Evidence of meeting #63 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was changes.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claude Poirier  President, Professional Serving Canadians Coalition, Canadian Association of Professional Employees
Tyler Sommers  Coordinator, Democracy Watch
Terrance Oakey  President, Merit Canada
Bob Linton  Director, Government and Political Affairs, United Food and Commerical Workers Union

12:45 p.m.

President, Merit Canada

Terrance Oakey

Sure. We're here to support the repeal of the measure that I spoke about earlier. We believe that the federal government doesn't really have a role in regulating wages in what is a high-paying industry. Whether it's a collective bargaining agreement—which the UFCW will enter into—or free competition between employers and employees directly, we think that's the best way to determine wages.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

For the record, he's talking about the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, which is division 23 of part 4 of the bill.

Thank you.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

Mr. Mai, the floor is yours.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Poirier, you represent some 13,000 economists and social science services employees who advise the government on public policy, 4,600 financial professionals in the public service, 2,700 lawyers, 450 pilots, and so on. I think we can trust your numbers.

Of course, the government is playing a bit with the numbers. They don't trust the figures submitted by the parliamentary budget officer. His figure was 108,000 jobs lost. Do you agree with that number? What are your thoughts?

12:50 p.m.

President, Professional Serving Canadians Coalition, Canadian Association of Professional Employees

Claude Poirier

The parliamentary budget officer has gone through the same exercise as us, but in greater detail. He provided a figure for every year, and, for 2015, he estimated 106,000 or 108,000 jobs lost. It is a general figure that includes the private sector and the federal, provincial and municipal public services. You obviously end up with a lot of numbers, which are difficult to grasp.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

You talked about 26,155 jobs lost in Ontario, including 18,199 in the private sector. In Quebec, my province, you mentioned about 13,299 jobs, including 9,314 in the private sector. In western Canada, it is some 7,500 jobs, in Atlantic Canada, 6,700, and in British Columbia, 5,800. You have identified those numbers by relying on what was in the budget.

We are really talking about an austerity budget, at a time when the Canadian economy is not running at its full potential—even the Conservatives say so. Could you tell us what impact those job losses will have on the overall economy?

12:50 p.m.

President, Professional Serving Canadians Coalition, Canadian Association of Professional Employees

Claude Poirier

There are all sorts of impacts. The one we are really worried about has to do with professionals who advise the government on the decisions it makes. The federal government has various roles to play. Statistics Canada, for example, provides services to the federal government, but also to the provinces, municipalities, universities and private businesses. If we reduce Statistics Canada's capacity to serve its clients, we are going to end up with a major shortage of information.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

We are already seeing a lack of information. I think you have referred to some cuts as ideological. We already have that problem. We are also concerned about the services delivered to Canadians.

12:50 p.m.

President, Professional Serving Canadians Coalition, Canadian Association of Professional Employees

Claude Poirier

We are already seeing the impact on employment insurance. The time it takes to process a claim has almost doubled. If you need to make changes to an existing file, the wait time is between 100 to 120 days. Aircraft will no longer be inspected, because the inspectors' operating budget has been cut. The inspectors still have their jobs, but they are not able to travel to inspect the aircraft.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

So there might even be some problems in terms of safety.

12:50 p.m.

President, Professional Serving Canadians Coalition, Canadian Association of Professional Employees

May 29th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

I would like to continue because this is really interesting, but

I'll go to Mr. Sommers.

You know that we've asked to split the bill. We've asked the government to have a look at doing that, but obviously it has refused. The PBO said that the lack of transparency is unacceptable. He has said that even we parliamentarians can't make decisions based on a budget that is not really detailed, where we don't know the consequences of the cuts or anything like that.

Looking at the budget, can you tell us a bit about what you see in terms of the reduction in the Auditor General's oversight, and maybe CSIS monitoring? Have you looked at those issues?

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

You have 30 seconds.

12:50 p.m.

Coordinator, Democracy Watch

Tyler Sommers

Thank you, Chair.

I'll quickly respond on the Auditor General's oversight, as I've looked into that more than the other oversight.

The issue is that there's going to be a reduction in what they're able to do and in the oversight they're able to employ. That's only part of the issue. Democracy Watch, as one group, has been advocating for the Auditor General to take a more proactive role and to do things such as random audits to ensure that everything is done according to legislation and according to policies and guidelines. That's something that is definitely going to fall off the table. There's no way to do that, because to expand the office, you're going to have to re-fund it and pick up all of the areas that are lost. So there are going to be some very difficult cuts that are going to hamper transparency and accountability.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

We'll go to Mr. Van Kesteren, please.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you all for appearing this afternoon. We apologize for the delay.

I have just a few comments. I want you to understand that we really do get along, and actually quite well. It's just that sometimes, we kind of butt heads ideologically. But you know, some of the things that were said are really not helpful. For instance, and I say this as constructive criticism, when you approach government just to get their ear, it's not helpful to suggest, for instance, that what we're experiencing is an artificially created crisis.

I just came back from the Netherlands. We sent a delegation there. The Netherlands is a country of 16 million citizens. They live in a country the size of Nova Scotia, and they are trimming €15 billion. We're trimming $5 billion. We have really not seen austerity measures, not to the extent that some of these other countries have.

Our debt is a crisis. We're handling it. At this point, it's $650 billion. The U.S. has a total lack of control and is approaching $13 trillion. So we see around us the Europeans and the Americans, and we try, as a government, to get a handle on things before things spin out of control. I would suggest, too, that in 2008 and 2009, we were faced with horrific challenges. And we've managed to curtail those. I think that the government has to move forward, and there are certain things that we have to do. Again, I understand that you represent your workers. I understand that these things will create hardships. We know those things too. But I think we need to keep our comments to a level that is mutually acceptable.

Mr. Linton, I guess I'm asking, more than anything else, if you have actual cases of what you talked about regarding the spray. In my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex, we have a lot of greenhouses, and I can tell you, as well, that we have 5,000 foreign workers. They have a consulate there as well. Most of the workers are from Mexico. If there are any problems, they can go straight to the consulate and they're addressed.

When I speak to my greenhouse operators, I challenge them continuously. And when I talk to the workers, I don't get what you said. I'm getting that they're very happy to be there; they're excited about it. We had a witness here last night, Mr. Manicom, who works for the government with the foreign workers. If there's any complaint by what I believe are called the offshore or foreign workers who come, for instance, from Thailand, who just hire themselves out. We recognize that there needs to be better monitoring for these workers. Again, if you see abuses, by all means, let us know, and we likewise will.... I'm not looking for a comment but am just saying that we can work together on these things.

I think I can wrap-up. I just wanted to get a level of civility here so that we all understand that we all do really care about each other and that we all want the best for our country.

I want to give Mr. Oakey an opportunity to talk about the changes we've made to red tape and to tell us why it's important for us to move in the direction you're suggesting with regard to those workers. I just want you to talk about why that is so important.

12:55 p.m.

President, Merit Canada

Terrance Oakey

Thank you. As I stated before, our industry is facing an acute labour shortage. But as I also stated, using temporary foreign workers and immigration is the most expensive way for construction companies to staff up, so it's always used as a measure of last resort. We support many training measures to help Canadians become skilled. But right now, we face a massive labour shortage, so it's necessary for us. Most of our members operate in Alberta, in the oil sands, and through that economy. Our economic prosperity depends on our having enough workers to be able to perform the work.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

I hope members don't mind if I take the last round.

Again, there will be no motions, so if members do have to go, I understand that.

I just want to get in a few questions.

Mr. Sommers, you said in your presentation that budget bills must focus on government spending.

What does the government do that does not involve government spending?

12:55 p.m.

Coordinator, Democracy Watch

Tyler Sommers

You do have a legitimate point. By saying “government spending”, I think it's fairly clear what I meant. I think most parties can agree—and by “parties”, I use that term generally, not in regard to political parties—that there shouldn't be large amounts of legislation that.... Massive changes to departments and existing legislation and what they cover really should have their own houses and their own piece of legislation.

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

But that all involves government spending.

1 p.m.

Coordinator, Democracy Watch

Tyler Sommers

Right. You could argue that basically everything the government does involves spending of some kind. But actually, it's—

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Yes, reading your statement, I thought you could actually make the bill even broader.

1 p.m.

Coordinator, Democracy Watch

Tyler Sommers

Right, which clearly isn't what I intended. I apologize for that.

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Okay, I'll move on then.

Let me pose a question about how you ensure adequate debate, but at the same time allow for passage of bills, especially with a majority government. Throughout history there have been situations in democracies where.... In the U.S. there is the Congress, and we have filibusters here in Canada. I was on the opposition side and I know how the system works. There's a certain amount of government time in the House of Commons, and opposition parties chew through that time and force the government to bring forward motions on time allocation, closure, and then you complain about it.

So how do you actually ensure passage of legislation in a majority government situation?

1 p.m.

Coordinator, Democracy Watch

Tyler Sommers

It's in part by giving proper voice to all these pieces of legislation. I don't think you're then going to see as many filibusters as you are with, say, an omnibus piece of legislation. So it's about working with the parties in ways that we don't currently do, bringing more collaboration and communal participation to the table.