Evidence of meeting #105 for Finance in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rail.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Atkinson  President, Canadian Construction Association
Patrick Leclerc  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Urban Transit Association
Harriett McLachlan  Acting Deputy Director, Canada Without Poverty
Michèle Biss  Legal Education and Outreach Coordinator, Canada Without Poverty
Timothy Ross  Director, Strategic Affairs, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada
Douglas Wong  Program Manager, Policy and Government Relations, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada
Jeffrey Wichtel  President, Dean, Ontario Veterinary College, Association of Canadian Faculties of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine
Jean-Claude Dufour  President Elect, Dean, Laval University, Association of Canadian Faculties of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine
C.J. Helie  Executive Vice-President, Spirits Canada
Geneviève Moineau  President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada
Peter Coleridge  National President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada
Stephanie Deschenes  Executive Director, Canadian Association of Science Centres
Hassan Yussuff  President, Canadian Labour Congress
Dennis Prouse  Vice-President, Government Affairs, CropLife Canada
Michael Bourque  President and Chief Executive Officer, Railway Association of Canada
Mike Luff  Senior Economist, Canadian Labour Congress

3:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I call the meeting to order.

As witnesses know, just for the record, pursuant to Standing Order 83.1, we're dealing with pre-budget consultations in advance of the 2018 budget, and we have six panellists here.

Welcome. Thank you for coming. As well, I want to thank those—I think most of you—who have presented submissions prior to the mid-August deadline.

We we will start with the Canadian Construction Association, Mr. Atkinson.

I might say as well that if you can hold your comments to about five minutes, that would be helpful; then we have more time for questions from members.

Mr. Atkinson, the floor is yours.

3:30 p.m.

Michael Atkinson President, Canadian Construction Association

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I wish to first of all thank the committee members for providing the Canadian Construction Association with the opportunity to appear before you in connection with your annual pre-budget consultations.

The Canadian Construction Association, CCA, represents some 20,000 individual member firms operating in the non-residential sector of the construction industry from coast to coast to coast in Canada.

You have our submission. It focuses this year on three main areas: supporting apprenticeship training and increasing labour mobility; increasing industry productivity through the use of a targeted tax incentive; and finding a more efficient way to fund infrastructure at the provincial and municipal levels.

Let me speak first of all on apprenticeship training. Very briefly, CCA, like the federal government, would like to see more employer engagement in apprenticeship training. However, according to Statistics Canada, 99% of the firms operating in the construction industry in Canada are small businesses; 60.4% are micro businesses with fewer than five employees.

The real question or challenge for us, then, is how we incent SME employers to engage in apprenticeship. It's CCA's belief that we should take a page from the successful tax incentive program used in the United Kingdom, which specifically incents small and medium-sized business enterprises to engage in a first apprenticeship experience. We think the federal government is best positioned to do that by enhancing the apprenticeship job creation tax credit that is already in existence.

As to supporting labour mobility, most employers will reimburse an employee, once hired, to relocate. But what about cases in which there is no compensation or in which an EI recipient needs help to travel to look for work? It is estimated by the building trade unions that a tradesperson can incur $3,500 annually in non-compensable mobility expenses, presenting a significant obstacle to moving outside their local labour markets. We believe that a change to EI policy to permit unemployed construction workers on EI to obtain an advance from their approved benefits to support employment searches outside their local area would do a great deal to incent labour mobility.

Third, concerning capital cost allowance, we are recommending that the permissible depreciation rate for class 38 assets—mobile equipment, usually diesel-powered in the construction industry, for earth-moving, compacting, and excavating—be moved from 30% to 50% to better align with the true productive life of these assets. In fact, we have situations in which projects will not allow that type of equipment on the site if it's more than three to four years old, for environmental purposes alone, or diesel emissions.

Next, as regards federal infrastructure programs, simplify the application approval process by instituting a single window for applicants, “applicants” being primarily municipal and provincial governments. In 2016-17, Infrastructure Canada alone was managing 15 different infrastructure programs.

We believe the gas tax fund should be modernized to ensure that it keeps pace not only with inflation but also with population growth, since the allocations are made based on the census, which only occurs every five years or so.

Concerning construction innovation, we support the ask of the Canadian Construction Innovations group, which calls for the development and implementation of a comprehensive innovation strategy for the construction sector. The CCI's pre-budget submission is with you.

Just in closing, I can't resist a final word on the proposed corporate tax reforms to Canadian-controlled private corporations. Given that 99% of CCA businesses are small businesses that are greatly impacted by these proposals, let's get past the rhetoric on both sides and have meaningful consultations, rather than work to some arbitrary deadline. Those consultations must take place prior to the enactment of any reforms. It's no good to say we're going to have a reasonableness test for family employees and to go and negotiate with CRA after the fact—been there before, don't want to do it again.

With that, Mr. Chair, I'll conclude my presentation and will be happy to answer any questions the committee might have.

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Mr. Atkinson.

We will now hear from the Canadian Urban Transit Association. Mr. Leclerc is president and CEO.

3:35 p.m.

Patrick Leclerc President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Urban Transit Association

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Honourable members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today as part of the pre-budget consultations in advance of the 2018 budget. My name is Patrick Leclerc, and I am the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Transit Association, commonly known as CUTA.

CUTA is the influential voice of public transportation in Canada. We are the national association representing public transit systems, manufacturers and suppliers, government agencies, research organizations and related organizations in Canada.

I would first like to thank the government and parliamentarians, including the members of this committee, for their unfailing and unprecedented support of public transit. The benefits of increased investments in public transit across the country are already being felt. The transit systems turn investments into concrete projects. They help to make our communities more prosperous, greener and fairer, but above all they help to improve the quality of life of Canadians.

The public transit infrastructure fund, PTIF, has provided short-term funding of up to $3.4 billion to support the rehabilitation and modernization of transit systems. Many commitments have already been made under the first phase of PTIF. While most projects will be completed within the prescribed time frame, the time needed to conclude bilateral negotiations and approve project lists, the complexity of transit infrastructure projects, the procurement process, and the limited construction seasons have created some delays. Unfortunately, some projects will not be completed by the required deadline of March 31, 2019. Therefore, CUTA is urging the government to confirm that all funds committed to communities under the first phase of the public transit infrastructure fund remain earmarked to transit with the same funding conditions and criteria after the March 2019 deadline for project completion.

Once the first phase of the public transit infrastructure fund is completed, the federal government will invest more than $20 billion in public transit over 12 years. These investments must be based on reliable industry data so that we can objectively evaluate and measure the impact of government investments.

CUTA is internationally recognized for its leadership, experience and expertise in the collection and analysis of data related to the Canadian public transit industry. Indeed, we have been conducting the largest public transit data collection program in Canada for decades. We collect more than 1,300 unique pieces of data annually for each CUTA transit network member, representing approximately 98% of ridership nationwide.

Given the need for evidence-based decision-making and CUTA'S experience and expertise in leading the most important national transit data program, we recommend that the government both partner with us in establishing comprehensive performance metrics and mandate CUTA to track, analyze, and report to the government, in a harmonized way, on the industry's progress and outcomes of transit investments.

We're also following closely the creation of a climate change strategy. One of the most effective ways to reduce emissions from passenger transport is to measure transit's direct and indirect contribution to reducing GHG emissions through modal shift, the reduction of traffic congestion, and densification. We're recommending that the government clearly identify modal shift from single-occupancy vehicles toward sustainable mobility options—walking, cycling, transit, carpooling, and car sharing, just to name a few—as a key objective and performance metric of federal transit investment to reduce GHG emissions.

Finally, Mr. Chair, the Canadian transit manufacturing sector is a remarkable success story. Our bus and rail manufacturers and their suppliers lead the North American transit market. The Canadian transit industry supports nearly 75,000 high-quality, good-paying jobs. However, it's with great concern that the industry has seen the implementation of an increase in the Buy America requirement for transit procurement in the United States. We believe the government must leverage the current trade discussions with the U.S. to ensure that Canada's transit industry has fair access to U.S. market, especially at a time when the Canadian government is making record investment in transit. It's critical that we treat our transit manufacturing industry as a strategic sector to defend, protect, and promote.

The Government of Canada should therefore seek fairer access to Canadian companies in U.S. public transit procurement by requiring that Canadian components receive national treatment in the calculation of the Buy America requirement.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

3:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much.

We'll turn now to Canada Without Poverty, to Ms. McLachlan and Ms. Biss.

3:40 p.m.

Harriett McLachlan Acting Deputy Director, Canada Without Poverty

Good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. My name Harriett McLachlan, the interim deputy director of Canada Without Poverty, and I am joined this afternoon by CWP's legal education and outreach worker Michèle Biss.

For those who are not aware of our organization, Canada Without Poverty is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, charitable organization dedicated to the ending of poverty in Canada. The organization was created in 1971 as an outcome of the Poor People's Conference, a national gathering of low-income individuals, as the National Anti-Poverty Organization, or NAPO. Since that time, CWP's board of directors is comprised entirely of people with a lived experience of poverty.

In Canada, 4.8 million people, or one in seven, live in poverty, including 1.2 million children. Poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity also disproportionately impact marginalized groups across the country, including persons with disabilities, single parents, women, racialized persons, indigenous peoples, and LGBTQ2S youth.

While budget 2018 must look towards solutions to the staggering rates of poverty in this country, Canada also has a legal obligation to address the violations of human rights that poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity represent. As signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other human rights treaties, Canada is obliged under international human rights law to meet the right to housing, food, work, health, and an adequate standard of living. Adherence to these human rights obligations would also be an important step forward, towards the commitment and further realization of the UN's sustainable development goals.

3:40 p.m.

Michèle Biss Legal Education and Outreach Coordinator, Canada Without Poverty

We recommend 11 immediate steps the government can take to support the economic contributions of people in Canada. These measures would also implement recommendations of United Nations treaty bodies. Our recommendations are as follows.

One, implement a human rights approach to budget 2018, which requires an analysis of the effect of spending on marginalized groups, including women, persons with disabilities, and racialized persons, along with concrete measures to address equality and nondiscrimination.

Two, ensure that the forthcoming Canadian poverty reduction strategy uses a human rights approach, with dedicated, adequate funding in the 2018 budget.

Three, increase the amount of transfer payments to provinces and territories with earmarked sufficient funds for social assistance, and designate that payments are conditional on rates being set at levels that meet an adequate standard of living.

Four, reinstate the national standard protecting refugees from a minimum residency requirement before receiving social assistance benefits.

Five, set national wage standards, including a federal minimum wage, to meet a living wage indexed to the consumer price index.

Six, increase federal spending on child care, with the ultimate goal of achieving the international benchmark of spending at least 1% of gross domestic product on childhood education and care by 2020.

Seven, ensure that the Canada child benefit is indexed and that conditions are made to prevent provinces and territories from clawing back benefits.

Eight, develop a national pharmacare program that provides cost-effective prescription drugs at little or no cost.

Nine, dedicate adequate funding to implement a national right-to-food policy with particular collaboration with first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

Ten, ensure adequate funding is dedicated in budget 2018 to a rights-based national housing strategy that engages a variety of robust policy measures.

Lastly, address the financialization of housing and the perception of housing as a commodity rather than a human right by increasing capital gains tax on profits from selling secondary residences and implementing a tax on foreign investment in property, to be funnelled into affordable housing options.

For further detail on these recommendations, we'd steer members of the committee to the Dignity for All campaign's model anti-poverty plan, which was developed through meaningful consultation with people with lived experience of poverty.

We look forward to answering your questions in this regard. Thank you.

3:45 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much to you both for that presentation.

We have, from the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, Mr. Ross and Mr. Wong.

3:45 p.m.

Timothy Ross Director, Strategic Affairs, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

Thank you to the chair and members of the committee for the opportunity to present our perspectives on budget 2018 today.

We both work with the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada. It's a membership association of housing co-ops from coast to coast to coast, where a quarter of a million Canadians call home. On behalf of our organization, it is my pleasure to be here today to discuss our recommendations to help support the federal government in its effort to solve the national housing crisis, and to increase productivity and competitiveness in the Canadian economy.

Canadians are calling on their government for more affordable housing. In markets across the country, moderate-income and low-income households are finding it difficult to find an affordable place to live in light of soaring prices and a lack of housing options. For many Canadians, productivity begins at home, and the lack of affordable housing options is a roadblock to social and economic inclusion. We believe that our three recommendations can help begin to solve the housing crisis.

I will turn it over to my colleague Douglas Wong to go through those recommendations.

3:45 p.m.

Douglas Wong Program Manager, Policy and Government Relations, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

First, the federal government must protect 20,000 at-risk households living in housing co-ops. The government has already pledged to do this on a number of occasions dating back to before the last election. It is now time for concrete measures that will protect long-term affordability for those who need it the most.

It is imperative that these new measures feature the same breadth and depth of support, ensuring that the same number of households are supported moving forward, and that those households are offered the same level of financial support. Low-income households need certainty now and cannot wait until next year to get an update on the status of this vital program.

Second, co-ops across Canada are ready to do more with their assets. In only a few years, co-ops have leveraged over $100 million for capital renewal, fuelling their local economies and creating jobs. One key tool that co-ops have utilized to kick-start their asset regeneration has been to prepay their CMHC-held mortgages. These mortgages were signed at interest rates of between 8% and 11%. These rates made sense in the 1970s, but today they are an impediment to capital renewal and job creation.

We are calling on the government to accelerate and improve the options for co-ops to prepay their high-interest CMHC-held mortgages. This simple fix would enable co-ops to launch hundreds of millions of dollars of affordable housing regeneration, protecting their affordable housing assets for decades to come.

3:45 p.m.

Director, Strategic Affairs, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

Timothy Ross

Finally, in order to create more affordable housing, we ask that the government earmark supply measures like predevelopment assistance, grants, and loans to catalyze development of more mixed-income non-profit housing, much like housing co-operatives. Our sector is ready and eager to build more. Co-ops can build more now. However, a meaningful government investment in the creation of new supply would strengthen any effort that the sector could spearhead alone.

A CMHC study found that those living in housing co-ops saw more improvement on key quality-of-life indicators, such as an improved sense of community, skills development, and labour force participation. Co-ops are a time-tested platform for providing affordable housing and ensuring affordability over the long term, and are well positioned to help solve the housing crisis.

This government deserves credit for presenting a vision for housing in this country, and has made great progress in furthering the housing discourse. Our sector is excited to tackle the housing crisis with the federal government as a strong partner in the years ahead through the national housing strategy. It's unique at this time that we all have a chance to work together to turn the housing problem into a solution for our communities.

Thank you for your time, and we look forward to questions as well.

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much to you both.

We turn to the Association of Canadian Faculties of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Mr. Wichtel, dean, Ontario Veterinary College; and Mr. Dufour, president-elect, dean, Université Laval.


3:50 p.m.

Dr. Jeffrey Wichtel President, Dean, Ontario Veterinary College, Association of Canadian Faculties of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine

Thank you for the opportunity to allow us to present to you today.

ACFAVM comprises 13 world-class training and research faculties spread coast to coast. Together, we are a catalyst for the development and adoption of innovations in food, agricultural, and veterinary medicine. Our work has greatly evolved over the past two decades. It is now highly interdisciplinary and closely aligned with societies' health, food, and environmental challenges. We provide the science and the trainees that ensure continued public trust in Canada's ability to safeguard our food systems. We are a powerful network of Canadian food universities, a tremendous resource that needs to be better leveraged. Why do I say that? First, Canada needs our trainees. Our graduates, whether domestic or international, have virtually 100% employment. It is estimated that there are four jobs for every one of our graduates. We need to invest in people to realize the export-led growth in agrifood that we know is possible.

In research and innovation, we prioritize the application of our discoveries by the agrifood industries and we ensure the safety of our food systems. I have some examples: improving disease resistance in food animals, thus reducing the need for antimicrobials and protecting humans from antimicrobial resistance, while providing Canadian genetic businesses with an outstanding international market advantage; enhancing plant, crop, and animal efficiency, quality, and safety, for example, to reduce the climate change impact of crop production practices.

Canadians nation-wide were recently asked about research and innovation priorities at universities. Respondents ranked health, feeding our growing population, and climate change as the top three. These topics are our business.

What can we do for you? The Barton report says that establishing an appropriately trained workforce and innovation ecosystem will help “unleash the potential of...the agfood sector”. We certainly agree with that. Together with agrifood businesses, through enhanced training, research, and innovation, we can develop the Canadian brand for safe and nutritious food envisioned in the Barton “Path to Prosperity”.

I'll now hand it over to Dr. Dufour to present our specific recommendations.

3:50 p.m.

Dr. Jean-Claude Dufour President Elect, Dean, Laval University, Association of Canadian Faculties of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.

We have three recommendations.

The first recommendation involves matching funds. We are well aware that small and medium enterprises are highly innovative, but that they are challenged to invest as much as major councils or to pay the indirect research costs. Therefore, we are asking you to help these businesses by increasing funding to the matching funds program so that they can invest more in research and development than they can currently. For instance, SMEs can invest $2,000 or $5,000 in R and D, but they could be much more innovative if they had more help. There is no doubt that large companies can pay the matching funds for major programs, which can reach up to $1 million, something SMEs cannot do.

There is another element to this, which is the recognized percentage of in-kind contributions in matching programs. We would like this percentage to be higher because these companies are often able to make a contribution by providing products, staff or equipment of some kind. This could help them to be even more innovative.

The second point concerns training. For several years, we have been developing a number of distance courses and programs, but few of these employees are attending. We understand very well that this is how it is, given cost and availability issues, as well as the fact that the courses are given at the university or elsewhere. It isn't necessarily consistent with their ability to travel.

Therefore, we recommend that you support these employees by creating a special fund to give them training on production sites. The universities are ready to do it. We already have lecturers and equipment. We could improve the capacity for innovation even more if the employees of SMEs could take training on site instead of having to go to the university.

Thirdly, in terms of innovation support, we recommend that you create a national network of excellence in innovation. All our faculties already involved in innovation could both transfer a good part of this knowledge and acquire more. In the past few years, great headway has been made in terms of big data, but companies need our knowledge to understand how they can use it in innovation. There are biotechnologies, for instance. These are important elements.

Thank you very much. Jeffrey will take over.

3:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay. Go ahead, Jeffrey.

3:55 p.m.

President, Dean, Ontario Veterinary College, Association of Canadian Faculties of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Jeffrey Wichtel

In summary, what steps should we be taking to help double our GDP growth in agrifood?

First, we need to invest in people. ACFAVM members are the suppliers of the human capacity required for innovation in agrifood. We can help develop policy to enhance our agrifood and veterinary capacity, including how best to attract top talent from overseas to support our Canadian economy.

Second, we need to make funding for both fundamental and applied agrifood research a clear and stated priority for all federal funding agencies.

Finally, innovative networks must include both businesses and academic sectors. Neither sector can do it alone. ACFAVM is a rejuvenated network among universities, but it needs better and stronger partnerships with government and industry. We need NCE-like platforms to make this possible.

Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. We're happy to address any questions on our proposals.

3:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thanks to both of you.

With Spirits Canada, Mr. Helie.

3:55 p.m.

C.J. Helie Executive Vice-President, Spirits Canada

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My name is C.J. Helie. I am the executive vice-president of Spirits Canada.

The Canadian spirits industry is a local industry employing hard-working Canadians across the country, and we are proud purchasers of the finest cereal grains bounty that Canadian farmers produce. In many parts of the country, we are well into harvest time, and our master distillers are keen to get their hands and their well-trained noses into this year's crop.

Made from locally sourced barley, corn, rye and wheat, Canadian spirits and our signature product, Canadian whisky, can compete with the best from around the world. Compete and succeed, but not with two arms tied behind our backs.

Our member companies are primary manufacturers, sourcing local agricultural products transforming these into high value-added branded consumer products of the very highest quality. We are an industry with a history that predates Confederation and an international reputation for making truly great whisky.

Recently, however, we feel very much like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Unfortunately, the canary died, very few paid attention, and no lessons were learned. The Department of Finance, once renowned for their professionalism and expertise, has in our view unfortunately lost touch with hard-working Canadians.

In many instances, the department's advice to ministers and to members today now appears largely limited to wealth redistribution and ignores the most basic principles of wealth creation. Finance officials, hiding behind the principle of budget secrecy, have essentially built walls to insulate themselves, and it is now extremely challenging for wealth creators—large, medium, or small—to have meaningful dialogue with Finance officials. Nowhere is this unfortunate dynamic more prevalent than within excise duty policy.

On April 1, 2018, under a dubious provision included in last year's federal budget, beverage alcohol duties will increase by CPI. It's certainly foolish, but unfortunately it's no April Fool's joke.

Given the excise duty's carve-out for Canadian wines, the measure is a clear and distinct breach of Canada's international trade obligations. Due to Finance's lack of consultation with Global Affairs Canada or other trade experts, we understand that Canada's entire federal beverage alcohol excise duty structure may now be part of the NAFTA renegotiation, will be a focus of the new dispute settlement provisions of CETA, and may be a catalyst for a potential WTO dispute by a range of Canada's major international trading partners.

Some have stated that last year's increase of seven cents on a bottle of spirits—mind you, 21 cents at retail—was insignificant and that this year's automatic increase will be insignificant, yet as the evidence provided to this committee by Finance officials themselves shows, no analysis was undertaken by those responsible to substantiate those claims. The unfortunate reality for spirits is that the automatic annual increase in excise duties is akin to one more turn of a tourniquet wrapped around the neck of the Canadian spirits industry. A difficulty in breathing has become life-threatening.

In fact, the industry has already felt a compelling investment chill. The prevailing international sentiment is that Canada is no longer open to investment in the sector.

Canadian spirits and our signature Canadian whisky franchise now faces even stronger headwinds, headwinds that have recently pushed Canadian whisky behind Scotch, American and Irish whiskies on the international market.

Canadian spirits, as the most highly added-value Canadian processed agri-food products, made here by Canadians, from Canadian-grown produce, we respectfully suggest, deserve more than to be milked dry by excessive taxes, taxes that account for 80% of the retail price of a typical bottle of spirits.

Truly progressive tax reform needs to be about more than simply taking more. It must instead be based on sound, transparent principles such as fairness, equity, and global competitiveness. The current excise duty structure and its ill-advised, new automatic escalator clause failed to meet these guiding principles. We hope the committee will recommend two adjustments to the current excise duty structure. One, the immediate elimination of the annual automatic escalator clause for beer, wine, and spirits introduced last year. Two, the adoption of a reduced excise duty rate on each spirits producer's first 100,000 litres of pure alcohol sold in Canada each year, a step system similar to that already in place for beer. A profitable home market is essential to any international success. Moreover, continual reinvestment in facilities, in people, in product innovation, in market development, and in the Canadian whisky franchise itself is a prerequisite for a sustained domestic spirits industry. Canadians will always drink and enjoy spirits. The questions are whether these will be made by Canadians from Canadian inputs, and whether spirits exports from Canada will continue to be a wealth and jobs creator for the country.

Thank you. I will be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.

4 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Mr. Helie.

Turning to questions, we will go to the first round for seven minutes, Mr. Sorbara.

4 p.m.


Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

I thank everyone for your presentations. It's quite insightful on all accounts.

I want to turn my attention to a couple of comments. First of all, to Canada Without Poverty, welcome, Harriett and Michèle. One of your most important recommendations, from my view, is that the Canada child benefit is going to be indexed. I think it's two years out. I think we can proudly state that this program is lifting and has lifted literally tens of thousands of children out of poverty. We should all be proud of that. It's an extra nearly $5 billion that is being sent to families across Canada from coast to coast to coast. It's simple, it's tax free, and I think it's working its way through the system and translating into the results where even the Bank of Canada governor commented on its power for benefiting.

I want to move on to Mr. Atkinson and the Canadian Construction Association. With regard to the capital cost allowance in class 38, getting new equipment out there for individuals in that field, how important is that bump-up from 30% to 50%?

4:05 p.m.

President, Canadian Construction Association

Michael Atkinson

Sure. I'll give you a comparison of where we are with respect to the U.S. Under the current system in the United States, which is more of a direct depreciation, a typical piece of equipment is written off within six years. Under the current system in Canada it takes 11 years, and you're still not really there. The useful life of a lot of this equipment is turning over in a three- to five-year cycle.

4:05 p.m.


Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Okay, thank you.

Then there's the issue with regard to labour mobility, because I do hear that we still like to think it's easy for workers to move from, say, northern Ontario or northern Saskatchewan to York region of the GTA. What can you say about the importance of having an impetus or catalyst for labour mobility within the trades?

4:05 p.m.

President, Canadian Construction Association

Michael Atkinson

It's absolutely key in our industry. We need the workers to go where the work is. We'd love to be able to move a northern mining project in British Columbia to downtown Vancouver but it just doesn't work that way, so we need a mobile workforce.

4:05 p.m.


Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON


Moving to the Canadian Urban Transit Association, we know the bilateral agreements that are signed between the provinces and the federal government take time to happen. We also know there is a time period for projects to get under way and get all the approvals. Out of the first PTIF 1, which I believe is about $3.4 billion, and then the second PTIF 2, which is approximately $20 billion, if I'm not mistaken, do we have any estimate of the amount of funds that may be left over in PTIF 1, or is it too early to tell?

4:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Urban Transit Association

Patrick Leclerc

At this time it's a bit too early to tell because some projects are still awaiting approval. We're monitoring that closely and reporting to the minister. We know there will be a better estimate when all projects are approved.