Evidence of meeting #29 for Finance in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was housing.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hans Cunningham  Director for the Regional District Central Kootenay, British Columbia; President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Eira Thomas  Member, Board of Directors, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
Judith Guichon  President, British Columbia Cattlemen's Association
Loretta Wallace  Vice-President, Procom Group, National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses Canada
Hilla Kerner  Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter
Jeff Richards  Treasurer, Surrey Board of Trade
Joanne Curry  Executive Director, Simon Fraser University, Surrey Board of Trade
Pierre Gratton  President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of British Columbia
Gabe Miller  Director, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Kevin Boon  General Manager, British Columbia Cattlemen's Association
Laureen Whyte  Vice-President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
Donald Bassermann  Chair, Omineca Beetle Action Coalition; Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition
Rhona Martin  Chair, Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition
Margaret Mason  Canadian Association of Gift Planners
Bart Given  Director, Marketing and Communications, Sport B.C.
Brenda Kenny  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
Asia Czapska  Co-ordinator, Justice for Girls
Shelagh Day  Representative, B.C. CEDAW Group
Laura Holland  Spokesperson, B.C. CEDAW Group

9:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Good morning, everyone.

I call this meeting to order. This is the 29th meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance in this session.

This is the first meeting dealing with the pre-budget of 2010. Thanks to all of you for coming in this morning. This session will operate as we typically do in Ottawa.

We have a large number of witnesses here this morning. I apologize for that, but we've had over 400 pre-budget submissions, so we try to hear from as many people as possible in a very short period of time. I'll list the organizations and we'll have the organizations present in that order.

You'll have five minutes for an opening statement. After that, we'll go to questions from members.

With us here this morning, we have the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; the Mining Association of British Columbia; the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada; the British Columbia Cattlemen's Association; the National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses Canada; the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter; and the Surrey Board of Trade.

We can start with the FCM. We look forward to your five-minute presentation. Then we'll just go down the line.

9:30 a.m.

Hans Cunningham Director for the Regional District Central Kootenay, British Columbia; President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.

I am very pleased to be with you today on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. As you know, we represent over 90% of the Canadian population in more than 1,900 municipalities across the country.

I would like to begin by thanking all parties in the House of Commons for your support of the cities and communities across the country.

Before I start, you are probably aware that the stimulus update was released today. There are about 23,000 projects. About half of them are municipal. I'm sure you are all well aware that the stimulus program is a matter of some debate in Ottawa, but for our members, it is first and foremost a huge practical challenge. We're on the ground here. We're focused on finishing up these projects in order to fight the recession and make life better for our communities.

What I am here to talk about today is what happens after stimulus.

From the gas tax fund to the Building Canada plan, Ottawa has started helping municipalities fix their aging infrastructure. I hope you will help us protect the gains we have made together.

Honourable members, if you leave here today with only one message, I hope it will be this one: the Government of Canada must balance its books without downloading its deficit onto the municipalities. Nothing has done more damage to our communities and to our infrastructure than downloading. Downloading might make federal and provincial balance sheets look better, but only by pushing those deficits into our local streets. That's what happened in the 1990s, and Canadians don't want that to happen again.

For decades the federal, provincial, and territorial governments downloaded costly responsibilities onto municipalities--responsibilities for policing, affordable housing, and immigrant settlement, among others. Local governments lacked the financial tools to meet these new responsibilities. They were forced to raise property taxes and delay badly needed infrastructure investment. The result is where we are today, with $123 billion in municipal infrastructure deficits.

Recent investments have helped to slow that decline in our infrastructure. Together, governments have started rebuilding our roads, our water systems, and our public transit. We must protect those gains and prepare to build on them in the future. We must protect them or new and growing challenges will overwhelm us.

One such challenge is the traffic gridlock that is bringing our largest cities to a standstill. In our two biggest cities, metro Montreal and the greater Toronto area, the average commuter is now spending 80 minutes a day on the road. That's longer than is spent in New York, London, or even Los Angeles.

Rural and remote communities are facing their own challenges. They are struggling to build the roads, bridges, and community centres they need to sustain their populations. Of course, the challenge is especially urgent in the north, where climate change is melting the permafrost below practically every street. In the Northwest Territories alone, protecting buildings will cost $230 million, which is about $5,000 for every man, woman, and child in the territory.

Downloading even more onto municipalities would take away any chance we have of meeting these growing challenges. It would undo the recent progress we have made, and it would leave us in a bigger hole than before. Downloading would create dangerous new cracks in our economic foundations, and it would hurt us all.

Our small businesses need quality roads and bridges to deliver goods and services. Our workers need fast, efficient public transit to connect them to new jobs.

Our growing companies count on high-quality community services, from libraries to hockey rinks, to attract skilled workers. For Canada to compete globally, we need modern infrastructure and transportation networks. We need cities and communities that are among the world's very best.

Therefore, as governments get their books in order, they must work together to protect what they have achieved in recent years. They must show they are ready to meet growing challenges without just shifting the bill to municipalities.

One test of that commitment is already before us. Earlier this year, Environment Canada proposed new federal waste water regulations. The regulations require communities to rebuild one out of every four sewage treatment plants across the country.

At this time, the estimated cost is $13 billion. Downloading the full cost of these regulations would push many municipal budgets to the breaking point, force municipalities to raise taxes, and delay other important investments. But there is hope.

Recently Environment Minister Jim Prentice began talks with FCM on the waste water regulations. The goal is to find a fair and affordable plan for the future. We need to make sure those talks proceed.

Of course our crumbling water systems are just one reason why we won't solve the infrastructure deficit in the next few years. But we can do our best to keep it from getting worse. We must start now or else three or four years of deficit arguing will lead to another lost decade in our communities.

In closing, I want to leave you with three simple recommendations.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

We are about a minute over time, and we have seven witnesses. So be very brief.

9:35 a.m.

Director for the Regional District Central Kootenay, British Columbia; President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Hans Cunningham

I'll be quick.

First, we need to continue to protect core infrastructure investments.

Second, we need to deal with the budget deficit without downloading more costs.

Third, we need to sit down and develop a long-term plan to build on recent investments as the budget outlook improves.

So let's use these lean years to plan for the future. Let's protect what we've achieved today and be ready to build on it tomorrow.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

We will now go to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada.

9:35 a.m.

Eira Thomas Member, Board of Directors, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair.

I serve on the board of directors of the PDAC and I am executive chairman and director of Stornoway Diamond Corporation, which is a Canadian diamond exploration company working all across the country, with an advanced project in Quebec that we hope will become Quebec's first diamond mine in a couple of years.

With me is Laureen Whyte, vice-president of sustainability and operations with the Association for Mineral Exploration, British Columbia. She is also a member of the PDAC aboriginal affairs committee and the CSR committee.

Thank you for providing us with an opportunity to meet with you today. The PDAC is a national organization with 7,000 members representing the range of companies and individuals in mineral exploration and development. Our individual members include prospectors, geoscientists, environmental consultants, mining executives, students and people working in the drilling, financial, legal and other supporting fields. The association's corporate members include exploration and junior mining companies, major producing companies, and organizations providing services to the industry.

The PDAC works closely with national, provincial, and territorial organizations, such as AME BC, through the Canadian Mineral Industry Federation, which submitted policy recommendations to Canada's energy and mines ministers in advance of their annual conference two weeks ago in Montreal.

Mineral exploration and mining is one of Canada's truly global industries, investing in 10,000 projects in over 100 countries, with 81% of worldwide mining equity transactions over the past five years being handled by the TSX and its venture exchange.

Exploration and mining are central to Canada's economic brand. The industry employed over 351,000 Canadians in extraction, processing, and manufacturing, and contributed $40 billion to Canada's GDP in 2008. Mining accounts for $95 billion or 19% of Canada's annual goods export.

Our submission to the committee briefly describes exploration financing and the current economic situation.

Mineral exploration companies do not have production revenue and therefore must rely on investors who are prepared to support higher-risk activities.

Market instability is having a negative effect on mineral exploration companies' share prices and on their ability to raise money for grassroots exploration programs.

While Canada remains a leading destination for exploration investment, exploration expenditures in Canada declined by 44%, from $3.3 billion in 2008 to $1.8 billion in 2009. Canada's share of global exploration investment dropped from 19% in 2008 to 16% in 2009.

In addition to volatile market conditions, this decline can be attributed to other factors, including the reality that much of Canada's favourable under-explored geology is located in remote areas that lack infrastructure and are only accessible seasonally. Industry is also facing mounting land access concerns and ongoing regulatory inefficiencies, which taken altogether have had a negative impact on the overall investment climate for mineral exploration in Canada.

Without sufficient investor support, exploration companies face a significant reduction or cancellation of a number of field programs, with the resulting impact on service companies and other businesses and individuals, particularly those in rural, northern, and aboriginal communities.

The situation is urgent, as the loss of these companies and qualified workers will severely limit Canada's long-term ability to retain its leadership position in the global exploration and mining industry. Working with our members, the PDAC has developed several proposals and solutions to reduce the impact of the current financial situation on the mineral industry, and to ensure that the mineral sector is a major contributor to Canada's economic recovery and continued growth.

We have three main recommendations

Our first recommendation concerns tax incentives. We recommend that the current 15% mineral exploration tax credit, METC, be made a permanent feature of the federal income tax system. To encourage investment in Canadian projects, we recommend temporarily increasing the METC for exploration finance using flow-through shares from the current 15% rate to 30% for a two-year period. This committee's 2009 report made reference to the mineral exploration tax credit. We appreciated your recommendation that the credit be extended. As a result of the 2010 federal budget, the METC is in effect for an additional year and is due to expire on March 31, 2011.

Our second recommendation concerns infrastructure. We recommend continued investment in the geomapping for energy and minerals, or GEM, infrastructure program, as it increases the knowledge of our natural resources and helps to retain expertise in Canada's mineral exploration sector. We also recommend investment in transportation infrastructure--for example, all-weather roads, bridges, road upgrades, as well as improvements to seaports and airports in Canada's north and remote regions of the provinces.

Our third main recommendation is around issuance and compliance costs and the duty to consult. Canadian mineral exploration companies face increased operating costs. These include issuance and compliance costs and costs related to the crown’s duty to consult with aboriginal communities.

Some costs qualify for renunciation as Canadian exploration expense, CEE, under flow-through share arrangements. The PDAC is recommending a review of the current CEE guidelines and an expanded scope in order to allow companies to manage new costs associated with government requirements.

Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before the committee. We would be pleased to answer any questions at the appropriate time.

9:40 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much, Ms. Thomas.

We'll now go to the British Columbia Cattlemen's Association.

9:40 a.m.

Judith Guichon President, British Columbia Cattlemen's Association

Thank you.

My name is Judith Guichon and I'm the president of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association. I brought our manager, Kevin Boon, along with me today. If my voice gives out, I'm sorry; he may have to take over.

The British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association would like to thank the Standing Committee on Finance for this opportunity to present the needs of the British Columbia cattle industry.

The cattlemen's association has been the official voice of cattle ranchers throughout British Columbia since 1929. For over 80 years, the association, with about 1,200 members now, has represented the interests of beef cattle producers in British Columbia. We represent the people who feed you.

The purpose of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association is to promote, encourage, protect, and develop the cattle industry in British Columbia in an environmentally responsible manner. Although times have changed since 1929, the BCCA's direction remains the same: to maintain and strengthen the sustainability of the B.C. beef industry.

The past decade has been extremely challenging for the cattle industry in all of Canada. Through its support programs, this government has been very engaged in working with our industry as it is trying to regain its viability, and the input has been key to our survival. The support has come in ways other than financial, but without sound financial help, cattle producers will continue to exit the business, and our industry will continue to flounder.

Success will not come with money alone. Putting the money to work in the right places at the right time will allow us to be competitive in the global market, thereby ensuring that the primary, processing, and value-added industries remain in Canada and provide economic stability. We believe the structure is in place to put our industry back on track, but we need the help of the federal and provincial governments and the support of this committee to achieve stability.

There are four key areas that the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association feels are imperative to create the groundwork for our industry to be self-sufficient. These are the areas that we would like the federal government to consider creating and continuing to support.

Our number one area is the specified risk material offset program. The program implemented this past year to support the Canadian packing industry in the cost of disposing of specified risk material is imperative to the survival of small and large processing facilities alike.

The program evens the playing field. Without it, we aren't competitive with the U.S., and it allows more of our livestock to remain in Canada to be processed, thereby keeping jobs in Canada. The more we process here, the more jobs we create and sustain, the more value we create for our product, and the more confidence we can ensure for our consumers by ensuring that they get the best and safest product in the world. The decision on whether our livestock remains in the country for processing is made on pennies per head, not dollars, and if we can keep the values equal, we can gain huge returns for our economy.

Our recommendation: the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association kindly requests that the specified risk material offset program be continued until Canada’s regulations for animal waste removal are harmonized with our competitors'.

Number two is traceability. Both government and industry realize that being able to track our product is crucial. However, the challenges of getting the process in place are huge. Over the past decade, the Canadian cattle industry has had this vision, and we've been working hard to utilize and develop the technology and the processes required to make this happen. The government has now decided that this needs to be a mandated process and has set a timeframe for mandatory traceability by 2011.

Cattle producers cannot be expected to bear the financial burden of this decision alone. There have been many hurdles to implementing full traceability. First and foremost, improvements in the available technology are very necessary, but the funds are not available for the research and development. Primary cattle producers have found it very challenging to contribute the dollars that are required to develop and implement the first stages of traceability--the animal identification and tracking.

Our recommendation: the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association kindly requests that the federal government provide financial assistance to the industry to meet the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers’ stated goal of full, mandatory traceability by 2011.

Under the Growing Forward program, we note that the creation of the Growing Forward program could be very beneficial. We've been told--and we agree--that ad hoc programs won't work and are not sustainable. Having funds go towards developing programs that will become long-term benefits and will increase the profitability of the agriculture industry is what is needed.

The current process for accessing the Growing Forward funds is onerous. The decision process is flawed by a lack of familiarity with the agriculture industries. There needs to be flexibility in the process to allow for the uniqueness of certain industries. Timelines for payments need to be improved. Whether it’s a disaster or a program to help improve our profitability, the ability to access the funds when they are needed is imperative.

We would kindly recommend that the federal government analyze the criteria and processes in place for dispensing Growing Forward funds.

We also would like to see some improvements to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

9:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

9:45 a.m.

President, British Columbia Cattlemen's Association

Judith Guichon

I'll have to learn to talk faster.

9:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much.

We'll now go to the National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses Canada.

9:45 a.m.

Loretta Wallace Vice-President, Procom Group, National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses Canada

Thanks, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.

My name is Loretta Wallace. I'm representing the NACCB, the national association of computer consultants of Canada. The association was formed in 1999 to work with legislators to ensure they understand how the IT professional service industry works and operates. Today it comprises 75 companies representing over $2.5 billion in annual revenues, 22,000 contractors, and 2,000 employees.

The NACCB wishes to intervene in the present review of the legislation on policy governing personal service corporations, as we believe this body of regulation has a powerfully negative impact on the Canadian labour market and, if expanded, would be incredibly destructive to the market for high-value contract services.

As you know, Canada is known for its resources; however, one of the most important resources is the knowledge and talents of its people. Within the Canadian labour market, the staffing and contracting sector is a critical function that enables market optimization and allocation of scarce resources.

Over the past 40 years, the Canadian market has evolved. As a result, we agree with the report of the standing committee that the review needs to take place and an upgrading of the Canadian tax legislation needs to happen to reflect the realities of that market and the model that is currently functioning, and functioning well, to the benefit of the government, Canadian corporations, and professionals who provide those services.

However, with the renewed focus on the issue of personal services to businesses and the emerging CRA strategy, which is aggressively targeting the information technology sector with audits and reassessments, the need to make changes to the legislation has become an issue which, we submit, requires attention and change. If the PSC audit and assessment exercise results in increased costs as agencies and clients alike make provision for the additional burden of employee benefits, and if individuals leave the contract sector, thereby reducing the labour and supply of these scarce resources, then the combined impact of reduced availability and increased costs may induce corporations to consider sending some jobs offshore.

This would have a significant and detrimental impact on the Canadian economy, especially in light of the fact that Canada has a talent crisis happening. As you know, our population is aging and, as with most other western countries, this creates a number of challenges for our continued prosperity.

Among the challenges is the future of highly skilled talent. Both the government and the corporate sector are dealing with this. Over the next 10 to 15 years, we will have fewer people entering the market than retiring. In fact, a recent survey of the ICTC, the IT sector council, projects that upwards of 170,000 job openings in the IT sector will emerge in the next five years, so we believe that we simply cannot afford to have any one element of the supply chain fall off. It is therefore vital that the CRA ensure tax fairness to this group so as to ensure that they continue to be available to help ensure both corporate and government competitiveness in the future.

We would agree with the conclusion of the committee report that the federal government examine the Income Tax Act with a view to proposing legislative amendments in such a manner that reflects the reality of the modern labour market. Specifically, we would recommend that no consideration be given to similarities of the engagement in employee-like relationships and the financial reporting programs similar yet apart from corporate and personal income reporting slips.

The committee also reiterates the fundamental belief that all Canadians have the right to arrange their affairs within the constraints of the law and that there be a recognition that every Canadian has the right to participate in the benefits made available to small businesses, without regard to the number of employees, the success or the length of their engagement, and the nature of the product or service being offered through the small business corporation.

My time is up.

9:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

You have ten seconds.

9:50 a.m.

Vice-President, Procom Group, National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses Canada

9:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much for your presentation.

We'll now go to the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter.

9:50 a.m.

Hilla Kerner Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter

Good morning. I have quite a heavy accent, which means you will have to pay extra attention to what I'm saying. I think it will be worth it.

You have a longer version of what I'm going to say, and it has who we are and what we do and some references to Canada's commitment to women's equality.

Formally, women in Canada have equal rights. In reality the journey towards equality for women in the political, economic, and domestic life is still very far from its end result: equality and liberty for women. Some of the things I'm going to refer to might at first impression be considered provincial issues, but I want to argue that since equality and equality for women are part of a national state agenda, they should be within the interests and obligations of the federal government.

According to Canadian victimization data, in 2004 approximately 653,000 women had been physically or sexually assaulted by spousal partners at least once during the previous five years. In 2009 there were 23,551 cases of sexual assault reported to police in Canada. This number represents only 8% of the actual incidents of rape and sexual assault.

Every year my organization, Vancouver Rape Relief, alone provides aid to 1,400 women victims of rape and other forms of male violence and shelters more than 100 women and their children in our transition house. Since the 1970s, transition houses and rape crisis centres have been saving the lives of women and their children, providing public education, and advocating diligently and effectively for systematic changes in the state's response to violence against women.

Violence against women is one of the most devastating expressions of women's inequality, a harsh effective instrument in holding women back, preventing them from living a safe and free life and from exercising their full humanity, our full humanity.

The understanding that violence against women is fundamental to women's inequality highlights the importance of transition houses and rape crisis centres as necessary tools for the advancement of women's status in Canada. Therefore it is within the interest and obligation of the federal government to support the work of women's equality-seeking organizations by funding women's centres, transition houses, and rape crisis centres.

The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, CASAC, is a pan-Canadian association of rape crisis centres that have come together to implement the legal and social changes necessary to prevent and ultimately eradicate rape and sexual assault. CASAC is the only national organization of sexual assault centres in Canada.

In his statement for national victims of crime awareness week, regarding sexual crimes, Prime Minister Harper declared that every victim matters. We agree. We also believe that every victim does matter, and therefore we argue that the work of CASAC matters. Sharing knowledge and expertise, coordinating research, and developing local and national strategies are crucial in our response to rape victims and to our fight to end sexual assault and rape.

Given that sexual violence against women is the context of women's equality and given the declared commitment of this government to victims of sexual crime, there should be funding for the national body of Canadian rape crisis centres.

Many women in Canada are living in poverty. Poverty of women and violence against women are two powerful oppressive forces that feed off each other. The Public Health Agency of Canada states that poverty limits choices and access to the means to protect and free oneself from violence. Simultaneously, the threat of poverty forces women to tolerate male violence. Women return to or cannot leave abusive relationships because they are unable to adequately provide for themselves and their children while on welfare.

Women are holding on to jobs in which they experience sexual harassment because they cannot afford to be unemployed. Women resort to prostitution as a means to support themselves and their children. Securing economic independence for women is one major step towards women's equality.

Recently there has been a growing understanding of the concept of guaranteed livable income, GLI, as a viable instrument to eliminate poverty. One form of GLI is a negative income tax, as proposed by Senator Hugh Segal. When an individual files a tax return showing an income that falls below what is needed for adequate survival, the state will provide the tax benefit to that individual. This mechanism will eliminate the inadequate income assistance program.

The negative income tax is intended to create a single system that would not only pay for government but would also fulfill the social goal of making sure that there is a minimum level of income for all.

Understanding that the poverty of women is an equality issue obligates the federal government to secure and ensure economic independence for the women in Canada.

Thank you.

10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much for your presentation.

We will now go to the Surrey Board of Trade, please.

10 a.m.

Jeff Richards Treasurer, Surrey Board of Trade

Good morning.

My name is Jeff Richards. I'm a chartered accountant, and I'm a director and the treasurer of the Surrey Board of Trade.

The Surrey Board of Trade is the voice of Surrey businesses. Currently comprising 3,600 business contacts, it is one of the three largest boards of trade in British Columbia.

The board has a variety of advocacy committees, projects, and collaborations reflecting and representing the business community of this vibrant centre. The Surrey Board of Trade and Simon Fraser University Surrey are working together with the City of Surrey and other businesses and education providers to support the needed education, research, and economic development infrastructure for B.C.'s second-largest city.

Several strategic initiatives have been selected to highlight to the finance committee. These initiatives show the range of our collaborative activities, and also are areas where further investment is required by all levels of government and the private sector.

Joanne Curry, a board of trade member and the executive director of Simon Fraser University Surrey, will now outline progress and potential in Surrey's city centre.

10 a.m.

Joanne Curry Executive Director, Simon Fraser University, Surrey Board of Trade

Good morning. Thank you.

The City of Surrey and SFU, along with the provincial and federal governments, are key partners in what I think is one of the most exciting and innovative urban development projects in Canada. The creation of a new downtown core for the city of Surrey--as just mentioned, B.C.'s second-largest city--in the corridor of three SkyTrain stations has already resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of development.

Our university, SFU, has expansion plans to double enrolment, which is currently at 6,000 students, creating the need for another 350,000 square feet of new space. SFU and the Province of B.C. have worked with the Government of Canada through the knowledge infrastructure fund, and are expanding the footprint of our university--by 50,000 square feet--with science labs that will open next spring. We're also working with the City of Surrey's development corporation to build student housing, a 200-unit student housing project.

The City of Surrey has dramatic plans for this corridor. Their project includes the movement of city hall from the south of Surrey, a new library that will be opening next year, and a $120-million performing arts centre.

All of this public sector development is anchored by major investments by the private sector in residential and commercial development, as well as the creation of related research buildings attached to the university. This is all creating jobs for those living in British Columbia, and particularly those living in the fast-growing regions south of the Fraser River.

We believe that in the years ahead there will be many opportunities for further investment by the Government of Canada in supporting research, regional transportation initiatives, and municipal infrastructure. Potential investment through infrastructure spending includes the City of Surrey's proposal to build a $120-million performing arts centre. We have had a joint proposal with the City of Surrey to develop a $60-million science, technology, and health centre as a centrepiece of campus expansion. This would be supported by the Province of B.C.'s expansion of student spaces in a region where one out of every three B.C. high school graduates will be from the south Fraser in a few short years.

We also have cooperative adventures--or “ventures”, although I'd say “adventures” too--with SFU and the Fraser Health Authority, which is one of Canada's largest health authorities. There also are opportunities for expansion of rapid transit, light rail, and major transportation improvements to make access to the university and the amenities of the central city more effective and cost-effective.

Let me stress in conclusion that the Government of Canada is playing a critical role in regional economic development, and can expand opportunities for students as well as research in the south Fraser's only research university in supporting regional transit options and valuable municipal infrastructure projects. At central city, this direct federal investment is leveraged many times over by the province, the City of Surrey, the university, and the private sector.

As it finalizes its report to the House of Commons and to the Department of Finance, we urge the finance committee to make a strong case for continuing the programs that support these important investments in any future budgets, including targeting unspent infrastructure stimulus funding to support bold new economic development initiatives in Canada.

Thank you.

10:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much for your presentation.

The final organization will be the Mining Association of British Columbia.

10:05 a.m.

Pierre Gratton President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of British Columbia

Thank you.

Just for the record, we weren't late. We were just outside waiting to be called in, and I guess we missed the call.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you. I wanted to begin by acknowledging--because we don't always get the opportunity to do this--that many of the recommendations we brought last year were implemented by the government. Notably, and most importantly, I suppose, is the federal funding for Highway 37 infrastructure, which is a hugely significant infrastructure program for British Columbia.

Also, recent amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the renewal of the super flow-through program last year were other recommendations we brought forward, and they were acted upon. So thank you for that.

I'll give you just a quick outline of the mining industry in B.C. and of who MABC is. We represent the mining producers in this province. We are a $7 billion industry in the province, employing almost 8,000 people and paying the highest average industrial salaries in the province. We are the largest producer of steel-making coal. I think people often associate coal with thermal power, but 90% of our production is used to make steel. Just by way of reference, there are 140 tonnes of steel-making coal in each modern windmill. So it's important to recognize that you need coal to produce windmills that produce green power. We are also a major and growing employer of first nations in British Columbia.

We are on the cusp of a major renaissance. After years of relative stagnation, we are seeing a number of new mines come into production. There is new excitement here in British Columbia. There are two major mines in construction now, with several other projects nearing completion and representing some $3 billion to $4 billion in new private sector investment and thousands of new jobs. Most importantly, a lot of these jobs and projects are in regions of the province that have been hard hit by the downturn in forestry. So we are in many ways the solution to the hardship you're seeing in certain regions of the province.

I turn now to recommendations. First, to echo what the PDAC has already recommended, we'd like to see the renewal of the super flow-through mineral exploration tax credit. I would point out that this has been renewed every year going back to the 1990s, and I think that's only good for the lobbying business in the province. You might as well maintain this on a longer term and either make it permanent or do what the B.C. government has done and provide industry with a three-year horizon so that we can make plans appropriately and continue to allow exploration to rebound after the economic crisis that hit us a couple years ago.

Second, we recommend a deep-drilling tax credit. Here in B.C. there are a few examples one could point to. Two of the new major mines in construction now, Copper Mountain and New Afton, are redevelopments on old mine sites. Arguably, if the deep-drilling tax credits had been around, those two areas might never have closed. They might have continued to operate. New exploration has led to their redevelopment.

Also, perhaps even more significantly, one of the most exciting new exploration finds has been at the Red Chris Mine in northwestern B.C. There have been some major copper and gold discoveries. Each drill hole costs $750,000. That's a major investment. That discovery is leading a lot of other sites along the same geological belt to wonder if there might be some similar results deeper, well below their open pits. That's a major investment, so a tax credit in that area would, I think, potentially allow a number of our existing projects to go much longer with those kinds of discoveries.

We also recommend that you stay the course with your planned corporate tax rate reductions. Canada is becoming one of the most competitive tax jurisdictions in the world. We welcome that. B.C. in particular is one of the most tax-friendly jurisdictions in Canada.

Lastly, we'd like to urge the government to support the Canada Mining Innovation Council, an important research initiative that involves the partnership of the industry, including financial contributions from the industry through the Mining Association of Canada. This is research to make us more competitive, more responsible and we'd like to see it move forward as a true partnership.

Thank you for the opportunity to present.

10:10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much for your presentation.

I'll just remind witnesses that we do have a number of witnesses here. Members do have limited time, so I encourage you all to be brief in your responses.

We'll start with Mr. Pacetti, for seven minutes.

10:10 a.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you to the witnesses for appearing. You have the honour to be the first panel, so we're going to forget about all that you say, because after six weeks of all this we're going to have a difficult task trying to see what we can actually put in the report.

I have a couple of questions, and I have a lot of time, so I'm going to start first with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

We talked a lot about the stimulus money last year. There were a lot of problems getting the stimulus money out, and now you're telling me that we have to continue. We've had a lot of opinions on whether it should be extended or increased. Again, you didn't go into specifics, but can you just elaborate on whether all your projects have started, in fact, and whether there are some that still have to begin, and whether any of your projects will end on time as per the expiration date?

September 27th, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.

Director for the Regional District Central Kootenay, British Columbia; President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Hans Cunningham

Thank you for the question.

I don't have, of course, statistics on that, because they are kept by the federal government as to whether all the money has gone, but I understand by this morning's release that in fact all the stimulus moneys have been allocated, as I mentioned.

10:10 a.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

If I had wanted to read a press release from the government, I would have read it. That's why I want your opinion. I want you to tell me what's actually happening on the ground, because last year, when we had the pre-budget consultations from coast to coast, we had different provinces saying different things. I'd like to hear it from your point of view, because you guys are the deliverers of these projects.