Evidence of meeting #86 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was jobs.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

John Knubley  Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Minister, for being with us today.

Minister, in your opening remarks, you mentioned that the Canadian economy has created half a million jobs since your government took office in 2015. Do you have a breakdown of those jobs between full-time and part-time?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

That's a good question. My understanding is we do have the breakdown. I can get the breakdown for you momentarily, but a good percentage of them are full-time jobs.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Do you know what that percentage is?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

I'll confirm the exact percentage momentarily.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

Second, Minister, as we saw last week, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, FCC, announced its plans to slash net neutrality rules, which were put in place in 2015 to ensure a free and open Internet, which is, of course, a key component for innovation and commerce in the future.

Can you confirm, Minister, your government's commitment to net neutrality in Canada, and let us know if you've had any conversations with your U.S. counterparts to communicate your concern?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

This is a very important issue. This issue is critical not only to our economy and innovation, as you articulated, but also to our democracy. Having an open Internet—and individuals should have the ability to have access to information without prejudice—is critical. Freedom of choice is essential.

That's why I came out very quickly to reaffirm our government's support for net neutrality. We also are very supportive of the CRTC framework on net neutrality, and we will engage, and we are going to continue to work with, not only the U.S., but other partners and allies to promote an open Internet, because it's essential for finding new solutions.

In my opinion, it's no longer a luxury. It's essential, and it is absolutely essential for our democracy as well, because so much information is shared online, and people should have the freedom to choose the content they want without any prejudice.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

The NDP very much agrees with that, but, Minister, have you actually communicated that to your counterpart in the U.S. yet?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

At an official level we have. I'm looking forward to the next opportunity I have face to face with my counterparts in the U.S., but we clearly articulated our viewpoint in a very firm manner to our U.S. counterparts.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I want to move to superclusters. We understand that Industry Canada is using a $950-million fund to help the supercluster initiatives. Are there specific industries being targeted? Has the government identified regional geographic areas for funding?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

This is really industry led. This is about us saying, “Look, we want to use our ability and our power to convene, to bring key actors together, industry, academia, and civil society. This is an open and fair competition. We want the best ideas and proposals to succeed.”

We had over 1,000 businesses participate, 350 organizations, and over 100 academic institutions as part of that. We received well over 50 proposals. We did a short list of nine, and to answer your question specifically around geography, those nine proposals reflected initiatives across the country. This demonstrates that innovation is happening everywhere, that it's not only in the big cities or with the traditional players. Other jurisdictions really stepped up, and we saw that in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, in the west, and in Ontario. It was great to see those initiatives put forward, and they do reflect not only great ideas but also the geography of Canada.

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

My colleague Mr. Bernier tabled a motion about bankruptcy laws and their effects on workers. I don't think any modern industrial strategy can fail to take into account the interests of the workers who are critical to the success of any industrial strategy. As we saw with some famous bankruptcies like Stelco, Nortel, Sears, etc., workers who have deferred their wages in pensions and severance pay are losing that money. Will your government support proposals that would put workers and pensioners before secured creditors in our bankruptcy and insolvency laws?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

This again is something we have seen just recently with Sears, and this debate has emerged in a more meaningful way again. There was a debate that took place prior to that with Stelco and Nortel, and we're very mindful of that, especially of the impact this has on families and workers. You're absolutely right. This impacts many communities, especially Sears, for example. Their retail network is enormous in Canada, and it impacts a lot of communities.

We, as you know, are carefully looking at the NDP proposal, and there's a Bloc proposal as well. We're willing to examine and see what we can do to move forward on that. One thing we cannot and should not underestimate is the importance of the CCAA process. This allows companies that are in dire financial stress to have the opportunity to restructure and come out, and usually this preserves jobs.

Right now with Sears, for example, that process is still taking place, but in the meantime, Service Canada is engaging with those workers and families who are going through difficult times. Eighty-two sessions have taken place. We're very much on top of it. We're engaged, and we're looking forward to working with the NDP and the Bloc on this matter, and any other political party, to see if we can make any positive steps in this area.

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

How am I doing for time?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Dan Ruimy

You have 30 seconds left.

November 28th, 2017 / 12:55 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Quickly, Bill C-45, the cannabis legislation, just passed in the House. Sort of perplexingly, there's a ban in Bill C-45 on the importation and exportation of recreational adult-use cannabis products. There's no such ban on medicinal products. Given that the global industry for cannabis can be multiple billions of dollars, and it's an innovative, technological, intellectual property-laden industry in which other countries will start copying Canada, would you be a voice at the cabinet table for relaxing that so Canadian entrepreneurs can actually get first market access in this highly innovative and burgeoning lucrative field?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Dan Ruimy

We're out of time. If you want to—

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

I'll be very quick.

Our priority as a government, and my priority—I have two young girls—is keeping marijuana out of the hands of young people, and keeping the profits away from criminals and gangs. That's really been the focus, so I must confess that this is an issue I haven't thought about, because those are the two priorities that really consume my attention.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Dan Ruimy

Thank you very much.

Here's what's going to happen. We have a very short period of time, so there are going to be three Liberals at two minutes each, two Conservatives at two minutes each, and Don at two minutes.

Let's go.

Majid, you have two minutes.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Minister, for coming in.

I want to focus on the strategic innovation funds of $1.26 billion, and the other $200 million in addition. Can you quickly help me understand why you created this fund, how you envisioned it to be different from the funds that were allocated to innovation before, and what you're trying to accomplish?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

Again, this is just being very thoughtful about the role of government. We recognize that other jurisdictions are stepping up in terms of attracting investments and growing their companies.

The objective of this fund was to consolidate the traditional funds from aerospace and auto and open it up to all sectors so there is more competition. That way we will get better proposals, better return on investments, and more jobs that are created here in Canada. That's the objective.

Right now, we have a lot in our pipeline in terms of proposals. That was the objective. We wanted to identify areas of high growth. Those could be in agriculture, for example. Those could be in advanced manufacturing. Those could be in clean technology. Those could be in clean resources, for example. That's the objective of the fund, to open up to high-growth markets, particularly high-growth sectors.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

The pipeline, as you said, is full now. When do you anticipate some of these funds being allocated to the...?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

Some of these discussions are taking place, but I anticipate we'll be making three or four announcements, possibly before the end of the year, and will continue to make more announcements in the new year as well, in the first quarter. The objective was not only to re-establish this fund very quickly after the budget but also to really market it to industry very quickly, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. We are now just being very strategic about what we want to do. We want to make sure we do our due diligence, but we will be making our announcements very quickly.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

My last question is on supplementary estimates (B). You are allocating about $50 million to the strategic innovation fund. Is there any special area that this is going into?

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Dan Ruimy

You're out of time.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

No worries. Thank you.