Evidence of meeting #213 for Finance in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was newspapers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Carmen Wyton  Chief Executive Officer, BILD Alberta Association
Kevin Lee  Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Home Builders' Association
Trevin Stratton  Chief Economist, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Bob Cox  Chair, News Media Canada
Jan Waterous  Managing Partner, Norquay Ski Resort
Andrew Booth  Chief Commercial Officer, STEMCELL Technologies
Ian Lee  Associate Professor, Carleton University, As an Individual
Mary Van Buren  President, Canadian Construction Association
Dale Marshall  Manager, National Climate Program, Environmental Defence Canada
Pascale St-Onge  President, Fédération nationale des communications
Sandra Skivsky  Chair, National Trade Contractors Coalition of Canada
John Mark Keyes  Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
Anthony Furey  Columnist, Postmedia, As an Individual
Geza Banfai  Legal Counsel, National Trade Contractors Coalition of Canada
Louis Tremblay  Vice-President, Fédération nationale des communications

5:10 p.m.

Mary Van Buren President, Canadian Construction Association

Thank you for this opportunity to address you today. As Mr. Chair said, I am the president of the Canadian Construction Association and we are the national voice for construction in Canada representing 20,000 members across the country and informed through an integrated partnership with 63 partner associations at the provincial and local levels. We have four sectors with whom we consult to ensure we have broad representation. Those are from the general contractors, trade contractors, civil contractors, and manufacturers and suppliers. We employ close to 1.5 million Canadians and that generates about $138 billion annually to the national economy.

What's really important to note is that about 60% of the industry is small businesses. I'll talk a bit about why this important. The benefits of timely payment throughout the chain on federal construction projects enables small, medium and large enterprises to pay their workers on time, to grow their businesses and to create the construction capacity we need to continue to build Canada. This industry has been asking for this legislation for some time, and it's essential to help keep the industry strong and growing.

Construction is a complex process with multiple firms involved sometimes over several years and at different stages; change orders are frequent; milestones may be put in place, all of which can lead to disputes by owners or contractors as to whether the work has been done or whether it's been done to spec. As you can imagine, this can lead to payments that can drag out over many months, which can make it especially difficult for the smaller businesses to manage their cash flow and to stay afloat over a project's duration.

The Government of Canada itself has been an excellent role model for good practices in administering contracts and making payments on time. In April 2016, CCA asked the government to work with industry to provide leadership to ensure that timely payment by the government is cascaded down the payment chain to subcontractors and suppliers.

We'd also like to acknowledge the efforts made by PSPC and Defence Construction Canada, in particular, which have engaged with the industry on this part of the bill. This process of stakeholder engagement and expert review, and recommendations provided to PSPC by Reynolds and Vogel, provided a very clear road map to developing legislation that the entire industry could support.

We'd also like to acknowledge the extraordinary effort on the part of PSPC and the justice department to bring this bill to its current status. We appreciate that if the bill is passed, the government will continue to move with urgency to create the many regulations required to give effect to the new act.

CCA supports effective legislation. We are concerned, however, about a dozen or so of the operational details of the legislation, and I'd like to highlight three substantive issues where the bill is silent and may be beyond the scope of regulation.

One example is the term “adjudication”. It's not defined in the bill and therefore it's open to interpretation. The Singleton Reynolds report provided a lot of context and recommendations around how this term should be defined in the proposed act. In this context, it's a very specific concept that leads to interim decisions that are binding on the parties for a specific period of time or until the occurrence of a specific event. The proposed act should clearly provide for the interim binding nature of adjudication, with only the operational details to be regulated.

Another example is the concept of immunity from suit for those persons acting in good faith as adjudicators under the proposed act. This concept is missing in the current bill. While there may be contractual approaches to the issue, without clear immunity from suit, we are concerned that the adjudication scheme will not be effective. If it's not effective, then the bill may not be effective for the industry.

Finally, the bill does not prohibit parties from making approval of the invoice a condition of the proper invoice. Under the proposed act, submission of the proper invoice starts the clock on all prompt payment timelines for all payment tiers. Instead, the process of reviewing and approving the construction work related to an invoice should be within the prompt payment time and after the clock has started. This prohibition on prior approval is the key element that prevents the parties from drawing out or gaming the system and should be clearly expressed in the bill.

Finally, the influence of this legislation is expected to extend beyond federal construction projects. As referenced in the report, the alignment with the federal and provincial legislation would be very helpful to our members who work at all levels of governments.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak briefly to this important legislation. We look forward to the opportunity to contribute, along with our other industry stakeholders, to the next important step in creating regulations necessary to implement this part of the bill.

5:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much.

With Environmental Defence Canada, we have Mr. Marshall, manager, national climate program.

The floor is yours, Dale.

5:15 p.m.

Dale Marshall Manager, National Climate Program, Environmental Defence Canada

Thank you for the opportunity to present here today.

My name is Dale Marshall, and I'm the national climate program manager for environmental defence.

Advocates of environmental protection are often told that the cupboard is bare when it comes to budgets, investing, protecting the environment and fighting climate change. Yet every major study of climate change shows that the cost of inaction is much greater than the cost of action. We can see that with the floods here in Ottawa, in the Maritimes; the forest fires that have ravaged the west. It feels as if every year extreme weather events are hitting Canada. Those are the costs borne by the people; they are important.

The cost of delay is greater than the cost of acting now to reduce greenhouse gases. Given the climate crisis we face, governments at all levels and of all stripes should be investing a lot more to fight climate change to improve the health of Canadians, create jobs and deal with what is an existential issue for humanity.

That said, some important investments were made in the 2019 federal budget. Environmental Defence supports the climate action rebate that goes to households in provinces where the federal carbon tax is applied. Over time, we feel that more of that revenue needs to be invested in further reducing carbon emissions, while at the same time continuing to protect those households that are vulnerable or on low income.

We also welcome the $1-billion investment in improved energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings. Buildings represent the third-highest carbon emissions in Canada. Making those investments makes sense. In addition to, of course, having a model building code that provinces can hopefully take up and start building buildings that are much more efficient and even zero net energy by 2030.

We also welcome the $435 million to support zero emission vehicles. We agree with the goal of phasing out vehicles with gas engines by 2040, but we also know that the way to ramp up electric vehicle sales and get those vehicles on our roads is to legislate electric vehicle sales, not just to finance charging stations or electric vehicle purchases. We look forward to seeing those kinds of initiatives to complement fiscal ones.

We also think that the investment towards a just transition for workers in communities was a necessary step. There's a dedicated $150-million infrastructure fund to diversify the economy. That's one part of the solution. The other part, of course, is to support retraining of workers who over time will be displaced.

On the not-so-good side, no progress was made in phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. We are close to the 10th anniversary of when Canada made the commitment with other G20 countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Phasing them out has always made sense, given that transitioning towards clean renewable energy is the cheapest and easiest way to avoid catastrophic climate change. Handing public dollars to carbon polluters undermines that effort. Some limited progress had been made in previous budgets. It was good to see some transparency around the review that will be done between Canada and Argentina to look at each other's fossil fuel subsidies and to publish them. At the same time, this budget included another big handout to big oil: $100 million to lower the environmental impacts of oil and gas development.

We agree that oil and gas development has too high an impact on our health and on the environment. I don't understand why government should be paying companies making billions of dollars in net profits to improve their environmental standards. The federal government, like other governments, should be enforcing or strengthening its environmental laws and letting the big oil companies make the necessary investments to meet those regulations.

I'll leave it at that. Obviously, I'm open to answering your questions later. Thank you.

5:20 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, Mr. Marshall.

We'll turn now to the Fédération nationale des communications, to Ms. St-Onge and Mr. Tremblay.

May 15th, 2019 / 5:20 p.m.

Pascale St-Onge President, Fédération nationale des communications

Mr. Chairman and members of the Standing Committee on Finance, on behalf of the Fédération nationale des communications, or FNC, and its 6,000 members working in the media and cultural sectors in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to provide you with our comments and suggestions on Bill C-97.

My remarks will focus mainly on measures concerning support for the written press.

First of all, the federation wishes to commend this new program, which will give a boost to our sectors, which have been heavily affected by the arrival on our markets, for more than a decade, of what are known as the Web giants. The measures in themselves will not redress the fiscal, regulatory and structural inequity that unduly benefits foreign content distribution platforms, but they will allow print, daily or weekly media companies to gain - we hope - some leeway, while many of them are facing significant liquidity problems.

We believe that the government has chosen the right measures to maintain media independence, since these are tax credits that will benefit not only recognized companies, but also media subscribers and donors. These tax measures are based on objective criteria that avoid favouritism based on an editorial line, an owner or an entrepreneurial model.

We also believe that the total amount planned, $595 million over five years, is commensurate with the industry's current needs to preserve journalistic jobs, both for print and digital newspapers that are still operating in Canada.

However, our analysis shows that it is virtually impossible for the amounts set aside for taxpayers' digital subscription tax credits, as well as those set aside for donations to philanthropic associations, to be used in their entirety.

In addition, the maximum amounts that the media can receive in payroll tax credits are far too low and do not fully reflect the reality of jobs, particularly in large cities. We estimate the average salary of Quebec unionized newsroom employees to be about $76,000. This figure will have to be increased when we add the managers who also work in the production of information content. It is also conceivable that it is higher in large Canadian cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa or Montreal.

It would be a pity if the program, in its current form, did not achieve the desired objective, which is to maintain the businesses and jobs that provide Canadians with access to quality professional news information. We therefore recommend the following changes.

First, the government's estimate of $235 million for digital subscription and philanthropy tax credits should be reduced.

Second, we recommend increasing the salary cap for payroll tax credits from the current $55,000 to $85,000 or $90,000 and, perhaps, to slightly expand the types of employment that would be eligible for these tax credits. If these changes were made, the maximum tax credit would be increased to $22,500 per job, rather than $13,750 as currently provided for in the budget.

The arguments in favour of such changes are numerous. First, the main Canadian newspapers with pay walls that actually work are The Globe and Mail and Le Devoir. With the information available largely free of charge on the Internet, fewer taxpayers have got into the habit of paying for their subscriptions online. The digital subscription is also much cheaper than the paper version.

For example, the annual paper subscription at Le Devoir is $311, while the digital subscription is $213. On the Globe and Mail side, the annual paper subscription is $527, while the digital subscription is $323.

Statistics Canada data show that Canadian households spent an average of $15 on newspaper subscriptions annually in 2016. This average is declining, particularly due to the number of households that no longer subscribe to the paper version.

Based on the trends, we can assume that today, this average should represent about $14 per household, which totals $196 million in subscription spending for all Canadian households. If 40% of these households subscribed to the digital version and each taxpayer subscribed to the two media I mentioned earlier, they would be able to take advantage of the maximum tax credit, that is, a $75 tax refund for expenses up to $500. This would bring the program to about $12 million per year.

This rate of taxpayer reporting is a scenario that is artificially inflated. One hundred per cent of Canadian households that make these expenditures on digital subscriptions would have to claim the amounts on their tax returns. It is almost impossible for the cost of this measure to reach $60 million over five years, leaving $176 million over five years for tax credits for charitable donations to recognized media. These tax credits currently amount to 15% for an initial amount of $200, and 29% for the following $500.

At present only two major enterprises would likely be recognized, i.e. Le Devoir and La Presse, because of their constitution as a trust or foundation. All of the profits of these two companies are in fact reinvested. Taxpayers would have to make astronomical charitable donations to these two daily newspapers to use the other portion of the program and reach $176 million over five years. This means that the $235 million in tax credits provided for under these two programs would not be fully used after five years. That is why we say that raising the salary cap would be a good way to ensure that the entire envelope can benefit newspapers and really help them maintain their activities.

The ultimate goal is to keep newspapers alive that have been severely shaken by the significant drop in their advertising revenues, now captured by foreign companies enjoying unfair tax and legislative privileges. While this kind of unfair competition seems intolerable in any market, it jeopardizes the very foundations of our democracy in the journalistic information sector. Until this unfair treatment is remedied, let us at least ensure that the measures to support print media companies are sufficient to enable them to face the years to come and play their full role. Journalism is a public good and must be recognized as such. It is the expression of freedom of the press, which is a fundamental right guaranteed in our charters.

Thank you for your attention. I would be happy to answer your questions.

5:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you.

We'll turn now to the National Trade Contractors Coalition of Canada, to Ms. Skivsky, chair, and Mr. Banfai, legal counsel.

5:30 p.m.

Sandra Skivsky Chair, National Trade Contractors Coalition of Canada

My name is Sandra Skivsky, and I am the chair of the National Trade Contractors Coalition, NTCCC. We'd like to thank the committee for inviting us here today to talk about Bill C-97.

The NTCCC represents trade contractors. We are a group of associations that formed back in 2004 and cover the major trades across Canada. These are trade contractors who perform about 80% of the work on site and directly employ the majority of tradespeople. Our members include approximately 12,000 mostly small and medium-sized businesses.

As you mentioned, I am joined here by Geza Banfai of McMillan LLP, who has provided thoughtful input and counsel to NTCCC on this topic for more than a dozen years. He was also involved in the advisory committees, both in the Ontario prompt payment efforts and here, federally.

One of the most important issues that NTCCC is focused on—and one of the reasons we began in the first place—is getting paid for work that's properly done. It's a major issue for our members.

Our objective is to ensure that prompt payment laws will be adopted in Canada, both at the federal level and in each province. We are very pleased to say that the federal prompt payment for construction act in the 2019 budget will introduce prompt payment rules on the federal construction contracts.

In the last 10 to 15 years, payment delays on all projects in all jurisdictions across Canada have increased. Delays have become not only more common, but longer. They have grown from something like 58 to 72 days in a very short period of years, and in many cases they go beyond that. Until recently—starting with Ontario's movement—there was no enforceable language in place at any level of government to ensure the proper and timely flow of payments through the construction chain.

Why is this important? Delayed payments cause serious inefficiencies, including project delays, fewer competitive bids and less opportunity to invest. They also lead to lower employment because of the pressure on operating cash flow that a trade contractor experiences due to late and uncertain payments. In the end, fewer jobs are created, the impact of government investments is reduced, fewer apprentices are hired and, in the worst case, small businesses go bankrupt.

The Canadian construction industry needs legislative and cultural change with regard to payment practices. Our members are very excited that this legislation is included in the budget, not only because of the prompt payment and adjudication regime that applies to federal projects, but also as a standard that can facilitate prompt payment in provinces and territories that have not yet established their own regime. Consistency, which Mary alluded to, is very important.

I would like to point out, as well, that there was a great deal of consultation and industry input into the creation of this language. It covers a complex, multi-level payment system that has many permutations—almost too many to list sometimes.

There was a detailed report produced by Reynolds and Vogel with recommendations developed from those consultations and additional research. Many of those recommendations are reflected in the language.

The industry—together with legal subject matter experts—looks forward to working closely with PSPC and other groups to ensure the implementation of this federal prompt payment regime. At the end of the day, once the regulations are in place and the industry and its advisers can process the language systematically as a whole, we can then provide some thoughtful and constructive input into what amendments need to be made.

We anticipate a national, industry-wide transition that will increase the promptness of payment across construction projects and change the current cultural norm of late payments. In light of this, we wish to thank and applaud key parliamentary champions—and we had a few—who did significant heavy lifting to ensure this issue was addressed. They include Minister Carla Qualtrough and Parliamentary Secretary Steven MacKinnon and their staff, and senior officials at PSPC.

We also wish to acknowledge the Honourable Judy Sgro and Senator Don Plett, who have been with us since day one and whose tireless efforts will lead to very positive outcomes for tradespeople, our trade contractor members and the construction industry as a whole.

If you have any questions, or would like any clarifications, we would be happy to entertain them. Thank you.

5:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Sandra.

We're turning to John Mark Keyes with the University of Ottawa, who is presenting as an individual.

5:35 p.m.

Professor John Mark Keyes Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Mr. Chairman and honourable members, thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today. I'm here to speak particularly to division 19 of Bill C-97, which would enact the national housing strategy act.

Although I'm appearing on my own behalf, I am also here to support the positions advanced by the social advocacy support centre, which is a social justice NGO. It particularly concerns itself with issues of housing and homelessness.

We greatly appreciate this opportunity to speak to you about the proposed national housing strategy act. Over the past year, I've been working with the executive director of the centre, Bruce Porter. He enlisted my help as a law professor at the University of Ottawa and also as a former legislative counsel with the Department of Justice here in Ottawa.

Together with others in the social justice community, we have been developing proposals to support the rights-based approach to housing announced in the government's national housing strategy in November of 2017. We developed draft legislation and put it forward to the government through the office of Minister Duclos.

We have been particularly encouraged by chapter 1 of the strategy, which is entitled “Housing Rights Are Human Rights”. It envisages the creation of new legislation to “require the federal government to maintain a National Housing Strategy and [to] report to Parliament on housing targets and outcomes”.

Division 19 of Bill C-97 adopts many of the elements that we had suggested in our draft legislation and goes some distance towards realizing this goal by requiring the minister to “develop and maintain a national housing strategy” and establishing a housing council to provide advice to the minister.

The bill would also create a “federal housing advocate”. The responsibilities of the advocate would be “to analyze and conduct research” on housing issues; to “consult with” and “receive submissions” from persons or groups who have experienced “housing need” or “homelessness”; and, to report to the minister annually, summarizing the advocate's activities and recommending “measures within the authority of the Government of Canada to address” housing issues.

As commendable as these measures are, we would suggest that more is needed to accomplish the government's goal of a rights-based approach to housing, which it announced in November 2017. We suggest that the bill should clearly establish an accountability framework for the progressive realization of the right to housing. This right would be realized by shedding light on housing issues, conducting research on how to address them and encouraging action to address them. We are not advocating judicial or quasi-judicial enforcement of this right.

Specifically, we are suggesting the following amendments.

First of all, amend the housing policy declaration in clause 4 to affirm that housing is a fundamental human right. This would more clearly position the right to housing as the anchor of the government policy.

Secondly, clarify the policy role of the national housing council to monitor progress on the realization of this right and to advise the minister regarding its progressive realization.

Thirdly, strengthen the policy role of the federal housing advocate by elaborating duties and functions to assess and advise the federal government on the implementation of the housing policy; to initiate inquiries into incidents and conditions in a community, institution, industry or economic sector; to monitor progress in meeting goals and timelines of the housing policy; to receive and investigate submissions from affected groups; to issue opinions about compliance with the right to housing; and, finally, to provide for a review panel made up of three members appointed from the national housing council to hold hearings on key systemic issues identified by the housing advocate and to submit reports and remedial recommendations to the minister, to which the minister would have to respond within 90 days.

These amendments would ensure a more effective national housing strategy and support the progressive realization of the right to housing through policy mechanisms: namely, research, investigation and reporting. The amendments do not entail adjudicative functions and would not give rise to legally binding orders from a court or tribunal. They would instead create meaningful accountability and access to justice for the right to housing by giving a voice to concerns about systemic housing issues and ensuring that those responsible for public policy listen to those voices.

I would be pleased to explain the recommended amendments further and answer any questions you might have about the bill.

5:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, Mr. Keyes.

We also have, as an individual, Anthony Furey, a columnist with Postmedia.

Welcome, Mr. Furey.

5:40 p.m.

Anthony Furey Columnist, Postmedia, As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you for inviting me to speak at today's session.

I'll begin by stating that I'm here as an individual speaking in my capacity as a newspaper columnist. I'm not here as an official representative of Postmedia.

My comments today will focus on the sections in Bill C-97 that concern the new tax measures designed to support Canadian journalism. I will not be speaking about what I think is the ideal relationship between government and media—the answer is “none at all”—but on how to best move forward with what is already on the table.

This small section of the legislation, as you may have seen, has already caused controversy, coming from both regular Canadians and individuals within the media. Canadians are wary of the idea that their government would in some way favour, influence or direct the media. Not only are media professionals, so it seems, wary of this happening, they are also concerned by the mere perception that this is happening. These concerns are mostly valid and I share them.

Last November's fall economic update was not only when support for journalism was first announced, but also when the accelerated capital cost allowance for businesses was introduced. Later in the week after that came out, I wrote a column that this latter move was to be applauded, and then I faced accusations of only backing the capital cost allowance measure because that same day I had also been bought off by the current government.

As someone who does not typically face such an accusation, I concluded that if it can happen to me, it most certainly can and will happen to everyone else in my field. As such, I would like to make three recommendations about how to proceed with these tax measures in a way that minimizes both the perception and the reality of politicizing Canadian media.

These measures have become popularly known as the “media bailout”. The public is under the impression that the government is simply doling out $595 million to media outlets on a mere whim. They may not know that the main measure is in fact a 25% labour tax credit for news media employees.

My first recommendation is that a better job can be done in communicating what is going to happen. If the impression is left to linger that the government is forking over cash grants to their journalist buddies, trust in media will only plummet further.

There are many ways that can be done. As we've learned, even a simple tweet from the Prime Minister can have a great influence in informing public perception, but let's get more technical. There's the question of how to determine what organizations will be eligible for the tax credit.

The film industry has for decades had a similar tax credit. To be eligible for the federal film credit, you simply need to spend 75% of your costs in Canada and check off any six out of 10 eligibility boxes. There is no politician, board or panel that determines eligibility. It is an administrative exercise, whereas when it comes to the media credit, the government:

will establish an independent panel of experts from the Canadian journalism sector to assist the Government in implementing these measures, including recommending eligibility criteria.

I would much sooner be judged by 10 strangers than I would 10 journalists, and I imagine many other journalists feel the same way about me.

Additionally, I take issue with the notion of “an independent panel.” One of my favourite phrases in politics is fast becoming “There's nothing more partisan than an independent.”

Canadian arts grants at all levels of government are typically awarded by a jury of their peers. It is a fact that this process is considered both political and rife with petty personal drama. The administration of the film tax credit, by comparison—although they're both in the broader arts community—is a much less divisive approach.

Therefore, my second recommendation is to abandon this panel of journalism experts. Instead I recommend the government allow as many voices as possible to present their opinions and that a basic checklist of qualifications be determined out of that. This avoids creating a gatekeeper system dominated by a few and brings it more to be an administrative measure, rather than selecting criteria year by year.

My last recommendation is a technical point, but I believe if not addressed it can have troubling ramifications. The budget refers to an eligible recipient of the tax credit as “a qualified Canadian journalism organization.” This phrase has given the impression the government is determining what is and what isn't a legitimate news organization. This phrase ought to be abandoned. As with any tax credit, if you are eligible, you receive it; if you are not, you don't. There's no need for an official list and there's no need for that list to be posted online in any capacity.

Those are my three recommendations.

Thank you, and I welcome any questions you might have.

5:45 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thanks very much, Mr. Furey.

Thank you, all, for your presentations.

Now we'll go to five-minute rounds. We'll start with Mr. Fragiskatos.

5:45 p.m.


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, again, to all of the witnesses for appearing today. It's great to have your insights.

Mr. Marshall, your testimony is interesting. There are parts that I agree with, and there are parts that I have concerns or maybe questions about. I'll keep an open mind.

You say that it's time in Canada that we move towards legislating the use of electric cars, if I understand you correctly. Yes, it's a vision that many will sympathize with if they take climate change seriously. I just wonder how we get there. You're talking about something quite dramatic in terms of an approach. Are there other countries that have done this?

Let's start there.

5:45 p.m.

Manager, National Climate Program, Environmental Defence Canada

Dale Marshall

Sure. Norway, another oil producer, has done this.

We don't even have to go to a foreign country. Quebec and B.C. are doing this. All it is saying to automakers is that a certain percentage of their sales have to be electric vehicles. That percentage goes up over time until we hit the target of 100%, which your government has set, by 2040.

5:45 p.m.


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

You're pointing to provinces. Would this be better done in the provincial jurisdiction, be better left to the provincial jurisdiction?

5:45 p.m.

Manager, National Climate Program, Environmental Defence Canada

Dale Marshall

No, we actually think that this should be done federally. The problem that's happening right now is happening because there are long wait-lists of people who want electric vehicles and can't access them.

5:45 p.m.


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

So, where would it start? What's your number?

5:45 p.m.

Manager, National Climate Program, Environmental Defence Canada

Dale Marshall

We think that we can get to 25% vehicle sales by 2025 and go out from there.

5:45 p.m.


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

I don't mean to cut you off. It's just that I have limited time.

What would be the implications for the economy in terms of jobs if we did that?

5:45 p.m.

Manager, National Climate Program, Environmental Defence Canada

Dale Marshall

Automakers can make gasoline vehicles, or they can make electric vehicles. If this is implemented in a stepwise fashion—as I said, ramping it up to 100% by 2040—the automobile sector has time to adjust, and we will still be employing workers who are making cars. They will just be making them electric instead of gasoline-powered.

5:45 p.m.


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Like I said, I keep an open mind here, so I will endeavour to learn more about Norway's example and to look at it and other examples that you've mentioned.

You made another point about fossil fuel subsidies.

What would you say to those in remote communities who rely on diesel, for example, and therefore are technically receiving a fuel subsidy from the government? Their livelihood, their entire quality of life, relies on the government's subsidizing fossil fuel in this case. Do you have a view on that? Because when you say that we need to move immediately towards ending fossil fuel subsidies in Canada.... I would love to hear the opinions of those on the ground in remote communities. My very able colleague to the right of me is from the north, so I won't talk about the north. I'll talk about remote communities in Canada. I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

5:45 p.m.

Manager, National Climate Program, Environmental Defence Canada

Dale Marshall

What I'm talking about are the hundreds of millions of dollars that are going towards production subsidies, not consumption subsidies. We actually totally support your government's investing, two budgets ago, $700 million in various programs to get remote and northern communities off diesel. That's the way to go. You can go towards renewable energy. Those costs are high. It has health impacts. There are programs that you are putting into place to deal with that, and we completely support that. We understand the high cost of diesel in the north.

We're not talking about getting rid of those subsidies. We're talking about investing in shifting away from those and towards renewable energy, which is often more reliable and cheaper and has better health outcomes.

5:50 p.m.


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Okay. You've pointed to the nuance there. However, it still raises, again, real economic consequences.

What is your view on oil extraction? I'm not trying to be combative; I'm genuinely interested in your perspective. We have heard in Parliament and over the course of the past almost four years, but certainly in the past few days from our colleagues in the NDP.... Well, they're flip-flopping left and right on many issues, but it almost sounds like the NDP have a view that oil needs to be kept in the ground—you know, the old saying of “keep the oil in the soil”.

What's your organization's view on that? Would you call for an automatic and immediate end to extracting oil, or does oil continue to have a place in our future?

5:50 p.m.

Manager, National Climate Program, Environmental Defence Canada

Dale Marshall

Our view is that the oil and gas industry is large enough. It expanded more quickly and increased greenhouse gas emissions more than any other industry in Canada. The reason we don't—

5:50 p.m.


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

So the—