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View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
My apologies for the delay.
As witnesses today, we have, as an individual, Alexander Douglas, research group leader, Oxford University.
From Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, we have France-Isabelle Langlois, executive director, and Colette Lelièvre, responsible for campaigns.
From Doctors Without Borders, we have Jason Nickerson, humanitarian representative to Canada, and Adam Houston, medical policy and advocacy officer.
From Le Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale, we have Claude Vaillancourt, member, and Hamid Benhmade, network coordinator.
Mr. Douglas, you have five minutes, please.
Alexander Douglas
View Alexander Douglas Profile
Alexander Douglas
2021-05-28 13:57
Thank you very much for the invitation to appear today. I hope I can be of some help to the committee's study on this very important topic.
I will provide some background first. I'm a university employee and researcher, but I'm speaking in a personal capacity today. I have a conflict of interest to declare in that I may receive income as an inventor of a patent application relating to the manufacture of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
My role in the Oxford COVID vaccine program has primarily been to develop the manufacturing process and lead the initial technology transfer, both to sites within the U.K. and to overseas sites, including the Serum Institute of India. I have subsequently worked closely with AZ, but I can't speak for AZ at all. I understand that your remit includes Canada's domestic vaccine supply, but I've had no involvement with AZ's arrangements for supply to Canada.
Equity of access to our vaccine has been a really key driver for me and our team from the beginning. We transferred manufacturing to low-income countries at the same time as setting it up in the U.K. We prioritized willingness to pursue equitable access in our choice of pharma partners and pushed very hard for terms to promote equitable access when we entered the partnership with AZ. The outcome really has been quite radical on that, in terms of both pricing and distribution.
Clearly, though, the world is now in exactly the situation we were worried about when we were taking those decisions. Personally, it's important to be clear. It's outrageous that some countries are vaccinating 18-year-olds while the global rates of COVID-19 deaths are pretty much as high as they have been, and health workers and 70-year-olds are unprotected and dying in many parts of the world.
This is damaging for all of us, not least because of the ongoing economic disruption. The IMF has published an excellent study showing massive economic benefits to high-income countries of fast and equitable global vaccination.
What can be done now? In particular, is a TRIPS waiver the right thing to focus on?
It's critical to understand how different the situation is now from the problem of HIV drug access 20 years ago in low-income countries, for which patent waivers were very effective. That was a problem of price. There was potential manufacturing capacity sitting idle, and the patent was the main block. Now, we're in a much more complicated situation. The manufacturing capacity itself needs to be expanded as quickly as possible, and that requires removal of multiple non-patent constraints, such as raw material supplies, skills and non-patent know-how.
Removing patents implies new entrants with less experience competing with the innovating companies for those resources and duplicating efforts on developing know-how. That would be really quite inefficient. Having governments work in a critical but constructive partnership with innovators to expand that effort and improve equity of supply is likely to be a much better solution. It's clear that the status quo isn't working. Some of those innovating companies are not currently feeling that it's in their interests to prioritize low-income country supply. We need to examine and address the reasons for that, and countries like Canada can play a really positive role in that.
First, we need to be clear that the current situation on the distribution of vaccines that exist is intolerable. We need moral pressure on Pfizer, Moderna and governments that are vaccinating young adults to donate a proportion of their supply immediately.
Second, we need to see whether we can make the supply we have cover more people. It may well be that half doses of the existing vaccines are adequate, which would double supply at a stroke. That could be established very rapidly if clinical trials of low doses were set up urgently, but I don't see the companies rushing to do that without governmental intervention.
Third, we need to expand the supply, and with a G7 meeting coming up, we need an international, G7-led version of the operation warp speed effort. Rather than focusing on initial vaccine development for one country, this time it would be focused on manufacturing capacity expansion for the world.
That needs governments to really constructively engage, not just donate money. That effort can and should echo the features that made Operation Warp Speed and the U.K. vaccines task force effective. That means bringing together technical expertise, getting into the detail, understanding the different bottlenecks facing each manufacturer, and creating solutions.
It needs to use the clout of government to compel, but deploy it smartly, and it needs to act not just as a passive or even a pushy customer, but like a venture capital investor, as a partner and an enabler for industry.
We're dealing here with transnational supply chains, so this has to be an international solution to an international problem. However, increasing output should help everyone too. It's a huge win-win. I hope that you and Canada consider picking up on the positive motivation behind the patent waiver idea and driving things forward in a really effective, equitable direction.
Thank you.
France-Isabelle Langlois
View France-Isabelle Langlois Profile
France-Isabelle Langlois
2021-05-28 14:03
Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Parliament of Canada and members of the Standing Committee on International Trade, thank you for inviting Amnistie internationale Canada francophone to the hearings into Canada's position the proposed waiver from the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, the TRIPS, which was submitted to the World Trade Organization, the WTO.
As an organization that defends and promotes human rights, Amnesty International became involved from the first moments of the pandemic in order to call for unfailing international solidarity by all states, especially the richest ones. For Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, this includes Canada. We therefore call on Canada to support, firmly and without further delay, the revised proposal for a waiver submitted to the WTO on May 21, 2021.
In October 2020, seven months ago now, India and South Africa called for a temporary waiver to the WTO's TRIPS Agreement until the majority of the world's population is immune. Although 60 countries are co-sponsoring the proposal for a waiver and more than 100 of the WTO's 164 member states are in favour, a certain number of prosperous states are still opposed to it, while others, like Canada, remain neutral. Canada claims that it is not causing an obstruction but simply asking questions.
Nevertheless, although time is an issue, the result of Canada's position is that agreement on the waiver is blocked. The waiver would temporarily suspend the implementation, application and enforcement of certain intellectual property rights, such as patents on pharmaceutical products. It would help to guarantee that pandemic-related medical products, including safe and effective vaccines, can be quickly manufactured by a larger number of suppliers and made available to all at an affordable price.
By supporting the removal of intellectual property protection for vaccines against COVID-19, Canada would be placing the lives of people around the world ahead of the profits of a few pharmaceutical giants and their shareholders. The only way to end the pandemic is to end it globally. The only way to end it globally is to put people before profits, which can only be done by making knowledge and technology available to all.
The international standards of human rights to which Canada subscribes and the regulations governing international trade clearly stipulate that the protection of intellectual property must never come at the expense of public health.
COVID-19 is not only a health and economic crisis, it is also a human rights crisis. It cannot be overcome without true commitment to one of the sustainable development goals: to leave no one behind. Starting from the principle that no one will be safe unless everyone is safe, Canada today has the opportunity to make a decision that would make that goal a reality.
Since the pandemic began, there has been an overwhelming global consensus on the urgent need for all countries to work together so that everyone, everywhere, is protected. The United Nations General Assembly has, on several occasions, stressed the need for intensified international cooperation and multilateral efforts to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic. The World Health Assembly has recognized the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good in preventing, containing and stopping transmission in order to bring the pandemic to an end.
Under international human rights law, states also have the obligation to provide the financial and technical support necessary to uphold the right to health, especially in the face of the international spread of a disease. Yet companies in the pharmaceutical industry around the world continue to pursue a business-as-usual approach, which places limits on manufacturing and supply capacities.
Canada has suggested that intellectual property is not an obstacle as far as pharmaceutical products and technologies against COVID-19 are concerned. This ignores the hard evidence that restrictive licensing practices have already caused a shortage of supply in several countries.
On May 5, the United States declared its support for the waiver, at least in terms of vaccines, and the European Parliament declared its openness to the initiative on May 20. Amnesty International repeats its clear demand to the Government of Canada—
Jason Nickerson
View Jason Nickerson Profile
Jason Nickerson
2021-05-28 14:08
Hello. Thank you for having us here today.
We're going to speak about two issues that are part of the committee's study from the perspective of our organization, which provides medical assistance to people affected by crises in more than 70 countries around the world.
First, Canada should support the TRIPS waiver. The waiver is not a complete solution to scaling up and diversifying COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing to address the supply shortages, but supporting the waiver quickly clears space and removes legal barriers to then focus on the many other barriers. We emphasize that any waiver must encompass not only vaccines, but other tools like therapeutic drugs and diagnostics and medical devices such as ventilators, as well as the components and equipment needed to make vaccines.
Canada's position during discussions around the TRIPS waiver has been one of indecision—never formally rejecting it, while repeatedly raising alternatives that have failed in the past.
One such alternative raised is the TRIPS article 31 bis mechanism, which is operationalized by Canada's access to medicines regime, or CAMR. It is our position that Canada should follow through on its own claims of CAMR's effectiveness by taking the necessary first step of adding COVID-19 vaccines and drugs to schedule 1 of the Patent Act. While Doctors Without Borders does not believe that TRIPS article 31 bis or CAMR are effective tools at the best of times, let alone sufficient in this pandemic, Canada's failure to even list these items in schedule 1 means that Canada is the single greatest roadblock to utilizing the very tools it has promoted at the WTO.
The second issue we would like to discuss is domestic production. MSF supports increased domestic production, but it must be done correctly. If Canada's approach to scaling up biomanufacturing in this country is to provide financial support to pharmaceutical companies to build factories here, this funding must come with guarantees of affordable access to the final products, both for Canada and for the rest of the world. This is just common sense. If the public is paying to develop and manufacture medicines, we should all be able to access them at fair prices. To this end, Canada must also be transparent about the terms of all such deals.
Another key question is what to do between pandemics with the public manufacturing capacity that Canada is building. New quality-assured manufacturing capacity that has been initiated for the purposes of producing COVID-19 vaccines should not be shut down or sold off to private interests after the pandemic fades. Rather, Canada should use this capacity to address other important global health issues. Producing a range of products keeps facilities operating and Canada's skills sharp. After all, it's not clear what the next pandemic will be, and the world needs a diversity of manufacturing capacities.
Canada has world-class researchers. Where it falls short is in end-to-end development to get innovations out of labs and to patients. Products that are vital for global health but have limited commercial appeal have no real pathway to approval.
Take the Canadian-invented Ebola vaccine, discovered by scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. After discovering it, Canada signed a deal to license it to an American company. This ultimately led to the vaccine languishing on a shelf for years. This meant that this effective vaccine was not ready in time for the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak. To be blunt, this cost lives.
Canada has other promising experimental vaccines, such as the ones for Lassa fever and Marburg virus, which have faced similar challenges. End-to-end production from lab bench to patient bedside ought to be part of our biomanufacturing strategy.
Our overarching message here is that there are many important diseases that are essentially market failures: They are not profitable enough to attract investment from private pharmaceutical companies, yet they represent significant public health threats. Ebola, Lassa fever, Marburg and, prior to this pandemic, coronaviruses are all examples.
There are also many important drugs and vaccines that already exist and are regularly in shortage or hard to obtain. Diphtheria antitoxin, the product Connaught Labs was founded to produce, is now almost impossible to procure worldwide. We know this first-hand because when we were responding to simultaneous diphtheria outbreaks in Yemen, Bangladesh and Venezuela in 2017, we quickly realized how few options existed. The same is true for many antibiotics and other low-profit medicines.
A robust biomanufacturing strategy that is guided by public health needs—and not the pursuit of profits—is what needs to guide Canada's biomanufacturing strategy, which ought to be linked to a research and development strategy—
Claude Vaillancourt
View Claude Vaillancourt Profile
Claude Vaillancourt
2021-05-28 14:13
Mr. Benhmade will be giving the presentation.
Hamid Benhmade
View Hamid Benhmade Profile
Hamid Benhmade
2021-05-28 14:13
Ladies and gentlemen, my colleague Claude Vaillancourt and I would like to thank you for inviting us to appear before the committee on behalf of the Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale.
Currently, as you know, the debate on the waiver of intellectual property rights on anti-coronavirus vaccines reveals a divide between those who are for the waiver and those who are against the waiver.
As my colleagues reminded us earlier, the waiver has been officially endorsed by 58 governments and is supported by 100 countries. A small number of powers are opposed; they include Brazil, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Ladies and gentlemen, whether we are for or against the waiver, one thing is certain: no one can deny that vaccine nationalism may well harm all the investments that have been made to contain the pandemic since it began. That a number of anti-coronavirus vaccines have been produced in less than a year is an unprecedented scientific accomplishment. However, that success, laudable though it is, is presently undermined by unequal, troubling and worrying access to the vaccines. That is why the Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale is calling for property rights on the anti-coronavirus vaccines to be suspended for two fundamental reasons. First, for reasons that are humanitarian, not economic, and second, for reasons that are purely economic.
First and foremost, it is time to put humanitarian issues before all other considerations. It is unjust that the least fortunate, basically those from developing countries, should remain at the mercy of pharmaceutical giants, when we know full well that most subsidies intended to support research into the coronavirus come from public funds.
Here we are once more, privatizing profits and socializing losses. The public is paying twice for the same vaccine. We pay first to finance the research and development and we pay again to acquire the doses we need.
Because developed countries have obtained more than half of all the contracts for vaccines, many developing countries will not have mass vaccination before 2025. A delay of that kind could set the scene for potentially dangerous variants in the future and cost many their lives.
Economically, the vaccine war is likely to cost more than the war against the pandemic. That is the conclusion of research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States. In fact, if countries of the North become vaccinated and countries of the South remain largely excluded from vaccination, the global economy will sustain losses of more than $9.2 trillion in 2021, almost half of which will be absorbed by advanced economies, including Canada.
Because of the recession that the pandemic is imposing on less-advanced economies, exporters and importers in the advanced economies, of which Canada is one, would be prey, first, to markets that are stagnating or even declining, and second, to global value chains that are more and more disrupted. This is why ensuring free and universal access to anti-coronavirus vaccines, and doing so today, is not only an altruistic and moral act, it is also an economic necessity.
In the light of these factors, which we invite Canada to consider, our network urges the Government of Canada to support the waiver of intellectual property rights on vaccines and to promote it in international discussions.
In the long term, lifting property rights on vaccines against COVID-19 must be followed by the dissemination of knowledge. Some countries in the South have shown that they have a great capacity for producing generic medications. But restrictions on importing them in the TRIPS and the extension of protection for brand-name medications in various free trade agreements, have made it difficult to disseminate essential data so that the medications can be produced and made available.
Ladies and gentlemen, whether the issue is saving lives or relaunching economies, free and universal vaccination is currently the only way we have to achieve it. The extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic call for extraordinary action.
Thank you for your attention.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank all the witnesses for being here today and for all of their information.
My first question is for Doctors Without Borders.
I appreciate, first of all, your comments on Canadian manufacturing. This is one of the Conservatives' five pillars as part of our recovery plan: to secure our country and to make us more resilient and prepared.
We know the TRIPS waiver is no silver bullet and that we need a comprehensive approach to get vaccines to developing countries. What role should Canada be playing right now in doing this, outside of the TRIPS waiver negotiations? You mentioned a couple of ideas in your intervention, but they were more for the long term.
What do you think could be done right now, while we're still in the middle of the pandemic?
Jason Nickerson
View Jason Nickerson Profile
Jason Nickerson
2021-05-28 14:18
The immediate answer to that is that we need countries that have secured doses of COVID vaccine to be committing to making donations of a certain percentage of the shipments they will be receiving. The world is, quite frankly, facing a massive inequity in access that's in motion today, and there is a global shortage of available supply. The COVAX facility, which is the primary mechanism for many countries to access COVID-19 vaccines, is short 150 million doses this month, and that will increase to 190 million doses next month. Really, in the face of quite limited manufacturing capacity, which has increased but hasn't significantly diversified, the immediate solution we need—and it's a stopgap emergency measure—is for countries to be donating doses to be reallocated to lower-income countries.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you so much. Our time is so limited here, so I want to squeeze in a couple more quickly, if I could.
You're aware of the COVAX program. While Canada is allowed to take vaccines through this program, do you think it's appropriate for us to be doing so? We are the only G7 country at this point to do so.
Jason Nickerson
View Jason Nickerson Profile
Jason Nickerson
2021-05-28 14:20
Canada should not be taking doses from the COVAX facility as part of this round of dose distributions. It's appropriate for Canada to be a purchaser through the COVAX facility, but Canada also procured a large number of doses through bilateral agreements, and those have impeded COVAX's ability to secure doses.
My answer is no.
View Rachel Bendayan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
My thanks also to all the witnesses for joining us today. You have my apologies for the limited time at our disposal.
Mr. Benhmade, I would like to go back to your comments, however, in order to clarify one point. Canada has never rejected the proposal to waive intellectual property rights.
As you know, WTO decisions are normally made by consensus. So a consensus is needed. As you said, about 100 countries are in favour, but we still need everyone to be on the same wavelength. That is why we asked questions and encouraged the parties to give the matter more thought. I believe we received a text on May 21 or 25. That was just a few days ago. Canada's representatives have said that they would be working on the text and that all countries would move forward together on this issue.
However, you have also heard testimony from other witnesses who have appeared before the committee and a number of other experts, who have said that intellectual property is not the only obstacle to vaccination moving forward. These vaccines contain more than 100 ingredients. So there are also problems in the supply chain.
What do you think of those other problems? How could we address them in order to get things moving forward? Would that be done at the WTO or otherwise?
Because time is short, I might also ask Amnesty International to comment a little on what they are seeing on the ground, and perhaps Doctors Without Borders as well. What else is missing, other than the actual COVID-19 vaccines? Are we in need of needles or other materials in order to make sure that everybody around the world has access to a COVID-19 vaccine?
Mr. Benhmade, please go ahead.
Hamid Benhmade
View Hamid Benhmade Profile
Hamid Benhmade
2021-05-28 14:22
Thank you for your comments and your questions, Ms. Bendayan.
First, as you mentioned, this negotiation process is certainly laborious, because it requires a consensus among the 164 members of the WTO, which is no simple, easy task.
In this case, since we are waiting for the waiver to be approved by consensus, perhaps towards the end of the year, alternate solutions need to be looked at in order to get around that ongoing obstacle. First, countries with surplus vaccines must share them with countries that may not have them available. Then, WTO members must remove the non-tariff barriers that are obstructing the trade in the raw materials and intermediate products needed to produce vaccines. In that way, we could have some solutions for the problems in the supply chains.
The World Health Organization, or WHO, must also work with countries that are in the process of perfecting vaccines in order to provide them with what we call emergency use authorizations. This will speed up vaccination locally.
Finally, because we must not wait until the waiver is approved, we must now identify countries in the South that may be capable of producing vaccines, such as South Africa, Bangladesh, Morocco, Pakistan and Senegal.
As for your second question, whether intellectual property rights apply only to patents or all—
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I found it interesting to hear where the representative from the Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale was going. I would like to give him the opportunity to finish his answer to the previous question.
Mr. Benhmade, I also have another question for you.
We know that vaccine-producing companies in Russia and China sell licenses. That is basically much like providing patents.
How is it that companies selling vaccines in western countries are not using that approach?
Hamid Benhmade
View Hamid Benhmade Profile
Hamid Benhmade
2021-05-28 14:24
Thank you very much for the question, Mr. Savard-Tremblay.
Let me first finish my answer to the previous question.
The revision submitted a few days ago by South Africa and India clarifies some points and provides countries with more possibilities. It allows them to decide whether or not they want to grant the waiver.
First, the revised text specifies that the property rights are to be waived on diagnostic instruments, vaccines, medical devices, personal protective equipment, their materials or components, and all means of manufacture for the prevention, treatment or containment of COVID-19. That is the first point that was revised in the latest text.
Second, it specifies the duration for which the waiver is requested. The request is that the waiver be in force for at least 3 years from the date of the current decision. The TRIPS Council will then have the right to review the existence of the exceptional circumstances that do or do not justify the waiver.
Third, it specifies that the General Council shall review the waiver not later than one year after it is granted, and thereafter annually until the waiver terminates, that is to say, up to a maximum of three years.
Fourth, it specifies that WTO members shall not challenge any measures taken in conformity with the provision of the waivers contained in the decision.
As you can see, the current text clarifies some points that were ambiguous or vague in the first submission. The partner countries therefore have a much more concrete and complete text to inform their discussions, as they decide whether or not they will grant the waiver.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
BQ (QC)
In that case, let me deal with the other part of my question.
Why is the sale of licenses common among Russian and Chinese companies that manufacture the vaccine, while other companies currently providing vaccines to western countries do not use the same approach?
Hamid Benhmade
View Hamid Benhmade Profile
Hamid Benhmade
2021-05-28 14:26
Could you be more specific about that question, Mr. Savard-Tremblay?
Hamid Benhmade
View Hamid Benhmade Profile
Hamid Benhmade
2021-05-28 14:27
At the moment, I have no concrete data that would help me to answer your question.
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
We've heard today in testimony and we've heard repeatedly that Canada, so far, has maintained it has not rejected the TRIPS proposal. At the same time, it has not supported the tech space negotiations and has continually emphasized the need to hear about specific, concrete IP challenges rather than the solutions.
Would our friend from Doctors Without Borders care to comment about the double standard our Canadian government has when it comes to the TRIPS waiver internationally versus what we're doing here in Canada domestically?
Jason Nickerson
View Jason Nickerson Profile
Jason Nickerson
2021-05-28 14:27
We would emphasize that Canada actually acted quite quickly in enacting domestic legislation that gave the Canadian government the ability to issue compulsory licences. This happened early on in the pandemic. This was prior to there being any vaccines or therapeutics that were approved for use. Canada, as I said, gave itself the ability to issue compulsory licences to effectively waive intellectual property rights in the event that Canada needed to scale up the manufacturing of a COVID-19 tool.
This is effectively the speed and the precision that's needed to respond to a global pandemic today. We of course recognize that intellectual property rights and rules are not the only barrier, but I think all of us would agree that they represent part of the problem, and waiving these rules represents part of the solution in addition to the many other things that need to be put into place. I think—
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
I'm sorry to interrupt. There's a pretty important point that was raised in your submission, and I want you to talk about the moral imperative for a moment, which is that Canada does not have to apply for the TRIPS waiver domestically but should not prevent other countries from doing so.
Would you care to comment on that?
Jason Nickerson
View Jason Nickerson Profile
Jason Nickerson
2021-05-28 14:29
Well, it's exactly that. Canada can simply support the passage of the waiver so that countries that are facing potential legal barriers have that risk removed. This is fundamentally what the TRIPS waiver is about: removing the legal risk of a company or a country pursuing domestic manufacturing of COVID vaccines.
There are other things that need to fall into place, but removing that risk is a significant step.
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
—Oxford started off with a promise that it would actually commit this for free in licensing. What changed?
Alexander Douglas
View Alexander Douglas Profile
Alexander Douglas
2021-05-28 14:30
Well, AstraZeneca is selling this not for profit. We have a licence, or AstraZeneca has—
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
No, sorry; I mean the university. The university promised to provide licensing for free, and then licensed to AstraZeneca.
What changed?
Alexander Douglas
View Alexander Douglas Profile
Alexander Douglas
2021-05-28 14:30
I should be clear. I'm appearing in a personal capacity.
We tried quite hard, some of us, to find a partner that was willing to take a non-exclusive licence, and we couldn't find such a partner. The—
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank all of the witnesses for coming back to this committee today.
I'd like to start my questioning with Ambassador de Boer.
Ambassador, has Canada's position on the WTO TRIPS waiver changed since the last time you appeared before this committee back in April?
Stephen de Boer
View Stephen de Boer Profile
H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:35
I'm sorry. I thought you controlled my sound, not I.
In fact, Canada has not changed its position overall. We have never been opposed to the waiver. What has perhaps changed somewhat is that we have more clearly articulated that we're very much ready to engage with the proponents on the proposal, but we have never been opposed to the TRIPS waiver itself.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you.
Madam Chair, I hope that the delay doesn't cut into my time there.
Ambassador, can you please table to the committee any analysis that you or your department may have prepared on the United States announcement from a few weeks ago supporting a COVID-19 TRIPS waiver?
Stephen de Boer
View Stephen de Boer Profile
H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:35
There is no analysis of the U.S. proposal, because the U.S. proposal is nothing more than what you just stated: that they would support discussions of a waiver with respect to TRIPS.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Ambassador, with regard to the TRIPS waiver proposal at the WTO, we know that the WTO often works by consensus, so do you foresee consensus being reached on this proposal in a timely manner?
Stephen de Boer
View Stephen de Boer Profile
H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:36
That's very difficult to say, because it's difficult to know what consensus looks like when we don't have text on the table. I would imagine that if it meets the criteria for the membership, which is to ensure the timely delivery of vaccines and the increased production of vaccines, I see no reason why the membership would block consensus.
However, that's something that will have to be visited when we actually see text on the table and we can ensure that it meets those criteria.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Ambassador, if consensus isn't reached, is there still a way to get the TRIPS waiver proposal enacted by the WTO? How would that process work?
Stephen de Boer
View Stephen de Boer Profile
H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:37
The WTO operates by consensus, so I think it would be difficult to imagine how it would be possible.
I would also say, however, that for many members, including Canada, intellectual property issues around COVID-19 are only one aspect of the issue. There is a range of other issues that can be discussed at the WTO, including trade facilitation, including the removal of export restrictions—things that would encourage the supply of vaccines and inputs to those vaccines.
There is thus a range of policy options and legal options available to the WTO, and consensus could be reached on other aspects.
Canada is working hard—for example, in the Ottawa Group—to come forward with proposals that would address some of these other issues.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
On that same note, then, where do you see the biggest hurdles as being right now at the WTO, with the TRIPS waiver proposal? Who are the large players who are not presently supportive of this waiver, and what is their reasoning for not supporting it to this point? As you said, you haven't seen the text, but I'm seeking a general answer, with comments that you're aware of.
Stephen de Boer
View Stephen de Boer Profile
H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:38
It's important to note that no member of the WTO has said they are opposed to the waiver—at least the current proposal that's on the table. Every member is willing to engage. The fundamental issue for many members will be—and I don't feel particularly comfortable speaking on their behalf— whether this will actually increase vaccine production and allow more people to be vaccinated. That will be the fundamental question. That is the stated rationale for the waiver; that is the test by which it needs to be measured and that will be the test when it is being discussed.
View Chandra Arya Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chandra Arya Profile
2021-05-28 14:39
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ambassador de Boer, thank you for coming back, and thank you so much for your own and your team's work on this file.
I have heard that because of the engagement of countries such as Canada, the current proposal on the table is much better than the first one, and a lot of ambiguity has been removed. I'm sure that this proposal still has to be refined further.
About 20 years back in my career, I did a study on technology transfer. For knowledge transfer, many people think you just waive the restrictions and everything will flow automatically, but people don't know that knowledge is composed of recorded knowledge and tacit knowledge. Any waiver can easily make the flow of recorded knowledge available, but the tacit knowledge that is required to see actual vaccine production go on, along with all the other supply management issues, is not so simple.
We are, in principle, not opposed to this. Obviously this pandemic is a very major threat to everybody in the world, and we need to do whatever is required to see the pandemic threat eliminated. However, if, going forward, this waiver is just implemented as is without looking at all the aspects, what are the unintended consequences you think may happen?
Stephen de Boer
View Stephen de Boer Profile
H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:41
We don't know, and it's one reason we're asking questions. It's why, for example, Minister Ng said in her statement that she was committed to finding solutions that accelerate global vaccine protection but do not negatively impact public health.
There are concerns, I should say—but this needs to be examined further—that it may divert inputs into vaccine production. It may undermine existing relationships and thus subsequently undermine vaccine production. These are questions that need to be examined.
I don't think it's safe to say there are no downsides. We don't know that. This needs to be discussed further. It's one reason that Canada has been asking questions and engaging with the proponents since October. This needs to be examined more closely.
View Chandra Arya Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chandra Arya Profile
2021-05-28 14:42
Thank you, Ambassador. This is exactly the right way to go. When the U.S. came out with the press statement that they're supporting it, everybody thought, “Oh my God, here it is. It will happen tomorrow,” without completely understanding what was happening.
You did mention the other options that Canada is exploring. Can you give a quick update as to whether any of those options have gone further? Is there any chance of that getting implemented or considered for sure?
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:42
Yes, there are ongoing discussions. I would say, right now at the WTO, we are discussing the next ministerial conference, which will start at the end of November. We're in active discussions about what the things are that need to be done in the lead-up to the ministerial conference and the outputs from the ministerial conference.
The DG and the General Council chair have been very clear. It's impossible to imagine that we would go into a ministerial conference without doing something that would address the pandemic.
As I mentioned earlier, the Ottawa Group has proposals on trying to make sure there's access to PPE, access to therapeutics and increasing vaccine production, and there is growing support for this proposal. You will see very shortly that the EU is engaging in this discussion as an Ottawa Group member, but it also has some other ideas.
The director-general herself is engaging in something called the third way, which is trying to marry manufacturing capacity, IP and the industry to increase vaccine production. There are a number of proposals out there with growing support. It's difficult to know exactly what form this will take by the time we get to MC12, but there is growing support, and there is a recognition that something must be done at the WTO. What we're talking about now is what things could be done.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. de Boer, you gave us a little explanation about the coming program. You talked to us about the upcoming meetings of the WTO, about what is going to be put forward, and about the ministerial conference.
In terms of the waiver, what is Canada's concrete plan at each of those stages? I'm not talking about Canada's position as such, because you have already told us about that, but about the short-term action plan.
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:45
The plan of action with respect to the waiver in the short term is that there will a meeting on Monday, an informal TRIPS council meeting, where it will be the first time this new proposal is presented to the TRIPS council. We expect that the proponents will walk us through the proposal, and there will be an opportunity for questions and explanations. We will meet again more formally on June 8 and 9 to discuss further, all with the view to reporting to the general council.
There will be an ongoing dialogue, and that dialogue is happening very soon. As soon as Monday the conversation will start, and the membership will pick this issue up.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
BQ (QC)
Did you feel that the change in the American position was a real catalyst, a defining moment even, as to the way in which the countries of the world will deal with the issue?
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:46
That's hard to say. I can't really get into the minds of other members. I would say this: There is a new proposal on the table. It might be as a result of the U.S. action, but I would also say that the new proposal doesn't seem particularly narrower than the former proposal, so I'm not sure if the proponents think they're closer or further from building consensus because of the U.S. action.
It's not at all clear how the U.S. intends to engage. Many of us had initially thought that the U.S. may be putting a proposal on the table. It's not clear that will be the case. It's not clear to us here in Geneva exactly how this will move forward or what the impact will be.
I suppose the meeting on the 31st might inform us to a certain extent.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you.
When President Biden announced the position of the United States in favour of the waiver, some western countries were rather ambivalent. That was specifically the case of France, if I'm not mistaken.
I imagine that you are having active discussions with those countries. Have you sensed any movement on their side? Are we beginning to set aside our fears and change our approach to those countries?
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:48
France is a bit complicated, because France actually doesn't speak at the WTO. The EU does on France's behalf.
Let me say this: Some of the issues that France raised are the very issues that we have been discussing in the context of the Ottawa Group. France has said there are other issues, not just intellectual property, that are impeding the manufacturing of vaccines—that are getting in the way of supply chains, for example, and customs issues. I think that's partly where France was coming from.
It's important to note that no country has ever said it was opposed to the waiver. This has been discussed since October in the TRIPS Council and has gone to the General Council a number of times now. The discussions have continued. There may be varying degrees of support for this. There may be more questions for some members than others, but no one has actually said, we are opposed to the waiver. I understand that in the media there seems to be this sense that some countries are opposed, but in the WTO context no one has come out as directly opposed to the waiver.
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
We keep hearing how you're not opposed, and yet you're not supporting the text-based negotiations. You put out eight questions, along with Australia, Chile and Mexico, but these questions reportedly have been answered in detail, most notably in document IP/C/W/673. Would you care to comment on that?
It's one thing to say you're not opposing it, but if you're not actually getting to the table on the text-based negotiation, you're stalling it. Stalling it is, by virtue, opposing it.
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:50
There are a couple of things I could say. One is that the responses we received were more of a historical nature. The questions we have are about how this particular waiver would work in this particular context. A lot of the comparisons are made to HIV medicines, which are very different from vaccines against COVID-19. The questions themselves don't lend themselves to talking about what happened in the past. We need to be thinking about what is the potential for this into the future. It's important to ask these questions—
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
Through you, Madam Chair, to the ambassador, respectfully, if Canada feels that the TRIPS waiver isn't necessary, that's fine. I don't understand how you have a moral imperative to block other countries from applying for it.
How do you respond to other members from this committee that even if Canada doesn't want to make the application, you're going to continue to drag your heels and allow other countries to do so?
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:51
I'm at a loss to understand how Canada is blocking this discussion. We have been engaged in this discussion since October. There is only a proposal, there is no text on the table. Canada has in good faith asked questions as to how this waiver would operate. I have met with the proponents a number of times to discuss this waiver. This is a consensus organization. Canada does not have the ability to block.
Canada will be looking for the best outcome in order to increase vaccine production. The waiver may be one of those tools, but Canada is not blocking that discussion.
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
Madam Chair, through you, is the ambassador briefed on the potential threat that's been raised today of mutant variants, potentially in six to eight months, rendering current vaccines useless, potentially, if we don't get to a place where we have significant increased capacity in production and distribution globally for vaccines?
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:52
We are very aware that we need to increase vaccine production very, very quickly, and we are aware that there are health issues associated with variants. The question is, how do we go about doing that in the best way possible?
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
I don't know. I'm going to end with a comment.
I think it's morally unconscionable that we're still in this position on this particular case. If it's a big deal, then we should waive it. If it's not a big deal, then we should waive it and we should allow other countries to pursue it. At this point, quite frankly, it's embarrassing that we as a country are at this point, given the risks that are in place here globally and the fact that mutant variants can come back and essentially render the work to date useless.
I'm just going to say on the record here at this committee that I think we have a moral imperative and a duty to get out of the way and to allow any and all opportunities for increased global production. I would hate to be involved in a government that would support a vaccine apartheid in this regard.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Ben Lobb Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ben Lobb Profile
2021-05-28 14:54
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I'd like to welcome all our guests.
I would just like to let all the committee know that Ambassador de Boer is one of Huron county's proudest citizens. He grew up down the road from where I live. We actually have had three ambassadors from Huron country, so we're well represented and very proud. I know that Mr. Green was not disparaging Mr. de Boer or any of our other guests here today.
My question is pretty simple. It's in regard to the fact that it appears that all the major pharmaceutical companies at this point in time have accumulated all the raw materials that go into these vaccines. Whether it's the vials, the bags, or the bacteria, they have everything. That being the case, even if TRIPS is approved or whatever happens, is there even a chance that there's going to be any material to produce vaccines in another country or another part of the world?
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:55
Having been given that great introduction, I'm not sure that I am able to answer that question.
I would say, however, that one of the reasons for the Ottawa Group proposal is to ensure that those types of things, hopefully, will not happen and that through trade facilitation, through the relaxation of customs, custom duties, tariffs and export restrictions, these goods will flow much more easily.
I don't know whether any of my colleagues who are here can speak more to that particular issue.
View Ben Lobb Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ben Lobb Profile
2021-05-28 14:55
The last question I have for you has to do with the meeting of your councils on June 8 and 9, I believe. I am wondering if you can briefly enlighten us as to what you think will happen there, or what might happen, and go from there.
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:56
It's hard to say. The first meeting will be on Monday. We'll have a much better sense of where members are. We'll have a much better sense of how the proponents wish to move forward and to have others engage on their proposal.
Typically what would happen is that a report would go to the General Council and that would either be the waiver itself or a report that says we need to do more work. Given the time, I would imagine that we will be going to the General Council, which is the overall governing body of the WTO, to say we need more time to discuss this issue. This is a complicated issue for the membership.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll be really quick. I'll go back to the ambassador.
You said there were questions that were answered, but they were more historical. Do you anticipate receiving other answers that actually specifically address your questions, and, if so, would you be able to table with the committee what your questions were and any additional answers to them you receive?
Stephen de Boer
View Stephen de Boer Profile
H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:57
I don't think we're anticipating further questions. We'll put questions on the floor on the 31st.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you, Madam Chair. I didn't think I had that time, but I'll be quick.
I'm going to ask if his excellency can advise us on what the next steps and timelines are in order either to make a decision on this TRIPS waiver or to help those countries that are struggling in this regard.
What would you see as the next step for Canada to assist in getting the COVAX initiative further ahead, as it's been kind of stumbling, or the TRIPS initiative to fruition?
Stephen de Boer
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H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:58
It's hard to say. I can't look into a crystal ball, but I would note that on the narrow issue of intellectual property, typically these matters are supposed to have 90 days, and then if it's not resolved, the issue is over, but we continue to extend that to allow this conversation to carry forward.
I also want to be very clear that the intellectual property aspect of vaccine production and addressing COVID-19 is only one narrow part, a very important but narrow part, of the WTO work. We would see this happening in a number of tracks, including on trade facilitation and on the removal of export restrictions. We would also see it moving in tracks that are outside of the World Trade Organization, at the WHO and COVAX and these other mechanisms, for getting vaccines to other populations.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
If the TRIPS waiver was done, is there enough global capacity to create more vaccines rapidly if they were able to procure the ingredients and get the appropriate licensing and approvals?
Stephen de Boer
View Stephen de Boer Profile
H.E. Stephen de Boer
2021-05-28 14:59
That is not at all clear.
The director-general met with manufacturers on April 14. I was part of that meeting. What we heard from manufacturers was a real issue around increasing manufacturing capacity, actually finding the facilities to manufacture the vaccines and then also finding the technical expertise to assist in the production, because it's a difficult and complicated process for developing and manufacturing these vaccines. It's not at all clear how quickly that could be ramped up. It's quite unfortunate, but that seems to be a real problem.
View Sherry Romanado Profile
Lib. (QC)
I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting 41 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of January 25. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. Just so that you are aware, the webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entire committee.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I'd like to outline a few rules. Members and witnesses may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen of either the floor, English or French. Please make your selection now.
I remind you that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair. Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When you are not speaking, please make sure your microphone is on mute. For the sake of the interpreters, please do not speak over each other.
As is my normal practice, I will hold up a yellow card when you have 30 seconds remaining in your intervention. I will hold up a red card when your time for questions has expired. Please keep your screen in gallery view so that you can see the cards when I hold them up.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on November 5, 2020, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology is meeting today to conclude its study on the green economic recovery from COVID-19.
I would like now to welcome our witnesses.
Today, we are hearing from Dany Bonapace, as well as François Giroux, consultant in the development of innovative transport solutions.
From Brookfield Asset Management, we have Mr. Mark Carney, vice-chair; from the Canadian Electricity Association, Mr. Francis Bradley, president and CEO; from GHGSat Inc., Mr. Eric Choi, director, business development; from Mitrex: Integrated Solar Technology, we have Mr. Danial Hadizadeh, president and CEO, and Mr. Hesam Shahrivar, head of planning and development.
Each witness will present for up to five minutes, followed by rounds of questions.
With that, we will start with Mr. Bonapace.
Go ahead for five minutes.
Dany Bonapace
View Dany Bonapace Profile
Dany Bonapace
2021-05-27 11:05
Good morning.
I will be speaking French since it's my first language, but I do understand well if you have questions in English.
Good morning, my name is Dany Bonapace. I am a real estate developer who has had a good deal of success in his career, both here, in Canada, and internationally. I am worried about our children's future, given the major challenges caused by climate change and the fact that time is not on our side. In my case, it has become increasingly difficult to rationalize the situation and to continue to prosper in my industry knowing that so many sustainability issues exist. My reasoning was quite simple: we are few who must act for many, for all the people around the world who cannot act because they are fighting for their survival every day, as well as for those who do not want to act.
As a developer who has acquired money and experience over his 30–year career, I told myself that the most logical thing to do was work on large–scope business projects. That led me to carry out a first artificial intelligence project in building energy efficiency, a high–priority niche, considering the inefficiency of the global housing stock in that area.
I am not not talking about technology as much as the fact that it took me, in my opinion, a long time [technical difficulties] to create artificial intelligence. I feel that I won't be the only entrepreneur in Canada or on the planet who will tell themselves that we must participate in the war effort against climate change and who will have the means and the experience to do so. However, if we let all entrepreneurs work in isolation and take as much time as me to successfully carry out an initial project, we will never manage to accomplish what we need to do within the required time frames.
That is what has led me to recommend to the government strategies to foster the integration of those new players, who will go from their industry to energy [technical difficulties]. Those are things that can be quite simple for the government. For example, it is just a matter of explaining, as the orchestra conductor, the global decarbonization roadmap, the priorities and places where those entrepreneurs can invest their time and their money more quickly. A real estate developer should [technical difficulties] renewable. That is easier for them than to carry out an artificial intelligence project, as the same business structures are used and the same steps go into carrying out a renewable energy project.
Therefore, at the outset, accelerating the entrepreneur's involvement has an important impact. It is also a matter of promoting networking. I was not a multinational or Ontario Hydro. It took me forever to find an energy efficiency consultant who would accept me and would understand [technical difficulties], while it should take a day. The same goes for networking. Networks can be created among developers to integrate the market that is already taken up by large players. Large players need small players to achieve their goals, just as mining companies need beginners to build their company.
I will give you one last high-priority example. It is important for governments to close the gap between capital markets and developers. There is still a gap that is slowing down entrepreneurs' and developers' involvement in this industry. These are things that are both complex and simple, but capital must be made more accessible and less expensive for promoters. Perhaps it would be enough to guarantee [technical difficulties] the perception of credit and risk creates a problem.
In closing, we all have a role to play—individuals and entrepreneurs, governments and financial institutions. What I think is certain is that governments are the link that will help us all accelerate our transition and achieve our objectives. That would also give entrepreneurs an opportunity to sell their products and their services internationally to make our nation prosper.
Thank you.
François Giroux
View François Giroux Profile
François Giroux
2021-05-27 11:10
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning.
French is my mother tongue, so even though I can get by in English, I will be making my presentation in French.
I would like to thank Mr. Lemire, the member who represents the riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue. It is thanks to him that I am appearing before the committee today.
Hydrogen is a vital ingredient in the electrification of transportation. I want to emphasize the electrification of transportation. Canada is already a leader in the heavy-duty vehicle and bus sector. Lion Electric was proud to announce recent investments in the area.
I am here today to talk about the role hydrogen can play in transportation.
Currently, the transportation sector relies on fossil fuels and diesel combustion engines, making it responsible for a large share of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The contribution of Canada's transportation sector is much too big, and may be due to the vast distances being travelled and Canada's specific climate.
It's fair to say that the electrification of transportation overall will always be limited by the amount of energy in the vehicle's accumulator, the so-called battery. Despite advancements and the incredible work of Canadian researchers, the battery's weight and size limit the vehicle's carrying capacity, especially when it comes to trucks and passenger transportation vehicles, buses. The distances are always limited and not quite up to the industry's expectations.
For example, the amount of stored energy in the battery of a truck travelling from Abitibi to Montreal would be so great that the load capacity would be reduced. It would create a financial disadvantage for the operator. An unbelievable number of batteries would be required and the charging time would be an operational constraint for the company.
Battery technology is changing rapidly. Soon, we will see superbatteries with supercapacitors, which will help heavy-duty vehicle transportation and commercial transportation. Nevertheless, the hydrogen battery remains one of the best solutions. Allow me to explain what a hydrogen battery is.
It is simply a generator of electric energy, but without the combustion engine found in generators or systems that produce energy derived from fuel. Hydrogen batteries are manufactured in Canada, in the Burnaby area, by two leading companies, Ballard Power Systems and a joint venture between two big commercial vehicle manufacturers, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. The two companies are already developing this new battery technology in Canada and Europe, which they announced with great fanfare.
Here's the best way to describe a hydrogen battery in a nutshell. It is a bit like the battery used to power the DeLorean in Back to the Future, which was fuelled by a can of beer and a banana peel. Instead, a fuel tank is installed and electricity is created. In an electric vehicle, such a battery would make it possible to transport very heavy loads and provide enough power to electrify the transportation sector.
The technology exists, so what are we waiting for?
The bus sector in Quebec and the transportation industry have been waiting for this. I would really like to see Canada work towards incorporating the technology into its heavy-duty vehicle industry.
Mark Carney
View Mark Carney Profile
Mark Carney
2021-05-27 11:16
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thanks to the members for the invitation and for your service.
I have just five minutes, so I will focus on five points.
First, fiscal sustainability is a necessary condition for Canadian prosperity. Parliament has provided extraordinary support to Canadians and Canadian businesses during the pandemic, but as the crisis recedes, Parliament must avoid structural deficits driven by spending today that does not grow the economy tomorrow. This discipline is particularly important given the looming pressures on health spending as the system recovers from the pandemic.
In the medium term, any fiscal deficit should reflect investments in human, digital, sustainable and natural capital that boost the long-term productive capacity of the economy. To help ensure that the government directs federal spending to the highest returns, capital investments should be subject to independent assessments of their long-term payback by the parliamentary budget office.
Second, Canada should make maximum use of non-fiscal policy levers including effective regulation, active competition policy, measures to promote a sustainable financial system and trade policy that benefit our small and medium-sized businesses and services sector. As U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and I have outlined, credible and predictable regulatory policies that frame the future direction of the economy—such as explicit timetables to phase out internal combustion engines and mandates for increasing hydrogen usage—will pull forward and amplify private investment.
In this regard, policy frameworks with clear objectives and measurable outcomes are essential. Many of the building blocks for the net-zero transition are coming into place. The 2050 objective is being enshrined in law. The new 40% to 45% reduction target by 2030 provides a medium-term anchor. A legislated carbon price will help smooth adjustment. To provide greater clarity for the additional policy measures required, the new net-zero advisory body that's proposed should publish annual objective assessments of the adequacy of policies and policy options to close any gaps.
Third, it's time for a Canadian digital strategy that defines the foundations, capabilities and priorities of a digital economy in which all Canadians can thrive. The necessary initiatives are legion and merit separate study by this committee, but I'd stress the importance of Canadian-led low-earth orbit satellite systems that leapfrog existing high-speed technologies and bring enormous potential to create high-quality job opportunities across Canada.
More broadly, global connectivity can drive an explosion in opportunities for all Canadians in all regions in new platforms of global commerce. With an integrated trade, digital and financial strategies, Canadians in all regions can benefit from freer trade in services and for SMEs.
Fourth, we need clear pathways for a just and prosperous energy transition. In particular, eliminating three quarters of our greenhouse gas emissions from the final demand for energy requires a clean electricity grid by 2035 and at least a doubling of clean electricity generation as the energy source for transportation, residential and commercial property, technology, and industry. To these ends, the federal government should work with the provinces on complementary initiatives, including federal support for new grid interties for domestic resilience and international exports.
More broadly, the scale of the energy transition and the imperatives of regional solidarity support the reinvestment of proceeds from the energies of today into the energies of the future, including blue hydrogen, green hydrogen and small nuclear reactors, as well as essential supporting technologies such as CCUS, DACCS, and battery storage. The development of both the Canadian energy industry and the jobs of the future can be accelerated by refundable investment tax credits for a wide range of emerging low-emission technologies—including but not limited to CCUS and green hydrogen—and contracts for differences that promote demand for hydrogen, as well as targeted regulatory mandates, including for zero-emission vehicles and fuels.
Fifth, it's imperative to build a new financial system to enable the transition to net zero and ensure greater inclusion, better service and wider opportunities for Canadians. The objective of the COP26 private finance strategy is to put in place the information, tools and markets so that every financial decision takes climate change into account. The essential building blocks include mandatory risk disclosure based on the TCFD, net-zero plans of our major financial institutions consistent with GFANZ, methodologies to align financing portfolios with the net-zero transition, and major new markets for blended finance and carbon offsets. Particular markets for nature-based solutions can complement absolute emissions reductions while providing major opportunities for indigenous Canadians.
I'll refer you to the supporting documents. Thank you for this opportunity.
Francis Bradley
View Francis Bradley Profile
Francis Bradley
2021-05-27 11:21
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Canadian Electricity Association, or CEA, is the national voice of the electricity sector. Our members operate in every province and territory in Canada, and include generation, transmission and distribution companies, as well as technology and service providers.
Electricity is at the heart of Canada's transition to a low-carbon economy. Over 80% of Canada's electricity generation is already non-emitting, making it one of the cleanest grids in the world. In fact, the Canadian electricity sector has already reduced GHG emissions by nearly 50% since 2005. Clean, reliable power will play an essential role as Canada begins to decarbonize through electrification.
Our sector is uniquely positioned to help advance Canada's clean energy future and meet climate commitments in 2030, 2050 and beyond. In fact, CEA released a list of actions for achieving net-zero carbon emissions; we have provided it to the clerk for your reference.
The focus of the study before you is how the Government of Canada can support industries in the transition to greener and more sustainable practices. Electricity is best positioned to enable this transition. The Canadian Institute for Climate Choices analyzed 60 pathways that it said could achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. All of them involved electricity, so we're going to need more electricity.
By 2050, Canada will need to produce two to three times as much clean power as it does right now. Facilitating this increase in clean power generation and ensuring that our sector can adopt innovative technologies is where government can provide support.
First, we should emphasize electrification. Grid investments should be program-focused and should improve the affordability and reliability of the system while reflecting Canada's diverse electricity markets. To do so, the federal government, in collaboration with stakeholders, industry and other levels of government, should develop and implement an electrification strategy to support decarbonization. This would guide Canada's approach to reducing GHG emissions in other sectors and to improving the economy.
Government should also work to enable electricity investments. As the economy restarts, it will be important for projects that are planned or under way to move forward. The Conference Board of Canada has estimated that there will be a need for $1.7 trillion in investments in the sector by 2050 to meet our climate goals. Deferrals and delays hinder stimulus efforts and our climate ambitions.
Regulatory modernization can also be done to enable investments more broadly. We were pleased to see the 2021 federal budget include funds for Measurement Canada to update rules for, among other things, zero-emission vehicles and charging infrastructure. Ultimately, as I told your colleagues at the environment committee last year, we need to update legislation.
We also need to think about how utilities are regulated economically. Electricity markets and rates are regulated by provincial regulatory commissions. As these bodies look to balance costs, innovative new projects that advance reliability and clean energy goals can face barriers before they get approved. There's a role for the federal government to play in working with the provinces to modernize this process.
Finally, help to scale up nascent technology is also needed. The electricity sector needs policy support and clear regulatory pathways for innovative technologies such as small modular reactors, hydrogen, energy storage, and carbon capture, utilization and storage. These could develop new export markets for Canada, beyond solving problems at home.
Each year, we look at the state of the Canadian electricity sector. This year's theme is renewal.
Canada's electricity grid is growing, driven by consumer demand and evolving technology. For Canada to reach net zero, our country will need to develop policies that encourage the grid to grow even further.
Thank you.
Eric Choi
View Eric Choi Profile
Eric Choi
2021-05-27 11:26
Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and members of the committee for the opportunity to appear this morning.
Let me start by saying a little bit about GHGSat. We're a small SME that was established in 2011 as a private sector solution to climate change. We are headquartered in Montreal, with offices in Ottawa and Calgary, and we now have international offices in Houston and London, England.
Our vision of GHGSat is to use satellites to become the global reference for the remote sensing of greenhouse gas emissions from any source in the world, thereby enabling stakeholders in the energy, resource, power generation, agricultural, waste management and sustainability sectors to make informed environmental decisions.
While there are obviously other satellites up there in space that also measure greenhouse gases, satellites from NASA and from the European Space Agency, for example, it's kind of a neat and remarkable fact that GHGSat, a Canadian SME, is currently the only private sector or government entity in the world that has satellites capable of high-resolution greenhouse gas measurement down to a resolution of only 25 metres. Our satellites—these Canadian satellites—are the only ones that can measure greenhouse gas emissions from sources as small as individual gas wells. This is a critical capability for attribution.
Space technology is going to play an increasingly important role in Canada’s transition to greener and more sustainable practices and to building back better. Out of the 50 essential climate variables identified by the World Meteorological Organization as needed to monitor climate change, 26 of these variables can only be effectively observed from space. Environmental satellites are therefore directly aligned with the goals of Canada’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development, specifically for taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts—which is goal number 13—and promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation, per goal 9.
When we talk about fields of technology, be it space technology or green technology, there are two ways in which the Government of Canada can play a role in nurturing innovation and expanding sustainable trade opportunities. The first is by investing in early-stage research and development. The second is by being an early adopter of new innovations, thereby lowering the risk and allowing the private sector to bring their new products and services to the international market.
Canada is a world leader in supporting early-stage R and D in both industry and academia. As an example of that, the innovative technology behind our methane monitoring satellites was developed with the support of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, the Canadian Space Agency and the industrial research assistance program of the National Research Council.
To ensure that Canada builds back better during the post-COVID economic recovery, an area of improvement for the Government of Canada would be to support industry beyond the initial R and D phase. One of the most effective measures that could be undertaken in this regard is to be an early adopter of new innovations and, furthermore, to be an ongoing anchor customer for green and sustainable technologies. This would strengthen Canadian competitiveness and expand trade opportunities, because one of the first things that a prospective customer asks internationally is whether a new product or service has been adopted by the domestic market.
There are examples of anchor tendency in the field of environmental satellites that we are familiar with, such as the NASA commercial small satellite data acquisition program in the U.S. or the third party missions programme of the European Space Agency.
This is going to be a pivotal year for Canada as we look forward to COP26 in November. One of the high-profile projects expected to come out of this UN climate conference is the International Methane Emissions Observatory—or IMEO—which is the project of the UN Environment Programme that is seeking contributions precisely of satellite data to identify methane super-emitters and thereby provide actionable data for diplomatic follow-up.
In recent months, we at GHGSat have been engaged with the relevant Government of Canada departments to discuss the potential of providing Canadian satellite methane data to the IMEO as a very highly visible demonstration of our country's commitment to fighting climate change.
To conclude, and to reiterate what some of the earlier speakers have said, the success of our post-pandemic recovery and the industrial transition to greener and more sustainable practices go hand in hand with both the government and the private sector as partners in this endeavour to build back better.
This concludes my prepared remarks, and I look forward to taking your questions.
Danial Hadizadeh
View Danial Hadizadeh Profile
Danial Hadizadeh
2021-05-27 11:32
Good morning, everyone.
Thank you, Madam Chair and the committee for inviting our company, Mitrex: Integrated Solar Technology, to appear as a witness.
Increases in urbanization, higher energy demands and non-renewable energy sources have created an environmental disaster in the form of climate change. Although the Canadian government has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, this is a huge goal, requiring everyone involved to achieve it in terms of commercial and economical options.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how vulnerable our society and economy are to external environmental factors. We as a nation may either continue to invest in the traditional carbon-emitting industries, or we may choose a different path for the recovery, the path that is greener and built back better than what we had.
Canada’s construction industry directly employs 1.4 million Canadians. From an environmental perspective, the buildings we construct are responsible for 17% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is an astonishing number if you're looking at the buildings that are being constructed today, and 75% of these inefficient buildings will still be standing in 2030 and beyond. Unless we build more sustainable buildings and existing buildings are retrofitted, I highly doubt that we can achieve our 2050 goals. This will be a key industry to rebuilding our economy while encouraging sustainable growth.
As a Canadian and as a human, you can always turn problems into solutions. This is one of those areas where we can turn it around, and develop a solution to create an opportunity out of the problem.
As cities grow, and as the high-rises are rising, we have this option. Our cities are growing vertically in the form of high-rises. This creates that specific opportunity. At Mitrex, we are creating the solution through BIPVs, building-integrated photovoltaics systems. These are building materials that are built with solar, and the solar is built within them. These are not added on top. These are not layers on top of layers. These are different groups of building materials that are built with solar.
The BIPV solves all of the problems that are mentioned regarding global warming and all of the issues we're having. BIPV is one of the solutions that can help us build more buildings, build better buildings, and help us achieve our goals by 2050.
Due to the significant R and D that we have done at Mitrex, the BIPV materials that we have created eliminate the trade-off between aesthetics and sustainability, and create positive financial impacts. We have solved the equation. We have created a product that is embedded into the materials. We can actually build our buildings using solar panels for the first time on the commercial stage.
This will create Canadian jobs in STEM fields and in skilled trades. As our country's portfolio of green buildings expands, so will Canada’s trade agenda, pursuing new agreements and opportunities that create jobs and economic benefits.
Greener buildings and sustainable construction will reduce energy demands and greenhouse gas emissions, helping us meet our 2050 net-zero goals and securing our environment’s future.
Thank you for your time and attention. We look forward to answering your questions.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Carney, thank you for appearing.
Instead of increasing affordable emissions free of hydroelectricity, the former Ontario Liberal government decided to lock in 20-year price subsidies for multinational power companies for less reliable wind and solar power.
Ontario's financial accountability officer said last week that the prices paid to electricity generators under the green energy contracts are significantly higher than the average price of electricity in Ontario. These high contracted prices are one of the factors that contributed to the price of electricity in Ontario doubling between 2009 and 19.
Is your company, or are any of its subsidiaries, receiving payment under any of these contracts?
Mark Carney
View Mark Carney Profile
Mark Carney
2021-05-27 11:36
First off, thank you for the question, Mr. Poilievre. I do not have knowledge of that. I can write back to the committee on it, but honestly, I don't know the answer.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
All right. You are the vice-president responsible for environmental, social and governance, and this is supposedly—
Mark Carney
View Mark Carney Profile
Mark Carney
2021-05-27 11:37
To be specific, Monsieur Poilievre, my responsibilities are for developing an impact strategy, which is a new strategy at Brookfield. I'm not responsible for previous activities, although Brookfield has much to recommend it as a great Canadian company that has built a renewable—
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Great. Thank you for that.
The Financial Post says that Brookfield Renewable Partners, Enbridge and TransAlta alone account for 38% of the subsidies. These subsidies are massive. They amount to a 150% subsidy for wind and 750% for solar. That drives up the cost of energy for everyday people. According to the Ontario Association of Food Banks in a report on the subject, it has created something called “energy poverty”. One victim of this social injustice was Sherry-Selena Hucul, a disabled single mother from Perth who's suffering with depression, anxiety, PTSD, type 2 diabetes and chronic pain from a car accident. Her bill rose to $309 a month despite conserving electricity.
I want to quote her:
My house is heated by wood and propane. My son requires a BiPAP machine for his severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.
Mr. Carney, she was terrified that the Liberal government was going to disconnect her power because she couldn't pay the bills, which rose to subsidize the profits of multinational corporations like yours.
I guess the question is very simple. Because you are in charge of impact investing, would you commit on behalf of Brookfield that your company will no longer accept these unjust subsidies, which are driving people in Ontario into poverty and desperation?
Mark Carney
View Mark Carney Profile
Mark Carney
2021-05-27 11:39
Well, the first thing, Mr. Poilievre, is that the energy policy of Ontario is the responsibility of the Government of Ontario. It has been put in place. Part of that energy policy, as you know, has been to diversify energy sources. I'd associate myself with the comments by Mr. Bradley moments ago about the important roles that electricity and the broad range of electricity sources are going to play in Ontario's and Canada's transition to a more sustainable and inclusive economy.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
My question was, “Would you commit today to reject those subsidies?” You can do so. Your company can reject the subsidies and offer to charge the market rate, which is six cents, instead of the subsidized rate, which is about 15 cents per kilowatt hour. You could do that if you were not just interested in profits for your shareholders but in solidarity with people like Ms. Hucul.
Yes or no, would you commit today to doing that?
Mark Carney
View Mark Carney Profile
Mark Carney
2021-05-27 11:40
Mr. Poilievre, the power supply in Ontario is subject to rules that are set. One of the most important things—and I'll go back to my earlier comments to the committee—is that to build a competitive, inclusive and sustainable economy on a foundation of sustainable power, it is critical that we have certainty and predictability. Part of what happens with the evolution—
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
You're not answering my question. My question is whether you would put aside the interests of your profits and your shareholders for poor people who are going to the food bank because they can't pay their power bills. They're using that money to subsidize your company. If you really believe in solidarity and not just in profiting your shareholders, you could voluntarily reduce what you're charging the government and the people of Ontario. You could save people from having to go to the food bank to keep the lights on.
Yes or no, will you do that?
Mark Carney
View Mark Carney Profile
Mark Carney
2021-05-27 11:41
Mr. Poilievre, before you stopped my answer.... you're giving one characterization of the power policy of the Government of Ontario, and there is a new Government of Ontario, I would add, that also has the ability to change a broad range of policies—
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
They can't. It's a locked-in contract for 20 years.
Mark Carney
View Mark Carney Profile
Mark Carney
2021-05-27 11:41
—and a relevant point. No, I'm just waiting for you to acknowledge it. I appreciate your acknowledging it, but what's also relevant and exceptionally important for Ms. Hucul and people in her situation.... One of the tragedies we have in Ontario and in Canada is people living in poverty—
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
Mark Carney
View Mark Carney Profile
Mark Carney
2021-05-27 11:41
Now the instrument of solidarity to address poverty, broader poverty, is not targeted energy policy but a broader range of support policies—
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
The solution is for you to stop breaking the law by overcharging them for electricity.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair. Let me start by welcoming all of our witnesses. Your testimony was quite informative on many fronts, so thank you very much and welcome to our committee.
I'm going to start with Mitrex and Mr. Hadizadeh. You talked about BIPV and about a new city that's going to be built that will be full of high-rise buildings. With the almost $2.24 billion that the federal government just announced for extending the subway to Richmond Hill north of Highway 427, the area along the southern part of Highway 427 is going to be full of developments, full of high-rise buildings. To a large extent, I understand, the technology that you're doing research and development for, BIPV, will help those. However, you also mentioned that about 75% of the buildings are old. In my riding of Richmond Hill, I have many old buildings that date back to 1970 and 1980.
How does your solution support those types of buildings? Do they have to be forgotten? How would your solution work with those types of buildings?
Danial Hadizadeh
View Danial Hadizadeh Profile
Danial Hadizadeh
2021-05-27 11:43
Thank you, Mr. Jowhari.
Our solution basically applies to both retrofits and new construction. As we build more and more high-rises and more buildings, we are using concrete as architectural surfaces. That's one of the highest carbon-embodied materials you can use, as compared with the technology in solar, which has among the lowest carbon-embodied profiles.
At the same time, our point of view and our glasses to this world is that we integrate more solar into the materials that are in touch with the sun. Our building walls, our building windows or the roof are all in the line of solutions that we have created, and they're all applicable to the retrofitting of buildings that you mentioned from the 1970s and 1980s as well as to new construction.
One issue that we're going to face in the coming years is that all of those people who are living in older buildings won't have access to the EV markets, because these buildings are not designed to have more electricity, and it is the solution that we have. This is the key point, integrating more solar into the building materials and using it in retrofit and new construction, and we keep it in mind. We know the cost and we know the aesthetics and we know the installations. Those are all barriers to entry that we have had in the past many decades. It's why these products haven't been developed.
This is part of our solution—the retrofit and the EV market that's going to be connecting all of these buildings and charging all of those cars in the coming decades.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much.
You have talked about the EV market. This is where I want to go. With the interest and growing support of Canadians and investment that the Government of Canada is making in electrical vehicles, naturally these buildings that are much older need...and they park underground. Some of the underground parking lots are multi-level.
How would your solution be able to support that type of retrofit, so that as Canadians embrace electrical vehicles, they can park their cars on level 5 of a 20-year-old building and still be able to get benefit from the EV and from having a charging station?
How does that work? Can you demystify it for us?
Danial Hadizadeh
View Danial Hadizadeh Profile
Danial Hadizadeh
2021-05-27 11:46
With our solution, every building will turn into a power plant. They become micro-power plants that are generating their own electricity. This is on top of the existing power that they have, which they can utilize in their charging stations or in their common elements or the units in whatever way they want. There is a micro-plant being built within the building that is producing green renewable energy for the decades to come. That's how we transform these buildings.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
Would your solution integrate into the older building as well, so that the electricity can get many floors down? What kind of investment do developers need or those existing buildings need to consider to be able to benefit from this solution?
Danial Hadizadeh
View Danial Hadizadeh Profile
Danial Hadizadeh
2021-05-27 11:47
That's a very good question.
We have managed to keep the costs in line with those of traditional materials while implementing these new technologies. That's our edge; that's our difference from many other companies on a global scale. We have an integrated factory to fully automate and integrate—a factory that we have in Etobicoke. We produce everything locally here.
The way we have managed to create a business model is with the power purchase agreement as well as the direct purchase agreement. The builders or the building owners are basically not spending a dollar more, but are receiving renewable energy. That's part of our business model, to transform the old building as well as the new buildings that are being built in Canada.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
I only have about another 30 seconds.
How do you work with the existing regulations in the provinces, as they are in charge of setting the rates? How would your model work?
Danial Hadizadeh
View Danial Hadizadeh Profile
Danial Hadizadeh
2021-05-27 11:48
Right now we are just working within the existing rates in Ontario. Most of our projects and supplies are in Ontario, but there are a lot of limiting regulations that prevent us. Even though governments are saying they are with green energy companies, once you start deploying, there are a lot of limitations they have put in place that prevent us, which are usually coming from Toronto Hydro or other energy providers.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First, I want to say what an informative and well put together panel this is. We heard about solutions for the transportation sector as well as energy efficiency in the building sector. The solutions are especially innovative, and both sectors provide opportunities to reduce Canada's carbon footprint.
Thank you, Mr. Bonapace, for being here today. My first question is for you.
In practical terms, what can we do to speed up the transition and help businesses?
Dany Bonapace
View Dany Bonapace Profile
Dany Bonapace
2021-05-27 11:49
Basically, the answer to your question is to create the conditions conducive to an energy-to-performance ratio of 20:80.
My understanding and my experience [Technical difficulty—Editor] Canada's housing stock. That stock is pretty inefficient. The stock's energy efficiency, production and storage need improving. I quite agree with what the Mitrex representatives said.
The only problem is the slow pace of the transformation across the housing stock. It's a people-dominated sector, and people have a hard time changing their habits. If all we do is keep focusing on subsidies as an incentive to change, we will not reach our targets anytime soon. In short, a combination of penalties and subsidies is needed to speed up the transformation.
People take the path of least resistance. The first option is digital technologies that promote energy efficiency. They do not require a big investment in equipment. People don't have to make a slew of changes to increase their energy efficiency. Many of the artificial intelligence devices already on the market are interconnectable and have the ability to monitor all of the electromechanical systems on the premises. People can achieve at least 20% in energy savings without investing in any equipment. Those efficiency gains are significant when you consider the entire housing stock.
The best thing to do is not to produce more energy, but to save energy. That eliminates the burden of having to produce more.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Indeed.
I'm going to ask you the question again. What practical measures can we take to speed up the transition and help businesses?
Dany Bonapace
View Dany Bonapace Profile
Dany Bonapace
2021-05-27 11:51
Sticking to the building sector, I would say it's necessary not only to produce more, but also to provide support. When electricity prices are down, solutions like the ones offered by Mitrex are harder to justify. Something else to consider is the use of artificial intelligence technology in buildings because the gains can be significant. By making very few changes, the industry can implement these technologies. Similarly, process industries could use the technology to achieve considerable savings.
As a guy who is very down to earth, I think your question is a really good one. In response, I would point to renewable energy production as well. My philosophy is simple: demand is way up and alternative energies are urgently needed to replace fossil fuels, so more players have to be allowed on the field and more projects have to be realized. I won't mince words; companies are permitted to engage in mining, oil drilling and logging on all Crown lands, but similar legislation still does not exist for renewable energy initiatives.
Consider this. I live along the Ontario border, and the clear-cutting under way is unbelievable. It's a vast space that could be covered in solar panels. It's a minute away from the border with Ontario, the second-largest GHG emitter. I realize political and jurisdictional issues come into play; Mr. Carney talked about the need to address them, given that climate change has no borders. It is imperative to find strategies, such as standards for renewable energy portfolios along with incentives.
That said, it is possible to designate more spaces to support more projects. I'll draw an analogy with the mining industry and junior mining companies. In mining, companies may be able to provide energy [Technical difficulty—Editor], which is about equivalent to flow-through shares. They were meant to support exploration by junior mining companies, which were able to propose a number of sites to major stakeholders in order to carry out more projects. A copy-and-paste approach could be applied, with a greater focus on solicitation.
I realize only Alberta is deregulated. Here's an interesting fact: seven people solicit for Alberta's big mining companies, but they are the only seven people in Canada who do so. That is far from enough. Tax breaks need to be leveraged to support exploration and find new sites in order to produce renewable energy.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
I have to ask the question a third time. What practical measures can the government take to support the transition and help businesses?
Dany Bonapace
View Dany Bonapace Profile
Dany Bonapace
2021-05-27 11:54
I'll give you a quick answer, in 30 seconds. Take someone like me, for example, who sets up investment funds and has investors. If they have access to tax breaks, I have more latitude to help a developer, to manage more of the risk associated with getting a renewable energy project off the ground and seeing it through.
View Brian Masse Profile
NDP (ON)
View Brian Masse Profile
2021-05-27 11:54
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to our witnesses for being here today.
Mr. Carney, my first question is with regard to Brookfield Asset Management Inc. The claim was made that it was carbon neutral. It appears that's been walked back a little bit. That was a few months ago.
Perhaps you can provide us with what the differential was then and what has happened in that portfolio in the company you represent, over the last number of months, to correct that—or is it not going to be corrected? What's the current status of that?
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