Evidence of meeting #33 for Finance in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was thank.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Mark McQueen  Board Director, President and Chief Executive Officer of Wellington Financial, Canada's Venture Capital and Private Equity Association
  • John Gamble  President, Association of Consulting Engineering Companies
  • Susie Grynol  Vice-President, Policy and Public Affairs, Association of Consulting Engineering Companies
  • Claude Lajeunesse  President and Chief Executive Officer, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada
  • Robert Simonds  President, Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs
  • Geoff Smith  Director, Governement Relations, Canadian Electricity Association
  • Richard Rémillard  Executive Director, Canada's Venture Capital and Private Equity Association
  • Jayson Myers  President and Chief Executive Officer, National Office, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
  • Michel Arnold  Executive Director, Option consommateurs
  • Anu Bose  Head, Ottawa Office, Option consommateurs
  • Vaughan Dowie  Executive Head of Public Affairs, McGill University
  • Mark Cohon  Commissioner, Canadian Football League, 100th Anniversary Grey Cup Festival
  • Chris Rudge  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, 100th Anniversary Grey Cup Festival
  • Michael Clemons  Representative, 100th Anniversary Grey Cup Festival
  • Barbara Cameron  Associate Professor, York University, Centre for Feminist Research
  • Kathleen Lahey  Faculty of Law, Queens University, Centre for Feminist Research
  • Jean-Michel Laurin  Vice-President, Global Business Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
  • Sandra Crocker  Assistant Vice-Principal, Research and International Affairs, McGill University

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Your turn, Mr. Carrier.

October 6th, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome to this meeting of the committee.

I would particularly like to welcome Mr. Lajeunesse. I have been an engineer for about as long as he has. I am somewhat familiar with his career.

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada

Claude Lajeunesse

We do not have the same colour of hair.

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

I just hide my grey hair.

On the subject of the economic benefits from the contracts that the government is currently handing out, you seem to be fairly confident, from the aerospace industry's point of view. Earlier, you were asked about the F-35 aircraft and you seem to be satisfied and happy with the direction the government is taking.

We at least have a text from you, which is important for us, and, in your second recommendation, a very eloquent one, you say:

AIAC recommends that government and industry work in partnership to develop, adopt and implement a cohesive and visionary defence industrial strategy…

The way in which that is written implies that a strategy does not exist at present. You continue with the words:

This strategy should align Canada's defence industrial capability and Canada's military needs; maintain other benefits to Canada and the defence sector…

Those are all fine intentions that I share and I feel that my party also shares, but they do not correspond to current government actions. Everything is uncertain still. All we see is contracts being given to a foreign company, an American one, and we are rushing after little scraps from that table.

I wonder about the extent to which you are able to influence the government to improve things when it comes to a real military defence plan.

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada

Claude Lajeunesse

Mr. Chair, in terms of the F-35 aircraft, I would like to say that I see no reason why history will not repeat itself. The Canadian aerospace industry is the fifth largest in the world. It exports 80% of its annual production. For me, that guarantees both ability and innovation. It proves that we are able to compete with anyone, anywhere in the world.

With the possibility of getting up to $12 billion in contracts as a result of the decision to purchase F-35 aircraft, and the ability to do so, I feel that our companies have proved that they can succeed. I am completely confident about that. In my presentation today, I mentioned developing an aerospace policy, including both aviation and space as well, since we can already chalk up some successes there.

The monthly magazine Policy Options published an article by Tom Flanagan this month entitled Space: Punching Above Our Weight. He discusses exactly these Canadian abilities and achievements in the area.

I think it is important to have a plan. If our government puts its words into action, our industries will certainly be there to provide support.

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Lajeunesse. We are going to put our faith in your determination when it comes to convincing the government to act on this. Having active pressure groups always helps us.

I have another question for the people from Canada's Venture Capital and Private Equity Association. I am not an expert in the area. I am just a member of Parliament. In your document, you say that “Canadian VC investment is at a 14-year low”. As a man in the street, I have a question. We have been told several times here that the Canadian economy is doing well compared to other economies, the United States, for instance, and that our control over our banks ensures that they perform well.

In your opinion, why is venture capital dropping? Financially and economically, things seem to be going well, so why are we so uncertain about the future?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Merci.

I know that's a big question, but could we have as brief a response as possible?

Mr. McQueen.

4:40 p.m.

Board Director, President and Chief Executive Officer of Wellington Financial, Canada's Venture Capital and Private Equity Association

Mark McQueen

Yes, Mr. Chairman. Canada's is a new industry relative to the United States'. They've been doing venture capital since the sixties, and it came to Canada in perhaps the late seventies or early eighties, so there's less time on the job.

Largely, institutional investors got into the sector in 1997 and 1998. They had one experience and it wasn't a good one: when the NASDAQ went from 6,000 to 2,000.

American investors who had been doing this since the sixties were able to go through a tremendous 25-year cycle in which venture capital returns beat every other asset class. So as a result, money has been pulled out of the system by the Canada Pension Plan, by OMERS, by Teachers', by the Caisse de dépôt, by bcIMC, and by AIMCo. If Canada's six largest pension plans have pulled out of the sector, there's less money to be in funds, which is less money into companies. It's that simple.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

We'll go to Ms. Block, please.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Welcome. I've certainly appreciated all of your presentations today.

My first question is for Chief Simonds.

I am a former mayor of a very small community with a volunteer firefighting department. I noted that in your executive summary you state, “Currently, most Volunteer Fire Departments are experiencing serious challenges in recruiting and retaining valuable members.” It was my experience that often the issue was retaining members because they didn't often have the opportunity to use their skills. In a small rural community, often they were fighting field fires and working with their RMs.

One of the questions I have for you is on your first recommendation, which is that the grant would be given to all volunteer firefighters who provide at least 200 hours of service. That would not include the time they spend in training and keeping up those skills. Is that correct?

4:40 p.m.

President, Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs

Robert Simonds

Mr. Chair, that's an excellent question. I thank Ms. Block for bringing that forward.

The compilation of that 200 hours includes emergency response, public education initiatives, training initiatives, and the care and maintenance of the equipment within the fire service. It is broad enough so that it catches the broad activities of the volunteers with respect to their contribution to the community.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you.

My second question is for Mr. Smith.

As you are probably very aware, a large source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada is road transportation, at nearly 30%, but the potential for reduction in kilometres travelled by Canadians is limited, obviously, because of our geography, our demographics, and often our urban design. While there is no silver bullet to reduce transportation emissions, one of the most talked about solutions in this area is electric vehicles.

I did have an opportunity this past summer to be in Israel and visit a Better Place. I saw the electric car and the infrastructure that might need to be put in place. I understand there is actually going to be a pilot project--I think it might be in Toronto or Ottawa--with a taxi service.

I guess my question for you is this: assuming that we would proceed with the development of electric vehicles in the next decade, what would be the impact on the electricity system in Canada?

4:40 p.m.

Director, Governement Relations, Canadian Electricity Association

Geoff Smith

Thank you. That's an excellent question.

I think it's an issue that our sector often wrestles with, and it's not out of reluctance. It's essentially the electrification of other sectors in order to be cleaner or more environmentally friendly, and transportation is obviously one, in reference to electric vehicles, that is at the top of that list. Initially in that sense, I think, if we are even going to do electric vehicles and whatnot, you have to look at the core issue of increased demand pretty much right out of the gate.

You have people like the Premier of Ontario speculating that 5% of all cars would be electric by 2020. On the other hand, you have recent comments that if 10% of the people in Toronto were to plug in a car after work, there could be some real challenges there. So it becomes an issue of addressing.... Our core issue, which is the infrastructure challenge in this issue, primarily would be distribution and transmission systems.

Once you've gotten to that point, I think the question becomes one of how you make that work. It's an issue of technology. I would bring that back to the energy storage issue and our proposal for a grant program that I think would allow you to get to the point where you can then plug in cars and do all those things you would have to do to make it work. But essentially it would be in order to meet that demand with our core infrastructure challenge, and you can then go from there and figure it out.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you.