Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Report of the committee

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to table its

FOURTEENTH REPORT

Your committee, which was authorized to examine the subject matter of those elements contained in Divisions 5, 9, 11, 13, 14 and 16 of Part 4 of Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Monday, May 8, 2017, examined the said subject matter and now reports as follows:

On May 18, 30 and 31, 2017, your committee heard witnesses on the subject matter of Divisions 5, 9, 11, 13, 14 and 16 of Part 4 of Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017, and other measures.

Division 5 seeks to authorize the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to provide up to $125 million to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to establish a pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. Your committee supports this proposal.

Division 9 would provide the funding authority to the Minister of Finance to allocate funds to the provinces and territories for home care and mental health services. Members fully support this initiative and applaud the approach being taken by the federal government in the distribution of funds over the next 10 years. Specifically, the committee encourages the shift away from acute care in hospitals to community-based care in both mental health and home care as well as the inclusion of transparency and accountability measures in the upcoming federal/provincial bilateral agreements. Your committee supports this proposal.

Division 11 seeks to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Labour Code, to adjust and expand special benefits for maternity, parental and caregiving leaves. Your committee generally supports these proposals but would like to make the following observations. Concerns were raised by witnesses that these changes might negatively impact the hiring of women. As such, your committee urges Employment and Social Development Canada to monitor the implementation of these amendments to measure uptake of the new options and assess hiring practices with the objective of determining whether there are consequential changes in gender balance. Overall, your committee encourages the department to ensure that it implements strategies to properly inform the public of the new and amended benefits, especially the irrevocability of the choice with regards to the optional extension of parental benefits.

Division 13 seeks to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to clarify certain provisions and improve the functioning of the Express Entry System as well as to exempt several fees from application to the Service Fees Act. Your committee supports this proposal however it would like to make the following observation. While departmental officials indicated that they would continue to respect the spirit of the Service Fees Act, your committee urges that, in particular, the department conduct public consultations on proposed fee changes that are higher than the Consumer Price Index for Canada and produce an analysis of the impact the increases will have on low-income applicants.

Division 14 seeks to amend the definition of “insured participant” within the Employment Insurance Act thereby allowing more individuals to be eligible for various programs offered under that Act. Your committee supports this proposal.

Division 16 amends the Food and Drugs Act to introduce provisions authorizing the Minister of Health to fix and amend by order the user fees charged by the department on products regulated under this Act. While your committee acknowledges Health Canada’s concern that the current process for adjusting fees is time consuming, it has some concerns about the proposed changes. Specifically, the Service Fees Act, to which the Food and Drugs Act would be exempt, contains transparency and accountability provisions with respect to setting fees. Your committee is concerned that the new fee provisions in the Food and Drugs Act do not include adequate consultation requirements and notably contain no performance standards provisions, including fee remittance provisions, for failing to meet the standards.

Respectfully submitted,

KELVIN KENNETH OGILVIE

Chair