Evidence of meeting #66 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was immigration.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

As do we. Good. We're on the same page.

10:25 a.m.

Prof. Ian Lee

No disrespect. I only use official data from those official international organizations, such as the OECD, for example. The OECD has studied this in Pensions at a Glance, which they publish every two years, and it is non-partisan. It is funded by Canada and all the other OECD countries.

They have said very simply that public pensions are unsustainable in the western world, and there are very serious people who have said that, including Governor Carney. I've looked at it.

We're living a lot longer. I want to put this on very quickly, because people quote the life expectancy figure based on mortality over an entire lifetime. When you achieve the age of 65—so all the people who died before you are not part of your statistic any longer—you have a life expectancy of 84, for a female, and 82 for a male. So we cannot, as Greece is demonstrating brilliantly, and Spain and France, continue with policies where we are living 15 and 20 years longer than only 30 or 40 years ago.

The second point, to address your question, is that we are facing looming labour shortages. It is irresponsible to pay people to be unemployed in one part of the country when there are desperate shortages in another part, or just push them out the door into retirement when we need them in the economy to be able to fund people like me, when I retire.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Thank you, Professor.

I read with great interest a lot of what you've written. I think you're spot on in so many different instances.

I will get to the CMHC and your earlier presentation, but in terms of how we are reforming our focus on free trade agreements—we've done nine since 2006, and we've got a lot in the hopper that we're currently negotiating—and immigration reform, could you briefly talk about the importance of free trade, the importance of engaging other countries in bilateral trade agreements, and the importance of immigration reform?

10:30 a.m.

Prof. Ian Lee

I'll start with free trade. I'm much more familiar with that. I've been teaching and researching free trade for, literally, 25 years.

I'm absolutely mystified by people who don't, after this time, understand the importance of trade to well-being and standard of living. This has been known for 300 years, theoretically, from Adam Smith, Ricardo, to the present, and we know it from 300 of years of practice. And I say that because I've had the great fortune of travelling around the world and teaching in a whole bunch of really poor countries, like rural Ukraine and Russia and China and Cuba and Iran. I have seen the impact of countries that are more autarchic, that is to say they're more closed.

I tell my students it's really simple. You want to be poor? Close your economy. And if you want to be wealthy, open it up. I'm speaking colloquially to get my point across quickly. Trade is correlated to a higher standard of living: the more we trade, the better off we're going to do.

So it is absolutely essential that we sign more free trade agreements. I hope we sign free trade agreements with every country in the world.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Thank you.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

You have 20 seconds.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Okay.

Mr. Fried, I was a little taken aback by your comments that we need to do more in terms of international aid. As you know, we are currently drawing down in Afghanistan, but we've committed to building civil society there. We lost 158 of our soldiers in Afghanistan.

I'm really offended that you have come forward and said that Canada should be doing more in the international scene to help other countries. I think we've done quite a bit. We've doubled our international aid budgets over the last number of years, but we've also lost 158 soldiers in Afghanistan, helping that country to build a civil society.

I really take offence to what you said.

10:30 a.m.

Policy Coordinator, Oxfam Canada

Mark Fried

Forgive me if I have offended you. Certainly that was not my intent.

Canada has done excellent work overseas, which is why we would like to see more money put into that budget to continue and expand that other work. Compared to other donors, Canada is still towards the bottom of the pack.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

Ms. Nash, please.

May 31st, 2012 / 10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you to the witnesses for being here today.

I want to echo what my colleague said and support Ms. Dubois in terms of its not being the number of pages in a budget implementation act, but the diversity of subject matter. When you have a bill like this that contains so many substantive changes that are rushed through with very little debate by this Parliament, it certainly doesn't have the proper public examination that one would expect in a clear, transparent democracy.

Ms. Dubois, you are a young leader; you are the head of the CFS. You are probably a future leader in some other capacity in the future of this country.

One of the challenges we face is democratic engagement. We've seen a declining participation rate in elections, and certainly young people are disproportionately less likely to vote, yet some of the challenges they face in terms of youth unemployment, student debt, and environmental degradation will disproportionately affect young people.

I wonder if you could try to describe what you take away as a message from this omnibus bill that will make so many substantive changes in so many domains of our country, many of which we won't really fully understand until they are rolled out for some years to come.

Can you comment on that, please?

10:30 a.m.

National Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students

Roxanne Dubois

The environmental changes are certainly an interesting case to look at, because obviously it's important to care for our environment and make sure the regulations we have in place do have teeth to make sure we fight climate change and that there are sustainable policies moving forward. It's certainly something young people care about and have cared about in the past, which is likely why there are these kinds of policies in place.

So when they're included in this budget bill without a careful examination of the impact on the environment of all these changes, well, it does not foster a sense of discussion and a sense of understanding of the impact of the changes we're putting forward.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Do you think it undermines the confidence that young people have in the strength of our democracy?

10:30 a.m.

National Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students

Roxanne Dubois

I think it does nothing to engage people, just by its very overwhelming nature.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Fried, you mentioned some of the measures in this budget bill that you believe will increase inequality. I'm wondering if you could elaborate on that a bit.

My second question to you is on the broader impacts of growing inequality. We know objectively that inequality is increasing in Canada. It is one of the greatest challenges that we face today. We see movements around the world—the mouvement des indignés, the people who are very concerned about growing inequality.

Can you talk a bit about what that means, perhaps from a democratic perspective, but perhaps also from the perspective of social cohesion and social well-being?

10:35 a.m.

Policy Coordinator, Oxfam Canada

Mark Fried

I think you said it well. Inequality does lead to unhealthy societies—unhealthy even in the sense of health, that people who are poor live less long and are more prone to unhappy lives.

The World Bank is quite clear that inequality—