Evidence of meeting #124 for Finance in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was important.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paul Rochon  Deputy Minister, Department of Finance
Margaret Hill  Senior Director, Labour Program, Department of Employment and Social Development - Labour Program
Anna Dekker  Counsel, Judicial Affairs, Courts and Tribunal Policy, Public Law Sector, Department of Justice
Adair Crosby  Senior Counsel and Deputy Director, Judicial Affairs, Courts and Tribunal Policy, Public Law Sector, Department of Justice
Jim Valerio  Director, Small Business Branch, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Darryl Sprecher  Senior Director, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat
Stephen Fertuck  Acting Director General, External and Trade Policy Branch, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Melanie Hill  Special Advisor, Strategy and Innovation Policy Sector, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Suzie Cadieux

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

Thank you.

Lastly, with regard to one of the Canada Labour Code changes in part 5, division 8, we heard from officials when we reviewed this section.... This is in regard to unpaid leave for victims of family violence for up to 10 days. I think it's a really important initiative, and as far as the language goes, the officials did a really great job in terms of explaining the process. The intention was to ensure that victims and their direct family members could seek help or, in some cases, medical attention right away, in terms of dealing with the longer-term implications with their employer. This really allows for that quick access to care in a lot of cases.

We've also heard in previous testimony—I believe it was on the pre-budget consultation—about the cost to the economy and the cost to employers as a result of domestic violence and family violence.

Can you speak to this initiative and why it's so important to start making these changes in the Canada Labour Code?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

We believe that it's important to acknowledge challenges and to address them to find a way to assure that Canadians can address their individual situations and the challenges, and not suffer work penalties as a result of that. This really came out of that. It came out of an acknowledgement that having unpaid family responsibility leave is just an acknowledgement of the reality of today's much more challenging, fast-paced economy, and that people who are in a situation where they are a victim of family violence are in need of time.

That's hopefully going to produce what we would expect would be a better situation for them than if they weren't accorded the ability to take that time. All of these efforts are really with that objective in mind—to get the labour code up to date with the reality of both the family situation and the challenges that we face today. We think acknowledging that will create a healthy situation within organizations and a healthier economy over the long term.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, Minister.

Mr. Kmiec.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Minister, I want to talk about division 2 in part 5 of Bill C-63, on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank agreement act that is being ratified. You must know this. Your officials came to committee and they said that every single project that this bank had approved thus far had received a human rights review, an environmental review—every project and every project being proposed. You must know that there are two pipeline projects that have received funding and that are receiving a loan from this bank in which Canada is now putting $375 million U.S. You also must know that your government cancelled and made it impossible for two pipeline projects to proceed in Canada.

How can you justify wasting $375 million U.S., gifting to China this money for their middle class, when you have hard-working energy families in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia who are out of work and looking to their government to support them in their time of need as it is financing China's middle class?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Let me start by saying how important it is that we continue to work in our country to assure the success of people in challenging situations. Certainly, the economy in Alberta has had real challenges because of the change in oil prices. We recognize that. We're pleased to see that it's doing somewhat better today, but we know we have a lot more that we need to be doing together. It's similar in Saskatchewan, which is facing real challenges.

Our continuing goal is to work to make sure that we have the ability to move our resources to market. That will be of continuing importance for us—

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Pardon me, Minister, but this $375 million U.S. is going to two pipeline projects. It will support the loans that this bank will give in the future. These are competitors with Canada's natural gas industry, with our LNG projects in the future. We do not need to be part of a bank in order for Canadian companies to bid on projects, so how do you justify spending $375 million U.S. of Canadian taxpayer dollars, when you could have just put that money towards infrastructure in Canada?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

As I was saying, we take very seriously the responsibility of working on the important issues in our country. We also see that it's important to be part of international institutions, as we have been historically, whether it's at the IMF or the World Bank.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is important. We have a share there, which is roughly equivalent to $200 million U.S. That is the share we will be able to take up there. Unfortunately, we won't be able to take up our full economy's share, which we have been able to with other institutions, because we are coming late in the game.

We believe it's important to be a member of the international community and to help ensure that the global economy is working. Having a seat at the table at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will be important. Those investments, by helping the global economy, will be important for Canada. Our goal will be to continue—

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Pardon me, Minister, but you're going off track a little bit here. You haven't yet justified spending $375 million U.S. of Canadian taxpayer dollars. That money could have easily been used to support middle-class Alberta energy workers. You haven't justified the money. You talked about multilateralism and working with what amounts to our competitors. This furthers China's foreign policy. Academics, professors, China's foreign spokespersons for different ministries say openly that this is to further their “one belt, one road” initiative.

I'm asking you why we are financing competitor markets when we did not need to do so before. Canadian companies were able to bid on these projects and we did not need to spend this money in the first place.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Just so that we're clear on the facts, we are going to make an investment of $200 million in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—that is the U.S. dollar amount. It gives us a seat at the table. It will allow Canadian businesses to be part of the investment opportunities. It will allow us to be at the table to consider what sorts of projects will be taken on by that institution, as we do at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We are looking forward to that as an important part of the international institutions.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, Minister.

We'll now go into the second round with this five-minute question and then move to the supplementary estimates.

November 8th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Minister, for being here. It's much appreciated.

Minister, how many jobs were created in the last two years in the Canadian economy?

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

We are most of all concerned with creating jobs for Canadians. In the last two years, we've seen over 500,000 new jobs created in this country, getting us to a rate of unemployment that hasn't been seen in more than a decade.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Minister, I come from Brampton East, which is a middle-class riding with a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of small businesses. They're really happy about the small business tax rate.

Yesterday I was at Loblaws, speaking to their carriers, their third-party trucking companies. One thing I got from them was that Canada is such a big country and they're transporting goods all across this country. They were excited to know the details of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement. Can you elaborate on how that's going to strengthen our country even more and make it more efficient for small businesses to do business across Canada?

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Breaking down internal trade barriers in this country is of huge importance. We've made progress in this regard and we're pleased with that progress. We still have more to do. We know that finding a way to enable us to work together across the country with lower trade barriers will create economic opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise. We've made progress again, but that is a continuing issue that our government will take seriously because we know that we can create more economic growth by breaking down those barriers.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Minister, I know my colleague asked this question, but I think it's really important. As somebody that interned at university and during law school, I want to make sure that we're achieving the balance between providing young students with the opportunity to intern to gain those experiences, and at the same time, protecting our young Canadians from being exploited in the internship space.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

We recognize how important it is to give young people the opportunities that they need coming out of university or college or sometimes out of high school. We also recognize that allowing unpaid internships creates a potential challenge for people that have less economic means. If your family happens to be well off, an unpaid internship can provide you with good work experience, but that might not be the same opportunity for someone of lesser means.

We wanted to make sure that the internships that are unpaid are only really there as part of a formal educational program. Overall, we seek to encourage companies, organizations, and governments to make sure that internships are paid. People should be paid for doing their work and that will create a better playing field and a more equal playing field for people from all economic backgrounds to be successful, as they seek their first jobs.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Thank you, Minister.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We have to cut it there and turn to supplementary estimates. I'm not sure if you have an opening statement here, Minister. Do you have a very short one?

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Just that I'm delighted to be here for supplementary estimates.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

That is good.

We'll have to go to five-minute rounds. It's my fault that we were a little late starting. I had in my mind that the committee was going to be at 3:30 p.m., so my apologies.

To start, we have Mr. McLeod. We'll go to five-minute rounds.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the minister for being here.

As the person from the north, not northern Ontario or Manitoba but Northwest Territories, one of two northern people sitting around this table, I wanted to bring some attention to some of the challenges we have in the north.

For many years, I sat as a minister with the Government of Northwest Territories and many times, we really experienced the shock of being left out of investments when the government would come forward with their budgets and we'd have to rush to Ottawa to try to get a carve-out because the money was invested in the north on a per capita basis. We have a small population and we have high costs, yet these things were not factored in. I'm hoping that you're going to keep an eye on some of these challenges that we have. We are working on a new northern strategy. The northern strategy provided by the previous government was military focused. That doesn't help us in our communities. Our communities are in crisis situations with housing, jobs, and many other things.

In the supplementary estimates, we talk about access to skill development and training for indigenous people. We also talk about adult basic education in the north. I'm hoping these things are going to get some priority and I'm hoping that we're going to develop a good strategy. We need a plan. However, as part of that plan, we're going to look at an economic chapter. I don't know if that's going to be enough. I'm wondering if you think that we need to sit down and develop a whole new northern vision with an economic focus for all of the northern territories—I'm saying territories, not northern provinces as well.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

I just want to obviously thank you for pointing out how important it is that we have a strategy for each part of the country and one that considers the particular challenges of Canadians who live in northern parts of the country. All I can say is that it's important for us to continue to do that. I'm looking forward hopefully to be working with you on that in the course of the next number of months in preparing for budget 2018 because we will want to continue to recognize the particular challenges and opportunities, the opportunities that we see in the north in areas like mining and other industries that have a particular opportunity. That will be a continuing goal of our government.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Minister, we are making some progress. I was really happy to see that the chamber of mines sent us a letter congratulating us for the investments we're making. We have a choice. We either can provide subsidies to companies, industry, or we can provide infrastructure. We recently met with the chamber of commerce and chamber of mines. They've all stated that the preference for us in the Northwest Territories or in the north is transportation infrastructure. That will lower the cost. That will provide the investment climate we need.

We also need to develop our workforce. Some 50% of our population is indigenous. They need a focus. We need a strategy to deal with that. We have across the country over 150,000 indigenous people sitting in communities unemployed. It's really troubling to see that. Indigenous people usually don't take advantage of projects in another jurisdiction, in another province.

We need to ensure that our economic plan is spread across the country but we may need an indigenous workforce strategy also. Maybe you can comment on what you were thinking with that.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

I can only, more than anything else, agree with you. Obviously the investments that we're making on behalf of indigenous Canadians both in the north and across the country are important. They're particularly important in dealing with some challenges that we recognize are there for the fastest growing part of our population. These are challenges like, obviously, very different economic outcomes, so a lower rate of income for indigenous Canadians, and challenges like a significantly lower education attainment.

We are trying to, and must, deal with these. Obviously we need to think about first principles. How are people actually living and succeeding, especially in northern areas where the costs are so much higher? These are important issues that we are working to get at. Again, we're looking forward to making more progress in the course of the coming months.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you both.

Mr. Poilievre, you have five minutes.