The spring of 2010 has been very busy at the Canadian Chamber. I am pleased to report that both the G8/20 Business Summit and the Canada-EU Forum, held in Ottawa on April 28 and 29, were very successful. The meetings were particularly timely, coming as Canada negotiates a comprehensive trade and investment agreement with Europe and as our country prepares to host world leaders at the G8 and G20 meetings later this month.
Our Chair, Shauneen Bruder, did an exemplary job of hosting the G8/G20 event, with the high point being her presentation to Prime Minister Harper of the joint G8 business declaration. Speakers included the chairs or presidents from 13 countries representing the most prominent business associations in the G20 and speaking on behalf of millions of businesses. For the second time in less than a year, Prime Minister Harper participated in a Canadian Chamber event with a speech and question and answer session.
The April 28 Canada–EU Forum, organized by the Canadian Chamber in partnership with BUSINESSEUROPE, also hosted high-level participants, including the Premier of Quebec Jean Charest, who delivered the keynote address, International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan, the Canadian and European CETA chief and deputy chief negotiators, respectively, and the presidents /directors-general of Europe’s largest national business associations – BUSINESSEUROPE, BDI (Germany), MEDEF (France) and Confindustria (Italy). The forum provided an update on the Canada-EU trade negotiations and brought the Canadian and European business communities together to jointly press for an early and ambitious conclusion to the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations.
On April 30, we released the latest installment of the Economic Policy Series by the Canadian Chamber’s Chief Economist, Tina Kremmidas, entitled Embracing a Growth-Oriented Tax System. An article highlighting the key findings of the report was published in the May 2010 issue of The Canadian Business Journal. The next report in the series, entitled The G20 Leaders Summit: Recovery and New Beginnings, will be released prior to the June 26-27 G20 Leaders Summit in Toronto. The report will be featured in the June issue of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP)’s Policy Options magazine as well as The Canadian Business Journal.
Our board meeting in Iqaluit on April 9-11 left all of us with a new awareness of the cultural depth, natural beauty and untapped economic potential of not only Nunavut but all of Canada’s North. We also left immersed in the development issues that Canada’s North faces as it strives to assume its rightful place in the Canadian and global economies. The challenges, which include climate change, the EU ban on seal products, as well as an infrastructure and skills/training deficit, are formidable. At the same time, the opportunities, which range from a wealth of natural resources and the drive to be a full economic partner with the rest of Canada, are immense. We left with a commitment to look at ways the Canadian Chamber can contribute to the economic policy agenda for the North, including a policy paper in 2011.
On May 25, the government introduced Bill C-28, the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act (FISA) which replaced the Electronic Commerce Protection Act that died when Parliament was prorogued in December. I’m pleased to report that the government has responded to our work on this bill to improve it and fix technical issues that were in the previous bill. This is a win for the Canadian Chamber and its members. We support quick passage of this bill that will better protect individuals and businesses from harmful spam.
The government also announced on May 25 the introductions of Bill C-29 that will amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The Canadian Chamber will work with members of its e-commerce and telecommunications committee on any input to the updated legislation.
On May 25, the Canadian Chamber appeared again before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, on Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries. We were the only business stakeholder to have been asked to return. In our presentation, we said that our views on this bill have become stronger regarding the harm it would cause to Canadian extractive sector companies. As well, Bill C-300 will not provide any additional protection to the citizens of developing countries it is meant to help.
On June 10, I gave the keynote address at the Canadian-American Business Council luncheon in Washington DC, highlighting the need to develop a strategy for our engagement with the United States.
The Canadian Chamber is building on its 2009 energy paper, Powering up Canadian Prosperity, with continued advocacy for a Canadian sustainable energy strategy; the report will develop more detailed positions on the important energy issues. The Canadian Chamber appeared on this before the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources on May 4. As well, the Canadian Chamber’s energy and environment committee met with International Energy Agency Executive Director Nobua Tanaka on April 12. A follow up paper will be developed and released in the fall on the development of a smarter electricity grid across Canada.
On April 20, the Canadian Chamber appeared before the Standing House of Commons Committee on Finance, which is studying the retirement income security of Canadians. We called upon the government to revise the Income Tax Act and change defined contribution pension plan regulations to allow the private sector to offer options that would encourage more small- and medium-sized employers to offer workplace retirement savings programs and increase the participation and savings rates of employees.
On May 4, the Canadian Chamber hosted a dinner with Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, John Baird, which was attended by nine CEOs of member transportation providers, as well as Chair Shauneen Bruder and Vice Chair Elyse Allan. Our members found the wide-ranging discussion very interesting and appreciated the directness of the minister.
As I write this, we have just completed a very productive board meeting in Toronto where directors focused on two issues of importance to our members: the state of Canada–United States relations and the need for Canadian businesses to be leaders in innovation to ensure a competitive edge going forward. Directors were briefed by the Canadian Chamber’s advisor in Washington, Paul Fraser, whose intimate knowledge of and dealings around the Capitol are invaluable in advancing our agenda. Directors also benefited from a presentation by Kevin Lynch, vice-chair of BMO Financial Group and former clerk of the Privy Council, whose research and accomplishments in the fields of innovation are well-known and documented.
I hope you will find this update to be of value and, as always, I welcome your views and comments.Sincerely, Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Canadian Chambers of Commerce