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

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you very much, Wayne.

I would like to start with SheCO. If you look at the business model you have, and you were talking about that, one thing I've noticed specifically, living in Elgin—Middlesex—London and speaking to many of the businesses in my community, is that they were not eligible for many of these business supports coming out from the federal government, including the Canada emergency business account and the wage subsidy.

Did you find that? In those conversations you had with some of the women's organizations, have you found the same thing?

5:45 p.m.

Founder, SheEO

Vicki Saunders

Yes, and it's SheEO.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you. I'm sorry.

5:45 p.m.

Founder, SheEO

Vicki Saunders

That's fine: CEO, SheEO.

Yes, this has been a real challenge. I understand that it's really hard to be sitting there and go, “Okay, what should the rules be?”, and try to make this up to work for everybody. I appreciate the challenge around this, but a lot of our ventures were not eligible. There was this tiny window. Your revenue had to go down by x in a certain period of time, and if it did, then you could benefit from some of this funding. That was a major challenge for a lot of them. Some of the businesses that are actually growing and could be hiring more couldn't get some of the supports that were there.

That was an issue, but the bigger issue is really the rent abatement and the challenges around rent. That didn't flow from the federal government's intention and desired outcome through the provinces. This is where we're going to see a massive ripple effect. We're going to see at least 50% of our small businesses go down and not be able to come back because of that.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Unfortunately, I totally agree with you. That's something that's.... It's great to see everybody on the finance committee today, but the one thing I'm hearing is on the delivery of that money and how we can get it directly to the tenant. I've heard from many businesses. Thank you very much.

I'm going to move over to Megan Walker, of course, and Megan, I know what great work you have done. Specifically, I want to look at the COVID-19 response and the shelter money that was given out.

Ms. Kamateros, maybe you can answer this as well.

Megan, I recognize that when the money came out, the $50 million, your agency was one of the agencies that did not receive any of the money for shelters, although you have been providing shelter space. Can you provide me a reason why you would not have been eligible and share with us some information on what you have been dealing with during this pandemic?

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, London Abused Women's Centre

Megan Walker

It's a great question, and I wish I had an answer for you. We've been trying to get this information for many months.

We are not a shelter. We provide emergency access to women and girls who need long-term counselling, support and advocacy.

However, during COVID, there was no shelter space. We have a great relationship with our police service in London, and we knew that if police were responding to a 911 call and a woman needed to leave that minute, that officer needed to have a place to take her. We negotiated in the city of London with various facilities, so that women could be taken with their children immediately to a safe place where they could stay until we could find them an alternative space and they could receive ongoing counselling and support.

That is not funded by the government and is not seen as providing shelter space.

With respect to sexual assault, of course, we provide many women with services to assist with being sexually assaulted. We do not have sexual assault in our name. I don't think the government understands enough about the work we do to understand the relationship between sexual assault and trafficking, for instance, childhood sexual assault in the women who come to us, and also the overlap between all of the areas of male violence against women, by the abuser at home sexually assaulting her or her children, or being sexually assaulted by a stranger or in a dating situation.

I have no understanding as to why we didn't receive any money. Originally we thought, well, we're sort of stand-alone. We're probably one of the only agencies that provide the level of advocacy that we do. However, I later found out from Peter's office that in their research, they determined that at least 600 other agencies also did not receive the funding.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you very much for that. I was speaking to a sexual assault centre in Vancouver where another 500 that are within that network also did not receive funding.

Ms. Kamateros, were you able to receive any funding from the federal government for shelters, or anything to support you that way?

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Shield of Athena Family Services

Melpa Kamateros

I have to say—and I just referred to my colleague, Ms. Walker—this is the confusion that exists currently at the governmental level. We have a network of services that include two centres and a shelter. Our shelter got the emergency funding. Our centres did not. This is, I would say, an old question that relates to what kinds of services can be effective for victims of violence.

We deal with different clientele at the shelter. We deal with different clientele at the centres. Both services are extremely necessary, and they target different populations. For example, at the shelters, it's mostly women in crisis, and at the centres, it's women referred mostly from the social services. Last year, 71% of our clients at the centres were direct referrals. This is precisely because of the language factors. We have the interventions in many languages, so that's the issue there.

Although the shelter did get the money, people should rethink the types of services that are beneficial for women who are victims and perceive them as integrated.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Wraparound....

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Shield of Athena Family Services

Melpa Kamateros

Yes. Thank you.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This is the last question, Karen.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

I'm going to focus on human trafficking and then go back to Ms. Walker on this.

Specifically, we know that we were expecting the money to start rolling out. What do you see as the next steps to making sure we can make these efforts so that the federal government...? I know that all members of Parliament in London are listening. I know we are all in this, because we recognize the great work that you do. How can we continue to push forward your efforts for what you do for human trafficking? For all of the organizations across Canada, how can we get this message to the government that the money needs to come out now?

5:55 p.m.

Executive Director, London Abused Women's Centre

Megan Walker

I appreciate all of the MPs in London who have worked collaboratively towards a solution. We're very grateful in London, because we have a very supportive and generous community that so far has provided us with three months of payment for service to this very marginalized and vulnerable population.

Basically, I think there are people in positions of power who don't understand this issue, who don't understand that it could be any one of these panellists, including the MPs, who could lose a daughter into the horrific world of sex trafficking. Once those daughters are lost and gone....

They fly in from all over Canada to London to ask us to help them find their daughters. Can you imagine? They're looking at videos on advertising sites to determine if their daughters are alive or dead. That's the reality. What we know is that this is not a single-city issue. The women who come to the London Abused Women's Centre later go to services in Nova Scotia. They're in Edmonton, in Montreal.

What we need is to make sure that every single woman in this situation has access to service. There is no wrong door, but right now the doors are slammed shut by the government. We can't even get them to find the right door.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will have to end it there. We are very substantially over.

We turn now to Ms. Dzerowicz, who will be followed by Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe.

Go ahead, Julie.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you so much.

I just want to say what an unbelievable panel we have here today. I really want to thank you for your respective leadership and for your unbelievably hard work. I really appreciate your being here today.

I'd like to get to three different questions, and I don't have a lot of time. I'm going to start with Ms. Scott at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and move into a question around child care.

You talked—and I think all the presenters have talked—a lot about the impact of COVID on women. I think you've talked about how the vast majority of those on our front lines and essential workers are women. I think you know, Ms. Scott, that in 2005-06 the Liberal government of the day signed a number of bilateral agreements with provinces. We tried to bring in a national child care program at the time. The NDP, unfortunately, didn't support our minority government at that time, so we fell and we ended up with a Conservative government that did not follow through on that national child care program.

We are where we are here today, and I can assure you there's not one female MP in office right now who doesn't want to move immediately to a national child care plan.

What is the model that you're proposing? One of the big issues is the delivery mechanism, that it has to be delivered through the provinces, because education and day care are in their bucket. What would be the model that you would propose moving forward?

5:55 p.m.

Senior Researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Katherine Scott

Child care is critical to any recovery. It's necessary. Simply put, women will not be able to go back to the labour force. The child care sector has been mobilizing in different provinces and putting together plans, not only provincially but federally. Certainly, the current ask of the federal government, as I understand it, is to contribute up to 75% of the full operating costs of licensed child care, conditional on provinces covering the remaining 25%.

The concern now is that monies are needed immediately to stabilize the supply of child care. Many of these municipal, non-profit, private sector centres have lost parent fees over the last number of months. They are in financially precarious situations, and many will not be able to reopen, as per the statistics I alluded to. They need an immediate infusion of cash to sustain their businesses and also to prepare for what will be coming, which is modifying their models of practice to accommodate what will be a year or two years of new methods of delivering social supports and community supports that will require physical distancing. How are the many child care centres that don't have access to those types of resources going to do that?

Certainly, the child care community is looking for the federal government to step up in a leadership role. Historically it has delivered money for child care, such as through the ECE monies back in the early 2000s. You referred to that. Under the Chrétien government, there were transfers designated for that.

There is concern about how you target that, in terms of supply in particular. We're not looking for more money for parent subsidies. The question, critically, is having supply and stable supply. Those centres need those resources to expand. I think it's really important to attach requirements around what it will mean in terms of staffing ratios and quality of care.

This is the opportunity to lay the foundation for a pan-Canadian response, the “child care for all” model that we're going to require.

6 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you so much. What I hear is the 75%-25% model and then national standards.

My next question is to Ms. Saunders.

Hi, Vicki. It's really nice to see you. Thanks so much for being here. I'm just going to head right to the question around rent, because that's disturbing. I think you know the model we've taken on. We've tried to implement our programs as quickly as possible and then to make adjustments as we go along.

Is it that landlords are just not interested in providing support, or is it that it's too difficult for them to actually apply? Do you have a remedy you might want to suggest?

I will have one more question before I get to my last question.

6 p.m.

Founder, SheEO

Vicki Saunders

I think there is a mix.

Again, as with everything else, there isn't just one thing that's happening, such as all landlords doing x or all landlords doing y. I think, for various different reasons, in general a lot of landlords are just not applying for it or using it. They already are getting a benefit. We have the same issue with our own landlord. We are not being given any abatement whatsoever, despite the fact that they don't have to pay their taxes right now and they're getting a 25% cut.

6 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

What's the solution?

June 2nd, 2020 / 6 p.m.

Founder, SheEO

Vicki Saunders

Again, if this could have gone directly to individuals, I think it would have been easier, instead of having to go through the landlord piece.

6 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

As we're moving into the rebuilding phase, you've mentioned that 51% of the population gets 4% of the VC funding. What can our federal government do moving forward? You know that we've already put in $2 billion for the women entrepreneurship strategy. What more do you think we need to do to be able to continue to help women entrepreneurs get far more than the 4% they get right now?

6 p.m.

Founder, SheEO

Vicki Saunders

I think the big challenge with this is that we have a very narrow definition of what innovation is. It focuses very much on tech and on “go big”. There are tons of other kinds of innovation out there. There are all kinds of social innovations that aren't captured within this element.

BDC has crazy rules, with this personalized collateral and high interest rates, and most of the money has gone through.... I understand that you have to put your money through institutions that can push it out, and you need someone to do that, but the rules of engagement are not good enough for women entrepreneurs in general. It's partly because of our definitions around innovation and what we're supporting and what we call innovation in Canada.

6 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

That's helpful to us—

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I'll give you one quick question, Julie.

6 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you.

Ms. Labun, thank you for your very passionate presentation.

There was a negotiated top-up between the federal government and the provinces. Was that helpful in any way to the workers within your home?