Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
I represent the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, a labour organization with about 300,000 members, mainly in Quebec but also in the rest of Canada.
Given the time allotted to us, I will present the recommendations in our brief, and I will briefly comment on them because we cover a great deal of subject matter.
The first recommendation, which is directly related to the previous presentation—I agree with just about everything that was said—is that the government must stop promoting fossil fuel production to honour its commitments under the Paris Agreement, in particular by gradually phasing out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.
The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, notes that, if we want to hold warming to 1.5°C as set out in the Paris Agreement, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030. I would remind members that Canada's targets are less ambitious, at 30% from 2005 levels by 2030, and that, in addition, GHG emissions continue to rise in Canada. We are not moving towards the target at all, we are moving away from it. We need to get back on track in a number of ways, including reducing fossil fuel production.
Our second recommendation proposes that the government must take a tougher stance against tax cheaters and accounting firms that develop aggressive tax avoidance strategies.
We all remember the KPMG affair a few years ago, which exposed the accounting firm's use of tax strategies to benefit wealthy Canadians. In the end, there were even secret deals made between the Canada Revenue Agency and the cheaters. Far from being punished, the cheaters were even encouraged because secret deals were cut with them. Clearly, this creates a very real perception of unfairness among Canadians and we must put an end to this type of strategy.
Our third recommendation proposes that, while the OECD is deciding on how to regulate the global tax system, the government must create a temporary tax system to ensure that the digital giants are paying their fair share of taxes. In that regard, we find that the digital giants are unfairly competing with Canadian businesses. The digital giants are getting our content but are not paying their fair share of taxes. In fact, they are not paying any tax at all. While the OECD works on these issues, some countries have taken action to create a temporary tax system. That is the case for Great Britain and Australia and, to a certain extent, for Quebec. We believe that Canada should act in this area.
I believe that the Yale Report, which I have not had the time to fully read, covers these issues. We therefore hope that the Minister of Canadian Heritage will look into the report very soon.
The fourth recommendation specifies that the government should no longer make it possible for companies to repatriate dividends from tax havens without paying taxes. I remind members that the Harper Government amended the tax treaty with Barbados to enable practices of that kind.
In fact, Gabriel Ste-Marie of the Bloc Québécois tabled a motion in the House about this. I believe that the motion was supported by the NDP, but it was sadly struck down because the two other parties in the House opposed it. Here again, there is a very real perception of tax unfairness. We believe that the House should take up this debate again to ban such practices.
In our fifth recommendation, we urge the government to take every opportunity provided by trade agreements to ensure that Canadian content is featured in government procurement.
A number of trade agreements have been signed in the past few years: the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement, or CETA, with the European Union; the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP; and more recently, although it is still being debated, the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement. If we enter into such agreements, we must be able to retain our ability to encourage Canadian content in government procurement—the government must ensure we do. Many jobs are at stake, and they are great jobs.
Our sixth recommendation aims to ensure the survival of the Davie Shipyard, particularly by incorporating it into the National Shipbuilding Strategy. Obviously, we produced our brief in August. Announcements were then made on the subject in December.
Furthermore, we welcomed those announcements. So it seems quite clear that the Davie shipyard will be incorporated into the National Shipbuilding Strategy. But now it needs contracts. Including it is fine, but let's see the contracts. During a labour shortage, the longer the contracts take to arrive, the more people will have found work elsewhere and the harder it will be to recruit workers when they are needed.
Our seventh recommendation is that the government should enhance the employment insurance program by adopting a hybrid standard that would make people eligible after 420 hours or 12 insurable weeks of work. The minimum number of weeks of benefits payable should be raised to 35 and the replacement rate to 60% of the maximum insurable earnings.
I want to insist on one point that was supposed to be addressed and, in our opinion, is still not. This is the famous black hole faced by seasonal workers who, because they do not have enough hours of work, can still access the employment insurance program, but not for long enough. So they go through a period when they are still unemployed but not receiving employment insurance. Using a minimum of 35 weeks as a measure should almost solve the problem. This is an important issue in the east of Quebec but also in eastern Canada. In Canada generally, some regions are affected by this issue more specifically.
Our eighth recommendation is that the federal government should introduce a public and comprehensive pharmacare program. Work has been done on this in recent years. Canada is one of the few, if not the only, OECD country that does not have public coverage for prescription drugs.
In Quebec, we have what we call a hybrid system that has been in effect since 1997. It is a step in the right direction, of course, but it has its share of problems. We are therefore proposing a public, comprehensive program, which, by the way, would result in decreased costs for medications and better protect all Canadians. We want it to be done in compliance with provincial jurisdiction and there should be the right to opt out with full compensation if, of course, an equivalent or superior program is put in place.
Our final recommendation is that the federal government must, as soon as possible, adopt the expert panel's recommendation and provide greater assistance to print news media. You do not need a long presentation for me to convince you of the precarious situation in which the media find themselves. The media are important in a democratic society, especially in terms of a diversity of voices. We feel that the situation is urgent. There have been some commitments from governments in this regard, but they have to become specific, because a lot of media are still in danger in Quebec and in Canada as a whole.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.