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Evidence of meeting #78 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was industry.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Alicia Milner  President, Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance
Henry Van Ankum  Chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario
Shannon Bittman  Vice-President, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada
Tom King  Co-Chair, Finance and Taxation Committee, Associate Partner, Tax, KPMG LLP, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
Peter Bleyer  Senior Advisor, Policy and Communications, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada
Bruce MacDonald  President, Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada
Michael Atkinson  President, Canadian Construction Association
Barb Mildon  President, Canadian Nurses Association
Robert Peterson  Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice Canada
Magali Delomier  Director General, Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you.

I completely agree that we need a multi-year plan. We can't just go from budget to budget; we need a multi-year plan. At a time when there is uncertainty because of the global economy, making investments in infrastructure is a way to keep the economy moving and to keep us growing until some of the rest of the world catches up.

Mr. Peterson, you made a number of recommendations, but I would like to ask you more specifically about the capping of liability. Can you tell me after the BP spill what action the Americans took? I could be wrong, but it's my understanding that they increased the level of liability because they learnt how disastrous a spill can be and how much the liability can be. Can you tell me if that happened?

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

There's about one minute for the answer, Mr. Peterson.

5:40 p.m.

Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice Canada

Robert Peterson

I don't have the answer on that number. It is higher than in Canada, but there has been debate in the U.S. to take it all the way up to unlimited liability. Obviously, with a $40-billion tab, there became a heightened interest in that issue. As far as I understand it, amongst the U.K., Canada, and the U.S., Canada has the lowest by far.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

We have the lowest....

5:40 p.m.

Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice Canada

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

When there is an unforeseen and undesired environmental impact—let's say there's an oil spill—I guess the impact on the environment is devastating and needs to have focus, but also the impact on business as well....

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Do you want that to remain a comment or will we have a brief comment from Mr. Peterson?

5:40 p.m.

Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice Canada

Robert Peterson

Just following up from before, I do have $75 million as the cap in the U.S. I didn't want to misspeak without seeing it written here....

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Okay.

Thank you, Ms. Nash.

Mr. Hoback, please.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Thank you, Chair.

I want to make you aware that if I have a little bit of time left, Mr. Jean might take the rest of my time.

Ms. Delomier—and I'm sorry if I'm pronouncing your name wrong—you gave us some really interesting perspectives. The transfer of family farms is always something that we're trying to figure out how to do more effectively and more efficiently. You made some good comments about the capital gains exemptions; I understand where you're coming from. The capital gains extension of $750,000 to $1 million is I think in some ways a reasonable request in light of the size of our farms now and the capital that's involved.

One thing you talked about that I thought was really intriguing, though, was the savings account for the next generation. There has been talk in the sector that maybe the AgriInvest account should be that account, that as a farm is transferred from one person to the next, the AgriInvest account should transfer with the farm and not stay with the person who had the farm. The logic behind this is that the farm entity put the money in that AgriInvest account, so that farm entity should maintain that account as it moves into the next generation.

Do you have any thoughts on that?

5:40 p.m.

Director General, Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec

Magali Delomier

Are you talking about a transfer savings fund?

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Yes. Again, you're talking about a savings fund transfer. My question is, could the AgriInvest account established now be that venue if it were to stay with the operation instead of the owner of the operation?

5:45 p.m.

Director General, Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec

Magali Delomier

By transfer savings fund, I mean a fund that could perhaps be AgriInvest. I don't know. However, the goal would be to enable the parents to put money aside so that, when they retire, they can benefit from it. But since it would be enhanced by government money, it would increase. The transfer incentive would be that this government money would be given to the parents only if the farm were transferred, not if it were dismantled.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Those are some good points. Again, I was just throwing that out there to see if you'd thought that through and maybe using AgriInvest as a tool for doing what you're talking about.

With the AgriStability account, what we're seeing out west is that the account is being transferred from entity to entity, especially if it's part of a corporation. We're actually seeing farmers spending money in goodwill to buy up a margin of another corporation. If I buy you out, for example, the first thing I want to see are your AgriStability margins. If they're better than mine, then I take on your shares and run your entity. Do you think AgriStability needs some changes to reflect that also or...?

5:45 p.m.

Director General, Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec

Magali Delomier

I do not know enough about the technical aspects of the AgriInvest program. But if this helps a young person and favoured transferring, rather than dismantling, then yes, why not. This possibility should be examined.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

I think I'll turn the rest of my time over to Mr. Jean now.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

You have one and a half minutes, Mr. Jean.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First of all, in relation to Ecojustice, I'd be happy to meet with you at another time—my iPad is unfortunately not charged—to go over specifically what Canada has relating to the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which we brought into force since our government came to power, and the maximum penalties and the insurance liability, etc. I was on that committee when it, along with the Migratory Birds Convention Act, was passed, and it's not what you're suggesting. I'd be happy to meet with you to go over that in particular.

My interest is in relation to the Canadian Construction Association in particular.

First of all, would you agree that this federal government has been in charge of the largest-ever investment in infrastructure in Canada's history as far as money goes? It has been the fastest that any government has ever implemented and paid out. As far as the application process goes, it's the most efficient rollout ever. In fact, it's about five times what any Liberal government has done before, because of the nature of the economic action plan. Would you agree with that $45-billion infrastructure plan?

5:45 p.m.

President, Canadian Construction Association

Michael Atkinson

In answering that very loaded question, what I will say is that the stimulus program was rolled out at light speed. It was done because of the tradition we've had in Canada of the partnerships that have been made with lower levels of government. We have—if I can use the pun—the infrastructure in place to make sure that our co-funded infrastructure programs can work effectively. We would certainly like to see the kind of administrative ease and—

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

I only have one minute.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Actually, we're out of time for this round. Unfortunately, we'll have to move on.

We'll go to Ms. Murray for five minutes, please.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you.

The construction sector is hugely important in British Columbia, of course, and important to small businesses across the country. I wanted to pick up on your comment about the stimulus program. When I was out talking to small business people, chambers of commerce, and mayors, one of their complaints was that the stimulus program was rolled out in a way that didn't really reflect the core priorities; it reflected whatever came forward that they could do right away.

One of the requests I heard was about predictability and sustainability of the funding so all of the strategic plans can dovetail. Is that what you're talking about?

5:45 p.m.

President, Canadian Construction Association

Michael Atkinson

I think it's important to make the distinction that it was a stimulus program, not an infrastructure program. As a stimulus program, it worked very effectively.

What we want to see in terms of a successor program to the Building Canada plan, which is an infrastructure program, is a long-term infrastructure plan. I think it's important to make that distinction between what was effectively a stimulus program and what was an infrastructure program. Because we all know that we must invest in our critical public infrastructure, not because it creates immediate jobs, which it will; we invest in our public infrastructure because it's of course the sanity going forward....

October 17th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you.

I think it's fair to say that if there were a planned, methodical infrastructure program, if there were a need to do stimulus, you would just deliver on that plan and it would be predictable and sustainable.

Mr. MacDonald, from Big Brothers, I'm interested in your comments about mentoring. In your written submission, you talked about income inequality. You also talked about the need for first nations mentoring.

Can you tell me a bit more about your organization's experience with income inequity and where it is going? Does that link to your concern for first nations?

Lastly, how do you see your work as being important, preventative work to keeping people out of prisons so that we don't need to have a lot more spending and a lot more people in jail?

5:50 p.m.

President, Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

Bruce MacDonald

They're both interdependent and independent questions. First and foremost, our organization has a tendency to serve a lot of kids who come to us with multiple risk factors. These are kids who are going to be living in poverty and are transient. They may be witnessing family violence or drug and alcohol abuse in the family. As well, we have kids who live in great families. There is an undeniable correlation: those kids who come from families who don't value education are not breaking the cycle of poverty and are not becoming contributing members of society.

One of the things we're doing right now has been around for a long time. In January, we'll be announcing the results of a five-year study that has taken a look at almost 1,000 families who have had Big Brothers and Big Sisters for the last five years and how they've turned out, in effect. One thing that the early findings are showing is that these kids are graduating from high school at a rate of two and a half times their peer groups in Canada. That's the first step to going on to post-secondary education and breaking that cycle.

In terms of looking at aboriginal populations, one of the biggest things we're learning about is whether we are actually prepared to give up the brand of Big Brothers Big Sisters to make effective inroads in working with aboriginal populations. Last fall, we piloted a program in Flying Dust First Nation in northern Saskatchewan. It is a modified in-school mentoring program whereby high school students are matched with elementary school students in school, but the match itself is paired with an elder for a cultural component. One of the things we learned during the process was that the band council we partnered with wants to make sure the high school students get on to post-secondary so that the economic gap starts to be minimized as they're getting good jobs because they have an education.

As well, we found out that the program wouldn't work if we called it Big Brothers Big Sisters, so it actually has a Cree name. For organizations like ours, it's a fundamental rethink and shift in terms of how we're going to approach working not just with aboriginal or first nations communities but also with new Canadians.