Advancing Canadian Business: Highlights from Hill Day 2023
On April 24 and 25, 2023, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce held our annual Hill Days, where business leaders from various sectors came together to meet with Parliamentarians and government officials to discuss the most pressing policy issues affecting Canadian businesses and the economy.
The event provided members of the Chamber the opportunity to advocate for policies related to their respective industries, from cybersecurity, privacy and digital trade, digital economy, to critical minerals, net zero, transportation and infrastructure, to agriculture, food supply, life sciences, health innovation, cannabis, international affairs and Western Canada.
In between these advocacy meetings, participants had the opportunity to hear from and engage with an impressive roster of speakers during the breakfast and lunch keynote sessions.
The Hon. Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board
Day 1 kicked off with a keynote speech by the President of the Treasury Board, the Hon. Mona Fortier, who emphasized the importance of collaboration and equipping Canadians to meet the demands of today and tomorrow. She discussed:
- the challenges facing Canadian businesses, especially in supply chains, which will be critical to the economy’s recovery from COVID-19 and vital to the Canada-U.S. relationship;
- the importance of balancing regulatory systems that protect the environment and support economic growth. She highlighted the need for continuous consultation and improvement, adaptability to new economic realities, responsiveness to the needs of businesses and Canadians, removing inconsistent and outdated requirements, refining regulatory tools, identifying barriers to trade and innovation, and finding solutions without compromising public goals;
- Budget 2023 themes including reducing interprovincial trade barriers, fighting climate change by delivering on the government’s net-zero commitments, and labour disruptions.
Michael Sabia, Deputy Minister of the Department of Finance Canada
Deputy Minister of Finance, Michael Sabia, joined Hill Day attendees later that day to share his take on the Canadian economy’s strong post-pandemic recovery. He highlighted:
- Canada’s solid performance compared to other G7 countries, emphasizing employment growth and lower inflation rates;
- Canada’s competitive advantage in having a low-carbon grid and the need for industry experts to help the government make the right decisions;
- the Sustainable Finance Action Council’s taxonomy, emphasizing the importance of natural gas, arguing that it has a role to play in Canada’s sustainable future with carbon capture technology
- Canada’s budget priorities, which include affordability, investments in a low-carbon economy, and the future of healthcare;
- potential risks such as inflation, financial market turbulence, and the impact of rising interest rates on productivity and corporate profits.
Day 2 featured a breakfast panel moderated by Theo Argitis, Managing Director of Compass Rose, that brought together:
- The honourable Lisa Raitt, former cabinet minister and deputy leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, now Vice Chair and Managing Director of Global Investment Banking at CIBC
- Kathleen Monk, Principal at Monk and Associates and former senior advisor to NDP Leader Jack Layton
- Tyler Meredith, Founding Partner at Meredith Boessenkool Policy Advisors and former senior economic advisor to Prime Minister Trudeau, and;
Together, they discussed various political and economic issues in Canada:
- The current state of the relationship between the Liberals and the Conservatives;
- The Liberal-NDP confidence agreement, and the possibility of another minority parliament;
- Inflation, deficits, and the need to address major problems facing the country;
- The role of unions and public sector employees in the economy.
The biggest takeaway? The panelists agreed that the government needs the runway to address these issues, and discussed various ways to achieve economic growth and attract talent from around the world.
The Hon. Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities
During the Lunch session, Minister Dominic LeBlanc talked about:
- how innovation and technology can help Canada address challenges like economic growth and climate change;
- the importance of collaboration between government, industry, and academia to create jobs and drive innovation;
- Canada’s strengths in the tech sector, from artificial intelligence to clean technology, and the government’s dedication to supporting research and development in these areas;
- the government’s commitment to helping small and medium-sized tech businesses;
- the need for federal and provincial collaboration to eliminate barriers to economic growth, particularly in light of COVID-19 and supply chain disruptions;
- the need for a more reliable conversation around longer-term challenges, such as clean energy projects and infrastructure assessment;
- investing in digital infrastructure for all Canadians
In addition to our keynote sessions, Hill Day was primarily an opportunity for attendees to meet and engage with government decision-makers to discuss key issues in their respective industries. Here are the key takeaways from each Council’s meetings:
Day 1 Meetings
Western Executive Council
The Western Executive Council met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the biggest issues facing businesses in Western Canada and the opportunities they see for growth and further collaboration.
Up for Discussion: Infrastructure, labour shortages, regulatory uncertainty, agriculture and natural resources.
Main Takeaway: As a major trading corridor, council members stressed the role Western Canada plays as a critical gateway to growing markets, including the Indo-Pacific region.
Cyber. Right. Now. Council
Members of the Cyber. Right. Now. Council met with government representatives from different ministries and departments, including the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, Public Safety, Innovation, Science and Industry, National Defence, and the Privy Council Office.
Up for discussion: Cybersecurity, national security
- The Council called on the government to appoint a Cyber Minister who will ensure policy coherence, coordinate cybersecurity activities and initiatives, and align resources across the government;
- They recommended that the government hold a high-level summit on ransomware in collaboration with industry, spearheaded by the Prime Minister, to demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity;
- The Council also suggested improving public-private partnerships through an inclusive industry-government cybersecurity consultation forum across industries, company sizes, jurisdictions, and populations.
Net Zero Council
The Net Zero Council met with Minister Vandal and representatives from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, and Clean Energy Canada.
Up for Discussion: Advancing Canada’s climate commitments while supporting sustainable economic growth.
Critical Minerals Council
The Critical Minerals Council engaged with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and the Conservative Shadow Minister for Natural Resources, as well as representatives from the National Research Council of Canada and the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
Up for Discussion: Implementation of Canada’s first Critical Minerals Strategy and how Canada can become a global supplier of minerals required for clean energy transitions.
Food Supply Council
The Food Supply Council engaged in productive meetings with members of parliament and government officials from different agencies, as well as Canada’s Chief Negotiator of the CUSMA and CETA trade agreements.
Up for Discussion: The economic and strategic potential of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector and the need for policies that will enable its success.
Sustainable Finance Council
The Sustainable Finance Council had productive discussions with parliamentarians on overcoming the obstacles to implementing the financial instruments required for Canada to compete in the global transition to a sustainable future.
Privacy and Digital Trade Council
The Privacy and Digital Trade Council met with Members of Parliament and government officials to discuss business’ need for rapid adoption of digital privacy legislation, as well as Canada’s international digital trade priorities.
Day 2 Meetings
Digital Economy Committee
The Digital Economy Committee met with Parliamentarians and government representatives, including MP John Brassard, Senator Colin Deacon, Minister Champagne’s Director of Policy Boyan Gerasimov, Rob Jamieson from Minister Mendicino’s Office, and Jim Kapches from the Office of the Prime Minister.
Up for Discussion: Canada’s privacy legislation and the potential implications for economic growth and competitiveness.
The Agriculture Committee met with senior government officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECC), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
Up for Discussion: The need for a balanced and science-based approach to sustainability, labor issues, reducing regulatory burden, ensuring government agencies communicate and coordinate with one another when making policies that affect the sector.
Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee met with Deputy Minister of Transport Arun Thangaraj, Director of Operations, Economic and Regional Development Policy Radha Subramani, MP Chris Lewis, Conservative Shadow Minister for Labour, and MP Taylor Bachrach, NDP Critic for Transport and Deputy Critic for Infrastructure and Communities.
Up for Discussion: Building strong transportation system that will lead to increased economic development and growth.
International Affairs Committee
The International Affairs Committee met with senior officials from Global Affairs Canada, as well as Peter Wilkinson, Chief of Staff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, MP Kyle Seeback, Conservative Shadow Minister for International Trade, and the House and Senate sponsors of Bill S-211, the Hon. John McKay and Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne.
Up for Discussion: Ongoing free trade negotiations, Canada’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific, and addressing the problem of forced labour in global supply chains.
Health Innovation Committee and Life Sciences Council
The Health Innovation Committee and Life Sciences Council met with MP Stephen Ellis (Vice-Chair, Standing Committee on Health), Policy Head of Life Sciences at Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), and a number of representatives from Health Canada, including the Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Policy, the Director General of Policy, the Director General of Medical Devices Directorate, and the Director General of Drugs for Rare Diseases.
Up for Discussion: Strengthening health system resilience, promoting improved health outcomes, implementing a pan-Canadian health data strategy, increasing regulatory agility and fostering a world-class life sciences ecosystem.
National Cannabis Business Coalition
The Cannabis Committee engaged with key government officials on the regulatory challenges the industry faces and underscored that the cannabis industry can be partners in relevant public health initiatives.
Up for Discussion: Regulatory challenges
Main takeaway: Cannabis industry can be partners in relevant public health initiatives.