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View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee. I want to thank all of you for the work you do on the health committee. I know many of you are passionate about the issues of health, and I thank you for your commitment to that.
I'm joined by Simon Kennedy, Health Canada's new deputy minister; Krista Outhwaite, our newly appointed president of the Public Health Agency of Canada; and Dr. Gregory Taylor, whom you've met before, Canada's chief public health officer. I know he'll be here for the second half. You might want to ask him about his trip to Guinea and Sierra Leone to visit our troops and others who are working on the front dealing with Ebola. I'm sure he'll have some great things to share with you.
Michel Perron is here on behalf of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He's also new. Last time I know you met Dr. Alain Beaudet.
We also have Dr. Bruce Archibald, who's the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. I think you've met Bruce as well.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to start by sharing an update on some of the key issues that we've been working on recently. I'll begin by talking about Canada's health care system, the pressures it's facing, and the opportunities for improvement through innovation. I will then highlight some recent activities on priority issues such as family violence and the safety of drugs in food.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canada spent around $215 billion on health care just in 2014. Provinces and territories, which are responsible for the delivery of health care to Canadians, are working very hard to ensure their systems continue to meet the needs of Canadians, but with an aging population, chronic disease, and economic uncertainty, the job of financing and delivering quality care is not getting easier.
Our government continues to be a strong partner for the provinces and territories when it comes to record transfer dollars. Since 2006, federal health transfers have increased by almost 70% and are on track to increase from $34 billion this year to more than $40 billion annually by the end of the decade—an all-time high.
This ongoing federal investment in healthcare is providing provinces and territories with the financial predictability and flexibility they need to respond to the priorities and pressures within their jurisdictions.
In addition of course, federal support for health research through the CIHR as well as targeted investments in areas such as mental health, cancer prevention, and patient safety are helping to improve the accessibility and quality of health care for Canadians.
But to build on the record transfers and the targeted investments I just mentioned, we're also taking a number of other measures to improve the health of Canadians and reduce pressure on the health care system. To date we've leveraged over $27 million in private sector investments to advance healthy living partnerships. I'm very pleased with the momentum we've seen across Canada.
Last year we launched the play exchange, in collaboration with Canadian Tire, LIFT Philanthropy Partners, and the CBC, to find the best ideas that would encourage Canadians to live healthier and active lives. We announced the winning idea in January: the Canadian Cancer Society of Quebec and their idea called “trottibus”, which is a walking school bus. This is an innovative program that gives elementary schoolchildren a safe and fun way to get to school while being active. Trottibus is going to receive $1 million in funding from the federal government to launch their great idea across the country.
Other social innovation projects are encouraging all children to get active early in life so that we can make some real headway in terms of preventing chronic diseases, obesity, and other health issues. We're also supporting health care innovation through investments from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In fact our government now is the single-largest contributor to health research in Canada, investing roughly $1 billion every year.
Since its launch in 2011, the strategy for patient-oriented research has been working to bring improvements from the latest research straight to the bedsides of patients. I was pleased to see that budget 2015 provided additional funds so that we can build on this success, including an important partnership with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.
Canadians benefit from a health system that provides access to high-quality care and supports good health outcomes, but we can't afford to be complacent in the face of an aging society, changing technology, and new economic and fiscal realities. That is why we have been committed to supporting innovation that improves the quality and affordability of health care.
As you know, the advisory panel on health care innovation that I launched last June has spent the last 10 months exploring the top areas of innovation in Canada and abroad with the goal of identifying how the federal government can support those ideas that hold the greatest promise. The panel has now met with more than 500 individuals including patients, families, business leaders, economists, and researchers. As we speak, the panel is busy analyzing what they've heard, and I look forward to receiving their final report in June.
I'd also like to talk about another issue. It's one that does not receive the attention that it deserves as a pressing public health concern, and that's family violence. Family violence has undeniable impacts on the health of the women, children, and even men, who are victimized. There are also very significant impacts on our health care and justice systems.
Family violence can lead to chronic pain and disease, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and many other serious and lifelong afflictions for its victims. That's why this past winter I was pleased to announce a federal investment of $100 million over 10 years to help address family violence and support the health of victims of violence. This investment will support health professionals and community organizations in improving the physical and mental health of victims of violence, and help stop intergenerational cycles of violence.
In addition to our efforts to address family violence and support innovation to improve the sustainability of the health care system, we have made significant progress on a number of key drug safety issues. Canadians want and deserve to depend on and trust the care they receive. To that end, I'd like to thank the committee for its thoughtful study of our government's signature patient safety legislation, Vanessa's Law. Building on the consultations that we held with Canadians prior to its introduction, this committee's careful review of Vanessa's Law, including the helpful amendments that were brought forward by MP Young, served to strengthen the bill and will improve the transparency that Canadians expect.
Vanessa's Law, as you know, introduces the most significant improvements to drug safety in Canada in more than 50 years. It allows me, as minister, to recall unsafe drugs and to impose tough new penalties, including jail time and fines up to $5 million per day, instead of what is the current $5,000 a day. It also compels drug companies to do further testing and revise labels in plain language to clearly reflect health risk information, including updates for health warnings for children. It will also enhance surveillance by requiring mandatory adverse drug reaction reporting by health care institutions, and requires new transparency for Health Canada's regulatory decisions about drug approvals.
To ensure the new transparency powers are providing the kind of information that Canadian families and researchers are looking for, we've also just launched further consultations asking about the types of information that are most useful to improve drug safety. Beyond the improvements in Vanessa's Law, we're making great progress and increasing transparency through Health Canada's regulatory transparency and openness framework. In addition to posting summaries of drug safety reviews that patients and medical professionals can use to make informed decisions, we are now also publishing more detailed inspection information on companies and facilities that make drugs. This includes inspection dates, licence status, types of risks observed, and measures that are taken by Health Canada. Patients can also check Health Canada's clinical trials database to determine if a trial they are interested in has met regulatory requirements.
Another priority of mine is tackling the issue of drug abuse and addiction in Canada. There's no question that addiction to dangerous drugs has a devastating and widespread impact on Canadian families and communities. In line with recommendations from this committee, I am pleased that the marketing campaign launched last fall by Health Canada is helping parents talk with their teenagers about the dangers of smoking marijuana and prescription drug abuse. The campaign addresses both of those things, because too many of our young people are abusing drugs that are meant to heal them.
Our government also recognizes that those struggling with drug addictions need help to recover a drug-free life. From a federal perspective, of course, we provide assistance for prevention and treatment projects under our national anti-drug strategy. We've now committed over $44 million to expand the strategy to include prescription drug abuse and are continuing to work with the provinces to improve drug treatment.
I've now met and will continue to meet with physicians, pharmacists, first nations, law enforcement, addictions specialists, medical experts, and of course parents to discuss how we can collectively tackle prescription drug abuse.
Finally, our government continues to make very real investments to strengthen our food safety system. As only the latest example, I recently announced a five-year investment of more than $30 million in the CFIA's new food safety information network. Through this modern network, food safety experts will be better connected, and laboratories will be able to share urgently needed surveillance information and food safety data, using a secure web platform. This will put us in an even better position to protect Canadians from food safety risk by improving our ability to actually anticipate, detect, and then effectively deal with food safety issues. This investment will continue to build on the record levels of funding we've already provided, as well as the improved powers such as tougher penalties, enhanced controls on E. coli, new meat labelling requirements, and improved inspection oversight.
In conclusion, those are just some of the priorities that will be supported through the funding our government has allocated to the Health portfolio. This year's main estimates, notably, include investments for first nations health, for our ongoing contribution to the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the key research and food safety investments that I have already mentioned.
I'll leave it at that. If committee members have any questions, my officials and I would be very pleased to answer them. Thank you.
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Philip Jennings
View Philip Jennings Profile
Philip Jennings
2015-03-30 15:42
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With that, thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for allowing me to provide you with a brief overview of Industry Canada's response to the Auditor General's 2014 fall report on the restructuring assistance provided to General Motors and Chrysler during the economic crisis of 2009 as well as the automotive innovation fund.
As you are aware, Canada has a strong automotive sector, which generates $17 billion annually of value-added, or 10% of Canada's manufacturing GDP. With some 730 automotive suppliers supporting our 11 assembly lines and three engine plants, the industry employs some 117,000 Canadians directly, and another 377,000 Canadians indirectly. In fact, in 2014, Ontario was the largest automotive manufacturing jurisdiction in North America—larger even than Michigan.
The auto sector is also export orientated. There are 90% of Canadian-made vehicles sold abroad, the vast majority of these in the United States. The proximity to the U.S., one of the most profitable auto markets, is one of our competitive strengths. Our auto sector is truly part of an integrated North American market.
Industry Canada is always interested in views and ideas that will help us support and grow Canada's automotive sector. While we hope we will never face a situation like the crisis of 2009 again, we are also interested in learning from such circumstances and in continuously improving how we prepare and respond. In this light, we welcomed the Auditor General's four recommendations. In fact, Industry Canada has already acted upon two of them and plans to act on the other two recommendations in a timely fashion. I will discuss this later in my remarks.
As you know, Mr. Chair, late 2008 and early 2009 was a period of extreme uncertainty and volatility. Credit was tightening, consumers were scaling down and postponing their spending, and economies around the globe appeared to be heading into recession, if they weren't already. The auto sector was experiencing first-hand the impacts of consumers postponing major expenditures. Annual vehicle sales plummeted in the U.S. in 2009, from about 17 million vehicles per year to a little over 10 million.
With shrinking sales, the financial situation of all companies was becoming desperate, but for GM and Chrysler it was particularly bad, as it did not have access to capital like the others. In November 2008, GM announced it would run out of cash around mid-2009 without a combination of government funding, a merger, or sales of assets. No credit institution was in a position to help either GM or Chrysler.
While Canadian sales did not dip as much, Canadian assemblers were not sheltered by the events in the U.S., given that close to 90% of Canadian-made cars are exported to that country. Canadian subsidiaries were directly impacted by their parent companies' difficulties. There was a real risk that GM and Chrysler might shutter their Canadian operations in an attempt to restructure.
GM and Chrysler were at the time, and continue to be, the two largest carmakers in Canada, accounting for more than 55% of total production. Many of Canada's suppliers depended on contracts with GM and Chrysler. Without this work, many would not have survived, leading to a hollowing out of the suppliers and creating problems for the other original automotive equipment manufacturers.
That would have triggered a collapse of the entire Canadian automotive supply chain. The strong links and interdependencies between our supply chain and our assemblers were the key motivation for government action and support of GM and Chrysler. GM and Chrysler in Canada had to be protected from being collateral damage of the events in the U.S., not only for their sake but for the entire suppliers sector and ultimately the entire automotive industry in Canada.
Mr. Chair, as the Auditor General concluded, the Government of Canada did what it set out to do: prevent the disorderly collapse of the auto sector and ensure a viable automotive sector in Canada.
The clock was ticking. There was a very short timeframe to find a viable remedy for both GM and Chrysler. Both were in dire financial straits, and Chrysler needed to find a buyer. From the point that the crisis started and GM submitted high-level restructuring plans to the U.S. Congress in late 2008, governments had less than a month to decide whether to provide an initial set of loans. Again, once the company submitted more detailed plans, there was only about six weeks to assess their long-term viability.
As these events demonstrate, the restructuring of GM and Chrysler took place under intensely challenging circumstances. It required unprecedented collective action by the federal, Ontario, and U.S. governments.
While Charles and I at Industry Canada were not there at the time of the restructuring, the federal government did quickly organize an automotive response team. It was headed by Mr. Richard Dicerni and Mr. Paul Boothe, the deputy minister and associate deputy minister at Industry Canada at the time, and Mr. Ron Parker and Mr. David Moloney, who are my predecessors and who led a team of dedicated public servants who worked tirelessly and in unique ways to manage the government's response to the crisis. It supported a steering committee made up of deputy ministers from Industry Canada and Finance, as well as representatives from Export Development Canada, the Privy Council Office, and the Ontario Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, who all played important roles.
The team also reached out to stakeholders and experts to ensure it quickly had access to the necessary knowledge and expertise, whether on financial corporate restructuring from KPMG and Ernst and Young or on U.S. and Canadian insolvency law from Cassels Brock or on the automotive market from CSM Worldwide and Casesa Shapiro Group.
There were external discussions with those in the industry, including assemblers and suppliers, to gather essential information needed to assess and understand the risk. The government then made a responsible decision and took decisive action. Afterwards, my department monitored the two companies to ensure they fulfilled their end of the bargain and to ensure that the restructuring would deliver the desired results.
Mr. Chair, I am impressed by the work accomplished by my predecessors for the Canadian industry and its workers. Their work was the basis of the government actions and it paid off. It also proved to be pivotal in securing the immediate future of Canada's automotive industry and the economy at large. In early 2009, GM and Chrysler assembly plants directly employed an estimated 14,000 workers. Today both companies continue to be Canada's largest automotive manufacturers, employing about 19,000 Canadians, and the economic benefits extend far beyond the two companies. At the time of the crisis, the Department of Finance estimated that a total of 52,000 jobs were directly or indirectly tied to production at GM and Chrysler. Another study, by Leslie Shiell and Robin Somerville at the IRPP, estimated that in 2010 a total of 100,000 jobs, including jobs in the supplier sector, could have been lost without the restructuring. The study further suggested that in 2009 alone the economy could have suffered losses of $23 billion had GM and Chrysler not successfully restructured. The government's decisive actions ensured that there was business for hundreds of suppliers. The effects even spilled over into industries across the Canadian economy.
Today, all Canadian automakers, including GM and Chrysler, are investing in their operations. In the last two years in particular, each of Canada's five automotive assemblers has reinvested in Canada, and auto parts manufacturers have also invested in their operations. Another sign that the sector is doing well is that Canada's production increased to almost 2.4 million vehicles in 2014. The auto sector will continue to contribute significantly to the Canadian economy for many years to come.
All this work was and continues to be recognized, not only by the industry but also by third party analysis such as the IRPP study I mentioned, which concluded that the restructuring assistance was successful. Furthermore, Industry Canada received recognition for its accomplishments, including in the form of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada's 2010 innovative management award. I believe it is a remarkable success story that we were able to partner quickly and effectively with our counterparts at home and abroad, within and outside of government, to provide sound advice and ultimately save thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses, and to secure a future for Canada's auto sector.
With respect to the automotive innovation fund, I am pleased that the report reflects a program that continues to be well managed. In many respects, it's still early days for the program. It was established in 2008 and seven projects have been supported. The initial projects are just now being completed, yet we know from the initial evaluation we did in 2012 that the program is meeting its short-term objectives. It has leveraged about $2.8 billion in investments since its inception, and as the Auditor General has recommended, we will continue to report against its longer-term objectives as projects are completed.
Mr. Chair, I want to conclude my remarks by noting that we have learned a great deal from these experiences, and the Auditor General's recommendations have helped embed these. The recommendations have highlighted that clear and comprehensive reporting on support provided and the management of that support contributes to the public understanding of the restructuring success. In order to increase the ease of access to the information, last December we published a single summary report on the restructuring support and recoveries. We've also committed to undertaking a review of the management of the restructuring assistance with a focus on identifying lessons learned. This work will be completed this year.
The Auditor General also recommended reviewing how we evaluate proposals for support from the automotive innovation fund, and monitoring the performance of the program.
We have updated the program's risk assessment framework and made explicit the manner in which risk profiles of applicants are assessed. We will also evaluate the program again in 2017-18 to determine to what extent it achieves its long-term objectives.
It is fair to say, just like all Canadians, we hope we never face such a challenge again, requiring us to use the lessons learned from the 2009 crisis.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members. We will be pleased to respond to your questions.
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Mark Gayler
View Mark Gayler Profile
Mark Gayler
2014-04-03 9:06
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Hello, and thank you to the committee for inviting me to participate this morning. It's bright and early in Vancouver.
My name is Mark Gayler. I work for Microsoft Canada. I've been working with Microsoft for more than 10 years. I'm a technology strategist for Microsoft Canada. I work primarily with municipalities. As part of that role, I'm a subject matter expert on open data and open source technologies.
I'd like to comment on a few things. First of all, I very much appreciate the comments by my colleagues David and Ms. Miller just previously.
One of the things I have experience with is working with different governments around the world, and so I've been engaged with open data projects in Canada, but also in the U.S.A.., Colombia, Japan, central and eastern Europe, and the U.K. I'd like to make some comparisons, even though I totally and fully agree with David's comment earlier on that it's dangerous to make comparisons in terms of a league table. But I think there are some insights we can gain from what other countries are doing compared with how open data has evolved in Canada today.
I'd like to start there, and then I'd like to pick up on a couple of other points that my colleagues have raised already.
What is interesting about the way open data is evolving around the world is that it's evolving in different ways based on the way that government agencies have chosen to engage it.
For example, in the U.K. and the U.S., we see a very top-down approach whereby the U.K. and U.S. governments at the very top levels of government have sponsored open data initiatives. They are driving adoption of open data throughout government departments and agencies, and we see this top-down approach as it flows downwards through the government infrastructure.
I would say that in Canada what we have seen is more of a bottom-up approach to open data. In early days it was adopted primarily by the cities, and then the provinces caught up. I think Vancouver started in April 2009, and we have seen other cities adopt open data initiatives. Then the provinces have come in, and I think the federal government has come in after some of these cities and smaller agencies had already adopted open data initiatives.
That explains why we see different countries and different initiatives at different stages of evolution, to a certain degree.
In the U.K. and U.S., I would say that open data initiatives across government are fairly mature and fairly consistent in the way open data is thought of. I would say that in Canada we see open data being adopted in different ways at different levels of government jurisdiction.
The second point I'd like to make around this is that as we look around the world, it's important to understand that open data itself is not an end point. Open data is a transition to something else. It's an enabler for other things to happen. It's an enabler for such things as economic stimulus, as we have discussed, and I'm sure we'll discuss more on that during the session. It's an enabler particularly for citizen engagement, getting citizens actively involved and participating in the business of government.
I think it also represents a cultural change internally for government and government agencies. When I've been around the world talking to national and provincial and state governments about their open data initiatives and the way we can use open data to engage citizens, particularly those parts of citizenry we may not already be engaged with, a big comment that I get at the end of my engagement with that particular government is: this is great, but now that we have this capability to share data and to collaborate, we want to do it internally as much as we want to do it externally. I think that point was made very well by my colleagues previously.
The opportunity for the Canadian government here is to provide guidance, to provide a framework to take the open data initiatives that already exist, to create opportunities to share more open data, to engage citizens and third parties and encourage them to share this data and use this data, and to enable the sharing of the data in such a way that it can easily be consumed by any of the actors in the ecosystem, be it a data scientist, a researcher, a citizen, an application developer, or a student.
But it's very important that we understand that this is a cultural change that will lead to other positive benefits; this is not just about sharing data itself. And so it's important that the government provide a framework to encourage parties to collaborate around the sharing and reuse of open data—private-public partnerships, for example—and particularly engage those parts of the citizenry with whom perhaps we are not already engaged and get them actively involved in the business of government.
Let me give you a very simple example. Two weeks ago we ran a teen hackathon in the city of Surrey. The City of Surrey is sharing its open data; they have an open data portal. They invited teens, young people from the ages of 13 to 19, to participate in this hackathon. For half a day we worked with them with technology and showed them how to produce applications. What was interesting is that at the end of it we asked for feedback and ideas, and it was amazing to see these teenagers come up with ideas about how to use transit data to better navigate through the city, how to use weather data to better understand when weather might affect particular tourist spots or landmarks.
You could look at that initially and just say that these are interesting ideas but ask whether they would ever come to any kind of fruition. But what was really interesting about the whole thing was that the city was stimulating students and young people to think about engaging the city in ways that had not previously been possible. These were young people who were thinking about actively working with the city—visitors to the city, citizens of the city. Getting them excited and engaged in looking at ways to improve city services both for visitors and for folks who already live in the city is quite transformational. This is a very simple example of transformational cultural change that can be brought about by sharing open data.
Another example I will give you, from a cultural aspect, comes from when I was engaged with the Government of Colombia. I was invited down there to provide some guidance to them about the way they would share data with their citizens. When I went down there I said I was surprised that the Government of Colombia was thinking about sharing open data, because they're not known, to an external person, for their openness or the way they might engage a citizen in a transparent way; that it might be considered to be a threat to the government.
They said that this was their entire reason for doing it. Whereas other governments say they're doing this for economic stimulus or doing it for better engagement with certain parts of society, in Colombia they are doing it deliberately to show that they're being open and transparent. This is part of their cultural change with their citizens.
The last point I would like to make is that I think the opportunity is huge for Canada to be a leader in this area. Even though we look around the world and see open data initiatives evolving in different ways, we have a long way to go with open data, to speak to David's point earlier on. There is much more that can be done and there is much more transformational benefit that can arise out of open data.
But I think the government can help. It can stimulate this by providing, for frameworks for working particularly in public-private partnerships, guidance in the sharing and openness of data, and also by providing ideas and guidance about the sustainability of open data and how it can be part of the ongoing business of government and citizen engagement, rather than just being seen as an end in itself.
Thank you very much.
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Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
View Shawn A-in-chut Atleo Profile
Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
2013-12-05 19:38
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I thank you, Mr. Strahl, not just as a fellow British Columbian, but as one who had close relatives whose remains were found on that farm, I often found myself supporting family to try to find missing individuals from my community in the downtown eastside.
Mr. Cyr articulated the wide range of reasons, which I chose not to go into tonight because I think this committee knows them more than most. To understand the challenge to first nations in trusting the systems that are intended to serve them, be they police, be they government—the kinds of experiences we've had and the one that occurred in the provincial inquiry. I think the first piece is to recognize that we're supporting this on a national scale and it requires a national response and, in our opinion, a strong national lead.
Parliament accepted that and continued the work of this committee, which in many respects was welcome, but it is also a recognition that this is a major issue that needs national attention and national leadership.
The earlier question about the three or four things is extremely challenging. The purpose of the public inquiry is to engage in this on a national scale: the accountability aspect of it and having it led in a way that learns in some respects from other inquiries that have been felt to be less than satisfactory.
Indigenous peoples in this country have experience working in partnership with the federal government. There's every reason we can learn from the good experiences, as well as learn from experiences that have fallen short of what we would have hoped to come out of it.
To a certain extent I was involved in my former work as regional chief for British Columbia. I think the depth of involvement could be something to learn from, the meaningful involvement of the families that are directly impacted, having them help to forge an approach that feels right, that instills us with a sense of trust that we can have these conversations in this country and that there will not be a sense of a power imbalance in the way the work unfurls.
If that is up front and you have that, then I think you have a much better chance of success at sharing responsibility, because that's the theme of what you've heard from the presenters here tonight—a shared sense of responsibility. I think there are elements we can look at, not just the inquiry that happened in B.C., but other inquiries. We can learn from those experiences.
Very clearly, the context of this is tremendously different. We end up working in every region of the country. To pick up on the last question, I think this committee has the opportunity to call for a full national public commission of inquiry.
But the first on the short list of three is to support the development of a national public action plan, where indigenous communities, different organizations, come together to articulate national goals that this committee says is required at this time, to get on with that action, and get on with supporting a nationally developed action plan that brings the voices together.
Second, there needs to be an immediate response to the shelter needs. I think Charlene alluded to this in some respects, the fact that every woman and girl needs to be able to have access to services. Right now that does not exist. With emphasis on the rural, I join in calling for those in the urban program.
Third, to round it out, we need a coordinated focus on prevention. Charlene talked about when these instances come up what's happened in that family already to lead to an increased vulnerability? She has experience, as many do, supporting the healing work that's happening in the communities.
I understand the question, and there's a sense that there's some reticence, that because of what happened in one jurisdiction, it doesn't apply nationally. This absolutely applies nationally. We're looking to you as a committee to call for a full national public commission of inquiry.
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View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and dear colleagues.
I am pleased to be here with my officials to participate in your study of the Roadmap for Official Languages in Canada.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the committee members for having inviting me to appear here today. As I said, I am accompanied by Peter Sylvester, the Associate Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Peter is also CIC's official languages champion — and Corinne Prince St-Amand, Director General, Integration and FCRO.
In 2006, the government — in collaboration with representatives from francophone minority communities — established a target to increase the percentage of French-speaking immigrants to those communities to 4.4% of the total number of immigrants settling in Canada outside of Quebec by 2023.
As part of the 2008-2013 Roadmap objectives, our goal was to reach an interim target of 1.8% of the total number of permanent residents settling outside Quebec by 2013. And we managed to achieve this target, two years ahead of schedule. Since 2005, the number of French-speaking permanent residents in Canada increased by almost 40%. This is a major achievement.
The significant progress we have made to date has allowed us to revise our recruitment target to 4% out of the total number of economic immigrants settling outside Quebec, to be reached by 2018, and we are confident that we will meet our original target of 4.4% by 2023 ahead of schedule. We will achieve this target as the result of an increased collaborative effort among all our federal partners, other levels of government, and stakeholders.
Chairman, as my colleagues here today are well aware, the government is in the process of implementing transformational changes to ensure the immigration system works in Canada's best interests, attracting immigrants with the skills we need, who can integrate into our labour market quickly, and work at their skill level shortly after their arrival in Canada.
We believe these improvements will have a very positive effect on Canada's official language minority communities.
Time doesn't permit me to go through all of the important changes we are making, but I'd like to focus on one key change in particular. That is the movement towards what I call the meta reform, following the example of Australia and New Zealand, with the adoption of an expression of interest system, which will subsume most of our economic immigration streams. It will allow for Canadian employers, provinces and territories, and perhaps community groups, to select skilled immigrants from a pool of pre-qualified applicants who we are confident have the human capital to integrate successfully.
Under the current federal skilled worker program, also known as the point system, applicants apply based on the objective points grid, which we've just made some significant changes to, by the way. Once they receive permanent residence—what used to be called landed immigrant status—they can choose to settle, obviously, wherever they like in Canada. That's the mobility rights.
Efforts are usually made by governments and stakeholders reactively after they arrive to try to get them to settle in an official language community. With the new expression of interest system, which we plan to have in place by the end of next year, employers and provinces will be able to more effectively recruit immigrants to official language communities across the country by directly choosing applicants with the language skills and human capital they need from the pool.
In addition, our government has increased the number of immigrants chosen by the provinces through the provincial nominee program by 500%, from about 8,000 a year to around 40,000 this year.
This is important, Chairman. In the past, my predecessors from different parties expressed great frustration at the hugely disproportionate number of immigrants who settled, often in ethnic enclaves, in the three big metropolitan areas, rather than settling in regions in Canada, including rural Canada, where there were often better employment opportunities.
I'm pleased to tell you that as a result of our shift in weight from the skilled worker program to provincial selection through these provincial nominee programs, we've seen a dramatic improvement in the geographic distribution of immigrants across Canada. There has been a tripling of immigrants to the Prairies, a doubling to Atlantic Canada, and more newcomers going to the interior of B.C. rather than the greater Vancouver region. The number of immigrants settling per annum in Toronto is down by over 25%.
I think that's all positive, and this presages where we hope to go with the expression of interest system, which we also hope will include or partner with provinces so they can select out of that pool.
This is very important because when you're trying to get a francophone immigrant to go to St. Boniface or Saint-Léonard, frankly, if they're just coming in through the old points grid, chances are they won't go to such places. But if local community groups or employers in those smaller minority language communities can recruit them out of the pool, they're much more likely to settle in such places that need demographic reinforcement.
Mr. Chair, I would also like to discuss another successful way that we have managed to attract more French-speaking new comers: the Destination Canada Job Fair. We have been operating this event for almost 10 years. It has become especially popular in the past five years. Last year, in fact, there was a record high attendance for the fair in Paris and Brussels. More than 80 employers posted more than 1,000 jobs. Of more than 20,000 interested candidates, nearly 5,000 had skills employers sought and were selected to participate.
We are expecting similar success at this year's Destination Canada Job Fair, which will be held in Paris, Brussels and Tunis in November. Through the job fair, employers may hire candidates who are eligible to immigrate to Canada on a permanent basis. They may also hire temporary foreign workers in francophone minority communities if they satisfy criteria established to assist official language minority communities, or if they are unable to find French-speaking Canadians to fill positions, while ensuring the integrity of our immigration system. Of course, I must continuously emphasize that this program is based upon the principle that Canadian applicants must be considered for a job before foreign nationals.
This is not the entire story, Chairman. As we bring more official language minority immigrants into Canada, it's equally important that we make sure, once they get here, that they integrate into their new communities and that they succeed.
To that end, my ministry continues to focus on providing a variety of settlement services, including free language training, job search training, orientation services, mentorship programs, internship programs, and the like.
In fact, since 2006 our government has tripled settlement funding from about $200 million a year outside of Quebec, to $600 million this year. Quebec's funding is based on its own separate formula.
In recent years, we have significantly increased the number of settlement services in francophone minority communities. Between 2009 and 2012, we increased the number of points of service for French-speaking newcomers across Canada by almost 70%, from just over 100 to about 170. These are now located in 24 cities across Canada, outside Quebec.
Just recently, we released Welcome to Canada, a guide to help newcomers to settle in Canada. The French version of the guide can act as a map to help French-speaking immigrants settle in their new country, and can also act as a resource for communities welcoming French-speaking newcomers.
Moving forward, we remain focused on ensuring that we are serving the needs of newcomers and the communities that welcome them.
That is why, between 2008 and 2011, CIC funded more than 50 research projects focusing on access to support services for official language minority communities. This research has contributed to a better understanding of the needs of French-speaking newcomers and the challenges they face in integrating into their new communities.
I would like to pause for a minute here to point out that the federal government has a separate immigration arrangement with Quebec under the Canada-Quebec Accord. In theory, Quebec selects immigrants for that province and determines how settlement funding is distributed. I use the expression in theory because 90% of immigrants registered under Quebec's immigrant investor program settle elsewhere than Quebec, particularly in British Columbia. It would be useful to study the issue, because in our opinion it makes no sense for Quebec to be promoting an immigration program that allows permanent residents to immediately move to other provinces.
We work closely with the government of Quebec in immigration, as well as the issue of official language minorities.
The federal government has funded research that has helped us to define retention issues and the needs of English-speaking immigrants in Quebec. This research could improve the reception and integration of immigrants in official language minority communities across Canada.
Mr. Chairman, I know your committee is always looking out for the interests of official language minorities of both languages in all parts of the country. But when it comes to immigration, it gets a little tricky, because most of the power in immigration selection and settlement is devolved to the Government of Quebec. The question of attracting anglophone immigrants to Quebec or supporting them directly through settlement services is much more complex than it is in the rest of the country, where we make the selection choices and fund the services directly.
I'll start wrapping up, Mr. Chairman. The government recently unveiled a new road map for official languages. The road map identifies three pillars, with which you're very familiar. As the Prime Minister has said in the context of immigration, our official languages are a crucial anchor point between newcomers and established Canadians.
Under the Roadmap for Official Languages, the government will be investing $149.5 million in official language initiatives related to immigration over the next five years.
Extensive research consistently shows that official language ability is one of the most effective pathways to integration into Canadian society for immigrants to Canada. By this, I mean not only economic integration, but of course social and cultural integration.
Because of this, the government is committed to promoting the benefits of Canada's official languages and investing in language training for newcomers.
Mr. Chairman, in my remarks I have tried to give you an overview of some of our most recent initiatives in immigration, of how they relate to the Official Languages Act, and of the significant progress we have made in increasing the number of immigrants in official language minority communities. I admit that there is more work to do. We remain committed to further progress and look forward to your questions and suggestions in this respect.
Thank you very much.
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View Pierre Dionne Labelle Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good day ladies and gentlemen.
I must admit I am somewhat surprised, today, to hear the minister's comments. I came to this meeting expecting to hear about the Immigration Department's record and I have heard very harsh comments regarding Quebec. I am wondering if the Conservative government is questioning the immigration agreement with Quebec.
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View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you Mr. Chair.
Minister Kenney, as Quebecker, I would like to hear more from you on the Canada-Quebec Accord on Immigration.
Would it be preferable to maintain the status quo, or is there room for improvement in order to deal with the new immigration reality we will see in the next 5, 10 or 15 years?
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View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
We do not intend to propose changes to the agreement. Moreover, we would like to raise some issues with the Government of Quebec concerning their selection of immigrants which, in my opinion, does not correspond with the principles of the agreement.
On this topic, I would like to put a question to our NDP colleague who represents a riding in Quebec and who has just raised certain concerns. Is he comfortable with the following:
In Quebec there is the Investor Program. Each year Quebec accepts approximately 4,000 permanent residents through this program. According to all the data we have, including data provided by the Government of Quebec, out of these immigrants, over 90% of those selected by Quebec do not stay in the province. They do not live in Quebec and they do not even pass through the province. In fact, 90% of those immigrants settle outside of Quebec.
In short, I am simply raising the point that the authority to select economic immigrants through the agreement is intended for immigrants in Quebec. In fact, it is not up to Quebec to select immigrants for Vancouver or Toronto.
I think there is some skimming going on in the program, whereby Quebec is taking the money of immigrant investors and using it, but the British Columbia taxpayers must pay the price for the social services provided to immigrants selected by Quebec.
What I am saying is that we support the Canada-Quebec Accord relating to immigration. This agreement exists so that Quebec can choose immigrants who will boost the number of francophones in Quebec. This is not about taking money from Chinese millionnaires so that they settle in Vancouver.
I personally would like to raise our concern over the way the Government of Quebec manages this program. In fact, it is not up to the taxpayers of Ontario and British Columbia to bear the costs to support these immigrants, while Quebec cashes in.
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Jean-Pierre Gauthier
View Jean-Pierre Gauthier Profile
Jean-Pierre Gauthier
2013-05-28 16:43
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The multilateral protocol for agreements that we have in effect provides us with broad parameters. We negotiate bilateral agreements with each province according to their needs. On page 4, you see a quick overview of the content of the protocol for agreements.
First, the annual funding for immigration has been set at $259 million. You can see that the major part of the funding is set aside to support provinces in minority-language education or second-language learning. Those two aspects combined come to $234.5 million. A little less than 10% of the funding is allocated each year to two youth programs managed by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. These programs provide exchanges; they also allow language monitors to join teachers in classrooms in order to help with and enhance the teaching of the first or second language. That gives you an idea of the scope of the protocol for agreements in financial terms.
As we talk about the factors that go into the federal-provincial-territorial agreements, we must deal with the way in which the performance and the outcomes are evaluated. Page 5 explains that the agreement protocol sets out six outcome domains that are agreed with the provinces. Within those outcome domains, each province is asked, in each bilateral agreement, which initiatives it wishes to undertake in the areas of second-language or minority-language teaching. The table gives you some examples of the kinds of initiatives that provinces or territories can undertake in order to reflect the outcome domains identified in the agreement protocol.
Page 6 shows how the accountability system is subsequently structured. We are well aware that this is an area of provincial or territorial jurisdiction. The provinces therefore establish their priorities according to their overall priorities in the area of education. During the discussions that they have with us, the provinces also identify and specify performance targets and indicators that they are going to use. We document the objectives, the targets and the indicators as established by the provinces and we are content with them. Each year, we make sure that the funds spent by the provinces match the planning established under our agreements.
First, the provinces and territories submit annual financial reports. Every two years, we ask them to measure their progress in terms of their targets. A discussion between our offices and the provinces then takes place. The goal is to make sure that the progress and the efforts that have been made are fully measured.
In addition, you have the regular processes in the departments—that is, evaluations and internal audits—that are also applied to these agreements for these programs.
Finally, in terms of reporting, we have the annual reporting of the department, which captures the essence of our activities.
You'll find on pages 7 and 8 a selection of examples of those targets to illustrate a bit better what kinds of things we are talking about. If I take the first example, it will give you, for teaching of the second language, what kinds of targets have been established by, for example, the Northwest Territories with respect to the participation of students.
You have the target they set at the beginning of the agreement, and in the right-hand column you basically have the results of what they achieved so far, at the interim report stage, which is year two, 2010-11. We just concluded year four on March 31, and we're expecting reports from the provinces and territories that will give us a complete overview over the whole four years of the last protocol agreements we have.
Just in passing, you have the same thing on page 8, but this time it's for teaching in the minority language as part of the activities we have with provinces and territories. Again, it's a selection of targets and the kinds of achievements provinces have reported back to us in their biennial reports on progress and results.
Let us now move to pages 9 and 10. By taking a step back, we try to get an overall picture of which results and which achievements we can identify as activities in the area of second-language and minority-language learning.
On page 9, we can see the achievements in second-language education. About 2.4 million young Canadians are learning English or French as a second language. That is a little more than half the school population. We also see that immersion programs are highly popular, with strong growth and demand.
Among the achievements in the second-language area, we also see innovative second-language teaching methods like, for example, intensive learning in one language. At the moment, 8,000 students are involved in the provinces and territories.
We also see improvements in the measurement of learning, but that is an area that you have already heard about. This is the ability to properly measure and certify the level of language mastery attained by a student. In a second language, of course. Thought and work is needed in this area, and steps are being taken to properly measure the quality of the learning.
We can also see that particular attention is paid to exchanges and cultural activities in immersion in order to enrich the experience of learning a second language, so this is not simply an experience limited to a classroom.
The next page, page 10, shows more or less the same approach, but this time it deals with minority-language education. About 240,000 young Canadians are studying in their language in a minority situation. This student population is increasing, whereas the general student population across the country is dropping slightly. This is encouraging.
We see that schools want to play a greater role in their communities. They want to be part of community life. So a number of schools also want to become involved in community activities after school hours or on weekends. They want to provide services like public libraries, for example. To the extent possible, things are brought together in different facilities. You will see figures from various places, like the 37 community learning centres in Quebec, where there is an attempt to play a greater role in minority situation schools. They do not want to limit themselves to teaching the Department of Education's program. They want the school to play a role in the community as well.
Efforts are also being made a post-secondary level. You can see in the presentation that there are programs in more than 40 colleges and universities in minority situations. I would also like to highlight the work that is being done by our colleagues at Health Canada and Justice Canada, each of which is trying, in its own area of activity, to develop a program in various colleges and universities.
There is a list of other more specific achievements at the bottom of the page, but I will not spend time describing them. I will quickly wrap up with the last page.
In short, the current protocol agreements that we have in place ended on March 31 of this year. That was the end of the fourth year. We are well advanced in negotiating the next agreement, which will be for five years. We've pretty much finished, so we're optimistic that we will have the agreement in place. That will set the stage to get discussions going with the various provinces and territories to establish a bilateral agreement. That is the document by which we gain authority to start funding their activities, whether it be for second language learning or minority schools.
I will stop at this point.
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View Stéphane Dion Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Rothon, Mr. Lussier, Mr. Gauthier and Mr. Déry.
On page 4, we see the following two numbers: $148 million for minority-language education and $86 million annually for second-language learning.
Can you guarantee that the two envelopes are watertight and that the provinces cannot transfer money from one envelope to the other without people really knowing what is going on?
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Jean-Pierre Gauthier
View Jean-Pierre Gauthier Profile
Jean-Pierre Gauthier
2013-05-28 17:04
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Every year, we ask the provinces for financial reports. First, they need to provide forecast reports for the coming year and, second, they need to provide actual reports at the end of the year demonstrating that the amounts have been spent according to the conditions of the agreements signed with them.
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View Stéphane Dion Profile
Lib. (QC)
Yes, but I am not sure that that is what I want.
I am familiar with that type of report. Usually, everything is rosy and we feel that all is well. I would like to see a report that tracks the money.
I should perhaps let Mr. Rothon have the floor.
You have heard them. They are very confident that things are clear and so on. But your presentation was significantly less optimistic. How can we reconcile the two perspectives?
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Robert Rothon
View Robert Rothon Profile
Robert Rothon
2013-05-28 17:06
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It all depends on the reporting system that each province or territory has.
I can use British Columbia as an example. We must not forget that, under the current agreement, school boards receive 82% to 85% of the funding set out in the agreement. The funds are sent to the school boards, which must prepare a report and submit it to the Ministry of Education. As a best practice, the Ministry posts it on its website for the public to see. That is very good.
We could improve the form itself because it is quite vague. It is not as detailed and elaborate as we might like it to be. Can we really track every dollar or at least have a very good idea? Based on my experience in the field, it depends on the requirements made by the provincial Ministry of Education for its own school boards. I suspect that Ottawa could still ask or encourage the provinces to ask for the accounting.
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Hubert Lussier
View Hubert Lussier Profile
Hubert Lussier
2013-05-28 17:07
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Clearly, it must be understood that we obtain reports that are validated by the provincial authorities and that follow their own accounting rules.
We have a co-operative relationship and we must have faith in what the provinces are telling us. Sometimes, these questions open the door to doubts. Without wanting to open a Pandora's box and uncover a scoop, I think the Commissioner of Official Languages—it is no secret—has looked into the issue on occasion. He won't hold it against me if I say that he is looking into this issue right now. He would certainly be happy to answer your questions if you invite him to speak to the issue.
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View Stéphane Dion Profile
Lib. (QC)
The table on page 4 indicates an amount of $258 million in annual federal contributions and it is all combined.
Are second-language learning and community schools two separate envelopes or one? In Manitoba, you received $5,540,451. We are counting on you to prepare a report for us indicating how the money has been used.
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Yvan Déry
View Yvan Déry Profile
Yvan Déry
2013-05-28 17:09
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There is an agreement, two envelopes and six outcome domains per envelope. For each of the six outcome domains, the provinces present initiatives that they want to take, indicators and targets. Of all our agreements, 700 initiatives come from the provinces. There are about 250 indicators and therefore targets as well. Under the action plan, the provinces can make transfers as part of the same language objective. If we see that the creation of new programs for minorities requires less money than anticipated, we can use those funds for something else in the program for minorities.
To make a transfer for the second language or vice versa, we need to be informed and to approve the request. The protocol has defined those transfers. So there is one agreement, but two envelopes being tracked. Financial reports are not prepared for each of the initiatives. The people from Canadian Parents for French would like to find their school board and school. We don't have that type of detailed information, but we have some quite specific numbers on the types of initiatives being funded, according to the language component and the outcome domain. In those categories, the provinces must demonstrate that they are using our money and that they are also investing their own money.
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View Royal Galipeau Profile
CPC (ON)
View Royal Galipeau Profile
2013-05-28 17:18
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to thank the witnesses for being here today and congratulate Mr. Lussier on his promotion. The last time we spoke, he wasn't assistant deputy minister. Congratulations.
I don't think you took Mr. Dion's comments seriously. The problem with the federal government's involvement in second-language learning across Canada, through the provinces, has been around for over 40 years. I remember horror stories from that time. The provinces were very happy to receive federal money, but used it to pave roads, especially during provincial election time.
I'm not aware of similar things now. However, organizations that promote linguistic duality across Canada still have some doubts. They wonder whether federal money, given blithely to the provinces for second-language education, is really being used for its intended purpose.
You also said that the 10 provinces have made reports and that, if we had not seen them, it was because we were not serious enough about looking at them. Did you do a report on those reports? Does an analysis of all the reports exist? If not, do you expect the official languages czar, Mr. Fraser, to do it? Mr. Fraser is not responsible for the money, but you are.
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Hubert Lussier
View Hubert Lussier Profile
Hubert Lussier
2013-05-28 17:20
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Mr. Fraser will draft his report based on the information he will get from us, and which the committee can also use to get informed.
As you said, the issue has been around for some time. It is important to keep in mind that, for each dollar the federal government invests through the programs we are talking about today, the provinces invest more. The difficulty is monitoring the path the federal dollar takes. It goes from the ministry of education to the school board to the school and sometimes right to the class, where the investment ends up so that a child can learn the second language. There is a series of steps that ensures that there is a considerable potential for problems in tracking the dollar.
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Michael McKinney
View Michael McKinney Profile
Michael McKinney
2013-04-23 10:39
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I'll just make a few comments, following up on Chief Twinn.
I've worked with the Sawridge First Nation for over 26 years. So while I'm not first nations myself, I've had a lot of experience with the Indian Act. The act is quite short. It's only 122 sections. It looks very simple on its face, but over time it's gotten very thick and heavy with cases and interpretations. There are still provisions in it that, if you read them, are not true because cases have overturned them or struck them out, and Parliament hasn't cleaned that underbrush up yet.
There are a number of issues. You have to be careful when you try to make changes to that very complicated regime that has evolved over time because unintended consequences can happen.
In clause 2 of the bill, it talks about collaborations with first nation organizations. The chief has commented on that. There really should be consultation with first nations. It shouldn't be a collaboration and it shouldn't be with organizations. It's the first nations who the duty to consult is owed to, and that's who should be consulted. Prior to enactment or changes to the Indian Act, the first nations are the ones who are affected by the Indian Act, and they represent their people.
You've already commented on the barter and trade. If you take away ministerial approval, who approves the trade of materials? The resources that are on reserves will just be left in a vacuum. There should be a transition. Perhaps the chief and councils or some other system could be put in its place. Sometimes if a chief and council were put in the place of the minister, at least there would be somebody there to approve changes.
Under wills and estates, the biggest concern that I would have would be the repeal of subsection 44(3) and paragraph 46(1)(d). Both deal with lands. Those sections basically said the province didn't have jurisdiction to deal with the devolution of real property in reserves. Now, with the repeal of those sections, are we saying the provincial law applies to reserves? That is a transfer of jurisdiction, and I believe the CBA addressed that earlier.
The repeal of section 85.1 may cause problems for first nations. Sawridge doesn't have an intoxicant bylaw, but there are first nations that would definitely be affected if suddenly that power is taken away. I'm certain a court would say that power is not inherent in section 81. Otherwise why was section 85.1 passed in the first place? That history is not going to be erased.
One of my biggest concerns is proposed section 86.1. It requires the publication of laws. We've taken away the requirement of the minister to approve bylaws. But now in a very paternalistic way we've said, here's how you're going to publish your laws, instead of leaving it up to the first nation governments to publish their laws in a way that is appropriate for their first nation. It's quite onerous because if you have a thick land use bylaw, and you have to publish it in a local newspaper, that could be quite costly, and probably not too effective because the people who read that local paper might be largely uninterested.
Those would be my comments.
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View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
This is I think to the auditor's side. I'm curious to probe the idea of the long-term reporting that involves the provinces and territories. I know it's in the report and I know you've mentioned it again, but can you just explain it to me? I'm trying to get my head around the point you're trying to get to with this data and the precision.
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Nancy Cheng
View Nancy Cheng Profile
Nancy Cheng
2013-03-05 16:31
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Mr. Chair, the question is not to get to a point of precision but for the perspective of completeness. Currently, Finance has agreed to provide the information at the federal government level, but it doesn't include the provinces or the territories, so the overall fiscal outlook of Canada is incomplete at the moment and it's to try to encourage Finance to consider doing that.
We do know that they do that kind of analysis and it does have information. Perhaps it's not as precise as it can be because they don't have direct access to all the cabinet assumptions and all of that stuff, but Finance certainly has the capacity and the information to do so and it would provide for a much more complete picture if we could have the provincial element in that.
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Laurie A. Henderson
View Laurie A. Henderson Profile
Laurie A. Henderson
2012-12-12 15:38
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Thank you.
Thank you for providing the Yukon government the opportunity to comment on these changes.
By way of background, I will note for you that the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act has its origins in the Umbrella Final Agreement and the 11 Yukon first nation final agreements that have been signed into effect by the Government of Canada, the Yukon government, and 11 Yukon first nations.
Chapter 8 of these agreements established the framework for the Surface Rights Board legislation, and the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act came into force on February 14, 1995. Additional responsibilities of the board are established in other pieces of legislation, including two Yukon statutes: the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act.
The amendments to the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act that are contained in Bill C-47 have been under discussion for some time. The Yukon government was first contacted about the amendments in the fall of 2011 by officials from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
In January of 2012 there was a meeting between federal officials and Yukon government representatives to discuss the proposed changes. That meeting was followed up a number of months later in August with a letter, wherein the federal government was actually seeking views on the specific changes that are now in the bill.
In September of this year, Yukon advised those federal officials that it had no substantive comments on the proposed changes. That continues to be the case today; the Yukon supports the changes and believes they will make board operations more efficient and cost-effective.
Two of the changes in Bill C-47, particularly the amendment of section 10 and the amendment of section 11, which authorize a member whose term has been terminated or expired to continue to act as a member until a decision has been made on the matter before the board, will ensure efficiency in resolving disputes. Without this provision—and we have certainly run into this situation with other boards and committees in the Yukon—if a member's term does expire or is terminated prior to rendering a decision, the hearing may have to be restarted, and that obviously would incur additional costs for both the proponents and the board officials. The Yukon government sees this change as quite positive, and it is welcomed.
The third change in Bill C-47 involves the amendment to section 23 of the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act. This one requires the auditor of the board to audit the accounts, financial statements, and financial transactions of the board each year and to report on the same to the board and the minister. In the Yukon's view, this change again will help ensure financial accountability and transparency in the board's financial management. As it does for the other amendments, the Yukon supports this change and sees it as an improvement over the past arrangement, whereby the financial statements were actually audited by the Auditor General of Canada.
In conclusion, we would like to reaffirm the Yukon government's support for these three changes. Thank you for the opportunity to appear today.
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Marie-France Kenny
View Marie-France Kenny Profile
Marie-France Kenny
2012-10-23 17:13
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Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada to participate in the pre-budget consultations.
I am appearing before you today on behalf of 2.5 million French-speaking citizens and taxpayers living in nine provinces and three territories.
The Canadian government's priority is to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. That objective is shared by the citizens of francophone and Acadian communities. We contribute to that goal in a concrete way. Recently, the Conference Board of Canada carried out another study that showed the full contribution of those francophone citizens to our country's economic growth.
However, there is still much to be done. Although a large portion of French-speaking citizens seem to be doing well on an individual basis, the same is not true of francophone communities, where there are still discrepancies in access to services and economic vitality.
By creating favourable conditions for francophone communities to be able to thrive in French, the government will be much more successful in reaching its economic growth objectives. We recently presented those conditions as part of the consultations on official languages held by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the Honourable James Moore.
First, the government should invest in our population. I am talking about support measures for young families and young people to enable them to pass on the French language and strengthen their sense of identity through increased access to cultural and heritage activities, and child development support programs. But that is not all. Like all of Canada, our francophone communities depend on the contribution of newcomers who settle among us to succeed and help our regions grow. That requires investments in the promotion, recruitment, welcoming, economic integration and retention of French-speaking migrants and immigrants.
Second, we recommend investing in our space. To be successful, francophones must have access to a wide range of services and activities covering all areas of our daily life—from education to health, from justice to culture, from young people to seniors.
Third, investments should be made in our development. We need measures to create thriving francophone communities where people can be successful. Communities play a role in regional economic development. That involves investments in workforce training—be that in terms essential skills, such as literacy, or post-secondary education—and support for entrepreneurship, and for cultural and heritage tourism initiatives.
For those investments to produce the anticipated results, emphasis should be placed on strengthening the capacities of organizations and institutions on the ground. They deliver those services and activities, and achieve that development by and for the community. Francophone citizens increasingly want to live in French, and they want to have those services and activities provided in that language. Organizations and institutions that produce results for Canadians have not received additional support for doing that work. They are trying to meet a growing demand, with resources that, in most cases, have not increased since 2005.
That has prompted us to issue two recommendations.
The first recommendation is for the next federal budget to announce the renewal of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality with investments in the three major priorities we have just presented—our population, our space and our development.
The second recommendation is for the budget to announce increased support for organizations and institutions that ensure the provision of services to francophone citizens. That increased support would involve, among other things, improvements to the Community Life component of Canadian Heritage's Official Languages Support Programs.
However, creating favourable conditions for our communities to contribute more to Canada's economic growth is not limited to investments. As I have already pointed out to this committee, very often and too often, the Canadian government's investments—through federal, provincial or territorial agreements—did not benefit the French-speaking citizens we represent.
Currently, nothing is stopping provincial and territorial governments from being accountable when it comes to the way funds from transfers in areas such as health, education, immigration or labour have translated into concrete services for francophones. We are talking about taxpayers' money and services for all citizens.
Improvements must be made in order to ensure efficiency and responsibility. That is why the FCFA recommends that, in future federal/provincial/territorial agreements, the Government of Canada identify an amount dedicated to services specifically intended for French-speaking citizens of the province or territory with which an agreement is being signed.
We also recommend that those agreements systematically include strong linguistic clauses that make provinces and territories accountable.
Thank you.
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Tony Maas
View Tony Maas Profile
Tony Maas
2012-05-31 18:34
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Thank you to the Chair, first and foremost, and to the members of the committee for the invitation to speak here today on part 3 of Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill.
As introduced, my name is Tony Maas. I am the national freshwater program director for WWF-Canada. We are, as I think most folks know, one of Canada's largest and oldest conservation organizations. We have staff and offices from coast to coast to coast. Importantly, our work is science based and it is solutions oriented.
I'll talk a bit about our freshwater program as context. Our overarching aim is really about protecting and restoring the health of aquatic ecosystems so that we and future generations can benefit from the many values they provide, whether that's clean water and recreational opportunities, or habitat for fish and water fowl.
With this as context, and given my area of expertise, I'm going to focus my comments primarily on changes to the federal Fisheries Act that are proposed in Bill C-38.
The Fisheries Act is widely recognized as one of the strongest legal tools that Canadians have to protect fish and their habitat, including the water that the fish depend on, water that needs to be of a quality that doesn't poison them, water that shows up at the right time and in the right quantity to maintain their habitat. This, of course, is the same water that we all drink and swim in and use in our recreation. So in addition to protecting fish and fish habitat, the act has provided an extra layer of security around the water resources that we all depend on.
Is the act and how it's currently administered perfect in my view? Well, no, actually it's not. I think there's plenty of room for improvement. But the opportunities for improvement relate largely, in my mind, to how it is applied in a management context, not to the fundamental principle of protecting fish and fish habitat—which certainly holds water today more than ever, given that the numbers of endangered fish across the country continue to grow, and pressure on our rivers, lakes and wetlands mounts.
Let me give you three specific concerns relating to the changes to the Fisheries Act proposed by Bill C-38. First is the narrowing of the act's scope to include only commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries. Creating a system that is based on determining what rivers and lakes deserve protection means, by definition, that some will be left without protection under the act. Does this mean, for example, that wilderness waterways that are not presently fished by commercial or recreational interests or aboriginal peoples get left out? What about streams that are currently being restored to support future recreational fisheries? There's a lot of hard work, including work by our own organization, and dollars that go into restoring the great ecosystems with the intent of having viable recreational and sport fisheries.
So my point is that while the terms “commercial”, “recreational”, and “aboriginal” fishery are defined in Bill C-38, the complete lack of detail on what the scientific basis and decision-making process used to establish which fisheries and waters are in and which are out makes it very difficult to assess the impacts of these changes and what they will mean on the ground.
Our second concern is the shifting of the rationale for prohibition from harmful alteration and destruction of fish habitat—which I'm sure that we in this room all know as the HAD provision—to a test of serious harm defined as “the death of fish or permanent alteration or destruction of habitat”. This would shift the litmus test from a precautionary approach based on accumulated expert scientific advice concerning potential impacts of a project or undertaking to an as of yet scientifically undefined test of serious harm and permanent damage. Again, I'm not saying these new terms cannot be defined by science, but I do assert that when it comes to management and protection of natural resources, like the fisheries and the ecosystems that sustain them, a clear definition of foundational scientific concepts and criteria should proceed, not follow, legal and policy reform.
Finally, our third concern is the exemptions and delegation of responsibility. The provisions in the act that allow for the exemption of certain works, undertakings, and activities, and certain fisheries or waters have the potential to significantly undercut the important influence of scientific experts in the civil service who have the required knowledge to properly assess the impacts of a project and the sensitivities of particular habitats and waters.
On the issue of delegation, I believe there's significant benefit actually in working with provinces and territories to make implementation of the Fisheries Act more efficient, and I would observe that many delegation arrangements already exist to allow provinces and territories—and in the case of Ontario, where I live, the conservation authorities—to administer authorizations under the act. It is unclear, however, what if any additional responsibilities are contemplated for provinces and territories under the changes proposed in Bill C-38 and, more importantly, whether the provinces and the territories—and in the case of Ontario, where I live, the conservation authorities—have the capacity, particularly in these uncertain economic times, to take on additional responsibilities without additional resources.
For me, what is more concerning about the delegation possibilities in the proposed bill is the potential to also allow for delegation to industry or developers the responsibility to authorize adverse impacts on fish and fish habitat, which ostensibly is leaving the fox in charge of the hen house. Such authorization should remain in the hands of government agencies that are by definition bound to make decisions in the public interest.
I'll wrap up with a few more comments that are largely related to the process by which the changes to the Fisheries Act are being brought forward. I noted at the outset that we as an organization are solutions based. The success of our solutions is very much a product of our efforts to create and sustain diverse and often challenging relationships and partnerships that cut across civil society, government and, most importantly, often business and industry.
I believe the process by which the changes to the Fisheries Act, and for that matter, changes to environmental regulations more broadly, are being brought forward through the omnibus budget bill stands to undermine the very important progress that has been made over the last 20 to 30 years in developing strong, functional partnerships between industry and NGOs. Businesses—at least those that we have worked with—recognize the importance of ensuring and enhancing their social licence to operate.
Strong environmental laws are a foundation of this social licence to operate. They allow industry to function knowing that they have the support of Canadians because governments have ensured that rigorous protections of our environments are in place. When we erode those protections, in my view we begin to erode the potential for businesses to operate in a sustainable way in this country.
If I can leave you with just one message, it is this. Improvements to administration of the Fisheries Act do not require the significant changes to legislation proposed in Bill C-38. They are of a nature related to management functions and those can be resolved without these reforms. To that end, I would finish by urging you, the members of this committee, to use your influence to separate the reforms to the Fisheries Act from Bill C-38 so that they can be addressed in a timely but thorough manner through a reasoned multi-stakeholder and, importantly, a science-based consultation process, so that we can together work towards the goal of creating solutions to protect and restore the health of our remarkable freshwater fisheries and the habitats and ecosystems that sustain them.
I thank you for your time. I look forward to your questions.
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Jamie Kneen
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Jamie Kneen
2012-05-30 20:57
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for the invitation.
I am here today as a representative of MiningWatch Canada, a national non-governmental organization—not a charity—and as co-chair of the environmental planning and assessment caucus of the Canadian Environmental Network, which brings together some 60 groups and environmental assessment experts from across the country.
I'm here to urge you to ensure that the environmental provisions of Bill C-38 are given proper consultation and debate.
Part 3 of C-38, with which we are concerned today, is seriously flawed, and in our view, to allow it to proceed without very major amendment would be irresponsible. With all due respect to the experience and knowledge of this committee, there is simply no way of adequately addressing part 3 as part of C-38. These provisions must be separated and debated on their own, and if need be, removed and resubmitted to a new legislative process.
The government is arguing that the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, CEAA 2012, and related measures must be passed as part of the budget process, because they are urgently required to protect and promote investment and development.
The urgency is clearly manufactured. The existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was referred for review by Parliament two years ago. The government did nothing for 16 months, and it had actually dropped efforts by the minister's own regulatory advisory committee, as well as the caucus, to prepare for the review going back several years before that.
Just as importantly, these measures are more likely to exacerbate uncertainty and delay, which will ultimately put development projects at risk and drive away investment.
I would like to focus on three key problems in the new act: the abdication of federal responsibility over the environment; the abandonment of the principles of sustainable development and the integration of those principles into decision-making; and the serious diminution of public participation and the opportunity to fulfill government's obligations towards aboriginal peoples. I am not here to speak for aboriginal peoples, and I will not focus extensively on those issues, but both MiningWatch and the caucus have serious concerns in this area.
In place of a positive assertion of a federal role in EA, the act explicitly limits federal authority to specific regulatory jurisdiction, as in proposed paragraph 5(1)(a). This flies in the face of the Supreme Court's rulings in Oldman and MiningWatch, and ensures that federal environmental assessment will have no meaningful relation to ecological or social reality. This will make it all but impossible to establish any kind of consistent national practice.
The substitution and equivalency provisions do precisely what the caucus and others have studied and warned against. It will create a patchwork of inconsistent EA application, both within the federal government and between federal and provincial processes. Rather than seeking to use the federal regime as a backstop for coordinated and harmonized processes, it is to be broken up among agencies with different mandates, structures, and capacities—the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the NEB, and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission—and will be further devolved to provincial and land claims mandated processes that have little in common with each other. The contrast between the federal and the B.C. assessments of the Prosperity mine project, which should have undergone a joint review, provides an excellent case study.
By weakening the federal role and splitting up federal assessments among several federal agencies and provincial and territorial EA processes, CEAA 2012 actually balkanizes EA across about 19 very different processes. It's certainly no longer a one-window approach. And given the weakness of its transboundary and regional assessment provisions, it's also doubtful that it will result in having “one project, one assessment”.
In terms of integrated decision-making, while the designated project list approach to triggering an environmental assessment is not necessarily a bad thing, the way it is used in this act is problematic. It's one thing to focus assessment efforts on larger projects with potentially more significant impacts, but in our view, it is a mistake to do so without making any effort to ensure that there are mechanisms to ensure that smaller projects are tracked, monitored, and, as necessary, assessed. At the same time, rather than integrating sustainable development, the screening process and the layers of discretion on whether an assessment will actually be undertaken and what its scope will be will tend to relegate environmental assessment to the margins of decision-making, both for projects and for regulators.
In addition, any mention of strategic environmental assessment—the assessment of policies, plans, and programs—has disappeared completely.
With regard to public participation, that is a key element in environmental assessment. Here, it is curtailed by the restricted number of projects being assessed, diminished opportunities for public participation, and artificially imposed timelines. If you recall, the Supreme Court did back MiningWatch in its decision on the Red Chris mine review, which was based on the guarantee of public participation in comprehensive studies under the 2003 CEAA amendments.
The new act promises public participation, but it provides no criteria and no guarantee that this promise will be carried into substitute processes. It contemplates participant funding only for panel reviews. Regardless, the arbitrarily compressed timeframes imposed under the new act will make meaningful public participation almost impossible. It's important to note that while the act imposes strict limits on the time available for public involvement and specifies only limited options for federal agencies to extend their time, it places no restriction whatsoever on the time a proponent may take in responding to information requests, or to change and resubmit project plans, which they do quite regularly.
In addition, and in combination with the inconsistency created by substitution and equivalency provisions, artificial timelines will make it very difficult for aboriginal communities to fully participate in environmental assessments, in recognition of their constitutionally protected rights. In short, even giving the most generous benefit of the doubt to both the formulation of the act's absent schedules and regulations, and the application of ministerial and bureaucratic discretion—in the general absence of useful criteria, I might add—the key features of this act cannot produce robust, effective, and efficient environmental assessment.
In its key aspects, it makes the process significantly less predictable and consistent. It limits its utility as a forum for establishing a social licence to operate and for fulfilling the Crown's obligation to obtain the free, prior-informed consent of aboriginal peoples for development projects affecting their lands and livelihoods.
The public has an expectation of fair treatment before the law. I would not be the first to note that in the absence of a public process that is perceived to be fair and that allows for the fulfilment of aboriginal peoples' rights, people will tend to take matters into their own hands. Lawsuits and direct action will also create greater uncertainty and unpredictability, and can reasonably be expected to more than counter any anticipated efficiency gains.
It's hard to avoid the conclusion that faced with complex legal and jurisdictional questions, and under pressure from the provinces and some industry sectors, the government has chosen to basically throw up its hands and walk away from all but its essential legal obligations. That is simply not acceptable.
Thank you.
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Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
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Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
2012-05-29 18:42
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Thank you Mr. Chair, members of the committee.
[Witness speaks in Nuu-chah-nulth]
Thank you for that pronunciation as well. My name is A-in-chut...[Witness speaks in Nuu-chah-nulth ]
Just a few words in my Nuu-chah-nulth west coast of Vancouver Island language to express my appreciation for being here in Algonquin territory.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about part 3 of Bill C-38.
As you are aware, I am currently national chief for the Assembly of First Nations. We are a national political advocacy organization for first nations in Canada.
In January of this year, first nations and representatives of the crown and the Government of Canada participated in a historic crown-first nations gathering. The intent of this gathering was to strengthen and reset the relationship between the crown and first nations, to move away from unilateral imposition of policies or laws that have had impacts on first nations peoples and territories to one that recaptures mutual respect and partnership.
Bill C-38 and the wide-sweeping and comprehensive changes to other pieces of legislation it contains continues historic unilateralism and imposition that we have worked, and continue to work, to overcome.
In November 2010, Canada endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which reflects the recognized customary international legal standard of free, prior, and informed consent. Free, prior, and informed consent, Mr. Chair, is not mentioned anywhere in Bill C-38.
Domestic law recognizes and enforces the duty to consult and accommodate first nations when crown conduct or omission may adversely impact established or potential aboriginal and treaty rights. Part 3 of C-38 will have a direct impact on the federal government's ability to fulfill these standards.
The Assembly of First Nations, to be very clear, is not a first nations government. Consultation or engagement with the AFN does not replace or fulfill the crown's duty to consult and accommodate treaty and rights holders where their rights may be infringed. To date, first nations have not been engaged or consulted on any of the changes to the environmental and resource development regime proposed within Bill C-38. This opens the crown to future risk and will have numerous and likely unintended consequences.
The stated intention of these legislative and associated regulatory changes has been said to improve the timeliness and efficiency of environmental regulations and project assessments. In its current form, part 3 of C-38 clearly represents a derogation of established and asserted first nations rights. If enacted, it will increase the time, costs, and effort for all parties and governments, as first nations will take every opportunity to challenge these provisions.
There are a number specific concerns, Mr. Chair, with the changes proposed in part 3 of C-38, which I will outline.
As I know you're aware, C-38 changes the scope and purpose of the Fisheries Act to the protection of fish that supports commercial, recreational, or aboriginal fisheries. Previously the act had prohibited “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat”. The proposed change prohibits “serious harm to fish”, defined as “the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat”.
I come from a fishing people, the Nuu-chah-nulth, as I said, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
[Witness speaks in Nuu-chah-nulth]
In my language, core principles that we govern ourselves and live by are how our people manage aquatic resources within our respective territories. These words in my language describe an understanding about the interconnectedness of all life forms, that nothing is isolated from other aspects of life around it and within it—in essence, the ecosystem. These principles are the basis for respect for ourselves, others, and nature. In managing aquatic resources, these values bring respect for the oneness between humans and the environment and respect for all other life forms. Our obligation is to sustainably manage all aquatic life forms that exist, regardless of their perceived economic value.
The balance of resources in habitats is one that changes over time, and this is something well-known to first nations. However, only enabling the protection of aquatic species once there is certainty of their demise or permanent destruction of their habitats is likely too late and will not restore the necessary balance for their sustainability.
Specifically, C-38 would remove protection for fish habitat from the Fisheries Act and enable the minister to create regulations allowing for the deposit of deleterious substances. This may leave fish species and habitats vulnerable to destruction and prevent first nations from continued enjoyment of their constitutionally protected right to fish.
I feel strongly that first nations have a shared vision with all Canadians, particularly for clean water. Our watersheds provide us life, food, and health. Bill C-38 clouds that vision by creating new political discretion to poison our waters by changing section 36 of the Fisheries Act. Instead of allowing deleterious deposits to destroy our water, we must fulfill our inherent obligation as responsible stewards of the environment.
Changes to the Fisheries Act will also reduce federal decision-making about fisheries management, the effect of which will be to narrow the triggers to consult and accommodate first nations, thereby reducing the federal obligation. First nations will vigorously oppose any attempts by the crown to erode or evade lawful obligations and responsibilities to first nations, which leads to an important element regarding the honour of the crown being called into question.
The CEAA last underwent a legislative review prior to Supreme Court decisions that established the duty to consult and accommodate. The sequence here is very important to point out. It has never been updated to operationalize the duty to consult and accommodate. In this regard, Mr. Chair, CEAA 2012 is a step backward.
Under the current CEAA, projects with minor environmental effects may have profound effects on first nations' rights, which triggers the duty to consult and accommodate. CEAA 2012 ends environmental assessments for minor projects currently referred to as “screenings”.
In addition, CEAA 2012 will continue substitution of provincial environmental assessments for the federal process as well as deem equivalency of such processes, which would exempt CEAA 2012 from further application.
The government is correct to note that where relationships with first nations, provinces, and the federal government have already been established, such as the Mi'kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada consultation process, substitution in those cases may work well. But this also raises significant concerns, and it could very well lead to more situations that I know many are familiar with, such as the Prosperity Mine project in the interior of British Columbia, which was approved through the provincial environmental assessment process but subsequently rejected following more stringent federal review.
This also invokes for many first nations—for those of you familiar with the situation across the Prairies—the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement, or NRTA, of 1930. This was a unilateral agreement between Canada and the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta to transfer resources and lands that were never ceded or surrendered by way of treaty by the first nations—another major impact.
The impact of the NRTA has been to lesson the scope and implementation of the numbered treaties in the Prairies, and it is a source of continued and ongoing conflict and litigation over 80 years later. This is about all of us, and for Canada, learning from history. This is what the recent crown gathering was an effort to reflect on, and to do much better going forward. First nations will not stand for such unilateral actions and will take all avenues available to them to prevent further derogation of their rights.
The increase in discretionary powers afforded to the minister within the Fisheries Act and the number of cabinet decisions under CEAA 2012 and the National Energy Board Act will severely impair transparency and accountability to first nations. The broad restrictions around cabinet confidences will mean first nations will find it increasingly difficult to know how the government considered first nations rights when developing accommodation measures. This too compromises the crown's ability to discharge its duty to consult and accommodate first nations and is an area for clear challenge.
Finally, on the issue of timeframes established for first nations to respond to notices under CEAA 2012 and the National Energy Board Act, they are insufficient, not allowing adequate time for appropriate review, analysis, and response. It's unreasonable to provide first nations with only 20 days to provide comprehensive scientific and legal materials related to assessing the potential impacts of a project. Any notices under CEAA, NEB, or the Fisheries Act related to development, authorizations, regulations, or policies must be sent directly to communities in an accessible form. The use of online notices limits first nations participation and is therefore insufficient to fulfill the crown's duty to consult with first nations.
While the government has an established legal duty to consult and accommodate first nations under Bill C-38, part 3, as well as any regulations developed under the authority of the act and any new policies created to interpret the act, such consultations have not yet taken place.
Numerous organizations in addition to the Assembly of First Nations, including MKO, in Manitoba, and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, have all registered protest to the CEA agency's call for public comments on regulations to be developed under CEAA 2012, which had a deadline of May 23, 2012.
Paragraph 62(h) of the CEAA and paragraph 105(g) of the CEAA 2012 state that one of the objectives is to consult with first nations. However, to be clear, there's been no identification of a process for funding for such consultations to take place.
In conclusion, Canada, in our view, needs to take a step back and reconsider its approach. Hastily moving forward on significant and broad changes that will impact the exercise of established and asserted rights by first nations will have long-reaching and expensive consequences, contrary to the interest in moving in this direction.
Taking time to work with first nations jointly on resource management and protection plans will achieve far better outcomes in terms of certainty and increased prosperity, and we have many examples we can point to. This is the spirit in which, as I said earlier, we participated in the crown-first nations gathering, and it's in this spirit of a renewed and respectful relationship that we urge Canada to proceed.
We have the following three recommendations:
Part 3 of Bill C-38 needs to be withdrawn to take the time to work with first nations to ensure their rights and interests are reflected and will not be compromised through such legislation. Failing that, I would recommend that the legislative amendments in part 3 be separated from the main bill to ensure appropriate study and amendments can take place with engagement and input from first nations.
Specific funding allocations should be made to engage and consult with first nations on CEAA 2012, amendments to the Fisheries Act, amendments to other legislation within part 3 of the act, regulations under the amendments, and any new policies relevant to the interpretation of amendments to new or existing environmental regulation.
Finally, any and all notices provided with regard to project reviews must be sent directly to first nations.
Bill C-38 unacceptably impacts first nations' rights. While I've been speaking about fish tonight, really I'm talking about the lifeblood that connects all of us, and that's our waterways, our watersheds.
I will close on that notion that we not forget about the need for a vision going forward to achieve pristine water in our country.
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Ward Prystay
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Ward Prystay
2012-05-28 21:31
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good evening. My name is Ward Prystay. This evening I am here to provide testimony on behalf of Canadian Construction Association, or CCA, on part 3 of Bill C-38 regarding responsible resource development. I am a principal with Stantec Consulting, which is a member of CCA. I have 20 years of experience as an environmental professional, with the past 18 years as a fisheries and environmental assessment consultant.
The CCA represents 17,000 members across Canada working primarily in the non-residential construction business. As an industry, construction employs over 1.25 million Canadians and accounts for just under 7% of our overall GDP. CCA members are supportive of strong environmental assessment and permitting processes and believe they are an important contributor to sustainable development in our country.
With regard to the proposed changes of Bill C-38, I would like to comment on the amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act.
During the parliamentary review of CEAA in November last year, CCA presented membership concerns to the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment regarding the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of the act and the lack of certainty and predictability in its implementation. In particular, CCA raised concerns about uncertainty regarding triggering and timeliness of the process, the wasted resources applied to the assessment of projects and activities that have very little environmental risk, and the duplication of effort and process when both federal and provincial environmental assessments are triggered.
The changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in Bill C-38 address the concerns that CCA raised last November. I would like to touch on these.
With respect to uncertainty regarding triggering and timeliness of the process, the current CEAA framework triggers an environmental assessment by one of four mechanisms: when the Government of Canada is the proponent of a project; when it will transfer lands to facilitate a project; when it will provide funding to enable a project; or when it issues a permit or authorization identified in the law list regulations.
For private sector projects, it is usually a permit or authorization that triggers an environmental assessment. As a result, proponents must invest in a high level of engineering design at the planning stage of their projects to trigger CEAA. For environmental screenings there is no timeline for receiving formal confirmation that the act applies. The 2011 timeline regulations for comprehensive studies have been a distinct improvement, but they still allow three months for a decision on whether the Environmental Assessment Act applies. They also allow the agency to suspend the 365-day review process whenever a question is asked of the proponent.
Under the proposed changes, environmental assessments will be triggered based on project-specific thresholds identified by regulation when there is a direct linkage to federal areas of responsibility. This list-based approach of deciding which projects require an assessment was a recommendation of CCA last November, and it is fully endorsed by the membership. It removes uncertainty about the need for environmental assessment and will improve project planning. It will also free up federal resources from a bureaucratic interdepartmental coordination process that has no value from an environmental protection perspective.
The concern CCA raised regarding timeliness of the process is also addressed by the proposed changes. The key steps to triggering an environmental assessment are clearly defined in the new legislation, as are timelines for each of these steps. This will bring certainty to proponents at the early stage of the process. There are also timelines for reviewing the environmental assessment and for making decisions. This will provide significant certainty in project planning, regardless of the type of environmental assessment.
I have an important comment on the proposed changes to CEAA in regard to the beneficial use of government resources. Today there are 3,040 environmental screenings, 36 comprehensive studies, and 11 review panels active under CEAA. Many of these screenings are mere checklists for legislative compliance—they're not true environmental assessments. The new project-based threshold approach is expected to eliminate the majority of the small screenings that pose little to no environmental risk. In addition, the consolidation of responsibility for conducting environmental assessments—under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board, and the Nuclear Safety Commission—will result in the Government of Canada making one common decision for a project. It will no longer make the same decision five or more times for a single project through various departments.
With respect to duplication of effort and process where both federal and provincial environmental assessments are triggered, the proposed amendments will allow the federal assessment requirements to be addressed by provincial processes where they're equivalent. This will bring to life the philosophy of one project, one assessment.
Together, these changes will simplify scoping, improve the timeliness of assessments, and free up government resources to focus on assuring resource projects are constructed, operated, and decommissioned in an environmentally responsible manner.
We would like to raise one minor concern regarding section 67 of the proposed legislation. We are concerned that intervenors may use this clause as a basis for legal challenges against the federal government. In this section, where the federal government carries out a project that is not a designated project under the act, there is a requirement to confirm that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects before proceeding, or if it would, that the Governor-in-Council would decide if the project is justified.
We believe this determination cannot be made without an environmental assessment that meets the standard of CEAA. We believe this is not the intention of Parliament, and we recommend considering an amendment that clarifies the basis and scope of this determination.
CCA has also reviewed and supports the proposed changes to the Fisheries Act. Specifically, CCA agrees with the addition of a purpose section of the act; revisions to the pollution prevention and fisheries protection provisions; changes that allow a single authorization to be issued addressing both fish and habitat together; and inclusions of a framework for improving the timeline for review of applications.
Together these will provide clarity on interpretation and application of the act across Canada, and will ultimately improve the efficiency of the approval processes for projects.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, CCA views the proposed changes within part 3 of Bill C-38 as a positive step forward. We believe the changes to CEAA will establish a regulatory framework that assures one project, one assessment. This will minimize duplication of process, improve timelines, and free up federal resources to tackle projects with the potential for greater environmental consequences.
In addition, the changes to the Fisheries Act will clarify the intent of the legislation to protect fisheries and ensure greater consistency in application of the act across Canada.
Together, these will provide greater certainty on the regulatory requirements and timelines for projects without lowering environmental standards.
Once again, thank you for inviting CCA to share our membership views on the changes to Bill C-38.
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View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2012-05-17 9:09
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Thank you.
Good morning, honourable members.
Mr. Chair, I am pleased to be here this morning as you commence your study of Bill C-38. I will focus my remarks on proposals for a new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as well as important changes to the Species at Risk Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
Some comments during the debate about this bill have emphasized the proposal to repeal the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This is not accurate. The current act will be repealed and, I must emphasize, replaced with the proposals in Bill C-38 for new and effective environmental assessment legislation.
Environmental assessment is a key part of my portfolio. It's an important part of the government's plan to strengthen environmental protection today and for the benefit of future generations of Canadians.
This is why we have protected funding for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency at a time of fiscal restraint. Despite what the media has reported, there are no cuts to the agency's funding. In fact, the agency's budget will increase by $1.5 million.
Sufficient and stable funding, when combined with the amendments two years ago to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, have laid the foundation for the fundamental changes proposed by Bill C-38. These changes will make the process more predictable and timely, reduce duplication, strengthen environmental protection, and enable meaningful consultation with aboriginal peoples.
As my colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, has pointed out, these are the four pillars of responsible resource development. Some may erroneously view these as conflicting objectives. I do not. They are at the heart of Bill C-38 and the new environmental assessment process. I'm confident that Canadians will benefit from timely, high-quality environmental assessments that avoid duplication and needless double effort with provinces.
Bill C-38 will strengthen protection of our environment. With the time available I want to provide members of the committee with some of the highlights.
First, I've spoken in the House and elsewhere about the importance of enforcement. Bill C-38 builds on the past work of this government. This issue first came to the forefront through Budget 2008, which stated that:
Environmental laws alone are not enough to guarantee a cleaner, better environment. These laws also need to be enforced.
My predecessor followed through with the Environmental Enforcement Act that was passed by Parliament in 2009.
Bill C-38 builds on this excellent legislation by closing the enforcement gap for environmental assessment. The new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act creates a decision statement that will include enforceable conditions. These conditions are backed up by inspection powers to confirm that mitigation measures are being implemented. There are penalties ranging from $100,000 to $400,000 for violations.
Legislation is just part of the solution. The government has permanently increased resources to environmental enforcement by $21 million annually to ensure that we have the officers, the equipment, the forensic science, and the tools to do the job.
Today, there are 50% more enforcement officers than there were just five years ago. They are stationed in offices across the country. They are working in the fields to detect those who violate our environmental legislation, and take action against them.
These officers will be able to inspect and take action on violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. These new enforcement provisions are complemented by a requirement for a follow-up program after each and every environmental assessment. These programs verify the accuracy of an environmental assessment's predictions and determine whether mitigation measures are working as intended.
This is the way we will identify environmental results. It's also a means to learn and build on past successes and avoid past mistakes. It is a means to improve the practice of environmental assessment.
The bill also includes new authority for the Minister of the Environment to launch regional environmental assessments in cooperation with other jurisdictions.
Currently, the act is restricted to a single-project focus. It is a challenge to assess cumulative effects of multiple projects and activities in a region experiencing significant development. The requirement to assess cumulative effects is nevertheless carried out from the current act—it is carried over, rather, from the current act. It is an essential part of the federal regime.
What we are proposing to add, Mr. Chair, is a new tool for regional studies to deal with the issue of cumulative effects. The Minister of the Environment will have authority to establish an independent committee of experts to conduct a regional strategic environmental assessment in cooperation with another jurisdiction. The results of these studies can feed into the assessment of specific projects, and the gains therefore would be twofold.
First, we will have a deeper understanding of the ecosystem involved. This will translate into better environmental assessments and approaches to mitigation. Second, by doing much of the upfront scientific work, regional studies will streamline project-specific reviews.
Mr. Chairman, once again, the conclusion is clear. We are proposing changes that support the four pillars of responsible resource development.
With regional studies, we have a tool that will promote timely and predictable project reviews. We will gain information that strengthens environmental protection. By working with the provinces, we avoid duplication. Finally, such studies provide an opportunity for aboriginal peoples to make their concerns known, thus informing later consultations with respect to specific projects.
Mr. Chair, there has been much talk and great exaggeration and misrepresentation about the changes to environmental assessments under the responsible resource development initiative. I've brought forward some facts to correct the record.
First, and most important, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's budget is not being cut. Second, with new enforcement provisions, mandatory follow-up programs, and a new tool for regional studies, we are enhancing—not gutting, as some would perceive—federal environmental assessment.
Mr. Chairman, I'd now like to speak about aboriginal consultations.
The environmental assessment process is uniquely situated to assist the Government of Canada with its constitutional duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate aboriginal groups when their rights might be adversely affected by a proposed project.
Environmental assessment, Mr. Chair, starts early in the planning of a project, when it is still possible to design changes to reduce impacts. Changes to the environment that affect aboriginal peoples, including their current use of the land and resources for traditional purposes, are one of the “environmental effects” specifically referred to in this bill. There are also logical points in the process to directly obtain input from aboriginal groups to learn of their concerns and to develop means to avoid or reduce negative effects.
For these reasons, the government will continue to integrate, to the extent possible, aboriginal consultations into the environmental assessment process.
Budget 2012, Mr. Chair, provides the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency with $6.8 million per year to support consultations with aboriginal peoples. Of this, $5.3 million is a renewal of funding first provided in 2007, and it is now being topped up by a further $1.5 million in new money.
While the exact allocation of all these resources is still being determined, I can say that a significant portion will go directly to aboriginal groups involved in consultations. The remainder will be provided to the agency to support its involvement in consultation activities.
Mr. Chair, I want to assure all members of this committee that the federal government takes its responsibilities very seriously. This is why enhancing consultations with aboriginal peoples is one of the pillars of the responsible resource development initiative. Agency staff and review panels are engaging, and will continue to directly engage, aboriginal peoples in their communities.
As part of the responsible resource development plan, the government is also proposing some changes to the Species at Risk Act and to the disposal at sea provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. These changes allow legally binding timelines for permitting decisions to be set in regulations.
Amendments to the disposal at sea permitting process will also allow for permit renewals for routine, low-risk projects. They will change requirements to allow publication on the CEPA registry website, rather than in the Canada Gazette. This will create a more efficient and transparent process for issuing permits.
The Species at Risk Act amendments allow for longer-term permits and make the conditions for these permits enforceable. These changes will support effective protection of listed species, while allowing the government to issue authorizations for a time period better suited to large projects.
In closing, I wish all members of the committee well as they embark on this important study of the proposed Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
Thank you.
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Marie-France Kenny
View Marie-France Kenny Profile
Marie-France Kenny
2012-05-01 8:46
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Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne to appear once again before you as part of your study on the Roadmap for Linguistic Duality.
My name is Marie-France Kenny and I am the president of the federation. Today, I am accompanied by our director general, Suzanne Bossé. We are privileged to be the last to appear of the francophone and Acadian community organizations that have appeared before you. This provides us with a wonderful opportunity to draw from everything that has been said to look towards the future and set the foundations for the next initiative, an initiative which, as Senator Comeau put it, is not a new roadmap but rather a GPS to update everything that will follow the roadmap as of 2013.
The participation of all Canadians in our linguistic duality and community support for official language minority communities are the two main pillars of the Roadmap for Linguistic Duality. Initiatives and projects that resulted from the roadmap were aimed at meeting these objectives. The community organizations that appeared before you described, in quite eloquent terms, the results that have been achieved. They have mentioned the challenges, but also the successes, the obstacles met along the way, and also the opportunities that have been found.
The mid-term report published by Canadian Heritage a few weeks ago also makes mention of certain successes and progress, but was somewhat laconic when it came to challenges. The testimony provided to this committee regarding the mid-term report shows us that, in looking towards the future, the two objectives of the roadmap remain quite relevant. We are therefore recommending that the government initiative, which will follow the roadmap starting in 2013, should also strive to ensure the participation of all Canadians in linguistic duality and support official language minority communities.
Let us now take a look at the substance of this next government initiative. Francophone and Acadian communities set development priorities in the Strategic Community Plan that resulted from the broad consultative process which took place during the Sommet des communautés francophones et acadienne in 2007. The community representatives who appeared before you are all members of the Leaders' Forum, a group of some 43 organizations and institutions involved in the implementation of this plan. Several of them have, moreover, talked to you about this issue.
Given the objectives that we have just recommended, it would be quite logical and natural that the initiative following the roadmap be aligned closely with this Strategic Community Plan. After all, the government and the communities are both seeking the same result: communities or individuals that have everything they need to be successful and to contribute to the development of our country. The Strategic Community Plan includes five major themes, three of which show the way with respect to the priorities that the post-roadmap initiative will be focusing on; mainly, our population, our space and our development. They too align closely with the priorities of the government.
When we talk about our population, we are talking about strengthening the demographic weight of our communities. We are talking about supporting youths and families so that they will be able to pass on the French language and strengthen their sense of identity through greater access to cultural and heritage activities and child development support programs. We are also talking about strategies to welcome, integrate and retain migrants and immigrants who settle in our regions so that they can be successful and contribute to the development of our communities and regions. Mention, moreover, should be made of roadmap investments that enabled the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to provide better support to our communities in reaching the Strategic Community Plan objectives to promote immigration within the francophone minority communities.
Such support should also be renewed and expanded so as to strengthen, as well, community capacity in this area. The initiative that follows the roadmap should also include the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade so that it can equip communities and embassies to engage in promotion activities abroad. The theme Our Space is about access of francophone citizens to a wide range of activities and services in French delivered effectively, enabling them to participate actively in the growth of their community. It is also about providing a continuum of services that deal with every aspect of daily life, from education to health, from justice to culture, from youths to seniors.
This theme also deals with empowerment, ensuring that citizens themselves become involved in the growth and economic and social well-being of their communities. This leads me to the important consideration of priorities that should be in the initiative following the roadmap.
The implementation of the roadmap was undertaken by a well-coordinated and committed network working on behalf of francophones. The roadmap emphasized services to citizens, but it was the organizations and institutions in the communities that delivered the services.
They did this without any significant strengthening of their capacity. However, it seems to us that the more you invest in the capacity of the service delivery agency, the greater yield you get from the investment in terms of effectiveness, results and client satisfaction. Hence it is important that the initiative following the roadmap focus on service delivery and on strengthening this network of associations and organizations which, from one end of the country to the next, focus on the citizen and are best able to provide services at the least cost.
Let us now examine the theme of development. Francophone and Acadian communities have given themselves the objective of dealing with the aging population and rural exodus, stimulating jobs and economic growth. They want to achieve this by relying on the vitality of their network, on both private and community entrepreneurship, on innovative local development strategies, on the strengthening of human capital, on the acquisition of those skills required to ensure that everyone is successful and on the recognition of foreign credentials.
It is essential, to do this, that the initiative following the roadmap include, in particular, investments in manpower training, either through the development of essential skills such as literacy or through post-secondary education. Supporting entrepreneurship and cultural and heritage tourism initiatives is also important.
I have provided you with a few brushstrokes to give you a general overview of the objectives of the Strategic Community Plan and what will become the next Roadmap for Linguistic Duality. Moreover, I would really like to emphasize the importance of making sure that the primary initiatives of the current roadmap not come to an end on March 31, 2013. These initiatives will create momentum that must not be halted at a time when the benefits are starting to be felt.
I would also like to say a few words about the participation of Canadians in this linguistic duality. In this respect, the current roadmap rolled out certain initiatives which included the implementation of Canada's language portal and universal access to the Termium software.
Although these initiatives are commendable, it is important that we make a distinction between the strengthening of linguistic duality in the public service and in Canadian society. Since the initiative that follows the roadmap will bring us to 2017 and the 150th anniversary of Canada, we would look favourably on any initiatives that would create opportunities for dialogue and exchange amongst Canadians, leading to a better understanding and interest in this linguistic duality.
To conclude, I would like to provide you with a few key concepts regarding the governance of the next Roadmap for Linguistic Duality. We feel that the success of this initiative will depend on the extent to which we define the roles and responsibilities of those called upon to implement it. I am referring here not only to federal institutions but also to provincial, territorial and community governments.
We need to create a management and accountability framework, and our communities need to participate in defining objectives, indicators and timelines. Moreover, community organizations and institutions will no doubt be called upon to play a lead role in implementing this new roadmap, as they were in the case of the current roadmap.
In planning services and in ensuring a positive outcome for such an initiative, it is essential that we all have a good idea of how it is to be implemented along the way. We are recommending that the next roadmap include a monitoring tool that will enable us to follow investments as they are made, by department, by year and by program.
To conclude, I would like to leave you with some more general thoughts. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the Hon. James Moore, asked us, last fall, which story francophone and Acadian communities would like to tell in the next roadmap in 2017-2018, as part Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations. We would like to be able to say that the support of the federal government has enabled francophone and Acadian communities to make giant strides in achieving substantive equality, that we have stopped being looked at solely as minorities, but rather as fully-fledged citizens who, shored up by this substantive equality, contribute fully to development and economic prosperity, and that we are more confident than ever that our children and grandchildren will, after us, be able to continue building this country in both official languages.
And finally, we hope that more than ever before, Canadians will have had the opportunity to talk to each other, to understand each other, and to appreciate all of the richness of our linguistic duality.
Thank you.
I am ready to answer your questions.
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View Hedy Fry Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Hedy Fry Profile
2012-04-03 10:11
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Thank you very much for your presentation, Mr. Glover, Ms. Mullin, and Ms. Sabourin.
In countries that have dealt successfully with this drug shortage, such as New Zealand and the United States, they do a couple of important things: they identify the drugs that are going to be short, they anticipate, and they manage.
Now given that you, as a federal government, are responsible for regulation and approval, you have a huge role to play in identifying and managing and fast-forwarding areas where you think there's going to be a shortage and in other areas involving manufacturing the drugs, etc. There is a role.
We heard from many people who presented here that the Food and Drug Administration has been very successful in using their mandate to predict, identify, and manage shortages. First and foremost, patients need medication when they need medication. Many patients who don't get that medication could die or could be severely impaired for the rest of their lives.
When we start talking about whose jurisdiction is what, it becomes moot. It isn't really about who you pick up the phone and call; it is about whether the patient gets the drug and gets to be well. At the end of the day, I think the responsibility rests with the people who regulate the drugs and who are able to work with others—as I would like to say, a leader—to try to find a way around this problem. It's about human beings. It's about Canadians. It's about protecting them and caring for them.
We're trying to find a resolution here. It's not a case of fault or blame. Could we put that aside for a minute?
In November 2011 the Food and Drug Administration told Sandoz that they did not comply with manufacturing standards. Was your department aware of that in November 2011? Were you aware then of what that impact could be on real people? I hope you didn't know. If you had, I would have thought you would have felt it was a moral obligation to warn people that this was going to happen, so that doctors, anesthetists, pharmacists, hospitals, etc. could start stockpiling.
Were you aware of the November 2011 FDA ruling? If you were, did you tell people? Did you warn them? If you didn't, why not? That's my first question.
Second, I continue to hear the federal government saying that they are just regulators and approvers, but you're the fifth-largest deliverer of health care in this country, so you're not just regulators and approval parties. You actually deliver services to the armed forces, the Inuit, the first nations, etc., so you need to know how these people you deliver services to are going to be able to get their medications and be able to get help.
Can you give me an answer about your knowledge of Sandoz and about thinking a federal leadership role is required, first in delivering care to the people you need to and second in terms of coming together and working with the provinces to make sure Canadians get drugs?
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View Dany Morin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Dany Morin Profile
2012-03-29 10:25
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Thank you, Madam Chair.
First off, I want to offer a special thanks to my colleague Anne Minh-Thu Quach for being the first member of Parliament to raise the drug shortage issue involving Sandoz in the House of Commons. I am proud to belong to a party that sees drug shortages as important and one that shows leadership.
Ms. Quach then addressed a question to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, Mr. Carrie. He replied that he would see to it that the appropriate information was provided to the right people at the right time and that, as a result, doctors, pharmacists and patients would be informed of what was happening with enough advance notice to adjust treatments if need be. That was his reply. If I go by that, I am inclined to think that the government is showing leadership, although everything you have said suggests that the federal Conservative government has failed to show any leadership in this matter.
Furthermore, Ms. Lamarre, I was quite struck by something you said: between 2006 and 2010, shortages had quadrupled. You even said the most recent shortage was widespread. That is disturbing, indeed.
I want to pick up on what my colleague Libby Davies pointed out. In 2008, the industry minister, Tony Clement, was made aware through a report by the Competition Bureau. In 2011, the Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society also contacted the Minister of Health, Ms. Aglukkaq, who has been on the job for four years. Unfortunately, raising the matter with cabinet or even Ms. Aglukkaq's office does not do any good. I agree with you, the government is failing to show leadership on this issue, and I find that appalling.
What's more, as Dr. Haggie mentioned, the current government prefers to point the finger at the provinces. Ms. Leitch, a Conservative member, repeated that position today. She blamed health professionals for not monitoring the situation, and the provinces, saying it was their problem.
What it boils down to, in my opinion—and I would like Dr. Haggie to comment on this—is a lack of leadership by the federal government and a passing of the buck to the provinces. It is already common knowledge that there is a doctor shortage in the provinces, at least in Quebec, and given the scarce drug supply, some treatments and surgeries are being delayed. Provincial wait times to see a doctor and receive treatment for a variety of conditions will increase. So that will be the provinces' problem, not the Government of Canada's. I am appalled by this lack of leadership. I want to hear your thoughts, Dr. Haggie, on what I just said.
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John Haggie
View John Haggie Profile
John Haggie
2012-03-29 10:28
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Looking at it from a patient's perspective, they don't have a grasp of the niceties of jurisdictional disputes. They really don't understand how it is that the drugs they get actually get to them. To be perfectly honest, before these last few weeks, I was pretty well completely ignorant as well. I'm not sure I'm any wiser now, because what this whole exercise has highlighted to me is that there isn't a seamless approach to health care. There isn't a seamless approach to the issue of pharmaceuticals.
You could almost argue that pharmaceuticals now are the defining modality of medical management. When I trained, we were on the end of fixing things surgically. Diseases I treated with a knife, as a resident, are now treated medically, for the benefit of the vast majority of patients. Drugs are no longer just one of those things that are there as an optional extra.
I turn it back from the patient's point of view and say that the constitutional debate, the funding debate, the financing debate between health boards, provinces, and the national group has not informed them. It has not made them feel comfortable. It has not made them feel as though things are moving in the right direction. Finger pointing and blame....
You need to learn from case studies, and where you stand on that depends on where you sit, quite frankly.
As Rick Hillier, another Newfoundlander, said, no good crisis should go to waste. The one good thing that could come out of this is that we can do it a hell of a lot better next time and we won't end up in this pickle in the future. If that requires that the feds and the provinces and the territories sit down together and actually talk to each other, is that such a bad thing?
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View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2012-03-27 9:28
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to thank our witnesses.
It's really good to hear what you have to say, Justin, and congratulations.
I want to tell you this. When I started, I went to northern Ontario. I didn't know one word in English. I started learning it at the age of 16. I remember my first job was at a gas pump. My boss came to me and asked if my restroom was clean. I thought she was talking about the restaurant and I said, no, not here, across the road. I almost lost the first job I had. The little bit I have today I'm so proud of, and I want to translate that to my children.
I really believe our country is a bilingual country, and it should be bilingual. The services should be. We're not asking all the anglophones to become French. We're not asking all the francophones to become English. But we have to give services in both languages. We created and fought hard and worked hard to build this country with the aboriginals, and to be in peace instead of dividing ourselves. Your message to me is very positive.
And for you, Madam Perkins, it is the same thing. You did learn and it's not easy. It's not an easy task and I really believe you're proud of it. Parents for French, I lift my hat to you people because you're doing a great job.
In New Brunswick, for the first time in my life, I saw anglophones rally in the streets because they wanted to learn French. They did that in Fredericton. There were about 350 people in front of the legislature. When the government decided to start immersion at grade 5 instead of grade 1, parents were not happy. The government was not listening to the parents. The government of the only officially bilingual province in our country—in the Constitution—told parents that they were not allowed to have their children in immersion until grade 5.
I saw that in your report you gave to us this morning, you spoke about four other provinces, but you didn't speak about New Brunswick, except to say that New Brunswick is not doing its job. Now, this morning, the Premier of New Brunswick will hear Yvon Godin tell him that they are not doing their job. They should listen to the parents, work with the parents, and help them to do what needs to be done. I hope it gets done and I want to say that.
Now, Madame Perkins, I want to hear more about the road map and the money put into the provinces. The Commissioner of Official Languages says that he cannot go in the provinces and see where the money is spent. You know that money is going to the provinces. It's supposed to put money towards the language, to help francophones be able to stay alive and keep their language. At the same time, anglophones would be able to learn the other language. Do you feel that there is enough transparency in this, or do you just not know where the money is going?
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Lisa Marie Perkins
View Lisa Marie Perkins Profile
Lisa Marie Perkins
2012-03-27 9:31
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Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for your question regarding the transparency of road map funding, or funding for official languages in the provinces.
Across Canada we have, I would say, different degrees of success of being able to follow where the money goes, from the national right down, in some cases, to the school boards themselves. Our branches and our national office has been working with Canadian Heritage, with ministries of education, and indeed with local school boards to increase that transparency. Most important for us is knowing where those funds go, because I think it celebrates some great success of what those moneys go for, and translating that into those outcomes. However, it is a current challenge that our parents are facing across the country.
Robert, do you have anything to add?
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Robert Rothon
View Robert Rothon Profile
Robert Rothon
2012-03-27 9:32
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I would like to mention that transparency in terms of how those funds are used is always somewhat problematic, given that it depends on the province. Some provinces have rather tough reporting requirements, other less so.
I come from British Columbia and we have one of the most developed systems where school boards have to fill out a form and then post it on the website of the Ministry of Education. However, the ministry does not have enough staff to check those expenses. So the system is sort of based on good faith, but it is not really verifiable. If I were an accountant or an auditor, I would not be very happy with it.
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View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
2011-11-21 15:58
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Before I respond, let me say that I'm also looking forward to the review that's being conducted by the Senate committee on the 10-year accord. There was a requirement under the 2004 accord that there would be an evaluation as to what had been achieved over the last 10 years, so we're looking forward to that. That will also be very helpful to the provinces and territories.
As I stated before, our government is committed to a universal and publicly funded health care system and the Canada Health Act, but the upcoming discussions with the provinces and territories will be about accountability and results for Canadians. I have already been in contact with some of my provincial and territorial counterparts for preliminary discussions as to what their priorities are in the future on a go-forward basis. As well, the meeting later this week is an opportunity to engage them in improving accountability as we move forward beyond 2014.
As we've done in the past with Quebec, our government will continue its dialogue with Quebec for the renewal of an agreement and accord. We're very mindful, again, in working with jurisdictions like B.C., that it is a provincial jurisdiction.
So we'll be following that example. I'm looking forward to my conversation with the provincial and territorial health ministers this week.
Thank you.
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View Dany Morin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Dany Morin Profile
2011-11-16 17:12
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Thank you.
I have only five minutes and many questions. I ask that the witnesses keep their answers short. My first question is for Ms. Laurent.
In your presentation, you talked about home care. Based on your expertise, do you think that the next accord in 2014 between the federal government and the provinces should include the progress expected and the objectives concerning home care so as to hold the provinces accountable for investments and thereby move home care services forward?
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View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
I will be quick and skip my preamble.
Dr. Turnbull, you said something earlier that was like a V-8 moment. You said that you'd like to move some beds out to save some money so that you could serve patients better.
All too often the solution to health care in this country is more money. We have the second most expensive system in the world. Some things we do very well; others we don't. How do we push innovation? How does the federal government ensure that the provinces and health authorities are making choices that ensure that dollars are spent wisely and are addressing some of these issues?
If you're waiting for a bureaucrat in Ottawa to push those beds out the door, I suspect you'll be waiting forever.
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Jeffrey Turnbull
View Jeffrey Turnbull Profile
Jeffrey Turnbull
2011-11-16 17:29
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I think we have a unique opportunity through the 2014 accord. There is an opportunity, when those transfers are committed, to ensure that they actually do have strings attached to them and that there's an accountability framework to ensure that meaningful change actually happens as a result of the transfers. I would argue that 2014 should be the beginning of a transformed health care system. Any investment we make in terms of transfers should come with accountability.
The accountability doesn't have to be from the province or territory to the federal government; it has to be from the province and territory to their citizens. We should insist that this innovation, this change that we're hoping will take place as a result of the transfers, be done in a transparent and accountable way and that it be based on national standards. I think it's a great opportunity.
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Susan Eng
View Susan Eng Profile
Susan Eng
2011-10-24 16:17
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Thank you very much. I could say all of the above; indeed, all of those points are extremely relevant.
We have talked with our membership. We are engaging with them all the time, and we do focus on the fact that lots of work has been done around the country in a patchwork. There are all kinds of pilot projects that are taking place, but what is needed is a comprehensive set of strategies that can only come with a national conversation.
The health accord presents the opportunity for the federal government to set aside money to actually fund these initiatives, but a condition of having that money transferred to the provinces is to set certain national standards, certain national priorities, and to ensure there's accountability for the money being spent. In observing and reviewing the work that has been done according to the existing accords, we find the accountability is lacking.
While there may be projects that are happening—we know a few of them are very promising—we're not certain the knowledge is being shared. A lot of good work and a lot of serious money has been spent, so I think the federal role, and there is definitely a federal role, is to set the large framework. The coordination, the strategy, the accountability is implicitly a federal role.
The provinces, of course, have to deliver. Even in the latest elections this fall, all of them addressed many of these issues in a patchwork. They all had pieces of the puzzle, but none of them had the whole. The single most important message for us is that there be an overall framework.
The second piece, and I want to re-emphasize this because it's important from the point of view of fiscal management, is home care was identified as the next essential service to respond to an impending challenge, which is valid all by itself. But we feel that it's also important because it has the opportunity of restructuring the health care budget for the future. We're worried about its sustainability. We're hearing arguments for private pay, etc., and yet we're not looking at restructuring our actual delivery of those health care dollars and using them more appropriately. The opportunity arises with home care and caregiver support to actually divert a massive amount of demand, and therefore the opportunity to also put our fiscal books in balance.
Those would be our major recommendations for the federal role.
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Nicholas Gazzard
View Nicholas Gazzard Profile
Nicholas Gazzard
2011-10-20 10:03
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Good morning.
I would like to preface my remarks by saying we recognize the need for fiscal prudence in the coming budget. We would also, along with others, though, caution the Minister of Finance to show some flexibility and keep a fiscal open mind, given the international economic uncertainty we face.
In that context, I want to address very quickly the three elements of our brief.
The first is the need, in our view, to continue to invest in Canada's cities. We have an opportunity here in Budget 2012 to renew the federal government's good track record on investment in infrastructure and housing. This is an opportunity for Canada right now in the face of global uncertainty to ready its cities and its urban infrastructure to be economically competitive in the future, to create what we would like to call “joined up cities”, where transportation, housing, and jobs all come together to create an environment that is conducive to economic productivity.
Part of that, of course, is housing. The government has a good record in investing in housing. Close to $400 million a year is going in through the affordable housing framework, which runs between now and 2014. But we would argue, given the housing need in this country, that more is needed.
A number of witnesses, both before and after my appearance, will argue for tax-side incentives to create affordable housing. We would agree with that, with one caveat: that the housing that is created retain long-term affordability. We have seen tax-incentive housing developed in the past, which has lost its affordability. We would argue that if the government is going to invest on the tax side to create opportunities for affordable housing, it needs some sort of guarantee of continued affordability for the long term.
One possible way to do that is to look at the low-income housing tax credit system in the United States. This was actually a Conservative platform in the 2007 federal election. We would argue that you should revisit that and consider carefully whether that might be a scheme that could work in Canada to create more affordable housing.
Our second thing today actually is not one that is going to cost you any money. I'm sure the Canadian Taxpayers Federation will be happy to hear that. The federal government is in the process of completing agreements with the provinces in the affordable housing framework. Part of those agreements is an accountability clause, which we actually argued strongly for leading up to the renewal of the affordable housing framework.
The accountability framework requires the provinces and territories to actually account for the money they are spending on housing to demonstrate how they are creating affordability on the one hand and reduction in housing need on the other. What we are asking the federal government to do is to hold the provinces' and territories' feet to the fire here to make sure that the accountability framework is robust and that the provinces and territories really do account for the housing reduction that is caused through spending federal housing money.
I'd like to dwell now on the third point, which I think is perhaps the most pressing for us. Over the next five or six years an enormous number of funding agreements for existing what we might call legacy social housing are going to come to an end. That housing is facing a very uncertain future. The question is going to be the affordability of that housing for the low-income residents. What is going to happen is that subsidy streams will expire at the same time as the mortgage commitments those housing projects have. The question is, will those two things cancel each other out, or will they face an uncertain future in terms of the affordability of this housing for the low-income households?
What we argue is that there is not enough going on, not enough being talked about, not enough being discussed around the future of this housing. Last week the president of the CMHC, Karen Kinsley, was in front of the HUMA committee and said broadly that much of this housing is going to be okay.
We take issue with that. We don't believe it's going to be okay. The requirement to reinvest in this housing, coupled with very high ongoing maintenance costs, means that the affordability of this housing for low-income families is very much in doubt, very much at risk. We are looking at up to 200,000 units of affordable housing in this country that may no longer be affordable to seniors, to other people with fixed incomes, and to people with disabilities, going forward.
Part of the legacy of our affordable housing program in this country is security of tenure for low-income households. That security of tenure is in danger of being lost unless the federal government takes a leadership role to address the shortfall that's going to occur once the subsidy streams come to an end.
We are urging the finance minister to press CMHC to release a long-awaited report on the future of this stock and to address the financial shortfall that's going to occur.
One thing we don't want to see in the face of a real scarcity of affordable housing is the loss of housing that is already on the ground and is currently affordable, but that affordability is no longer guaranteed in the future. So we're urging you to address that in a meaningful and organized way with your provincial and territorial partners.
Thank you.
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View   Profile
2011-10-17 17:17
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Thank you very much. That's a good question.
One of the things that CNA has been talking about is an accountability framework. We'd be glad to send more information to the committee.
First of all, I want to thank the federal government for the leadership it has influenced in health care, given our constitution and the difficulties that it raises. I'd like to be a bit provocative and talk about, or at least allude to, the example of the HST and the kinds of harmonization issues this has caused in various jurisdictions.
In terms of an accountability framework, it's the ability, then, to grant funds to our jurisdictions with the provision that they demonstrate, for example, how they have harmonized or integrated their multiple governance systems. So does home care have to be separate from acute care? Do there have to be separate entities providing those services? What kind of accountability can we demand in terms of accepting the funding that the federal government's provided to bring to bear?
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Helen Cutts
View Helen Cutts Profile
Helen Cutts
2011-10-05 15:32
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I am pleased to be here. My understanding is that as you embark on your work on the north, it would be useful for you to have a briefing on how environmental assessment works. My purpose is go to over a deck; I don't have any prepared remarks. I will review the deck, which explains the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and how it works, and I'll be very happy to answer your questions.
Turning to slide one, you can see that environmental assessment has been in place in one way or another since 1974. It was a very thin cabinet directive at that time. It wasn't until 1995 that we brought the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act into force. Since then, we've had one round of parliamentary review, and we brought in amendments by 2003. We had a small round of amendments in July 2010. That was part of the jobs and economic growth package that came with the budget that year.
Before I get into slide three, I want to emphasize that environmental assessment is a planning tool. It's a way for the government to work with companies such that before a shovel goes into the ground there is a discussion of what the environmental impacts are and how to mitigate them. This is beneficial for proponents because they get to see early on what changes in design they might need to make or what adjustments to their strategy might be needed before they invest a great deal of money.
The act itself applies to federal authorities. It asks those federal authorities to carry out assessments. These are departments and agencies, typically. There are a number of limited conditions under which those authorities are asked to carry out an environmental assessment having to do with whether a decision is required from them on a project. If they are the project proponent or if that department or agency is offering some sort of financial assistance, then they need an environmental assessment--or if they are a source of land, or if they are a regulator.
The regulation is a very common one. A company that needs to get a permit related to fish would then go to DFO and would indicate that they believe they need an environmental assessment.
We have three types of environmental assessments. Those are screenings, comprehensive studies, and review panels. I'll briefly go over each of these three types.
Most of them are screenings; these are required for any project. Our act works such that any project requires an environmental assessment, and then we have a tier that says a subset of the projects we will name requires a more comprehensive approach. Those will need comprehensive studies.
The vast majority of our environmental assessments are screenings, about 6,000 a year. The responsible authority, the one with the decision to make, is the one that carries this out. We end up with 40 or 50 different agencies involved across the board. They make a decision about what type of opportunity they want to give for public participation, they determine whether to require a follow-up program of the proponent, they make the final decision, and they're also responsible for the implementation of the mitigation measures and follow-up.
Just as an aside, I'll explain what follow-up is. Follow-up means that somebody needs to verify that the particular mitigation measures that were set out in the environmental assessment are doing what they were expected to do. This is a little different from enforcement. If we felt there was some concern about the habitat and said the company needed to make an adjustment, needed to build a ditch to ensure that the water flow was in the right direction and beneficial to the fish or other habitat that use the stream, then you would want to make sure that building the ditch did indeed divert the water and create the level of water that you expected to be sufficient when you set out those plans.
A comprehensive study, as I mentioned, is a more intensive and generally thicker document that looks at environment assessment. It meets the same types of criteria as a screening, but it has a few additional elements; for example, it would be required that you look at alternative means of carrying out the project.
The agency to which I belong is responsible for most of the comprehensive studies. The only exceptions are the ones that involve the Nuclear Safety Commission or the National Energy Board.
With comprehensive studies, one thing that is different from screenings is that we have a participant funding program; therefore, if an aboriginal group or an environmental group or a citizen would like to participate in some way and needed some funding for some research or to collect the views of their members, they can apply to us for participant funding. That's an important element of our comprehensive study program.
At the end of a comprehensive study, it is the Minister of the Environment who has to make a decision, deciding whether or not there are significant adverse environmental effects from the project. That decision would be based on the project as modified; it would not be based on the original project but on the project as described in the comprehensive study, taking into account any design changes and any mitigation plans.
Though the Minister of the Environment has that responsibility, it would still be a particular department that would be responsible for ensuring that those mitigation measures were taken. Often, as I say, it might be the Department of Fisheries and Oceans because the issue at hand was an issue surrounding fish habitat, for example. The follow-up programs under a comprehensive study are mandatory.
The third way we do environmental assessments involves situations in which the Minister of the Environment appoints independent experts, who will do research, call upon witnesses, hold hearings, and make recommendations to the government. This is another case in which we offer participant funding. The role of the agency in this particular case is limited to being a secretariat for that panel.
In the end, the responsible authority, the one with the decision to make, makes the final decision, with the approval of the Governor in Council. Again, the responsible authority checks to make sure that the mitigation measures are undertaken and that follow-up is done to ensure that mitigation is working as planned.
The last element I would like to flag to you today is on federal-provincial cooperation. The environment is really a shared responsibility between the federal government and the provinces. Many of you will already know that the provinces have their own environmental assessment processes.
This situation has the potential to create overlap and duplication. It is difficult for proponents if they have to respond to two sets of requirements. What we try to do is work with the provinces to run a process that is as seamless as possible. In order to facilitate that process, we have bilateral agreements with a number of provinces that set out how we would run a particular project when we are working together.
When we get into these cooperative arrangements, it's usually the provinces that take the lead and we participate actively.
That is simply the nuts and bolts of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and I'd be pleased to answer any of your questions.
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