Evidence of meeting #4 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was services.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Tom Wright  Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry
  • Colleen Barnes  Acting Director, Financial Institutions, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Janet King  Director General, Service Industries and Consumer Products Branch, Department of Industry

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Do you have the impression that the government is playing catch-up with what is happening elsewhere? Do you find that we are always two steps behind? Do you think we could develop a vision and try and establish an industrial policy and development policies that are more proactive?

9:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry

Tom Wright

As a good public servant, I am always proud of my government.

9:40 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Which does not prevent us from doing better.

9:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry

Tom Wright

We can always do better in everything.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Do I have a bit more time, Mr. Chairman?

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

You have three minutes.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Ms. Barnes, you talked about banks and insurance companies. They seem to be in a strong position. They make a lot of profits. The criticism we most often hear comes from the users, from the people. The complaints have to do with interest rates and with insurance companies that write up clauses in very fine print in their contracts, to the degree that people always have the impression they are being had.

Is the role of your department to defend the interests of the people, or those of the companies?

9:40 a.m.

Acting Director, Financial Institutions, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Colleen Barnes

The financial institutions established here in Canada come under our department. We must always maintain a balance between the consumers and the industry. The companies must be very strong, because that generates spinoffs for the people who are shareholders in the banks and for retirees whose pension funds are invested in these institutions.

But we must never lose sight of the other two goals: that consumers be well protected and served by the institutions, and that the stability of the framework be maintained.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

We saw the debt overload of the American population. Loans were granted for up to 80% of the value of a house, for example, and that created a major crisis. Will this have any effect on Canada?

9:40 a.m.

Acting Director, Financial Institutions, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Colleen Barnes

Here, in Canada, there are very few sub-prime loans, and that is a good thing for us, but the institutions did invest in some securities where there was a bit of that. According to their recent results, the banks seem more or less comfortable and seem to be able to manage their investments, for the moment.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

We'll go now to Mr. Carrie.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

First I'd like to thank Ms. Barnes, Mr. Wright, and Dr. King for being here on such short notice.

I really enjoyed your presentation. Some of the things you stated were a bit of a surprise for me, the first being that 75% of jobs are in the service sector. I come from Oshawa, and there's a real concern with the manufacturing sector. There are certain job losses in the automotive sector. I know there is some rebalancing and some shifting there, but I was wondering if you could clarify some statements I've heard.

The first one is that if people lose manufacturing jobs, they are getting McJobs--jobs that really aren't secure jobs--in the service sector. Would you say that most service sector jobs are quality jobs and secure jobs?

9:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry

Tom Wright

Well, I think it's always a dangerous game when you start to aggregate and average and make broad, sweeping statements. I certainly can't sign up to the notion that all of these are McJobs, because, no, they are not.

I think on slide eight I tried to pick up a little bit of that diversity. One of my key points was trying to suggest that the service sector is not homogeneous. We've talked a little bit about the engineering and the importance of that. There are jobs within the food and accommodation business that are at the lower end of the wage scale. Unambiguously, they exist; unambiguously, people end up going into some of those industries. We need people there, but in services there are quite a number of jobs in the higher end, and we have seen in here some growth in those areas.

Yes, there are changes, and yes, there are people exiting some elements of manufacturing. I would stop well short of suggesting that the only jobs they then get are jobs at the lower end of the scale. There are quite a number of skilled people in the manufacturing industry who are able to apply those skills elsewhere within the service sector.