Evidence of meeting #215 for Finance in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chair.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Maude Lavoie  Director General, Business Income Tax Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Trevor McGowan  Director General, Tax Legislation Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Charlene Davidson  Senior Project Leader, Financial Crimes Policy, Financial Systems Division, Financial Sector Policy, Department of Finance
Samuel Millar  Director General, Corporate Finance, Natural Resources and Environment, Economic Development and Corporate Finance, Department of Finance
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. David Gagnon
Darryl C. Patterson  Director, Corporate, Insolvency and Competition Policy Directorate, Marketplace Framework Policy Branch, Department of Industry
Tolga Yalkin  Director General, Consumer Product Safety Directorate, Department of Health
Colin Stacey  Acting Director General, Pilotage Act Review, Department of Transport
Sara Wiebe  Director General, Air Policy, Department of Transport
Joyce Henry  Director General, Office of Energy Efficiency, Energy Sector, Department of Natural Resources
André Baril  Senior Director, Refugee Affairs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Michel Tremblay  Senior Vice-President, Policy and Innovation, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Ariane Gagné-Frégeau  Procedural Clerk
Karen Hall  Director General, Social Policy Directorate, Strategic and Service Policy Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development
Hugues Vaillancourt  Senior Director, Social Development Policy Division, Social Policy Directorate, Strategic and Service Policy Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Next is NDP-22. We're back to you, Mr. Dusseault.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Thank you.

This amendment is along the same lines as the other amendment I have just presented, in that it is also intended to increase transparency. I have just talked about the frequency of reviewing the metric, but, in this case, I am talking about more transparency in the market basket measure. We have had this discussion here around this table. Several of us have asked who should be deciding what is in the basket. I am not saying that there is currently a danger that the figures will be manipulated in order to improve the government's record in the fight against poverty, but there could be one eventually. Over time, items could be taken out of or put into the basket, which would allow decision-makers to play with the poverty line calculation, basically in order to achieve the targets set.

We are proposing that the Chief Statistician of Canada make those decisions and that he or she publish on the Statistics Canada website the list of items in the basket of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living in Canada, and the prices of those items. This would ensure as much transparency as possible, and that the Chief Statistician of Canada will be making the decisions. The bill makes reference to Statistics Canada, but it does not mention who will decide what is in the market basket.

This amendment clarifies that. In addition, the contents of the market basket will be better known, because they will be published online and accessible to everyone. Canadians would therefore be able to find out which items have been added to, or removed from, the market basket. They would also be in a position to see whether any manipulation of the figures had taken place in order to match the targets set.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Ms. Bendayan.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

My thanks to my colleague for proposing that amendment, but the Government of Canada already publishes a lot of information in the interests of transparency. The first complete review was published in 2010 and it can be consulted on EDSC's website. The list of items currently in the market basket is also available on that site.

All through the MBM review, the government will communicate with Canadians on the decision-making process and will tell them about all the decisions made on the matter.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Kmiec.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

I heard what Ms. Bendayan said, but it is not exactly the intent of the amendment introduced by my New Democratic colleague. His amendment is rather to make sure that the Chief Statistician of Canada is legally required each year to publish on the Statistics Canada website the items in the basket of goods and services. We know that the government already has practices in this regard, but this amendment is intended to actually legislate more transparency. I agree with that.

In all the committees I sit on, I always support amendments designed to increase transparency. I see no problem with requiring Statistics Canada to tell Canadians what is, and what is not, in the market basket each year. They would then know exactly whether there has been any manipulation in the definition of the terms from one year to the next. I am not saying that there is any manipulation currently, but this amendment would prevent it. It is a good idea to specify that. I agree with the amendment.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Dusseault.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

My thanks to my colleague for supporting the amendment. He took the words right out of my mouth and I will not repeat what he said.

Our committee had asked the officials to send us information on the content of the market basket. Have we received that information? According to the government, it is easy to obtain and yet, the committee has been waiting for the information for several weeks.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay.

Hasn't it gone out to committee members yet? It should have gone out because we did receive a response.

I'll get the clerk to read it. There are several areas where we received a response on the basket of goods.

David, could you read that?

5:45 p.m.

The Clerk

It would be quite long to read.

It was an email that was sent on May 21 to all members.

I can show it to you, Mr. Dusseault, if you want to read it.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

It went out to members—

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Did it mention the content?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

—on May 21.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Did it give the specific composition of the basket? That is what I am most interested in.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Yes. There's an email in response and there's actually content in the documentation.

There was an email sent to us and there are attachments. I don't know whether Ms. Hall or Mr. Vaillancourt were involved in that or not. Anyway, it's in your system somewhere, Pierre. I know we had a pile of correspondence in the last week so it would be easy enough to miss it.

Does anybody want to add anything further?

Ms. Hall.

5:45 p.m.

Karen Hall Director General, Social Policy Directorate, Strategic and Service Policy Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development

The documents that were sent do include a list of the items that are in the basket. It's at the back of the attachment from the first review. There's a complete list of what's in the basket there.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Is it a public document?

5:45 p.m.

Director General, Social Policy Directorate, Strategic and Service Policy Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development

Karen Hall

It is. It's available on the ESDC website.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay.

Mr. Poilievre.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you.

I'll have a look at that document because I'd like to know exactly what is in the basket.

Furthermore, I know that the basket is being reviewed and there's all kinds of talk of consultations which, by their nature, are subjective. If they were objective, then you would have robots calculate it the way you do with the other poverty lines.

Who is the final decider on what will be added to the basket? Which personnel make that decision?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Can you elaborate, officials?

Ms. Hall or Mr. Vaillancourt.

5:45 p.m.

Director General, Social Policy Directorate, Strategic and Service Policy Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development

Karen Hall

Thank you for the question.

Mr. Chair, I would note at the outset that the government has made a very strong commitment to Statistics Canada to ensure that it is an independent statistical agency. It will continue to provide Canadians with the objective statistics that are required to help inform decisions by parliamentarians, businesses, unions and individual Canadians.

The act proposes that Statistics Canada will launch the review of the MBM on a regular basis to ensure the MBM reflects the up-to-date cost of a basket of goods and services. Statistics Canada, as noted, is consulting widely and will ensure that a range of views are taken into consideration. That feedback will be used by Statistics Canada in determining the basket and what Canadians need and what we would define as a modest and basic standard of living. The MBM is a long-standing measure; it's been around since 2000. It was rebased in 2008, so this is a process that has occurred previously. As was the case in 2008, ESDC officials and Statistics Canada will work together to ensure that the contents of the basket are sufficient to reflect a modest and basic standard of living. That will be informed by broad consultations with Canadians and experts and PTs, provinces and territories. Statistics Canada will be responsible for the statistical methodology.

For the final decision I can tell you that our minister will be kept informed, as was the case for the previous review. ESDC officials will work with Statistics Canada in a transparent fashion with all of our work informed by broad consultation with Canadians, experts and PTs.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Poilievre.

May 27th, 2019 / 5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Who is the final decider on what goes in the basket?

5:50 p.m.

Director General, Social Policy Directorate, Strategic and Service Policy Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development

Karen Hall

The final decider for statistical items will be the chief statistician and the deputy minister of Employment and Social Development.