Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I'm here on behalf of the Canadian Labour Congress, Canada's largest labour central, advocating on behalf of three million workers in Canada.
I want to spend the time I have available today focusing on several priority areas for the labour movement: pharmacare, child care, good jobs and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Our first recommendation is that the Government of Canada commence planning in budget 2019 to implement a national universal single-payer pharmacare program in Canada in conjunction with the provinces, territories and indigenous communities. Not only would a universal single-payer pharmacare program improve the health outcomes of Canadians and save billions of dollars in prescription drug spending, but it would also strengthen competitiveness by lowering employers' labour costs and improving labour mobility.
Canada's existing patchwork prescription drug system provides uneven and inequitable access to medicines, based on place of residence, employment status, income and age. The current system is also extremely wasteful and inefficient. We pay as much as $11 billion more than we would if we had a single-payer universal pharmacare system. Currently, drug prices are about 40% higher in Canada than in countries with single-payer, evidence-based pharmacare systems. We urge the federal government to sustainably fund the universal pharmacare plan based on principles of fair and progressive taxation.
The CLC also recommends expanded investments in such productivity-enhancing programs as universal, high-quality, accessible public child care. Accessible affordable child care has been shown to significantly boost women's labour market participation and training, to say nothing of the positive impact the investments in quality early learning and child care can have later in life. The government's current child care commitments are modest and should be significantly expanded, increasing the number of child care spaces available and reducing fees, enabling higher female labour market participation in order to offset the cost of the program.
We recommend that the federal government commit to a minimum of $1 billion in the coming fiscal year and an additional $1 billion each year until total spending on early learning and child care in Canada reaches the international benchmark of 1% of GDP.
In order to address Canada's long and disappointing record of sluggish productivity growth, the federal government must put quality jobs at the heart of its agenda. Labour market and social policies should systematically restrict precarious work and the exploitation of vulnerable workers. The federal government should strengthen labour standards and lead the way in improving job quality by ending contract flipping in airports and federally regulated workplaces, the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, and employers' ability to discriminate in pay and benefits based solely on employment status. I'm thinking here of part-time, temporary and contract workers. It should also reinstate the federal minimum wage at $15 an hour and implement a robust, proactive pay equity regime to close the gender wage gap.
Having ratified ILO convention 98, the government should improve access to collective bargaining for workers who want to form a union, and replace tied work permits, which currently shackle vulnerable migrant workers to their employers, with open work permits and a path to permanent residency. Budget 2019 should also include funding for increased labour program inspectors to enforce compliance with federal labour standards and for the additional staffing and enhanced training of health and safety officers necessitated by Bill C-65.
Finally, in order to stimulate business investment while meeting Canada's carbon emission reduction targets, the federal government should be much more ambitious with respect to investing in economic transformation for environmental resilience and sustainability. This means a much bolder plan of public investment in environmentally resilient infrastructure, renewable energy, public transit, and energy efficiency in home and building retrofits. An integral part of this plan must be continued investments in just transition measures to assist workers, their families and their communities affected by climate change and climate change policies.
Thank you very much. I look forward to any questions you might have.