Evidence of meeting #33 for Finance in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was pandemic.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Steven Grenier  President, Association des camps du Québec
Benoît Fontaine  President, Chicken Farmers of Canada
Joe Belliveau  Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders
Daniel Bernhard  Executive Director, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
Kevin Neveu  President and Chief Executive Officer, Precision Drilling Corporation
Michael Wood  Partner, Ottawa Special Events
Alan Shepard  President and Vice-Chancellor, Western University
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. David Gagnon
Michael Laliberté  Executive Director, Chicken Farmers of Canada
Jason Nickerson  Humanitarian Affairs Adviser, Doctors Without Borders
Katherine Scott  Senior Researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Nina Labun  Chief Executive Officer, Donwood Manor Personal Care Home
Megan Walker  Executive Director, London Abused Women's Centre
Vicki Saunders  Founder, SheEO
Melpa Kamateros  Executive Director, Shield of Athena Family Services

3:45 p.m.

President, Chicken Farmers of Canada

Benoît Fontaine

The carbon tax definitely hurts chicken farming.

The Chicken Farmers of Canada does not understand why greenhouse operators, and flower, fruit and vegetable growers are receiving all kinds of relief when we aren't. We raise Canadians' favourite source of protein. It's a wholesome meat whose environmental footprint is improving year after year.

We produce the food Canadians eat, so in a way, the government is taxing the food our fellow Canadians are consuming. It doesn't make sense. Taxing goods and services is one thing, but taxing food is another. It will mean higher grocery bills for those with lower incomes and raise the cost of chicken.

You're right. Our message fell on deaf ears.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

In terms of the supply chain and given all of these factors, the pre-COVID issues and the carbon tax that we discussed, what can Canadian consumers expect? Are there going to be shortages on the grocery shelves? Are prices going to go up? What will the market effects be on Canadian consumers of the impairment of your industry?

3:50 p.m.

President, Chicken Farmers of Canada

Benoît Fontaine

Physical distancing, delays in the processing chain and the larger number of employees will impact the price consumers pay for chicken. Those additional costs, however, won't be due to production costs on the farm, which are subject to supply management.

The carbon tax will also have an impact. It will essentially be applied to chicken breasts, thighs and wings, unlike fruits, vegetables and flowers. We still don't understand why the government is taxing the food people across the country need.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

I agree 100% with your comments on the carbon tax.

If I have time for one quick one, Mr. Chair, it just has to do with the supply—

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay. Go ahead, but be very quick.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

In Manitoba, restaurants are opening up now to a 50% capacity limit. Is there going to be a time lag between producers needing to ramp up production to meet this new demand as restaurants reopen, or is the supply in place?

3:50 p.m.

President, Chicken Farmers of Canada

Benoît Fontaine

That's an excellent question.

Given the rapid drop—of about 40%—in demand for food services, a large number of products are likely ready for the resumption of these services. I'm sure there will be no shortage of chicken anywhere in the country.

In addition, because of supply management, every eight weeks we establish the allocation of chicken products to market based on the figures for the 10 provinces, including Manitoba. Last month, we showed how quickly we could adjust our production based on the current situation. I want to reassure you that there will be no shortage of these products.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you both very much.

Turning to Mr. Fraser, who will be followed by Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.

Sean.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you so much.

I will begin with our guests from Doctors Without borders. Thank you for the work you do throughout this pandemic and generally speaking. I really do appreciate it.

I spent a very short amount of time working in the developing world and have quite a few friends who do now. I cannot claim to be an expert, but one of the things that experience brought to the fore for me when this pandemic first arrived is the graph, which I think you will recall, of the public health care system capacity like this, and the curve that we're all trying to flatten attempting to stay beneath that capacity line.

One of the problems I can't understand has been getting so little attention is that the capacity line through huge parts of the world is at a much lower level. I worry greatly because the systemic supports may not be in place to deal with even a mild spike throughout the developing world, such that if this pandemic is not brought under control globally, we will effectively be making a decision to have the public health care systems fail across the global south and the broader developing world.

Can you comment on what role you see Canada or our international institutions playing in supporting developing countries to ensure that they can manage an increase in cases that other countries with the capacity to deal with it seem to have managed to do.

3:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders

Joe Belliveau

You have put your finger on the question that has basically been haunting us since COVID became a reality three months ago and really came onto our radar.

There is no good answer to that question. As you put it, we have been witnessing health systems across the world, particularly in the 70-plus countries where MSF is operating, that were not able to cope and meet the demands on them in the absence of a pandemic. Now you layer on top of that COVID-19, and it is potentially absolutely disastrous.

It is just now, in the last few weeks, that we have been starting to see cases in the Rohingya refugee camps, at Cox's Bazar, for example. We are seeing really an increase in cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in CAR, in South Sudan, in some of the contexts where the health systems are really at their weakest.

What we've been doing, as an organization and with other emergency responders, is to provide a kind of emergency set of supports and preparations to health systems. How do you do the IPC stuff, set up the infrastructure and do the PPE work? We are really trying to work very closely with health workers and systems to get that in place.

We don't know how bad this problem is going to get. We don't know what that curve you just described is going to look like or whether there's going to be a spike or a longer term challenge in coping.

Your question is what the government can do about that. In the most simplistic terms, there are two sides to this. One is to make sure there is funding and support for the emergency response right now. It's the gearing up. It's getting the PPE to the right places. It's the training and support for front-line workers right here and right now. Then that needs to be supplemented and supported by the sustainable and more development-oriented work that the Canadian government also does.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Excellent. Thank you.

I have limited time. I would love to ask two more questions of other witnesses, so thank you for the work you do. It is much appreciated.

To our guests from Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, one of the things I have been concerned about over the past number of years, as we see the move toward the digital consumption of news, is not just the ousting of Canadian content but also the fact that we don't have as many reporters in small town council meetings, in school board meetings, in some jurisdictions around the world covering elections of local judges or other positions along those lines.

In addition to the suggestions you made during your remarks, can you offer some guidance on what the government could do to help ensure that the quality of that local coverage continues to be supported and can survive this seeming takeover by digital giants?

3:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Daniel Bernhard

We could talk about this for hours and hours. Given the time allotted, I would divide it into two segments, the public and the private.

On the private side, the government can take measures to ensure that the people who produce the content get paid for it. That's the nature of our “WANTED” campaign, which I announced earlier. We are launching it today. It talks about the fact that these very big platforms are making billions of dollars, and the people who produce the content get nothing.

If you don't get paid for long enough, you stop doing what you're doing, and as you pointed out, there will be no one in these places. By the way, it's not just in small towns and hamlets. We're talking about provincial legislatures in some cases, so this is a very serious problem where all kinds of chicanery can go on unnoticed.

The second option is public. We do have a public service broadcaster in Canada, a national one. As well, some provinces have public broadcasters and public service media in general. If the market has failed and the government doesn't want to take action to level the competitive playing field, they can't have a public intervention. Just as we think that people who cannot afford health care don't want to be sick, but the law of supply and demand says that if you break your leg and don't pay, you don't want to be healed. That's obviously not the case. The same is true with news. People want and need to be informed. It's a fundamental part of our democracy.

The previous gentleman was talking about Rohingya refugees now starting to get COVID-19. Many of them were displaced because of activity that was incited on Facebook. It was a genocide incited on Facebook. It's been well reported, and this is the downstream effect.

We need to step up for real information. We need to make sure that journalistic creators get paid. That's part of the market intervention, and failing that, a public supplement is necessary and valued.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll give you a quick one, Sean, just like we did for Marty.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Excellent. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll be quick.

Mr. Wood, it's good to see you again. Thank you for your kind comment during the introduction.

I found the session that we conducted with the group of Ottawa business owners immensely valuable. It was one of a series of meetings that I've been having, and that I continue to have, to help inform how the government can continue to tinker with or potentially come up with new policies.

You've pointed out that because the public health challenge may continue, you want some certainty that certain benefits would continue. I'm not curious about the specific policies—there's time for you to make a submission in writing afterwards on that, I would suggest—but in terms of the process of continuing to take in feedback, what is the right format to make sure that voices like yours and businesses are heard as we transition away from these emergency benefits toward a more permanent situation? How can we continue to engage the voices of business owners that have proven so valuable, that have allowed us to make changes like the $1,000 income allowance for the CERB, like the expansion of eligibility for the CEBA, like the extension of the wage subsidy from 10% to 75% and then to August 29? All of these changes came from the business community's telling us that these are the challenges they were facing. How can we continue that engagement to ensure that we can benefit from the real, lived experience of business owners?

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Wood, if you could take less time than the question, that would be great.

June 2nd, 2020 / 4 p.m.

Partner, Ottawa Special Events

Michael Wood

No problem at all.

Thank you so much for asking the question, Mr. Fraser, and thank you for the kind words.

You know, I think, honestly, this a team effort. This is a team effort between small business and the government, whether it's federal or provincial. We do need people in your position to continue to hear us out and hear our associations. We're going to continue putting forward different things because we are still in crisis. I do appreciate everything that you've done, but please know that we'll continue to submit letters and what needs to continue to be fixed.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you.

Now we'll turn to Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, followed by Mr. Julian.

Alexis.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First, I want to thank all of the witnesses who are participating in the committee today. Their presentations are excellent.

My questions are for Mr. Grenier from the Association des camps du Québec.

Mr. Grenier, the federal government made several announcements, and we had to act quickly to free up as much money as possible to help as many people as possible. However, we're currently hearing from a number of businesses or groups that can't access these programs.

I'll be asking you some fairly specific questions.

Is the commercial rent assistance program currently a good way to help with fixed costs?

4 p.m.

President, Association des camps du Québec

Steven Grenier

I'm sure that some of my members, who run private camps and who rent premises, can probably access this program. I don't have the exact information. However, a number of our organizations are non-profit organizations that operate in premises that they own or that are loaned to them from time to time. So I believe that a minority of my members can access this financial support.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Could more direct assistance for fixed costs or a refundable tax credit help the camps reopen in 2021?

4 p.m.

President, Association des camps du Québec

Steven Grenier

I doubt that the tax credit for non-profit organizations is the best solution. However, a tax credit is most likely something that would work for private organizations.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Is the assistance provided through the emergency account, the $40,000 interest-free loan, currently available to the camps?

Is the loan enough to help your members?

4 p.m.

President, Association des camps du Québec

Steven Grenier

The $40,000 loan is available to my members right now. However, it's not enough. The money is allocated in advance to our clients. We must reimburse our clients, and they won't be there this summer because our camps have been cancelled. We must refund all the deposits.

Our borrowing capacity is relatively limited, since we operate two months a year. We must pay back this money at some point. This currently puts us at risk of having to borrow money. This has repercussions.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

You can correct me if necessary, but I heard that there were many issues with Canada summer jobs regarding the camps.

Could you shed light on this?