Evidence of meeting #17 for Health 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

Stephen Laskowski  President, Canadian Trucking Alliance
Mathew Wilson  Senior Vice-President, Policy and Government Relations, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters
Ron Lemaire  President, Canadian Produce Marketing Association
Amanda Vyce  Senior Research Officer, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Lou Black  Research Director, Hospital Employees Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marcus Powlowski

Thank you, Dr. Powlowski.

We will go now to Mr. Champoux.

Please go ahead, Mr. Champoux, for two and a half minutes.

Mr. Champoux, you are muted.

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for Mr. Lemaire.

Earlier you mentioned that you'd like a little flexibility with food packaging. When my colleague asked you to clarify, you said that, for example, food products destined for the U.S. market could be kept and distributed in Canada.

Since food products destined for the U.S. market are labelled in English only, is your association suggesting that we ignore bilingualism rules because of the pandemic? Did I understand that correctly?

1:20 p.m.

President, Canadian Produce Marketing Association

Ron Lemaire

That's a good question.

It's a very good question, and no, we shouldn't ignore the official languages, but we do have to recognize the need to ensure that food access for certain populations. Currently the regulatory environment would restrict access to these foods. There is a need to ensure that francophone Canadians can read and understand the package, and that is a core element we'd have to recognize moving forward. However, the flexibility around that packaging is key to ensuring we can redirect food to our market where necessary.

May 5th, 2020 / 1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Thank you for the clarification.

I want to get back to food production. Vegetable growers in my region are planning to plant less than half of their normal crops. Slaughterhouses have also shut down. The G20 agriculture ministers have agreed not to put restrictions on food exports. I understand that this situation is a bit unusual, but if we are struggling to produce enough to meet our own needs, the same could be true for the other countries with which we have trade agreements.

Will that not spark a post-COVID food crisis? What are your forecasts and estimates on this?

1:25 p.m.

President, Canadian Produce Marketing Association

Ron Lemaire

At this point in time, we have effectively worked with government to bring a number of workers to support production to meet forecasted needs, but that's looking at production today. We could see impacts of weather; we could see challenges in planting, looking at it from a produce perspective. There are still variables that are unknown as we move forward.

We recognize that it's essential to have a food security model in Canada, where our domestic production can sustain domestic need but relative to our climate as well. We can go back to the international nature of fruit and vegetables and the fact that we don't grow bananas, citrus, and a range of other products that Canadians are looking for.

To the point earlier on whether we have shipping channels open, whether we have access to containers to be able to bring product in, the bigger issue is also specific to availability of transport and ships. Shipping companies are now reducing the number of ships internationally. So it's not just a matter of a lack of containers; it's the volume of ships on the water because of the lack of business currently in the international market outside of food. It's across the board.

The complexity of the question comes back to whether we have enough workers. No, we don't, but the industry is making do. Can we produce enough food to feed Canadians? Yes, we can, but we need further support from government, both financially and through aid programs that continue to drive the systems that will help production. There are some small farmers who can't go into further debt and who won't bother putting product into the ground this year.

The fruit and vegetable business has 10,000 family farms, 2,500 of them being large companies of a significant size, and the rest being small businesses. It is those small businesses that will be a challenge to keep going over the continuing months of COVID and as we go into the new normal in the post-COVID environment.

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marcus Powlowski

Thank you, Mr. Champoux.

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Thank you.

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marcus Powlowski

By the way, Mr. Lemaire, your sound quality, from my perspective, got really bad.

I understand that Mr. Doherty has a point of order.

Go ahead, Mr. Doherty.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Chair, if it's all right, I'll wait. I don't want to take any time away from Mr. Davies, so I'll wait until after Mr. Davies has done his questioning.

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marcus Powlowski

Thank you.

Mr. Davies, please go ahead. You have two and a half minutes.

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

This is to either Ms. Vyce or Ms. Black. This committee did a very extensive study on the costs of publicly delivered pharmacare versus privately delivered pharmacare, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that we would save about $4 billion a year by going to a public delivery model. We're well aware of the fact that the U.S. delivery of private care is often more expensive per capita than Canada's.

In the long-term sector, do you have any information for the committee about what the average out-of-pocket costs are for a non-profit or publicly delivered bed versus a for-profit bed?

1:25 p.m.

Senior Research Officer, Canadian Union of Public Employees

Amanda Vyce

The differences are quite substantial. The costs that are paid out of pocket vary by province. They also vary by the type of room accommodation that a resident has. If a resident has a private room and they are the only individual who occupies that room, the cost is higher compared with a room that is referred to as “semi-private”. It usually has two residents sharing a room versus a room that is termed a “ward room” that could have upwards of four residents.

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

If I may interrupt, could you do an apples-to-apples comparison, a private bed that is for profit versus a private bed that is not for profit, etc., that kind of comparison?

1:25 p.m.

Senior Research Officer, Canadian Union of Public Employees

Amanda Vyce

It's more expensive. It costs more in a private home than it does in a public home for out-of-pockets costs.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thanks.

Mr. Lemaire, I'll turn to you. You wrote a letter in April to the Prime Minister, and you said that federal support is needed to help employers meet housing requirements as the typical bunkhouse accommodations—

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marcus Powlowski

Excuse me, Mr. Davies. Would you speak a little more closely to your microphone?

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Sure.

In your letter, Mr. Lemaire, you said that federal support is needed to help employers meet housing requirements as the typical bunkhouse accommodations in many cases cannot meet the social distancing requirements being put in place. In your view, ballpark, what proportion of temporary foreign worker employers are currently unable to meet the housing requirements necessary to meet the physical distancing requirements?

1:30 p.m.

President, Canadian Produce Marketing Association

Ron Lemaire

I don't have an actual percentage available to you today. I can get that information for you, but the challenges are widespread across the country. There has been a lot of creativity, as I mentioned, using and leveraging motels and hotels that are available, if they are. Some of these are rural communities where they do not have that access.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Could you undertake to supply us those figures?

1:30 p.m.

President, Canadian Produce Marketing Association

Ron Lemaire

I will work to provide them to you, yes.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

Finally, I have a quick question for Mr. Wilson.

Mr. Wilson, we're aware of the importance of global supply chains, but, of course, in a time of a pandemic, I think most Canadians are very desirous of making sure we have made-in-Canada self-sufficiency when it comes to essential medical equipment and supplies.

What advice would you give the federal government on how we can better achieve that in time for, say, the next pandemic or maybe a re-emergence of the current one next year?

1:30 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Policy and Government Relations, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

Mathew Wilson

I think part of the problem in Canada, which is no different from that with food or other things, is that what we make is.... If you only have a domestic supply and domestic sales opportunity, what you're making is very limited, and it's really hard to get companies up to scale to produce just for the size of the Canadian market. The numbers sound really big if you talk about how many PPEs that everyone from first responders to health care workers, manufacturing workers and truckers might need, but the reality is that it's still a pretty small number given the volume you could produce in a—

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Sorry, Mr. Wilson, could I just—

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marcus Powlowski

Mr. Davies.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

You can still produce in Canada for the market and export, but how can we produce in Canada?