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

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Do you think there's enough competition in the banking and service sector in Canada?

10:35 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry

Tom Wright

Oh, I would let the Commissioner of Competition deal with that one.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Carrie.

We'll go to Mr. Eyking, please.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I thank the presenters for coming here today.

My question is on small and independent businesses. I know they're in amongst all these service sector companies. There are many statistics out there stating that small independent businesses are a driver in our economy, and many times when the economy goes through swings, they seem to keep us stable or to keep things on track.

Do you see in the near future, with the changes we may face, any challenges for the small business sector? How can we as government continue to foster that sector and even enhance it? Because it's a stable factor when we go through these swings.

10:35 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry

Tom Wright

Again, my apologies for not having data I could use to respond to your question. I think there is data to affirm your starting point, which is that small- and medium-sized enterprises of this country account for a huge amount of economic employment activity and as such constitute a solid base. One can explore that. I have a colleague in our department who works in that area constantly.

In terms of what's going to make the lives of those people easier and what's going to facilitate their growth, one constantly hears about issues of paper burden. They find that the government is there all too frequently to help them. There's a bit of a challenge on that front. So I think paper burden is one of the areas.

CFIB reviews the irritants with their membership on a regular basis. Financing seems to be one of the challenges; I'd have to update myself on their current top three.

S and T is an area that starts to affect that sector. Even small businesses have to deal with, or take advantage of, technology to get their comparative advantage going in the marketplace.

Certainly the government has had small business loans in place. It has made some steps forward in terms of how to deal with paper burden.

It's a bit of a roundabout answer to your question. Sorry, I don't have the data.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Do I have a few more minutes?

As some of our sectors go through these changes--for instance, a forestry mill in northern Ontario goes through a collapse and there are 200 to 300 people laid off--many regions of this country have regional development agencies. Sometimes when that industry is taken away, those development agencies try to foster growth. A lot of times it's with small businesses. If there was a forestry sector, for instance, maybe we could have a tourism sector in that region. Sometimes you can't just bring a call centre in to some of these regions.

How important are these regional development agencies in helping us through the changes in our economy?

10:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry

Tom Wright

In my experience, one area in which they are quite helpful is in the instance of single-industry communities. Take a look at that scenario you were describing. In those areas of the country where they're having a lot of hardship, and those single-plant communities, the degree of freedom they have to respond to that crisis if a plant is going down is pretty limited compared to the larger communities.

It strikes me that this is where regional development agencies have knowledge, awareness, and programs where they can bring together the key players to, as you say, take a look at alternatives, whether it's tourism or something else for the community. You end up having government programs that look at the individual, and a regional agency that's able to work with the community.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Just to sum up, with our economy changing as much as it is, it's going to be critical for those development agencies to be proactive and to connect the dots to help the communities get through.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Okay, thank you.

We'll go to Monsieur Arthur.

November 22nd, 2007 / 10:40 a.m.

Independent

André Arthur Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good morning, Mr. Wright and Ms. Barnes.

In the area of services, where is Canada the best in the world?

10:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry

Tom Wright

Do you mean domestically? Do you mean in Toronto versus Vancouver?

10:40 a.m.

Independent

André Arthur Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

No, in what area of the service sector is Canada the best in the world and unbeatable when compared to all its competition? In what area are we the best?

10:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry

Tom Wright

It is difficult to say. Earlier on, I said that we had 8 of the 10 biggest companies in the service sector. Seven of those eight companies are in the financial services sector. In order to determine the best in the world, you would have to study each of the sub-sectors.

To come back to architecture, do we have the best architects for the green building services, the environmental sector? It is possible. In another sector, do we have the best health care services?

You would have to study the situation within each of the sub-sectors in order to determine if Canada is the best or the second-best.

10:40 a.m.

Independent

André Arthur Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

I will correct the word "best" by asking you if there is an area of the service sector where Canadians are leaders.

10:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Industry Sector, Department of Industry

Tom Wright

In the financial sector. The financial institutions are among the biggest and the best.