Evidence of meeting #38 for Finance in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was airports.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Brian Kingston  Vice-President, International and Fiscal Issues, Business Council of Canada
Scott Chamberlain  Director of Labour Relations, General Counsel, Association of Canadian Financial Officers
Brian Emmett  Chief Economist, Canada's Charitable and Nonprofit Sector, Imagine Canada
Monique Moreau  Director, National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Laurell Ritchie  Co-chair, Inter-Provincial EI Working Group
Pierre Cadieux  Vice President, Federal and Quebec Governmental Relations, Restaurants Canada
Daniel-Robert Gooch  President, Canadian Airports Council
William Miller  President, Canadian Association of Radiologists
Carl Weatherell  Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Mining Innovation Council
Sahir Khan  Executive Vice-President, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy
Jean Robitaille  Senior Vice-President, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited, Canada Mining Innovation Council
Nicholas Neuheimer  Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Association of Radiologists

6 p.m.

President, Canadian Association of Radiologists

Dr. William Miller

I have no idea. Again, I might defer to Nick, who might have an idea.

6 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Association of Radiologists

Nicholas Neuheimer

The point is that it would be very disruptive to care, and not only in access to care, medical research, and teaching, but also very disruptive all across the country. The cost estimates of how disruptive that would be are really difficult to assess, but they are significant, and they're across all specialties: radiology, ophthalmology, and cardiology.

6 p.m.

President, Canadian Association of Radiologists

Dr. William Miller

Could I add one more point?

The other thing about it is that it's very unfair. Why would you penalize people who are practising in groups versus people who are practising solo? I don't understand the rationale for that.

6 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Thanks.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Champagne.

6 p.m.

Liberal

François-Philippe Champagne Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am going to address Mr. Gooch.

You have seen that in the last budget, we made major investments to attract more tourists to Canada. According to the figures you mentioned, there was a 4 to 8% increase in airport traffic. That is good news.

You represent large and small airports and also medium-sized airports in Canada. I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject of the strategy we might adopt to expand the regional airports. In Canada, and in any event in Quebec, there is congestion in some large airports. Would a possible solution be to develop the regional airports? I know that some airports would like to play a regional role someday, to offer flights south for people leaving on vacation, for example, or flights north for workers. What are the barriers to expanding the regional airports?

6 p.m.

President, Canadian Airports Council

Daniel-Robert Gooch

Thank you for your question.

I will answer in English.

As a point of clarification, when you refer to a “regional airport”, what category or size are you talking about? Can you give me some examples?

6 p.m.

Liberal

François-Philippe Champagne Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

An example in Quebec is Sherbrooke, which is asking to do more, and Trois-Rivières is looking for more. I've also heard there is a committee of about seven or 12 regional airports that are really looking to play a bigger role in terms of aviation in our country, which seems to me a way forward if we want to increase the number and perhaps reduce the backlog in some of our major airports.

What's your view on all that?

6:05 p.m.

President, Canadian Airports Council

Daniel-Robert Gooch

Many of these airports have smaller traffic volumes today, so anything that improves the cost structure for industry is an improvement for everyone across the board.

Our members today actually don't include some of those airports you referred to. We have small airports like Sudbury, Stephenville, and Deer Lake, but in Quebec we have only Quebec City.

Our airports generally think of themselves as a system, so we're at a point where actually the larger airports are helping out the smaller airports and the smaller airports are helping out the larger airports, because they realize, for example, if you can't get through CATSA in a timely manner in Toronto, then that affects everybody downstream, because those passengers ultimately are going to be travelling through the major hubs. Improving the hubs can actually do a lot for airports of all sizes.

Airports of all sizes are very active in marketing their communities. Our parent organization in the United States is part of an international network of airports, and we actually hold forums at which airports are able to meet with air carriers so that they can promote themselves. We've seen growth in domestic and international routes from airports that might not have had international connections 10 or 20 years ago.

I can't leave this topic, though, without pointing to my colleagues in southern Ontario at Toronto's Pearson. Even though billions of dollars were invested in Toronto in the 1990s to build up that airport and we've grown it to over 41 million passengers last year, they're actually looking down the road and realizing that they're going to hit capacity, so Toronto Pearson is actually working with airports in the southern Ontario region on how to handle that as they approach capacity. They're looking at whether airports can specialize in different types of activity, for example. That's an area of work that is fairly new. That's been under way for a couple of years, and I think it will present a good model, going forward, of how airports can work within their region.

Another good example is in Atlantic Canada, where the Atlantic Canada Airports Association works together on a lot of files, including air service development. They travel overseas together and they promote the region at conferences like the ones my organization holds.

The good thing about airports is that because they are not-for-profit businesses, there is a great community spirit of working together and learning from each other, and you see a lot of collaboration in our industry today. I'm proud of that.

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

François-Philippe Champagne Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Khan you might answer now, or otherwise later if there's no time.

You talked about what we are doing with our infrastructure spending in this country as being historic. What are the best practices you've seen around the world? You've studied a lot of the OECD and G7 countries. In terms of metrics you may have had a chance to address, what metrics do you see in G7 countries that we could adopt in Canada to provide the accountability that parliamentarians want to see?

6:05 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy

Sahir Khan

That's an excellent question. We have a paper we'll be publishing soon that looks at this. It was done at the request of Minister Sohi.

The International Monetary Fund identifies important practices around transparency. You want to have good planning up front. You want to have coordination.

I gave a speech this morning on health care and the question was, “How do you get collaboration?” I said, “Well, look to infrastructure.” You want federal, provincial, and municipal governments actually working together.

As a first step this is excellent. I think now the challenge is how we get the outcomes we want out of this. How do we ensure that the transfers that are going from the federal government to the other orders of government come back as information on performance? In the past we've had challenges at the federal level where transfers were made but the information didn't always come back. It gets very hard to assess whether the transfers have been effective.

I think this is the important challenge when the federal government is making historic allocations to infrastructure. I think they have an opportunity as a quid pro quo to get that data and to ensure that they have the right planning information, that the right due diligence is being done, and that there are metrics around performance, whether financial or non-financial. The financial metrics are rates of return that contribute to the economy, but there are also things like GHG reduction, the reduction of congestion, and an increase of commutable distances. These are important metrics around infrastructure that can address not only the economic concerns of a sluggish economy but important policy considerations that the government advances in the Speech from the Throne.

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, both.

Mr. Nater.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Khan, in response to a question from my colleague, Mr. Caron, you mentioned the challenge of time to review estimates. I'm sure you're aware of the 1968 changes to the deemed to have reported rule, as of May 31. I want to get your comments on the deemed rule. How do you see that affecting the role of parliamentarians? Next Thursday, the House of Commons will have a whole sitting day to debate the Standing Orders. Could you comment on whether or not you see that as a potential topic of debate in terms of how we review the estimates?

6:10 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy

Sahir Khan

I think there's a ripe opportunity right now with the government having advanced this proposal for estimates reform. I think that, to some extent, the deemed rule reflected the decline of the role of estimates in that process within Parliament.

For those who don't know, after a certain period of time the estimates are effectively deemed to have passed. The very core Magna Carta rights of parliamentarians were traded at the time for—I think—extra staff and office space. It sounds silly, but when we think about subverting the core obligations of all members of Parliament, linked not just to the Magna Carta but to our Constitution and the Financial Administration Act, I think it is worthy of time, effort, and information.

Mr. Caron asked, “What is the nature of information?” It's a good question. Well, yes, program activity, things that make sense to you and me, but also the information that goes with it.... I agree with you that if the government didn't have the deemed rule, then all of a sudden there wouldn't be the same time pressure. You could have fulsome discussions on things that are important. If parliamentarians are getting information about deviations from the budget or about performance, then the discussion can focus around that. You're not going through every last page of the blue books looking for something that—as I learned when I worked at Treasury Board—you're never going to find anyway. Instead, you're looking at things that are important, and consistent with the questions Mr. François-Philippe Champagne asked about performance, and you're getting reports on that basis. Then you'll ask about those things that are important to you and to your constituents. I think the time pressures will be taken off, and there will be far more time, consistent with you appropriating $250 billion.

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

I appreciate that answer and I think it's going to be an intriguing debate next Thursday when we do have the debate on the Standing Orders in the House.

I want to touch briefly on your comments about the lack of fiscal targets in the 2016 budget. I would like you to comment briefly on what you would like to see in the upcoming budget in terms of fiscally sustainable targets and clear targets to reduce the deficit. We all know where we're at right now—$30 billion. What would you like to see in terms of clear targets going forward?

6:10 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy

Sahir Khan

I mentioned that transitions are difficult for all new governments. Now that a year has passed, this is a very good opportunity for this government to put its stamp on transparency in how it reports to Parliament.

Having clear targets also for debt-to-GDP ratio, for example, means having the supporting information. You get a fiscal sustainability report from the parliamentary budget office serving parliamentarians. It would be really helpful if, accompanying the budget, there would be a report from the government on fiscal sustainability, showing whether the federal principal structure is sustainable today and also with the measures proposed in the upcoming budget.

This is something very important. There was a discussion this morning at Canada 2020, an event on health care. There is a significant fiscal imbalance between the federal and the provincial government, and that doesn't fully consider the pressures the federal government has within its own jurisdiction.

We talked about infrastructure, aboriginal considerations, innovation, and major agendas that are coming at the federal level. All of these have to be baked into this type of analysis of the budget to look at what it means not just for the next two years or three years but also for the next five years. How will debt to GDP be impacted with all the new measures, and what does that look like over the long term, in the 75-year type of projections that the PBO does?

That type of transparency, we feel, would help parliamentarians understand the broader fiscal context of these decisions, and that transparency would also help you to hold the government to account on the targets they have set out.

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

I appreciate it.

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Casey.

September 29th, 2016 / 6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Gooch, it will come as no surprise to you that I want to direct the question to you. Thank you for being here and for your continued advocacy on behalf of the six small airports that are part of the National Airports System, which includes the one in my riding.

Your advocacy successfully resulted in the committee unanimously recommending in the last round of budget consultations that this situation be remedied. The fact that you're still here and still beating that drum indicates that the recommendation has not yet been adopted, so thank you.

My question for you relates in part to some information we received from the Atlantic Canada Airports Association, from Monette Pasher, who does excellent work there. I think I also heard from Mr. Khan that phase two of the infrastructure program anticipates a transportation and trade corridor program.

The last and largest injection of federal funds that the airports in question, the six small airports that are part of the National Airports System, received was back in 2010 under the gateways fund. What did we learn, or what should we have learned from the last infusion in 2002 under the gateways fund that can be and should be incorporated into any new program such as this transportation and trade corridor that's being anticipated this way around? What advice would you have?

6:15 p.m.

President, Canadian Airports Council

Daniel-Robert Gooch

Thank you for the question, Mr. Casey. We certainly appreciate your support and the support of your colleagues, as I said at the outset.

The projects fall into two sets of categories, and certainly the ones you're referring to from 2010 were more of the trade-enabling infrastructure as opposed to the safety and security projects that are funded out of the ACAP program, for example.

My understanding is that those investments that were made in 2010 at airports throughout Atlantic Canada were quite successful in supporting those airports' economic activities. They included runway extensions that have led to new cargo services, for example, in British Columbia. Equipment is being put in St. John's, Newfoundland, not one of the six airports but still under that funding, that's allowing the airport to offer greater reliability in tough weather. Greater reliability means you can be more certain you're going to be able to get to Newfoundland on time, and so businesses and conferences will be more likely to host there. Those investments have yielded great outcomes.

On the safety and security side, you don't always see what results from that, but airports are highly capital-intensive. You don't just build a runway and a building once. You have to maintain them. Safety and security are always our number one priority, and so even though you can't always see what those investments result in, we have a very safe, secure air transport system in this country, and we need the funds to help us keep it that way.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Do you have anything you want to add?

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

No, that's good.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

That's fine.

Mr. Caron.

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Since I have the opportunity, I would like to address Mr. Khan.

On the one hand, in the expenditure budget, there are a lot of things that we do not have details about and where we are unable to make the connections with the objectives set by the departments.

On the other hand, in terms of the departments and programs as a whole, there are plans and priorities for the years ahead, accompanied by extremely general talk about expenditures. It would probably be useful for parliamentarians to be able to merge the two processes and know what the government's plans and priorities are over a year, and also to know what the priorities are for a few years ahead. We would have to have much more detailed figures. It would be important to have time to be able to study them appropriately in committee.

6:15 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy

Sahir Khan

If I can answer in English, it may be easier.