Evidence of meeting #5 for Finance in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was economy.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Peter Weissman  Chartered Accountant, Trust and Estate Practitioner, As an Individual
Daniel Wilson  Special Advisor, Research and Policy Coordination, Assembly of First Nations
Timothy Ross  Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada
Courtney Lockhart  Program Manager, Policy and Government Relations, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada
Kim Moody  Chief Executive Officer and Director, Canadian Tax Advisory, Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP
Brian Sauvé  President, National Police Federation
Peter Merrifield  Vice-President, National Police Federation
Brian Kingston  Vice-President, Policy, International and Fiscal, Business Council of Canada
Francis Bradley  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Electricity Association
Pierre Céré  Spokesperson, Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses
Bilal Khan  Managing Partner and Head of Deloitte Data, Deloitte
Paul Taylor  President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Mortgage Professionals Canada
Elaine Taylor  Chair of the Board of Directors, Head Office, Mortgage Professionals Canada
Nora Spinks  President and Chief Executive Officer, Vanier Institute of the Family
Kevin Lee  Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Home Builders' Association
Catherine Abreu  Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada
Pierre Patry  Treasurer, Confédération des syndicats nationaux
Rebecca Alty  Vice-President, Northwest Territories Association of Communities
Sara Brown  Chief Executive Officer, Northwest Territories Association of Communities
Lisa McDonald  Executive Director, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
Charlotte Bell  President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada
François Bélanger  Union Advisor, Labour Relations Services, Confédération des syndicats nationaux
Paul Rochon  Deputy Minister, Department of Finance

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

Timothy Ross

Yes. That's under way. We're really looking forward to the launch of the federal community housing initiative on April 1. That will secure affordability for 55,000 households in community housing across the country.

In terms of new funds to start new co-ops, it's a bit of a yes and no. There are new supply programs, for example the co-investment fund, and any group can apply, whether you're the largest private developer in a city or the smallest, even an unincorporated group that was just incorporated yesterday.

With the exception of Quebec and now in Vancouver, an issue is that the development capacity has really been lost within the community housing and co-operative housing sector over the last 30 years due to the cancellation of supply programs in 1993. That's why we want to really focus on that issue and start with a $300-million quick-start fund for new co-op development.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

I was going to raise that because the biggest issue we are facing is that people don't have the capacity. They have no clue, other than they want to do it, they want to use their space to do it or they have some capital to contribute. That whole other portion of how to develop it and then how to actually run it is completely different. You're saying that your $300-million quick-start fund would include some dollars for the capacity to be able to create the plan and then actually run a co-op moving forward. That's helpful.

You've also mentioned the enhanced federal lands initiative, the $50-million federal lands transfer. Do you have a mapping of these federal lands that you'd be targeting across the country? Do you already have a sense about that?

February 5th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

Timothy Ross

The information on that is scattered. Lands, as they become available, are posted on CMHC's website on its own program page, so there is no comprehensive view, at least that I know of, that has been made public.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Unfortunately, I have to cut you off, but if you have any information that might be helpful to us on that, it would be great.

I just want to turn my attention very quickly to Mr. Davis.

Community Food Centres Canada, which is located in my riding, has been a very big advocate around making disability tax credits refundable. They're big believers that what happens unless we do that is.... They believe it's a gap in our poverty reduction strategy, and our actually making it refundable will reduce food insecurity.

Do you have an understanding of what the cost would be to government if we were to make it refundable?

4:55 p.m.

Benjamin Davis

That's a great question.

In our advocacy work, we are often asked that question by elected officials. Last year we partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to answer two questions: What's the cost of making the DTC refundable, and what's the cost of making EI sickness benefits more flexible? It's about a billion-dollar investment, but the modelling that the Conference Board did shows an obvious return.

Of course, with MS and other diseases, when MS takes you out of the workforce, the disability tax credit.... I'm not the accountant in the room, but if you don't have enough income, it's about as valuable as Monopoly money. We absolutely need to make that refundable.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Would you mind—

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I'm sorry, Julie. You're out of time.

We'll split the remaining time between Mr. Cumming and Ms. Koutrakis.

Mr. Cumming.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Thank you to all of you for appearing today. My first question is for Mr. Moody.

Given the tax changes and the direction that we're seeing with these tax changes, often I see unintended consequences. My concern is flight of capital and flight of talent. What's your experience, particularly in Alberta or in general? Are we at a point now where we're starting to see people looking at other options, particularly because the U.S. seems to be going in a different direction and making it more attractive for capital to be in the U.S. with their tax changes?

4:55 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer and Director, Canadian Tax Advisory, Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP

Kim Moody

Without a doubt, I see it among my client base. We deal with private corporations, private individuals and major employers. I can tell you without exaggeration or embellishment that a good chunk of capital—and I mean significant capital—has gone south of the border for that very reason, which means loss of jobs.

To make a long story short, it's been very challenging in Alberta, as I'm sure you know. You're absolutely right about unintended consequences in terms of some sloppily drafted tax legislation that has been put forward over the years. My recommendation is to be very careful about that kind of stuff in the future.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Okay.

Mr. Weissman, you talked about training for Revenue Canada officers. You have experience, particularly with returns. For persons with disabilities and seniors, a lot of the files are simple returns. Are we at a point with technology now, given that Revenue Canada has a lot of the information they require, to simplify that process and lessen the burden on Revenue Canada so that they can focus on more complex issues? Are we getting close to the point where we can look at potentially doing that?

4:55 p.m.

Chartered Accountant, Trust and Estate Practitioner, As an Individual

Peter Weissman

My practice doesn't involve a lot of personal tax returns, but I can answer your question because I do have observations in that area.

The CRA has become more automated, especially with the easier tasks that you just mentioned. We do download client information from the CRA website when we are filling out tax returns. In the disability tax credit world, I used to have to reapply every five years because of my MS. I now don't have to apply. I don't have to reapply as often, and it's the same for some other applicants. At that level, the CRA has become much more efficient and user friendly. It's at the more difficult levels, such as in the audit field when you're on private company matters or reorganizations, that you notice the lack of training. That's not something you can automate or simplify.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you.

Ms. Koutrakis.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

I would like to thank everyone for being here today. Thank you for your reports. They were very interesting, and alarming in some cases. I will be directing my questions to Mr. Ross and Ms. Lockhart. If I have a little bit of time left, I will direct them to Mr. Davis.

In my constituency of Vimy in the city of Laval, we have five housing co-operatives. The largest has over 100 apartments. With the CMHC, the government created Canada's first national housing strategy. This plan of over $55 billion over 10 years will reinforce the middle class, stimulate our economy and reduce chronic homelessness by half. We have seen a very positive response with the implementation of the NHS.

With that in mind, could you please inform us, just briefly, on your recommendations for new housing co-operatives, specifically on the eligibility criteria for loans?

5 p.m.

Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

Timothy Ross

Do you mean the eligibility criteria for current programs within the national housing strategy?

5 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

How would you like them to be changed, if they need to be changed at all?

5 p.m.

Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

Timothy Ross

Certainly, if you want to create a greater depth of affordability, one thing that would be beneficial, if you were looking at making modifications to the co-investment fund, would be to look at the ratio of grants to loans. The larger the grant contribution in the development project, the more you can deepen the affordability. That would be one place to look.

There's another area that would be worthwhile. Community housing all across the country is getting old. A lot of co-ops and non-profits are obtaining new financing and new lending to renovate and renew their properties. We have a program that has facilitated access to about $100 million of credit union lending to co-operatives within our membership. One thing that gets in the way, for co-ops and non-profits that are still under their operating agreements with CMHC and that will be for some time, is that they're carrying a mortgage with CMHC. There's a significant interest penalty if you exit that mortgage. A program that was introduced has just expired. It's the prepayment penalty relief program with CMHC. That would be another area to look at in terms of lending that would facilitate access to capital for co-ops and non-profits across the country.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will have to leave it at that.

I remind committee members that we have two more panels of six, followed by a minister for an hour. It would be nice to have five minutes between each panel.

I want to very sincerely thank the witnesses for their responses to questions and for their presentations. The committee will consider them as we move forward in our pre-budget recommendations.

With that, thank you very much. Thanks to the folks on video conference as well for taking the time.

We'll suspend for five minutes.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will reconvene our the pre-budget consultation hearings for the 2020 budget.

To begin, I do want to thank all of the witnesses for coming here on very short notice. For those who made submissions in the spring and early summer prior to mid-August, the committee made a motion to bring those submissions forward. They will be considered in our recommendations, as they are considered part of the pre-budget consultations.

With that bit of introduction, we will start with the first witness, the Business Council of Canada, with Brian Kingston in his usual seat.

Go ahead, Brian.

5:15 p.m.

Brian Kingston Vice-President, Policy, International and Fiscal, Business Council of Canada

Mr. Chair and committee members, thank you for the invitation to be here and to take part in these consultations.

The Business Council of Canada represents the chief executives and entrepreneurs of 150 of Canada's leading companies in all sectors and regions of the country.

Canada's economy faces serious headwinds including an aging population, weak productivity and rising global protectionism. Our economy is barely growing on a per capita basis. Over the past decade we have witnessed growth of around 0.5%. That's half the pace achieved by the U.S. and half the OECD average.

Slower growth over the long run will inevitably mean fewer opportunities for our children and grandchildren, higher rates of unemployment, and less money for vital public services such as health care, education and transit.

To better understand these challenges and to identify solutions, last year the Business Council launched a task force on Canada's economic future, in which we engaged Canadians from across the country to advance policies that enhance growth and ensure a better future for all.

The task force report and recommendation outlines how government business and other stakeholders can work together to strengthen Canada's economic capacity and spur investment for the benefit of all Canadians. At the same time, it calls on employers to enhance Canada's human potential by embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, promoting mental health, and supporting a more skilled and innovative workforce.

The report recommends that the government modernize the regulatory environment, prioritize nationally significant infrastructure projects, modernize and simplify the tax system, rethink Canada's foreign policy in a changing world, increase immigration flows to build the future labour force that Canada needs and, finally, develop a national resource and climate strategy.

Of these recommendations, we believe that regulatory modernization has the greatest potential to improve the lives of citizens, drive innovation and enhance business activity across the board.

This is something we heard consistently during our consultations, and we think now is the time for a new approach to regulation in Canada. I am happy to provide some details on that in the question period.

As Canada's largest employers, our members are committed to doing their part to nurture Canada's workforce. That includes increasing labour force participation among indigenous people, encouraging greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace, promoting the adoption of proven mental health strategies, investing in employee learning and development, expanding career opportunities for young Canadians and supporting the next generation of Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs.

Now, I recognize that some of the priorities I have just talked about are what you would expect from the Business Council of Canada. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, we represent 150 of Canada's leading companies, and we recognize that as parliamentarians your focus is on building a better future for all Canadians. That means not just the large companies that we represent but also entrepreneurs, small businesses, indigenous-owned firms and innovators of all kinds. In other words, we challenge ourselves to focus on the broader interests of Canadians today and in the future.

Tomorrow we plan to release a statement in partnership with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. Collectively, the member companies of these five organizations employ millions of Canadians in every corner of this country and every part of the private sector.

I can tell you from experience that these five organizations don't always agree on the same priorities, but we are coming together because we all recognize that without a healthy and growing economy, our society and our governments will not be able to afford the vital programs and services that Canadians depend on. Without a healthy and growing economy, our children and grandchildren will not be able to look forward to a better future.

I look forward to sharing with you that statement when we release it tomorrow.

Thank you for the opportunity as always, and I look forward to questions.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Brian.

We turn now to the Canadian Electricity Association with Mr. Bradley.

Welcome. The floor is yours.

5:15 p.m.

Francis Bradley President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Electricity Association

Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members.

My name is Francis Bradley, and I am the president and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association. CEA is the national voice of electricity. Our members operate in every province and territory in Canada, and include generation, transmission and distribution companies, as well as technology and service providers from across the country. Canada's electricity sector employs 81,000 Canadians and contributes $30 billion to Canada's GDP. Indirectly, our sector supports essentially every job and industry in Canada. Electricity is the foundation of the modern economy.

Electricity is also at the heart of Canada's transition to a low-carbon economy. Over 80% of Canada's electricity generation is already non-emitting, making it one of the cleanest grids in the world. In fact, the Canadian electricity sector has already reduced GHG emissions by 30% since 2005.

Electricity will play an essential role as Canada transitions to a low-carbon economy. The sector is uniquely positioned to help advance Canada's clean energy future and provide, as the throne speech aspires, clean affordable power in every Canadian community.

Sustainable, affordable Canadian power offers the opportunity to decarbonize and electrify other sectors such as transportation and industrial processes. To do so will require substantial investments in the sector to accommodate new demand and evolving technologies. We must do so while maintaining the reliability and the affordability in the system that Canadians have come to expect.

We're pleased that the government has supported this transformation in past budgets, with pilot programs for new technologies such as smart grids, deployment of EV charging infrastructure, electric vehicle purchase incentives and energy efficiency. Looking to the future, we’ve identified a number of ways that the federal government can support this process. I’ll highlight some of those recommendations from our submission.

First, the government, in conjunction with provinces and territories, should complete a national electrification strategy to ensure that government policy, utility investments and customer expectations are built on a robust and actionable plan.

The Conference Board of Canada estimates that there is a need to invest $1.7 trillion—that's trillion with a “t”—in the electricity sector by 2050 to reach climate goals. It’s important that we base this investment on a national plan.

Second, the government should target investments to meet the electricity needs of tomorrow. This includes encouraging the commercial deployment of energy storage. Batteries and other technologies will help revolutionize our grid, allowing power to be used well after it has been produced. Previous programs facilitated the early deployment of wind and other renewables, and they could serve as a good model for storage.

Third, we must enable innovation by modernizing our regulatory models. This includes updating the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act to permit new metering technologies to reduce barriers to the deployment of advanced technologies such as LED street lighting and electric vehicle charging infrastructures. Similarly, a regulatory innovation fund would allow provincial and territorial regulators to minimize price impacts on Canadians as new technologies are deployed.

Finally, we must continue to invest in cybersecurity. Canada has taken meaningful steps forward in the past few years to address cybersecurity issues. Unfortunately, we continue to face dedicated and innovative adversaries who seek to undermine our critical systems.

Information is the best defence. Canada should expand the Project Lighthouse pilot nationally. The program shares timely, actionable intelligence between government and electricity customers on a daily basis. It has already had an impact in Ontario and it offers opportunity for the rest of Canada.

To conclude, it's no secret that the electricity sector is undergoing unprecedented transformation. The pace and scale of the changes we have experienced are nothing like we've seen in generations. CEA and our members have an important role to play in enabling innovation, but we can't do it alone. There's an important role for other partners, including the federal government, to help drive this transformation.

Thank you, members and Mr. Chair. I look forward to your questions.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Francis.

Turning then to the Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses, we welcome Mr. Céré.

5:20 p.m.

Pierre Céré Spokesperson, Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak with members of the Standing Committee on Finance as part of the pre-budget consultations. I have come to talk to you about the employment insurance program, of course, and I do so as the spokesperson for the Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses. We bring together 10 regional organizations in Quebec and New Brunswick.

During the last election, last fall, the Liberal Party of Canada, which forms this government, committed to a number of employment insurance measures: a career insurance benefit for long-tenured workers; an employment insurance disaster benefit to be introduced in 2021; an extension of sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks; and the transformation of the pilot project for seasonal employees into an enhanced permanent program. The key measures are the extension of sickness benefits and the permanent program for seasonal workers. It is these measures that I will speak about.

I'll start with sickness benefits. It does not seem to be a given that sickness benefits will be announced in the next budget. We think that would be a serious mistake. The government has made a commitment to the public. The needs are great, and people are waiting. Thousands of people suffer from serious illnesses and, in many cases, have only EI sickness benefits to support them financially. In 2017-18, sickness benefits supported more than 400,000 people in Canada, 36$ of whom have received the maximum 15 weeks of benefits. The rate of exhaustion of these benefits is highest among those aged 55 and over.

I would like to bring the following facts to your attention. Of all the G7 countries, excluding the United States but including Russia, Canada has the worst health benefits coverage of any country in the G7. I did say the worst. France grants 156 weeks; the United Kingdom, 52 weeks; Germany, 78 weeks; and Japan, 72 weeks. I'll let you do the math. In Canada, the sickness benefit component was created in 1971 and has never changed. It is 15 weeks, and it's time for that to change.

The government is proposing to extend it to 26 weeks. We consider that to be a minimum. We believe it should be extended to 50 weeks for those who are seriously ill. That is our proposal. In fact, according to a study by the Parliamentary Budget Officer released in April 2019, the additional cost of extending sickness benefits, if they were increased from 15 to 50 weeks, would be $1.1 billion by 2020. On this subject, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said the following in his study:

Therefore, the increase in the duration of benefits is expected to raise the employee premium rate by a total of 6-cents from the baseline rate ….

There is an urgent need for action, and it is important not to subject this commitment to political calculation.

Let's talk about seasonal workers now. The realities of seasonal work are part of the working world and our economy everywhere. The government understands that seasonal workers, and I quote from a government press release, “are an important part of Canada's continued prosperity”.

These workers often find themselves without any other employment opportunities when the work season is over. Their employment, like the length of the working season, is often subject to the vagaries of the climate, available resources and the market. That is why, in August 2018, the government implemented a pilot project targeting seasonal workers in 13 administrative regions by granting them five additional weeks of benefits. This pilot project will end on May 30. The government's commitment is to improve this program and make it permanent. We believe that it does indeed deserve to be improved by better targeting seasonal employees in these regions, perhaps by identifying seasonal employers to better target seasonal employees. We also believe that an exception eligibility criterion, set at 420 hours of work, should be added for these seasonal workers.

Similarly, we believe that this program should also be offered to indigenous communities that experience high unemployment rates and that, in fact, face the same constraints as seasonal employees. In other words, we believe that we must protect our regions, protect seasonal workers and protect indigenous communities.

The government must move quickly to improve this measure and announce it in the next budget in March of this year. If we are talking about money, I would like to bring to your attention the fact that the cumulative surplus in the employment insurance fund currently exceeds $4 billion. I would also like to point out that, according to an OECD study entitled “Social Protection and Well-being”, in terms of social spending on unemployment, Canada spends 10% less per capita than the OECD average.

We think the role of the employment insurance program is to help people who lose their jobs by providing them with economic security. It is also the role of a responsible government to ensure that the program fulfills that function.

Thank you for your attention.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Mr. Céré. I doubt if you'll find an MP around the table who hasn't had somebody come into their office because they had run out of sickness benefits at 15 weeks. I know many of us have had them tell us that.

Turning to Deloitte, we have Mr. Khan, managing partner and head of Deloitte data.

Welcome.

5:30 p.m.

Bilal Khan Managing Partner and Head of Deloitte Data, Deloitte

Thank you.

Hello. Thank you everyone for taking the time. I appreciate that the committee has been drinking from a firehose of information, so I hope to be concise, clear and hopefully give the committee something interesting to take away.

As mentioned, my name is Bilal Khan, and I'm the managing partner at Deloitte. I'm head of Deloitte data, which really focuses on data analytics and artificial intelligence, primarily around governance, strategy and public policy as they relate to the new economy. In addition to this, I sit on the Province of Ontario's digital and data task force, which is a private sector task force responsible for setting a series of recommendations for the future of the province. Prior to being with Deloitte, I built one of the largest scale-up innovation hubs in Canada called OneEleven, which is focused on late-stage technology companies.

Deloitte is one of Canada's leading professional services firms. We employ well over 14,000 people across the country. Deloitte's purpose is to inspire and help our people, communities and our country thrive by building a better future for us all, something I think we all can relate to. We take great pride and responsibility in contributing our perspective on the issues that matter to our country and that affect the Canadian business community, more broadly.

As part of our commitment to the future prosperity of Canada, we've established the future of Canada centre. It's our research and public policy branch designed to spark vital discussions about the country's future to help all Canadians thrive in the new economy.

At Deloitte, we believe that Canada has an opportunity, in fact, a responsibility, to be a global leader in the new economy. My remarks today will focus on how Canada can compete on the world stage as a true global leader in the artificial intelligence and data-driven economy. To set the context a bit, Canada is extremely well positioned to reap the benefits and opportunities of an AI and data-driven future, thanks in part, first, to early leadership from our academic institutions; second, a highly trained workforce; third, an effective skills-based immigration system; fourth, continued investments in artificial intelligence; and fifth, the Canadian government's leadership in creating an open data ecosystem.

Canada lags behind other countries when it comes to the commercialization and adoption of artificial intelligence. Canadian businesses don't believe Canada is well positioned to lead in the data economy. Our research shows that Canadian businesses are facing several challenges when it comes to the new economy. Canadian businesses significantly trail their peers on AI adoption. At least 71% of Canadian businesses have not even begun their AI journeys, partly because as a mid-sized economy we have smaller datasets than companies in larger countries. In the new economy, data scale matters.

Most Canadians don't understand AI or its implications, which is holding back business investments. Businesses and consumers distrust AI and are concerned over unintended consequences from AI-powered decisions and data privacy. There's a lack of clear regulations on artificial intelligence and data, creating uncertainly for businesses and lack of trust for consumers.

We've identified three key areas where bold action is needed to successfully achieve prosperity in the new economy.

First, fuel the AI economy. Good data makes good AI possible. If AI is going to drive our economy, which it eventually will, Canada needs to increase the quality and quantity of public data available to researchers and businesses to commercialize. This is especially true for companies in less populated countries like Canada that often have fewer resources and smaller datasets than larger countries, like we see with the domination of the United States and China.

The Canadian government can help spur innovation by making more public data available in machine-readable format for commercialization purposes and making it easier to use. Other countries are already leading the way. France, Germany, Australia and of course China have made publicly held data such as utility data, transportation data and health care data a feature of their national AI strategies.

Public data is even more valuable when combined with privately owned data. To accelerate this, governments across Canada can increase collaboration with the private sector to ensure that data is being released in algorithm-friendly, machine-readable format.

Second, prepare Canadians for AI and data-related change. In our research we found that only 4% of Canadians were confident in their understanding of AI. We need to better equip our workers for a changing labour market and shield Canadians from being negatively affected by the new economy. To prepare Canadians to respond to social changes that the new economy will bring, governments need to ensure that all Canadians achieve a basic level of AI and data literacy. For example, in Finland they've created a program called elements of AI, a free online course geared to people with no technical background. Experts told us that the popularity of the course outside Finland has also increased Finnish prominence in the global AI ecosystem.

Third, mitigate risk and build trust in AI and data. Trust is the currency of the new economy. In our research we heard from Canadians that they did not trust AI. This mistrust is holding back the adoption of AI. Businesses and consumers alike told us they had concerns about using AI-enabled tools they didn't trust. This is in part due to outdated legislation that does not provide transparency and clarity by clearly laying out the rules concerning AI, data, privacy and security.

We understand that governments must balance both protecting consumer rights, data, and privacy while ensuring and encouraging business innovation. I'm encouraged by this government's effort to update Canada's privacy and consumer protection laws and the digital charter. Legislation must be updated to reflect the reality of today's AI and data-driven economy and legislation should give businesses a clear set of guardrails and consequences to operate within the collection, storage and sharing of data. This is an area where clearer legislation wouldn't necessarily be detrimental to business innovation. This is because, absent timely and specific legislation, the grey zone that businesses are forced to operate in is far worse for innovation.

With a cross-cutting approach to public policy and strong private-public collaboration, we as a country can seize the opportunity to be a true global leader in the new economy. We can achieve AI and data prosperity in a way that will benefit all Canadians.

I look forward to having a discussion through your questions.

Thank you very much.