Evidence of meeting #6 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was transportation.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Guy Milette  Chair of the Board of Directors, Canadian Produce Marketing Association
Ron Lemaire  President, Canadian Produce Marketing Association
Katie Ward  President, National Farmers Union
Catherine Lefebvre  President, Quebec Produce Growers Association
Patrice Léger Bourgoin  General Manager, Quebec Produce Growers Association
Robin Guy  Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Greg Northey  Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Pulse Canada
Jason McLinton  Vice-President, Grocery Division and Regulatory Affairs, Retail Council of Canada
Jarred Cohen  Policy Advisor, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

5 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you, Mr. McLinton.

Mr. Guy, I'd like to hear your comments on the issue of labour.

When it comes to your needs, would you have one or two recommendations for the committee to include in its report?

5 p.m.

Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Robin Guy

I think talent pipelines start early on. We need to ensure that StatsCan is collecting a robust set of data to enable education quality...to make the right choices. Labour shortages cost an estimated $3 billion in lost sales in 2020.

By implementing a trusted employer program for temporary foreign workers to ensure regular users of the program, the government should commit to a timely approval of labour market impact assessment applications for TFWs within six to eight weeks. It should ensure a transparent tracking process to confirm timelines are being met, including easy and accessible quarterly reports.

If allowed, I'll turn to my colleague, Jarred, to see if he has anything to add.

5:05 p.m.

Jarred Cohen Policy Advisor, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Thanks, Robin.

There's not much to add there. As Robin mentioned, time is really of the essence in this case. We know the growing season is starting soon.

The key is transparency, and ensuring that these labour market impact assessment applications for temporary foreign workers are completed within six to eight weeks.

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you very much.

Mr. Northey, I'd like to hear your comments on labour and foreign workers.

If you had one or two specific recommendations for the committee, what would they be?

5:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Pulse Canada

Greg Northey

On foreign workers, we have no comment.

However, related to our current supply chains, our bigger issue with labour is that we're having to lay people off because we can't execute trade. With regard to members of our supply chain, whether it's transloaders through Vancouver, through to traders and processing plants, right now we can't move product, so we're having to lay people off.

Obviously there are different checks and balances that have to happen, but with the labour perspective, that's our current problem, and then it's getting them back if we do manage to get our supply chains working again.

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

But they are likely to be working elsewhere.

Mr. Northey, in your opening remarks you talked about the creation of a procurement commissioner. We have looked at your proposal. However, we have heard from other witnesses that the creation of such a position might not be the answer. It would create an additional structure, there would be reporting, but it would have little effect.

Could you tell us more about this recommendation?

Would you not prefer establishing a coordinator position or minister responsible for this file?

5:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Pulse Canada

Greg Northey

I think it would have to be defined by two main things.

The first one we would like to see is someone given a mandate to bring together members of the supply chain to address current issues. If you take the Vancouver ecosystem right now, there are multiple players in the containerized supply chain side who are making suboptimal decisions and creating more havoc. In the immediate term, someone who can come in and address that would be key.

Over the long term, in having a position like that, whether it's a commissioner or someone else, the real outcome we need is someone to be able to assess the Canadian situation and ultimately containerize the supply chain, by June specifically for us, but for all of them—

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

I am sorry to interrupt you, but shouldn't we create a ministerial position that would be responsible for coordination and accountability?

5:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Pulse Canada

Greg Northey

The U.S. is a good example. The supply chain commissioner there was empowered to bring members of the supply chain together. Obviously there would need to be accountability with that and a mandate drawn up.

Clearly, there needs to be accountability, because in making changes like this within a supply chain, in the short term there needs to be heft behind it. Whether it's deputized from a minister or it's a minister himself, the outcome is what we're really after. However, the mechanics of it...as long as it reaches those outcomes.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kody Blois

Thank you, Mr. Northey and Mr. Perron.

Please note that I added about 20 seconds to accommodate interpretation services.

Mr. Boulerice, you now have the floor for six minutes.

February 17th, 2022 / 5:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'm very pleased to be participating in this meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I would like to thank all the witnesses for being with us today to share their reality and to talk to us about these issues which are crucial, especially for companies and for the members of the associations they represent.

The pandemic and the temporary shutdown of the economy have disrupted all economic activities, and resuming these activities is very complex. Indeed, it is not as easy as simply flipping a switch. Many people and subcontractors are working to make all kinds of products available to our citizens. Disruptions in the supply chains are a big part of the reason for the rise in inflation, which is driving up the cost of living for many of the people we represent as elected officials. So the issues we are talking about today are critical in many ways.

My question is for Mr. Northey of Pulse Canada.

Mr. Northey, you said that a shipment normally takes 20 to 40 days to reach its destination, and that, because of the disruption, some shipments are now taking 70 to 90 days to reach their destination.

Could you tell us more about the containercrunch.ca initiative you mentioned earlier, which is related to the container issue?

What kind of partnership with government would be needed for your sector to put in place effective measures like this initiative?

5:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Pulse Canada

Greg Northey

Specifically on those numbers, that is the transit time once a container is on a ship to a destination.

If we take India, for example, which is a major market, previously it would take upwards of 40 days and now it could take about 90 days. That is really down to changes in the cancellation of certain routes that would have been quicker and more transshipment having to happen in other countries. It exacerbates that there's a deprioritization generally of our ability to execute to the markets we have. From the shipping line perspective, they're not as profitable.

Our main piece here is that the immediate fix is.... I mentioned when somebody...the outcome being that we're able to bring together members of the supply chain immediately to address those suboptimal decisions that are being made. Ultimately, from a container supply chain standpoint, our big need is to work within Canada, but with other partners, on the proper governance structure around shipping lines.

We have a piece of legislation that exempts them from the Competition Act, which is over 40 years old and out of date. Right now we're in a really great position to look at what kind of structure we need to put in place to govern shipping lines. Ultimately, every country is looking at this right now. The U.S. has a bill that's being deliberated specifically on this issue. We have the opportunity right now to make sure that we're actually doing that correctly.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

In your opinion, should the federal government show more initiative and leadership on this issue?

5:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Pulse Canada

Greg Northey

Absolutely. There's a good opportunity for the federal government to show leadership. Ultimately, it's acknowledging the problem and recognizing how big the problem is. I'm talking about the pulse sector but containercrunch.ca represents 12 different organizations across multiple different commodities. It's much bigger than just us. It's a huge issue for the economy. Taking leadership, acknowledging what needs to happen, addressing it and deciding which tools are necessary to resolve it are key.

Ultimately, it's an oligopoly as far as shipping lines are concerned. Three alliances control 80% of the global market for container shipping. This is a major problem and all countries have to wrestle with it. Canada could be a leader in wrestling with that problem.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Thank you very much, that's very interesting.

Mr. Northey, the recent blockades on the Canada-U.S. border caused a lot of disruption to the agricultural sector. Indeed, the resulting costs are likely to run into the billions of dollars.

Planting season is coming up in a few weeks. Have these delays had an impact on essential products, such as seeds or fertilisers, that have been held up at the border?

What effect, if any, have these blockades had?

5:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Pulse Canada

Greg Northey

That affects both exports and imports. We export through Coutts and Emerson to the U.S. The U.S. is a large market for us with dried beans and dried peas. Getting through those borders is essential. Any time any kind of border is stopped, it's a real problem because you can't execute. You can't ship and the process is shut down.

As far as coming north is concerned, anything that's produced as inputs in the U.S. that would utilize those borders, whether it's pesticides, fertilizers or seeds, any time it stops, it creates problems in an already fragile situation, because we're already short on many of those major inputs.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

That's perfect.

I would now like to ask Mr. McLinton a question.

Mr. McLinton, you mentioned the problem of labour shortages. You are not alone in facing this problem, as it is widespread throughout Quebec and Canada. Part of the answer is immigration, as you mentioned. We in the NDP agree with that.

However, what troubles me is the processing time for files sent to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. For the past two years, the department has slowed to a crawl, hasn't been meeting deadlines...

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kody Blois

Mr. Boulerice, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but your six minutes are up. You will have two and a half minutes in the next round of questions.

Mr. Steinley, you have the floor for five minutes.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate the time and I appreciate the witnesses and their presentations.

I would like to go back to the conversation with Mr. Turnbull and Mr. Guy for a second.

I don't think it's panic that some of us have brought up with our constituents. I do have pictures of empty grocery shelves in Regina: produce, yogourt and fruit. We can't take that out of context, because there are some issues. Just because grocery stores in other parts of the country have their shelves stocked, it doesn't mean there aren't issues in other ridings. Even if those grocery shelves are stocked, the prices are getting so high that people can't afford their groceries anyway. This puts a bit of context into what some constituents are feeling in other areas of the province.

Mr. Guy, you talked about the blockade being an issue for the supply chain. Did you contact the Liberal government in 2020 to take proactive measures back then when there were blockades backing up the port in Vancouver and shipping lanes?

5:15 p.m.

Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Robin Guy

Yes, we did.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Could you tell me what kind of conversations you had and who you had them with? Was it with the transport minister or did you submit some ideas in writing that you could table with the committee?

5:15 p.m.

Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Robin Guy

I can get back to you with that information.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

I'd really appreciate that. Is there a timeline? Do you think you could do it this week or early next week?

5:15 p.m.

Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Robin Guy

Yes, I'll try my best for this week.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Thanks.

At the start of your presentation you said that regulatory burden raises the cost of business, which I agree with completely. Is there a distinct regulatory burden that you could bring forward to committee as we're talking about supply chain? What would be your top three? I'm imagine some trucking regulations would be in there.

What would be the top three regulatory issues that you see as challenges to a stronger supply chain across the country?