Evidence of meeting #38 for Finance in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sector.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean-François Perrault  Chief Economist, Scotiabank
Sherry Cooper  Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
Mathieu D'Anjou  Director and Deputy Chief Economist, Desjardins Group
Avery Shenfeld  Managing Director and Chief Economist, CIBC Capital Markets
Jeff Wareham  Chief Executive Officer, Catch Capital Partners Inc.
David Macdonald  Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Douglas Porter  Chief Economist, BMO Bank of Montreal
Catherine Cobden  President, Canadian Steel Producers Association
Gary Sands  Senior Vice-President, Small Business Coalition, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers
Yannis Karlos  Co-Chair, Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment
Bill Bewick  Executive Director, Fairness Alberta
Pascale St-Onge  President, Fédération nationale des communications
Sophie Prégent  President of Union des artistes, Fédération nationale des communications
Luc Perreault  Strategic Advisor, Independent Broadcast Group
John Lewis  International Vice-President and Director of Canadian Affairs, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees
Arden Ryshpan  Executive Director of Canadian Actors' Equity Association, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees
Lawrence Morroni  Marketing Manager, Triodetic Sales, Triodetic Ltd
Peter Chabursky  Manager, MultiPoint Foundation Division, Triodetic Ltd
Stuart Back  Co-Chair, Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment

5:55 p.m.

John Lewis International Vice-President and Director of Canadian Affairs, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

Thank you.

I'm speaking on behalf of the IATSE, which is the largest union in the entertainment industry, representing over 150,000 technicians across North America, including 26,000 in Canada. Our members work in both the film and television and live performance sectors. We are the cinematographers, set dressers, scenic artists, carpenters, stagehands, hairstylists, costume designers and just about every other behind-the-scenes position you can name.

As you've heard, our industry was the first to go down, and it will be the last to come back, particularly in the live performance sector. IATSE members in Canada are experiencing wage losses in the range of $120 million every month. Due to the freelance nature of our work, fewer than 2% of our members are receiving support through the Canada emergency wage subsidy. Many are contract workers and are not eligible for employment insurance, so the only support available to a large portion of entertainment workers has been the CERB.

I want to express my sincere thanks to the Government of Canada for the creation of this benefit. It has truly been a lifesaver. I was relieved to hear this week's announcement that the CERB would be extended for eight more weeks, but I need to make clear that the industry is a long way off from being ready to reopen. Most theatres will not be reopening until the spring of 2021. Live performances cannot restart until government okays large crowds.

Workers will need the CERB extended until the industry is allowed to reopen to full audiences. Alternatively, the implementation of a universal basic income would also address support as well as retention, particularly in retraining workers who are just starting out in our industry and whose employment is typically more sporadic.

The majority of IATSE locals belong to CEIRP, the Canadian Entertainment Industry Retirement Plan, which is a group RRSP plan with $700 million in assets. We have requested that the Department of Finance and the Canada Revenue Agency create a limited window of emergency relief by allowing repayable RRSP withdrawals like what presently exists under the home buyers' plan and the lifelong education plan.

This emergency relief mechanism would have the benefit of making cash available to Canadians in need. Like the home buyers' plan and lifelong education plan, this temporary program would take the form of a repayable loan, and the funds would be made available between now and December 31, 2020, or extended due to the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, film and television production levels in Canada were at historic highs, fuelled in large part by the increase of foreign service work and the dramatic increase in industry capacity and infrastructure. The industry has been working collaboratively to ensure that we are ready to return to these levels and even higher when work resumes.

We should not be content with simply returning to those previous levels of production. Now is the time for the federal government to partner with provinces to invest in this industry in order to bolster our capacity. The demand for audiovisual content, particularly on streaming sites, is growing worldwide, and Canada is in a unique position to take advantage of this growth. Our crews and talent are recognized around the globe as being world class. Now is the time to be bold and work with our industry to expand our capacity to create good-paying jobs for the future.

The last point I want to mention is a concern for the industry, particularly the domestic producers. It is the ability to secure insurance in an environment where there's a real risk of a production's being shut down due to COVID. Without adequate insurance, the industry will not be able to reopen. Domestic producers have a proposal before the federal government that, in very broad terms, is asking the federal government to act as an insurance backstop whereby producers could contribute to a pandemic-coverage insurance pool that would total $100 million and be administered by the federal government.

IATSE and other labour groups support this proposal, with two caveats. The first is that workers should be paid out first for any outstanding wages and benefits, and should also receive some form of severance should a production go down. Safety must also be a priority, so the second caveat is that any producer taking advantage of the program must adhere to an industry-negotiated safety protocol that ensures the health and safety of the cast and crew.

Now I'll defer to Arden Ryshpan.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Go ahead, Arden.

6 p.m.

Arden Ryshpan Executive Director of Canadian Actors' Equity Association, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

Thank you very much.

IATSE and the Canadian Actors' Equity Association are in a coalition along with our colleagues at the Associated Designers of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Musicians. We've begun to work on some ideas for some additional short-term supports to our sector, and I'd like to share a couple of them with you now.

They include relaxing restrictions on our arts organization's ability to access funds from its endowment, beyond those currently identified as unmatched funds; temporarily amending the Income Tax Act so that live performance ticket purchases are treated as charitable donations; devising and implementing federal tax credit incentives for live performance organizations, similar to the types of tax incentive policies that exist for film and television production across Canada; additional assistance to help attract live audience attendees by providing theatres with funding equal to 50% of the average on the previous five years' ticket sales, so that they may reduce ticket prices in order to attract audiences; lastly, working with all arts and culture stakeholders to design, implement, and fund a national marketing campaign aimed at encouraging Canadians to return to the various arts and culture venues as patrons and audiences.

In these difficult times, people have turned to what we do for solace and entertainment. They have listened to music. They have watched artists perform online from their homes and stream previously recorded theatrical productions in extraordinary numbers. The importance of arts and culture in the lives of Canadians has never been greater, and neither has the need for support to the artists who are providing that entertainment.

We'd like to say thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to speak to you today on this important matter. John and I, of course, would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you both.

Before I turn to the last witness, I'll give members a heads-up on the speaking order for the first round. First will be Mr. Cumming, and then Ms. Dzerowicz, Mr. Ste-Marie and Mr. Julian.

Turning to Triodetic Ltd., we have Mr. Morroni.

June 18th, 2020 / 6 p.m.

Lawrence Morroni Marketing Manager, Triodetic Sales, Triodetic Ltd

Good afternoon, honourable members of the Standing Committee on Finance. We appreciate the opportunity to talk with you.

Triodetic is a structural engineering company based outside of Ottawa in Arnprior, Ontario, where we design, engineer and manufacture. Founded over 60 years ago as a spaceframe architecture company with projects throughout the world—Ontario Place Dome, the glass wall at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the Melbourne Arts Centre Spire—Triodetic was invited 40 years ago by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to develop a foundation solution for permafrost soil for aboriginal housing needs.

We designed and manufactured a steel spaceframe steel foundation system called Multipoint Foundations to support buildings on unstable soils such as permafrost, flood plains and brownfields. The Multipoint Foundation system works like a floating raft slab, protecting the structural integrity of the building despite the differential settlement of the soil. Since then, we have been supporting housing and commercial projects throughout Canada, the U.S., Norway, and Russia.

6 p.m.

Peter Chabursky Manager, MultiPoint Foundation Division, Triodetic Ltd

Recently, after the success of the Multipoint Foundation system in northern regions—in Alaska and northern Canada—it was adapted to brownfield and infill projects for low-income housing programs. One that was successfully implemented was on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia in the Vancouver area. We developed, with our modular manufacturing partners, a housing program to fill the need for local housing. Within a matter of months, low-income housing was set up in brownfields in the interior of Vancouver.

We're promoting that idea. That's why we're here to advise the committee that Canadian technology is available to do this effectively. Some of our partners are in Alberta, so we try to help the Alberta economy in that respect. We use Canadian-made steel for our foundations, so we're supporting the Canadian industry. We're supporting the steel manufacturers and also the aluminum industry at the same time.

We have an opportunity to grow even further and to assist the Canadian government in this unfortunate situation with the COVID pandemic. Some of our partners are able to develop rapid response buildings that can be used in multiple venues. They can be used as triage centres. They can be used as housing facilities. They can be used as storage facilities.

We're here to inform the committee that with their assistance and their input, with our partners we can help them to be better prepared in the future and to use these building for other projects. It's very beneficial for all. It will help the Canadian economy because, again, we're using Canadian steel, which is made here. We bring it into Arnprior. We cut it here. We roll it here. We galvanize it here in Canada. Then it goes out.

It's not only in Canada. We're also working with housing projects even in California, so we are able to export our expertise and our technology to other fields. That's basically why we're here to inform you and to advise you that we're ready to work with anybody.

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you.

We certainly thank all the witnesses for their presentations. As you can see, this panel is quite a mix of witnesses, but there's a benefit in that other witnesses can see first-hand the challenges that other industries, other sectors, other individuals have across the country, and the challenge of finding solutions.

We will have to go to five-minute rounds instead of six, and we'll start with Mr. Cumming, followed by Ms. Dzerowicz.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'll start with Mr. Bewick. You talked a lot about the discord in Alberta and the frustration that was felt from Albertans, even pre-COVID, because of the slowdown in the marketplace and the difficulties that the resource sector has seen. We've heard from many witnesses about how important that resource sector will be in the recovery for the country, and I've never known Albertans to want to take a handout.

Could you elaborate on what would help Alberta from a regulatory standpoint and as non-monetary assistance that the federal government could participate with?

6:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Fairness Alberta

Bill Bewick

It's no secret that there's a huge problem with the lack of pipeline access, all of the hurdles that have come up since, and more hurdles that the government is considering putting forward through Bill C-48 and Bill C-69. That does mean that all of our oil prices are discounted at a huge rate, because we have a captive audience down in the U.S. that is our sole purchaser. There's that, and then there's the tech resources issue.

Recently, there's so much uncertainty. Everybody understands that Canada has always taken environmental responsibility very seriously, and the sector takes it very seriously. There just needs to be a clear path and clear goalposts that don't get moved. To get those investors back, we need to have confidence that this time the government won't be changing the goalposts.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

If we can get that right, are you of the opinion that Alberta can come out of this, lead the country again and participate fully with both transfers and stimulating the economy by getting people back to work?

6:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Fairness Alberta

Bill Bewick

Absolutely. The oil and gas sector is actually only about 25% of our economy. We have diversified considerably over the last 30 years through various means, including a lower regulatory burden and lower taxes on companies. Alberta is raring to go.

Of course, when you have the third-biggest proven reserves of oil and it's a product that's highly in demand across the world, it's inevitable that it's going to carry a big weight in your national economy. If we can get that functioning at a somewhat competitive level, then everything else is going to take off. I'm extremely confident about that. We will be back to providing a lot of support to the rest of Canada in terms of jobs here for people who are underemployed in their home communities, or with manufacturing jobs that spin off to those communities and all the net transfers our higher incomes are able to provide for the rest of the country.

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

What are you hearing from the resource sector on the loan programs? It was suggested that it would be days. Then it became weeks, and now it's months, and we still haven't actually seen the details on a lot of these loan programs. Is that adding to the frustration with the province and with that energy sector?

6:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Fairness Alberta

Bill Bewick

Yes. I mean, the $1 billion that has been earmarked for potential reclamation is helpful, but as I've pointed out, look at how much Albertans contribute to national revenues. We paid about $1.4 billion or $1.5 billion into the $9-billion auto sector bailout in 2009. We paid more to help bail out Ontario's auto sector than it looks like we're getting to help our own sector at this critical time. We certainly hope more is coming, but so far it's been pretty quiet.

Something else we've pointed out at Fairness Alberta is that the fiscal stabilization fund also really needs reform. Retroactive payments have been unanimously agreed to by the premiers. We hope we see some action on that as well.

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This is your last question, James.

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Okay.

If we get this right, Bill, it sounds to me like a lot of that discord would fade if government gets out of the way and lets business get back to gaining market access and being able to build up and do the things Albertans want to do. Would that be a fair assessment?

6:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Fairness Alberta

Bill Bewick

Absolutely. That's the biggest part of it. Also, though, we want to be able to be a massive economic engine for the country.

We would also like to see some reforms on a couple of programs, though, to make the way in which the funds are distributed around the country more fair. Certainly, the first step is letting us get back to being a major source of wealth for the country.

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you both.

We will go to Ms. Dzerowicz and then Mr. Ste-Marie.

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

I want to say a huge thanks to everyone for their excellent presentations.

My first question is for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Canadian Actors' Equity Association.

Thank you for being here. I'm very blessed in my riding to have a huge community of artists, creators and those who work in the culture industry. You both have done a wonderful job of articulating their stress, their worries, their concerns and I think some of the great ideas that are coming out in terms of how we proceed. I want to delve down a little bit into your ideas.

Mr. Lewis, you talked a little about retraining workers. I would like you to elaborate a little, because I think it's important for us to understand. We do appreciate the comment you made that your industry was one of the first to go down and will be one of the last to come back. I think we recognize that it will be some time before we see the full sector come back. We're trying to explore certain ideas. Could you talk a little bit more about what you meant by retraining?

6:10 p.m.

International Vice-President and Director of Canadian Affairs, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

John Lewis

I live in the riding next to yours, and yes, we do have many Toronto members. Technology is changing rapidly in the industry, in theatre and motion picture and television, and the ability to stay on top of that is crucial. We're growing so exponentially. The industry is growing by leaps and bounds in many sectors across the country. We are dedicating tremendous resources to training and retraining to maintain people in the industry.

The concern is that if our industry continues to stay shut down, many of our members have skills that are transferable to other industries. We have carpenters. We have painters. They can leave and go and work in the construction industry. The concern is that if this downturn is prolonged and there isn't support, we may lose crucial people in the industry as we come out of it and as we look to grow.

We now are developing training programs to attract diverse communities into the industry as well. With the COVID shutdown, we've had to put those programs on hold. The xoTO program run by the Toronto school board and the City of Toronto is a great example of that. Unfortunately, we've had to put a hold on that.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Lewis, you also mentioned—and I thought it was a good proposal in terms of partnering with the provinces—bolstering audiovisual resources in order to create some good-paying jobs in the future. Could you elaborate a little on that? Then I have a couple more questions.

6:15 p.m.

International Vice-President and Director of Canadian Affairs, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

John Lewis

We are seeing a fundamental change in viewing habits around the world. The growth of audiovisual streaming services is not going to change any time soon. We are close in proximity. We are a friendly place for large U.S. studios to go.

One thing that was holding us back was not having a lot of infrastructure in the industry. We did, but it wasn't enough, so you've seen in the last number of years a large number of studios being built in Vancouver, Toronto and other locations. We're seeing that, and we need to invest more in that infrastructure to increase our capacity. There are many large feature films that bypass Canada. We get a lot of television and we get a lot of features, but we don't get what we call the real tent-pole features in Canada.

There are things we can do to tweak the tax credits. There are some provinces, like Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia, that have been very aggressive on tax credits. When tax credits were first introduced, when Paul Martin eliminated the shelters and brought in tax credits, it was always envisioned to be a fifty-fifty split between the federal government and the provinces. It's no longer a fifty-fifty split. I think we have to look at refining that.

We have a capacity to really grow this industry. We're really at a tipping point where we can take this industry to another level.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Okay. That's wonderful.

On the insurance proposal that you mentioned, David Weaver also proposed that. I know that proposal has gone to the government, but could do me a favour, Mr. Lewis? Could you please make sure that you formally submit that proposal to our committee afterwards? It just allows us to take that into consideration as we make recommendations.

6:15 p.m.

International Vice-President and Director of Canadian Affairs, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

John Lewis

Absolutely.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

The other thing I want to give voice to, because I've heard it a lot, is that there's a lot of stress within the community around the CERB. I know there was a lot of relief when it was extended for eight weeks.

I do want to let you know that our Prime Minister has mentioned this. There is an understanding that there are industries that are going to take longer to come back. There's also an understanding that there are many workers who don't have access to EI. As well, we know that there are three million people without jobs. We have to find some sort of ongoing mechanism to continue to support workers and to continue to support those without work in Canada. I just wanted to make sure I gave voice to that point.

I have, if I can, one more quick question.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Make it very quick.