wish to emphasize, which can be summarized in two words: victims, and trust.
I will begin by speaking about victims. Each one of the 10 recommendations in my report aims to improve conditions for members of the Canadian armed forces. The impact has to be felt at all levels, not only in daily life, but also in the support afforded to victims and the prevention of incidents.
Supporting victims means that the Canadian armed forces have to give priority to the needs of the victims. In discussing prevention I of course refer to training. The Canadian armed forces have to teach their members what professional behaviour is and what is not acceptable. Prevention also means deterring eventual offenders by promptly imposing sanctions that will make everyone understand that there will be no compromises.
We cannot underestimate the importance and attention that must be afforded victims. It is through them that the Canadian armed forces will be able to assess the evolution of change in their culture. These men and women will allow them to verify the level of respect for the dignity of persons and the professionalism of our armed forces.
The second point is a guiding principle underlying my recommendation. It is the need to rebuild the trust and confidence of the Canadian Forces members in their organization. This will require short-term, medium-term, and long-term measures to bring about real changes.
Such change will take time. The first step, however, is for the Canadian Forces leadership to demonstrate to members through their actions that they acknowledge that the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the armed forces is real. But most important, the forces need to show that they will take all the necessary steps to tackle this issue, including adopting measures that are recognized as international and national best practices.
One of these practices on which I heavily relied corresponds to what many members and people who worked with victims told me they needed. It is the creation of an independent centre where victims can seek support and advice. It is critical that such a centre be truly independent of the armed forces in order to reassure victims that by reporting an incident of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they will be able to access support without triggering negative consequences for their careers or in their personal lives.
I took inspiration from models that various countries adopted. The American and Australian forces created their respective centres in 2005 and 2012. Last summer, in 2014, the French forces also implemented a centre called Cellule Thémis.
Based on my consultation with members and with persons who worked with victims of harassment and assault, I found that the creation of an independent centre to assist and support victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment is an essential step in rebuilding the confidence of members in their organization.
In my report, speaking about the process of investigating and prosecuting sexual assault, I mentioned that each country has developed their own response to their problems. The centre I recommend is not identical to any of the existing ones and I did not view my mandate as describing in minute detail the form that it should take.
However, the Canadian Forces should attempt to draw the best features from each existing model. In my view, the more independent the centre is, the better are the chances that the victims will seek support and fully report incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Reporting is fundamental not only because the victims need support, but also because the Canadian Forces need to know how members behave.
Thank you.
Christine Whitecross
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Christine Whitecross
2015-05-25 15:45
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for the opportunity to appear before you today to provide an update on the progress the Canadian Armed Forces strategic response team is making in dealing with inappropriate sexual behaviour in the forces.
You will remember that the external review authority's report and the action plan developed by the Canadian Armed Forces to deal specifically with Madame Deschamps' 10 recommendations were released to the Canadian public on April 30, 2015.
Let me start by saying that the past 17 working days since the release of the action plan indeed have been very busy. As I stated at the time of the release, inappropriate sexual behaviour is a complex problem that defies quick fixes and band-aid solutions. To successfully address it, our approach centres on identifying and treating its fundamental root causes rather than simply addressing the symptoms. Madame Deschamps' insight and analysis is absolutely pivotal in this approach. So, what has transpired during the last two and a half weeks?
First, we have reaffirmed that the strategic response team's mission is to enhance the operational readiness of the Canadian Forces by eliminating incidents and impacts of inappropriate sexual behaviour to the extent possible.
The goal is a Canadian Armed Forces that upholds a culture of dignity and respect for all. These are core Canadian values that the institution exists to defend in Canada and around the globe. In other words, in the long term we will enhance the fundamental Canadian Armed Forces' culture to the point that inappropriate sexual behaviour will not be tolerated either by targets of such behaviour or by anyone who witnesses it.
In the short term, we will trigger positive shifts in behaviour through increased awareness of acceptable norms, expectations, responsibilities and accountabilities by engaging with both the chain of command and grassroots membership across the organization.
Additionally, the recently formed Canadian Armed Forces strategic response team on sexual misconduct, which I lead, continues to grow and mature. It is noteworthy that this is the first time in the Canadian Armed Forces' history that an entity has been formed for the sole purpose of addressing this important issue. I have assembled a highly capable, multidisciplinary team consisting of civilian personnel, military members and former military members with the appropriate combination of required skills and experience.
We have identified four major lines of effort critical to achieving the objective. As described in our action plan, the first is to understand the problem. The second is to respond effectively to incidents of inappropriate behaviour, including enhancing the process of reporting. The third is to better support victims throughout the process. The fourth is to prevent occurrences from taking place in the first place.
We have already made considerable progress in several of these endeavours. In terms of understanding, my team has carefully examined Madame Deschamps' report and has begun considering how best to address each of her 10 recommendations.
For example, a key recommendation in Madame Deschamps' report was the creation of an independent centre to deal with inappropriate sexual behaviour. She provided us with several examples, including those established in the United States and Australian militaries.
The analysis of an independent centre will be the focal point of the strategic response team's planning and development in the coming weeks. Accordingly, my team and I recently met with American officials on their SAPRO model and Australian officials on their SeMPRO organization. Both consultations were very productive and provided the team with better insight into a field-tested, proven option with the potential to illustrate how a similar construct could be developed to fit the needs of the Canadian Armed Forces or the Department of National Defence.
In addition to these two visits, members of the strategic response team visited the Peel Regional Police and the Canadian Army Command and Staff College to open discussions about educational opportunities. They attended an international workshop in Geneva that brought together a broad spectrum of international experts on the core facets of sexual harassment and sexual assault in organizational environments. They attended a conference on gender-based analysis plus in security and defence operations held in Ottawa. They met with Ambassador Schuurman, the NATO secretary general's special representative for women, peace and security.
A key component of the behavioural and cultural change I alluded to earlier is connecting with the Canadian Armed Forces members at every level of the organization, including at the pointy end, to both increase awareness of the Canadian Armed Forces' response to Madame Deschamps' report, and to inspire open dialogue and personal reflection on the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the forces. This is quite similar to the approach previously employed in shifting internal stigmas and behaviour surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder and operational stress injuries, which we largely succeeded in doing in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
With members of my team, I began connecting directly with the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces across Canada starting on May 1, the day after the release of the report. Through a series of town hall meetings, individual question and answer sessions, discussions with the local chain of command, as well as interactions with interested local and regional media, the strategic response team is reaching out to Canadian Armed Forces members and setting the conditions for ongoing dialogue.
I open each session with the acknowledgement that this is a serious problem within the Canadian Armed Forces and that al though no one wants to discuss inappropriate sexual behaviour, it is important to start the discussion. So far, we have been to six bases and wings where I have briefed approximately 5,300 military personnel at 16 general sessions. The questions, comments, concerns, and perspectives in these sessions have brought to light both positive and negative personal experience anecdotes and reinforced two realities: one, the problem is highly complex; and two, while there is a collective will to move the organization forward, there is little consensus as to the gravity of the existing problem.
In the next few months, I look forward to completing the town halls at all 33 bases and wings to ensure that the majority of Canadian Armed Forces members have an opportunity to hear and understand what the team is doing, ask questions and express opinions, and learn about the direction being taken by the Canadian Armed Forces.
Similarly, my team and I will continue our focused consultations with both domestic and international entities that are dealing with a problem similar to ours. This includes military, government, police, and other non-governmental organizations that are able to provide us with applicable insight on best practices and lessons learned.
One of the reasons the Canadian Armed Forces' response to the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviour will be more effective this time is the heightened emphasis on outcome measurement. Even the most elaborate plans and outputs mean little if they do not translate into tangible outcomes and results on the ground. To this end, my team is studying program evaluation methodologies to ensure we are able to measure how effective the changes we implement actually are in practice.
Reporting will go hand in hand with performance measurement. Starting in the fall, I will deliver to the Chief of the Defence Staff my first quarterly report on the Canadian Armed Forces' progress in responding to the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviour. The report will also be released to the Canadian public. We are fully committed to open, transparent dialogue with external stakeholders. Over the past 25 days we have interacted with a total of 88 different media agencies in group and individual engagements. My team and I are committed to standing up and being held to account on this crucial imperative and will continue to be actively engaged with the public, Parliament, and the media.
We have also begun to examine how we can improve the Canadian Armed Forces' approach to training and education in order to shift culture towards enhancing the level of dignity and respect. As well, the team, in conjunction with other Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence personnel, is reviewing existing policy to assess its clarity, coherence, appropriateness, and applicability. As part of this endeavour, all terminology and definitions pertaining to inappropriate sexual behaviour will be thoroughly examined.
Inappropriate sexual behaviour remains a complex problem, one that quick fixes will not solve substantively or sustainably. My team is focused on creating innovative, meaningful change tailored to the needs of the Canadian Armed Forces members and based on best practices and lessons learned from a wide range of sources. This is a no-fail mission for the Canadian Armed Forces that my team and I are completely and utterly committed to.
Thank you.
View James Bezan Profile
General Whitecross, in your presentation you made the comment that trying to deal with the issue and raising awareness was similar to what we've gone through with mental health within the Canadian Armed Forces and how we changed the stigma, how we shifted the culture.
During this parliamentary session this committee spent quite a bit of time studying the care of our ill and injured within the Canadian Armed Forces. One thing that we came across is that we saw change happening for sure at the top end of management within the Canadian Armed Forces, but there were still some problems sometimes with middle management and even among the ranks themselves in how we deal with someone who was suffering from mental health issues.
Do you feel that's going to be a barrier in how we view awareness, education, and training with members of the Canadian Armed Forces as we move forward on sexual misconduct?
Christine Whitecross
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Christine Whitecross
2015-05-25 16:53
The first phase of our approach right now is obviously the town halls, because we have had some success, as you alluded to, in the past—and it's certainly not a similar situation; I'd like to say that first off—with PTSD and OSI, where there was a stigma, there was being afraid to speak to your chain of command, being afraid to speak to your buddies. On that thing, a lot of it, we managed to effect some change based on grassroots and a leadership down, so a bottom-up and top-down approach, to start the discussion to make sure that people are aware that these exist and that we need to be able to be free and open about the discussion. This is one of the ways we are hoping to effect change on this sexualized culture that Madame Deschamps reports.
I would just like to add that there are a number of other areas that we need to also address. One of them is that as we're trying to reinstate trust and confidence in those chains of command where it does not exist, we ensure that people are aware of the policies that they must address. Granted, we're looking at all those policies to see where they need to change, but we need to have a similar address of policies regardless of where they are in the Canadian Armed Forces. That includes the procedures that the chain of command need to deal with. In the discussions, in the identifying of a comprehensive approach in terms of an independent centre, we're also looking at a number of other areas where we're trying to instill confidence back into the chain of command where it's required.
View Pat Perkins Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I think the first question I'll ask is of Iain Macdonald.
You made the statement, with respect to HR and skills, that you very much required to have a properly trained workforce and that you're finding deficiencies in that area moving forward. What do you see the government's role being in this? Is this something you're asking us to consider assisting with, or is there something under way? Would you like to explain what that comment meant?
Iain Macdonald
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Iain Macdonald
2015-05-12 16:56
Sure. Thank you.
I think the role is to continue to fund the labour market studies, which have been very beneficial for understanding, as Ms. Block said, the transitions in the industry and responding to them. We have had very positive results with pre-employment training for disadvantaged groups and equity groups, as I mentioned. A major issue for companies is finding skilled employees and entry-level workers.
In terms of other roles, I think there's a potential for greater coordination between the various post-secondary institutions and industry in Canada so that there is some kind of laddering system for people to progress from high school education through various kinds of post-secondary training, and then possibly continue it through professional programs as they continue to work.
The fluid nature of technology and today's markets is such that it's no longer enough to have a four-year degree to serve you for your career. You're going to need at various times to take upgrading in your training. We're trying to do that in some ways through e-learning, for example, and blended learning, which combines e-learning with face-to-face training for shorter periods. But those kinds of programs are difficult to make sustainable, sometimes.
Jean-Pierre Voyer
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Jean-Pierre Voyer
2015-05-12 16:33
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much for inviting us to appear before the committee today.
Let me offer a few words about us.
SRDC is a not-for-profit, independent social policy research organization. We were established in 1991 at the request of Employment and Immigration Canada to design, pilot, and evaluate new social programs. Now, 24 years later, we have completed more than 200 projects for federal departments, provinces, municipalities, private foundations, and other non-profit organizations. Our work spans all areas of social policy writ large. In recent years, SRDC has been engaged in several projects on the application of performance-based funding and a social finance approach applied to the field of employment services, adult education, and training.
One reason we are here today is that more specifically, in January 2014 ESDC contracted us to be the independent evaluator for two essential skills training projects. Essential skills, as probably many of you know, are defined as literacy or foundational skills that are required for work, learning, and life in general.
These projects are the first two social finance projects launched with the support of the federal government. This was announced by Minister Kenney at the World Social Enterprise Forum in Calgary in the fall of 2013.
In both projects, private investors pay for the training up front and are repaid by the government if the training is successful in achieving pre-established outcomes. You may wish to look at the diagrams we have circulated to get a sense of the architecture supporting the delivery of the training.
The first pilot project, on the slide that has “SIB pilot project for unemployed” in the title is led by Colleges and Institutes Canada, CICan, which plays the role of SIB intermediary. They are working with four colleges across Canada as the service providers.
The project proposes to enrol 400 unemployed, lower-skilled Canadians to receive a program called Foundations, which is an established essential skills training program developed by Douglas College in B.C. This project is testing what would be considered a true social impact bond model in which private investors will recover their initial investment plus a financial return of up to 15%, if the training is successful.
The second project is the flip side. This one is addressed to people who are already employed. It's led by the Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society; they are the proponent of the project and the intermediary for this pilot.
In this case, the private sector employers will be reimbursed up to 50% of training costs for up to 800 workers, if the training achieves target outcomes. This is a variant that we call “employer as the investor”. It's a departure from a formal SIB, because the investor is not motivated by return on capital investment per se but by the prospect of economic returns from a better-trained and more productive workforce as well as reimbursement of training expenses.
In both of these pilots, government reimbursement of training costs is triggered based on gain in literacy skills. These are measured pre- and post-training, and they are used as a proxy for labour market outcomes success.
Up to this point our organization has been supporting the leader of these projects in the design of the program and has developed reimbursement formulae for both projects. We worked on investor risk-reward scenarios to establish graduated payment schemes and comparability of the SIB offering with market investment. It gets fairly technical, as you can see.
Positioning these projects in the social impact bond literature, I would say that they have some of the core features. First of all, the private investor pays the full cost of the intervention up front; the SIB addresses a well-identified social environmental problem or goal—that is, the high vulnerability of low-skills workers in the Canadian economy; and the activity generates a social dividend and economic return to investors. There are social and economic benefits associated with a more skilled workforce, and private investors in both cases are achieving returns on investment. The payback to the investor is from government and is tied to measurable results.
There is the presence of cashable savings for government. The more people who are trained, the more earnings they make, the more tax they pay, and also, the less reliance on employment insurance and social assistance programs.
Some or all of the risk is borne by the private sector. If desired outcomes are not achieved, private investors bear a large part of the costs.
But they're not like some SIBs we have discussed before in the sense that we're focusing on intermediate outcomes to trigger the payback—that is, skill gains—and not directly associated with measurable cash savings to government.
It goes to show that there is no one unique SIB model, and we came to this realization fairly early in this process, when we were looking at the literature and were looking at what other countries were doing. There are different ways of orchestrating these arrangements.
To conclude, here are some key observations about what we've learned so far. We're not an advocacy group. We could advocate, but we're not going to advocate. We're evaluators, so we present a neutral point of view.
First, we observe, of course, that social impact bonds and social finance schemes in general can be very complex. Defining success outcomes, reimbursement terms, and appropriate metrics to measure success, all of that is fairly complex. Our approach was to ground the rationale for the repayment scheme in evidence of point gains from previous essential skills training intervention to define a benchmark. We look for benchmarking in the process. Then we calculated risk-reward scenarios to prepare a graduated payment scheme that rewards higher levels of success with higher returns on investment. This we had to engage into, while we expected something much simpler at the beginning.
SIBs involve substantial transitional costs because there are a lot of people involved in the process, from investors to intermediaries to service deliverers. All of these people have to work and interact together and come to agreements, and it's a long process, so transitional costs are high.
At the beginning what we realized is that, despite the political interest and support for these projects, the legal and regulatory environment in Canada had never heard of SIBs and it was not adequately prepared. The intermediary for the SIB for the unemployed—that is, Colleges and Institutes Canada—which is structured as a non-profit and charitable organization, had to examine and review alternative corporate structures to be able to receive and administer the SIB funds. It spent a fair amount of money on consultants to figure out how to go about it.
Attracting private investment can be challenging. Potential investors range from benevolent investor foundations and the like to those who are more commercially oriented and who seek market returns on their investment. People whom we call “finance-first investors” may sometimes accept the risk of lower returns if their investment is supporting a good cause but that is not yet the general norm.
ln the case of the workplace essential skills training model, we have learned from the project leads that there can be hesitation to make the significant up-front investments from investors. They are not used to the formula and they are often tempted to rely on other government programs where the subsidies or the support from government is known and more tangible.
In other jurisdictions, the availability of funds for SIB investment has led to more rapid development and implementation of SIBs than in Canada, for good reason. As you well know by now, in the U.K., the creation of the Big Society Capital independent financial institution was a major lever to get them going.
The third point is accounting for all costs and benefits. SIB arrangements would be more likely to attract interest and popularity not only if governments were willing to reimburse investors on the basis of cash savings that their own fiscal frameworks will record but also if they would take into consideration all social and environmental benefits that can be generated through SIB intervention.
As I mentioned, SIBs could be very resource intensive. Without a large definition of benefits, including those going to society as a whole not only those affecting the fiscal framework, they would be harder to popularize.
One other difficulty for Canada is that many of the cash savings don't end up with one government. A lot of social policy is managed by the provincial governments, and they are the ones that will realize the bulk of the cash savings. While the federal government will also realize some cash saving through increased tax or other means, connecting the two is something that has to be achieved if you want to make sense of SIB implementation.
My last remark is to say that we are in favour of further exploration of SIBs in Canada, but please evaluate them carefully. It's not a proven recipe, as we've heard from previous speakers.
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 15:33
Thank you very much. Good afternoon and thanks to the committee for the invitation to come forward today as a witness.
Forest renewal and the future of one of Canada's oldest industries is of great interest to the group I'm here representing today, MLTC Resource Development. MLTC stands for the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, as the chair mentioned, which is owned by nine first nations communities in northwest Saskatchewan. MLTC Resource Development is a private equity investment partnership that owns several businesses in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Our largest investments are in forestry, and we also own real estate, hotels, fertilizer distribution, trucking companies, and telecommunications services.
The chiefs and councils of the nine first nations have developed a very positive reputation for having strong governance and clear separation of business and politics. I'm proud to say that as a non-first nations person, it's very humbling to work for an organization that is helping Canada's indigenous peoples make a contribution and earn a stake in the economy and work towards prosperity. There is a key reason why MLTC has been so successful in forestry, and it's because we're owners. We own the mill. We own the forest management company. We own the harvesting, the trucking, and the value-added processing. As owners, we control the natural resource development, the planning, the infrastructure, and we control how the benefits are retained in the region.
At the heart of our business is NorSask Forest Products, a state-of-the art high throughput and technologically advanced studmill facility. We produce 135 million board feet annually and are on track to increase that with ongoing investments in technology and innovation. Our high quality two by four and two by six studs are sold across North America and sought after by our customers due to our exceptional quality, customer service, and reputation.
NorSask was one of the few sawmills to remain open in the downturn and has remained a viable and successful sawmill under some of the most difficult conditions. NorSask directly employs nearly 200 people and 75% are aboriginal, almost half of whom are first nations people and most quite young.
The regional jobs that are maintained in the planning, harvesting, transportation and maintenance, and use of the timber are well in excess of 1,000 people and many of these are also first nations members. All of these jobs are linked to NorSask and MLTC's role in forest management.
Despite our success and resilience, we face unprecedented pressures due to limited market access, infrastructure deficits, no rail service, low quota levels, high labour cost, shortages of skilled trades, and competition for government resources from foreign-owned multinational companies.
ln 2007 we could see that forestry had to change. Lumber markets were collapsing. The traditional model where a sawmill and pulp mill operate hand in hand was just not sustainable. The pulp mills depend on low-cost pulp chips, produced as a byproduct of sawmills, as well as large government subsidies for capital and electricity rates, to stay viable. Pulp markets were shrinking. Pulp mills were closing and the future was uncertain. Pulp mills are also supposed to use hardwood species to allow access to the softwood for a sawmill.
Good lumber depends on good fibre and Saskatchewan has some of the best in the world. We are not yet impacted by the mountain pine beetle and the market knows that. Yet, we are still dependent on pulp mills, typically foreign owned, to utilize hardwood and to buy pulp chips, unless we change our model.
Since 2013, we have invested more than $20 million into modernization, expansion, and recapitalization of our sawmill. As a result, we have put our money where our mouth is towards innovation and the confidence that lumber will always be a product in high demand, despite market cycles.
ln our view, the future depends on finding better value from our timber resources instead of just lumber and pulp. We need to ensure total fibre utilization, including the value-added use of our wastes. Our focus turned to bioenergy and in particular electricity generation and wood pellets. Wood pellets are simple enough as long as you can find markets. Electricity, on the other hand, is very hard to get into without cooperation from local utilities. ln our case, SaskPower is the provincial-owned crown corporation and holds a monopoly in the regulated market. ln 2013, we successfully signed a power purchase agreement to construct a 36 megawatt biomass fired power plant, the first in Saskatchewan.
ln 2014, we started construction on Saskatchewan's first wood pellet manufacturing facility with a design output of 10,000 tonnes per year of premium wood pellets for use in residential heating and environmental spill cleanup. We are very optimistic that this plant can be expanded as we continue to develop more markets across North America.
A key issue worth mentioning is that first nations-owned sawmills do not qualify for many federal or provincial funding programs. So all of this is done with private investment. We can't use the accelerated capital cost allowance, SR and ED, IRAP, or any other innovation funding programs, and the softwood lumber agreement usually prevents direct government funding to sawmills. So our investments in innovation have been internally and privately financed, which is a huge disadvantage compared to the rest of the forest sector and hampers innovation investing.
I can't leave here today without mentioning the softwood lumber agreement. Saskatchewan is often overlooked in the Canadian negotiations. We haven't got enough quota. Today we have three saw mills operating and enough quota for one. Other provinces, such as B.C.... I won't go through the list, but several of them have excess quotas. Negotiators seem unwilling to try to help Saskatchewan because of the fear that changing the agreement would jeopardize the fragile consensus and that we're better just to renew the status quo.
We are strongly recommending that the SLA be structured to give Saskatchewan it's fair share. Moving quota does not cost the other provinces any jobs, but if Saskatchewan doesn't increase it's quota, it could cost a thousand jobs.
In summary my recommendations to the committee are as follows: develop financial support programs and investment incentives for diversified forest products that first nations-owned companies are eligible to received; focus on continued skills trade program funding such as Northern Career Quest, which we feel is very successful; develop a new domestic focus on ensuring that community ownership models are supported, including loan guarantees or other financing programs; rebalance the SLA quotas to support the Saskatchewan saw mill industry without harming other provinces who have surplus quotas; and expand and enhance federal funding programs for innovative new technology investments to encourage domestic investment and newer leading edge technologies.
I want to thank you for your time today, and I'll do my best to answer any questions you may have.
I hope that our story has been a benefit to your committee's work and we can offer some proof that forestry innovation is alive and well in Canada.
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 16:20
We have gone through a bit of an occurrence that's common in Saskatchewan now where there is a labour shortage. We have a lot of skilled trades shortages, and there is also this extremely high unemployment rate with aboriginal people, which we're also familiar with.
The Meadow Lake region has an abundance of aboriginal people, young people in particular, so the average age among the population is 17. The Meadow Lake Tribal Council has 13 members, half of whom live on-reserve, and the other half are off-reserve. There are big distances between the communities.
We've been working closely with the regional colleges and the professional and technical colleges to implement as many skilled trades training programs as we can. There were some federal programs we partnered with, one in particular called Northern Career Quest. I mentioned in my notes that it has been very successful. We would love to see it return and be rejuvenated because it's had the best outcomes of any program we've seen, largely because it's extremely flexible. It's able to address the immediate needs that are usually not compatible with typical funding programs, so that's been fantastic.
When we went back to the market looking for employees, we found that aboriginal people were the primary applicants, so we just had to make sure that our workplace was really embracing them in terms of their unique youth-oriented needs, which is not really an aboriginal issue but it happens to be just something that's part of the new generation, but we also had to—
View Joan Crockatt Profile
Could you maybe be specific on one or two points that you think have actually made that difference for you so that the committee can be a little bit more knowledgeable about some best practices?
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 16:22
If you compare us to other forest companies in Saskatchewan, we have by far the highest aboriginal employment. The normal would be perhaps 5% or 10% whereas we're at 75%. We're owned by first nations so there is going to be some strong policy around making sure we put emphasis on promoting job creation among our membership. There are a lot of stakeholders who want to see that happen. Federal government departments want to see it happen. They want to see people moving off social assistance and moving into the workforce, so there is a lot of support.
The Meadow Lake Tribal Council has a number of very successful health and social programs that are active in getting people through graduating from grade 12, getting them into post-secondary training, and getting them into pre-qualification in trades, and that's led to a large number of candidates who are able to come forward to apply for jobs. We don't really have a temporary foreign worker program. We have an abundance of applicants, generally from the region, so it's a bit of a good news story that way.
We would like to see a lot more emphasis on life skills development and helping people integrate when they move from a very remote rural community into Meadow Lake, which is not that urban, 5,000 people, but it's still a big shock for a lot of people.
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 16:24
What is it like to rent an apartment, build a lifestyle, get a family established, and put down roots? That's not really common for a lot of young people so we need to help them understand those things. When we strengthen those things they become long-term, stable employees and commit themselves to the company.
We have a lot of strong candidates right now, a lot of shining stars. We're using them as examples to help recruit more like them, and it's going well.
View Joan Crockatt Profile
If you had a recommendation for government, of the programs you've accessed, which would you say you want to see us strengthen and continue? What do you think is a best model that's worked for you?
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 16:24
Yes, it's a Saskatchewan-specific program. I know that other provinces have looked at it. It's been very successful.
There are some models in Alberta and B.C. that we're looking at as well that are specific to forestry, but we really like Northern Career quest. It's great.
Don Ludlow
View Don Ludlow Profile
Don Ludlow
2015-04-23 8:48
Great. Thank you, Mr. Chair, committee members, and all those joining us here today.
It is a pleasure for my colleague Tim Patriquin and I to be here representing the members of the Treble Victor Group and participating in this important discussion.
The Treble Victor Group, or 3V, is a network of ex-military leaders working in business, government, and the not-for-profit sectors, who support one another in their post-service careers. We assist one another through mentoring and advice, networking, and speaking events, while consulting with corporations and other organizations to establish programs for those transitioning from the military. While not representing ill or injured soldiers specifically, we simply note that our organization comprises some 250 former military leaders with many different backgrounds and experiences, all at different stages in their careers.
We recognize that all veterans transition out of the military at some point. Many, if not most, seek engaging and meaningful careers post service. Our members believe that when considering a national approach to veterans, a great country like Canada needs to ensure the following: that we honour our heros who have served in times of war and peace; that we look after our ill and injured soldiers, seeing them through recovery, rehabilitation, and a return to fulfilling work; and that we tap the amazing talent that the nation has developed in its military services. Our organization is particularly interested and experienced in the latter point as it seeks to collaborate with businesses and organizations throughout Canada to leverage the skills, capabilities, and experiences of those with military backgrounds.
Why is it imperative to tap the talent available from transitioning veterans? First of all, Canada has invested heavily in developing and building the skills and capabilities of these citizens who are drawn from all regions of the country and all walks of life. Second, many of the strengths developed through military service are highly sought after in the business community, often-referred-to soft skills such as leadership, managing diversity, initiative, and the ability to deal with ambiguity and rapid change. Finally, evolving demographic, economic, and competitive demands require us to mobilize all talent available in the population to address looming labour and talent shortages.
With this in mind, we would like to share with you a number of insights that 3V members have gained from their own transition experiences. The first is that transition takes time. Our own experience would suggest that a well-planned and executed transition from the military can take at least two years and often much longer. The implications of this are clear. If veterans, injured or otherwise, do not spend time and effort preparing for their post-military career while still in uniform or while convalescing, a last minute move will likely not prove successful for them or their new employer.
Second, our experience with transitions has demonstrated that there is almost always a brief conversion or ramping up to a particular industry or job. Thus jobs that have a training and development component at the outset, whether some of the excellent generalist programs run by some corporations or, for example, sales roles that have common courses for all new hires, seem to be well suited to transitioning veterans and result in considerable success for all.
Finally, we have learned that a successful transition of military personnel often requires an active sponsor or a highly supportive organization. Although Canada's military is highly regarded by Canadians and business leaders, the transferability and relevance of military experience is not so well understood. Too often, someone with military experience, while perhaps interesting and impressive in person, may seem like a hiring risk in comparison to and in competition with candidates who have done a particular civilian job before.
However, success breeds success. Once given a chance, our veterans usually perform remarkably well and are quickly integrated into new organizations, teams, and ways of doing things. Not surprisingly, organizations that have had some successful hires begin to employ many more veterans, and ex-military recruitment programs become a meaningful part of their talent sourcing.
Nonetheless, veterans require sponsors and someone willing to give them a chance. The reality is that there are just not enough of these champions in the business community today. All of this is to say that while many business leaders and hiring managers are sympathetic to those with military backgrounds and regard them well, there are some barriers preventing successful transitions. We wish to underscore that despite such challenges, veterans are not looking for sympathy. They are simply looking for meaningful employment to launch their post-service careers.
What can be done to help improve the situation for our veterans and enable Canada to make better use of those with military backgrounds?
Our organization has three recommendations. First, transition needs to begin well in advance of release or completion of rehabilitation. Transitioning veterans must be encouraged to consider and be provided resources to support their post-military employment plans a number of years before hanging up their uniforms. Transition support needs to be much more than resume writing and pension briefings, and should be structured to provide both resources and time for education upgrading or skills development.
Second, a particular emphasis needs to be placed on the educational aspects of veteran transition. Veterans should be provided with sufficient funding to pursue post-secondary education or training during, or on completion of, their terms of service and efforts to grant equivalency certifications based on military service and qualifications should be accelerated. A veteran will certainly appear to be much less of a risk if they, at the very least, have similar education and qualifications to others competing for civilian jobs.
Finally, we believe that clear goals should be set and formal partnerships established with corporate Canada. The highly successful 100,000 jobs mission south of our border demonstrates what can be accomplished when a specific goal is set and when corporations understand how supporting veteran transitions can benefit their own businesses. We note that Canada Company, closer to home, has established a goal of 10,000 jobs for veterans and this is achievable with appropriate support from the business community. Once common goals are committed to, we believe there is an opportunity to establish structured apprenticeship, on-boarding, or ramp-up programs with businesses across Canada to support transitioning veterans funded in part through relevant grants or tax incentives.
In closing, we do not believe that veterans want either charity or special treatment, but rather they seek the opportunity to use the skills and experiences they acquired in the armed forces as a springboard to a post-military career. We ask that you consider ways to support veterans well in advance of their transition date, while working with Canadian businesses to establish specific programs to convert qualified veterans to successful members of their organizations. Doing all of this properly is important to our veterans who will continue to enjoy meaningful work, while contributing to the continued success and vibrancy of Canadian society.
We very much thank you for the opportunity to present to you today and look forward to questions and further discussion.
Bronwen Evans
View Bronwen Evans Profile
Bronwen Evans
2015-03-26 8:53
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you for inviting me to present today.
I'm going to focus my remarks primarily around veterans who have been ill and injured, opportunities for employment programs that exist currently within government, and then some programs that we fund external to government.
I'll start off by giving a bit of a background on True Patriot Love. Some of you may know who we are as an organization, but I'll give a quick background on that. Then I will move on to talk about some work that we did in leadership at the Veterans Transition Advisory Council, which was a council that Minister Blaney, when he was the minister of veterans affairs, asked us to assemble. Through that I will talk about some survey work that we did of employers around their attitudes toward hiring veterans and then speak specifically to what we perceive to be some of the challenges regarding employment and where we think things should go.
True Patriot Love is an organization that started in 2009. There was a small group of us. Originally it was going to be a fundraising dinner that we did to raise money for the Military Families Fund. We raised about $2 million in one night and recognized that not only was there a need, but there was a huge opportunity and a willingness to give from corporate Canada.
We've been around for about six years and we've raised about $20 million, which we disburse to community-based charities across Canada that support military families. We don't run programs per se, but we raise money which we disburse, similar to how the United Way functions.
Our main areas of support are mental health and rehabilitation. We fund many counselling programs not just for injured soldiers, but also for their families. When a soldier suffers an operational stress injury, the whole family suffers. We also fund counselling programs in addition to that, where we look at children and young adults who are struggling at school or in new communities. Because they move frequently, they are often in need of support.
We also fund physical health and rehabilitation; so think adaptive ski programs and some very adaptive sport programs. We fund home and vehicle modifications for injured soldiers. The government does do some of that, but to give you an example of the kind of things we do, if a soldier lost a limb in Afghanistan and they come back, the government will pay to retrofit the soldier's existing vehicle. If that vehicle is too small to put a wheelchair and a ramp in it, we will pay for a new vehicle for the individual and the government will then retrofit it.
The other area that we fund is general family support. We do quite a bit in the area of supporting children in the military with special needs. This need has grown to about $750,000 a year. What happens is when children have special needs, like autism, and they move from one base to another, they go to the bottom of the public waiting list because it's all overseen by the provinces. Oftentimes they won't make it to the top of the waiting list before they need to move again. We were finding that families were taking out second mortgages on their home to pay for important therapy. That's a huge area of funding that we focus on. We also pay to send children to camp. Where there's been a recent injury, death, or deployment, we give military children the opportunity to go and spend time with other military children who may be going through some of the same things.
That's a general background on True Patriot Love.
A couple of years ago, Minister Blaney, when he was the minister for veterans affairs, asked True Patriot Love to put together what was called the Veterans Transition Advisory Council. I did send this document in advance and I want to make sure everybody has a copy of it. The purpose of the Veterans Transition Advisory Council was to look at systemic barriers that were preventing veterans from making a transition to meaningful employment. The reason I say meaningful is that we discovered quite early on that the issue isn't unemployment; it's more underemployment.
We assembled, with the support of Veterans Affairs and eventually with support from the Department of National Defence, a number of companies to help us look at the barriers. We also included other representation from charities across Canada that were in this space. Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence also have seats on this advisory council.
What I thought might be of particular interest to this group was a survey that we did of human resource departments across the country. It's the first-ever survey that has been done in Canada of this sort where we were looking at the attitudes of people doing the hiring in companies towards hiring veterans. There's been a lot of work done on this in other countries, like the U.S., but nothing had been done in Canada.
We did a quantitative survey of 850 corporate HR departments in Canada. What we found was interesting. We found that 45% of Canadian employers think that promoting the hiring of veterans reflects well on their company. We'd like it to be higher than 45%, but there's at least still 45% who believe that. However, 73% of Canadian employers admit that their organization does not have a specific veteran hiring initiative. When we prodded even further, we found only 4% of those who didn't have one have any intention of ever putting one in place.
We also found that only 13% of HR departments have been trained on how to read a military resumé. One thing we found especially interesting was that 46% believe having a university degree is more important than years of military experience. When you prodded that question and asked, what could a veteran do in order to help himself or herself get a job in the civilian world, education ranked the highest. The feeling with that was if you looked at their years of service, it wouldn't qualify essentially as the kind of training or internship that they were hoping to see and that they would need in order to bring veterans into their companies.
We have that going on and we're in a situation where employers, while their intentions might be good, don't really know how to go about hiring veterans.
We get calls as an organization quite frequently where somebody or a company will say to us, “We want to hire veterans. Where are they? How do we go about finding them?”
There is a program named MET, the military employment transition program, which is run by Canada Company in partnership with the Department of National Defence. That's very hands-on in terms of matching up employers with veterans. However, it's only able to handle so much volume, and on top of that, they don't deal with the ill and injured population at all.
The report that you have is our interim report, which ended up being presented to Minister Fantino. When we presented it to the minister and asked for further direction, he asked us to look specifically at the ill and injured veteran population to see what could be done in that area, because that was an area where when it came to employment the feeling was there was the most concern and the least amount of supports available to them.
We, the Veterans Transition Advisory Council, spent some time looking at that issue in particular. We did a survey of the programs that are already out there through government, through both Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence. We certainly found that pretty much every employer indicator showed that medically released veterans are worse off than veterans who aren't medically released.
Clients who have been medically released experience 15.1% unemployment compared to 7.6% unemployment for the total veteran population. Also, their income and their skill relevance tend to be lower. In one sample size that Veterans Affairs looked at, they saw a 29% decline in income and a 63% decline in earnings in a three-year post-release period for ill and injured veterans. Data show that only 8% of the medically released are unable to work, which means that the remaining 92% present a significant opportunity for employers, because these 92% have served and obviously have a tremendous skill set.
One of the issues that you are probably aware of as a committee—although I find that when I am speaking to our donors, corporate employers, they find it surprising—is that only veterans who are clients of Veterans Affairs are eligible for VAC services, which isn't the majority of veterans. You are able to access the support in VAC, whether it's support for employment or other types of support related to illness, only if you are a client. Only 30% of medically released veterans are clients of VAC, so 70% of medically released members of the armed forces aren't clients of VAC and are out there on their own.
There is a program called CanVet, which is the official service provider for Veterans Affairs to provide vocational rehabilitation for veterans. While this is a good program in terms of helping veterans prepare resumés and think about where they are going with their career, the one thing that we think is lacking is that the people who work at vocational rehab and who are providing the advice to veterans aren't going out and connecting with the employer population. It's one of those things where you go into a classroom setting, work on your resumé, and get advice on how to do job interviews, but CanVet isn't making any outreach to employers to prepare them for the fact that there may be some veterans coming their way who are interested in jobs.
Really, the only alternative within Veterans—
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