STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES ORGANISMES GOUVERNEMENTAUX
Tuesday 28 February 2017 Mardi 28 février 2017
The committee met at 0901 in committee room 2.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Standing Committee on Government Agencies.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Before we begin our intended appointments review, our first order of business is to consider one subcommittee report for Thursday, February 23, 2017. Mr. Gates.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I move adoption of the subcommittee report on intended appointments dated Thursday, February 23, 2017.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Any discussion? All in favour? Opposed? The motion is carried. Thank you very much, Mr. Gates.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott
Review of intended appointment, selected by third party: Marguerite Pigott, intended appointee as vice-chair, Ontario Media Development Corp.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): We will now move to the appointments review. We have two intended appointees to hear from today. We will consider the concurrences following the interviews.
Our first intended appointee today is Marguerite Pigott, nominated as vice-chair, Ontario Media Development Corp. Please come forward and take a seat at the table. Welcome, and thank you for being here today.
You may begin with a brief statement, if you wish. Members of each party will then have 10 minutes to ask you questions. Any time for your statement will be deducted from the government’s time for questions. Once we get to that part of that interview today, questioning will begin with the third party. Welcome, Ms. Pigott.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: Thank you very much. I will start with a statement, if I may.
The creative industries have been the focus of my life since I became involved in theatre as a kid and realized I had found my home. I have not wavered since. My experience across theatre, film, television and digital media has taught me many of the principles that guide my work as a board member of the OMDC.
One of these principles is to constantly and strategically adapt. Moving from my start in theatre to film, I eventually worked my way to the role of vice-president of development and production for Cineplex Odeon Films, an Alliance Atlantis company, triggering and executive-producing Canadian films for distribution. But I saw the qualitative growth that was starting to happen in television, and I moved to a national pay television broadcaster, Super Channel, where I was head of creative development, tasked with developing new projects and triggering productions that would air on our network.
As digital platforms began to compete with broadcast, I wanted to better understand the opportunities in digital media and so moved to the Canadian Media Producers Association—the CMPA—with the remit of doing exactly that. My current role as vice-president of outreach and strategic initiatives for the CMPA is all about adaptation. It’s my job to look at where the film, television and interactive digital media industries are headed and constantly search for new opportunities in terms of platforms, technologies and markets.
Having worked on the production, distribution and broadcast sides of the industry, it has been a tremendous experience to also work hand in hand with government as a member of the OMDC board, as I have since 2009. I chair the governance committee and also sit on the audit and strategic planning committees.
The creative industries that OMDC serves are in a paradoxical situation. They have reached a steady state of constant change. This new normal isn’t going to stop, and creators and entrepreneurs need a variety of supports delivered effectively and with innovation at their heart in order to thrive in this new economy. The OMDC has a terrific track record of delivering just such supports.
Ontario’s $17-billion creative cluster employs 215,000 skilled workers annually. Ontario’s film and television industry contributed $1.5 billion to the Ontario economy last year, supporting 32,000 full-time jobs. Six hundred companies across Ontario were supported through the cultural media tax credits, and each tax credit dollar leveraged approximately $17.08 in additional production or product spending.
As for OMDC’s efforts to enhance the sales of Ontario product abroad, the investment of the $1.6-million export fund fuelled sales totalling $330 million. This impressive return on investment demonstrates that we all have a lot to be proud of, from the excellence of our creators to the innovation and efficacy with which they’ve been supported. But the constant change these industries face compels us to do more.
We need to do our utmost to leverage each of these creative industries with the others to strengthen projects, businesses and our growing creative hub. We need to remember that diversity is our strength, and we need to encourage creator-entrepreneurs to capitalize on that strength. The new access to digital media tools creates opportunities for entrepreneurs wherever they are. We need to ensure that our support penetrates the regions to help spark new hubs.
Also, the global market is critical. As borders melt under the influence of digital media, we need to make sure our clients are prepared and engaged in these markets. OMDC is already active in each of these areas and more, but I point to these points because I believe they’re crucial. I believe they’re where growth lives, and so we must search ceaselessly for new opportunities here.
The role for which I present myself to you is vice-chair. I’d like to tell you what I think that is and what I propose to offer. Of the OMDC’s many strengths, its greatest is its leadership, from the chair to the president and CEO to the senior management team. But in this time of constant change, leadership cannot rest easy. In the role of vice-chair, as part of this leadership team, I would collaborate with and support my colleagues. But I also see it as the role to challenge ideas and to ask questions based on my work in the field so that we never rest until we’re sure we have fully explored the issues before us from multiple perspectives.
In my industry, Los Angeles is a powerful magnet and pulls many Canadians toward it. I’ve chosen to stay here not just because I love my country and my province, though both are true; I stay because here in Ontario we can build something that actually means something to us. We can read books that reflect and challenge us. We can listen to music that echoes of home. We can see films that could only have been made by someone from here. That matters, culturally and commercially.
I’ve stayed to, in whatever small way I can, help to build this creative hub that we all believe in and that contributes to the promise of Ontario’s future. In the role of vice-chair of the OMDC, there would be a remarkable opportunity to follow through on my commitment and my conviction that the creators we have here are both dynamic businesses and vital cultural voices that have meaning here and around the world.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Thank you very much, Ms. Pigott. We’ll begin questioning now with the third party: Mr. Gates.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Good morning. How are you?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: Good morning, Mr. Gates. Very well, thank you.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Just a couple of things. Don’t be put off by this; I ask everybody this question. Have you ever donated to the Liberal Party?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: I have.
Mr. Wayne Gates: For a number of years, or just once or twice or—
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: A few times, over a period of years.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Okay. I appreciate that honest answer. Thank you.
In your notes—I’d like you to read out something again, if you don’t mind. You talked about the number of jobs that are created in this industry.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: Yes, sir.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Can you read out exactly how many skilled, good-paying jobs there are in this industry?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: Yes. The creative cluster as a whole is a $17-billion cluster with 215,000 jobs. That is the broader creative cluster, which includes sectors outside those served by the OMDC. If you look at just film and television uniquely, which was the other stat I gave, in 2015, film and television resulted in a $1.5-billion expenditure in the province of Ontario and 32,000 direct and associated jobs.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Yes, it’s a great industry. Also, in your opening comments, before I get to my questions, you talked about the government investing in the industry. Do you think that’s a good idea?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: I think it’s a tremendous idea. I think it’s absolutely necessary. Mr. Gates, when you look at every other jurisdiction around the world, with the exception of the United States, they are all investing in this industry because they realize it is good business. Because in other jurisdictions, governments are all investing, it’s competitive. This is a very mobile industry, and if we don’t similarly invest, we will lose the competitive advantage that we have built.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Well, it’s certainly an important industry right here in Toronto. That’s for sure.
The reason why I asked that question is that some people in some of the parties, actually, in the province of Ontario don’t believe that we should invest in certain sectors of the economy, whether it be the sector that you’re involved with or the sector that I’m involved with, which was auto. I actually believe we should be doing it. Tax dollars are getting paid back in spades by jobs, investment, and in particular some good-paying jobs.
I’m glad that you don’t look at it as corporate welfare. This is something that has to be done in the province of Ontario. Quite frankly, I believe it should be done right across Canada, including not only your sector; the auto sector, shipbuilding—all of those types of things that are going to create good jobs.
You’re right: They can go anywhere, quite frankly. They can stay in Toronto. They can stay in Ontario. They can go to LA. They can go to other places in the world. I agree with you. It’s an investment that we should continue to make and continue to create jobs, keep people in Ontario and a bigger part in Canada, because the film industry is very big in Vancouver and some of the other places in Canada, not just in Ontario.
I’ll ask you a couple of questions here. Among its many functions of promotion and encouraging strategic partnerships in the culture media industry, it is my understanding that the Ontario Media Development Corp. looks to address unique challenges faced by each of the cultural industries in both domestic and international marketplaces. In the opinion of the witness, which you are, what are some of the distinct challenges that could be addressed by the OMDC?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: Each one of the sectors that we serve is unique, and so you would think that they face unique challenges, but the challenges that they face are actually quite consistent. Digital disruption—and it’s a misnomer to even call it “disruption” anymore; it’s the new normal—digital business adaptation is both a threat and an opportunity. The results of all the digital disruption that we’re seeing are things like: There are new business models; audiences are making new demands of content, of creators; and territoriality, which is the basis of the licensing regime, is being corroded as borders are dissolved by digital technologies. These are some of the challenges they face.
Ultimately, what this results in is that our creator entrepreneurs have to run their businesses today as business models exist, and they need to run their businesses as they’re going to exist six months from now, a year from now. It’s a constant adaptation.
The OMDC with regard to that particular challenge—and there are more—has been particularly active. The Interactive Digital Media Fund has recently expanded and increased substantially, and it has become a permanent fund. The result of that change is that last year, the expenditure in the province of Ontario from the IDM industries doubled to $265 million. That’s a very important improvement. Changes to the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit have acknowledged that R&D is a crucial part of this industry and have made allowances to serve that. There are more changes besides at the OMDC with regard to digital disruption.
Another challenge they face is financing, always—project financing. The financing that is provided by the OMDC very often leverages other sources of financing. The predictability of the tax credits is an absolutely crucial benefit in the international marketplace in terms of drawing partnerships in. I think that the OMDC, looking forward, needs to consider tools like loan guarantee programs and things like that, what else we can do to allow our creator entrepreneurs to access third-party funding, as opposed to just more government funding. Flexibility in our funding mechanisms is also really important in terms of allowing third-party funding more and more into the system.
The last principal challenge I would address is access to talent. Our schools are doing an incredible job—OCAD, Sheridan, Ryerson—of educating people for the digital media industries. Every single media industry—magazines, books, music, film—they’re all digital media industries at this point. We need to keep those people in this province. It’s a very mobile workforce. One of the ways that we keep them here is by making sure we’re creating that business environment that allows people to grow their businesses. The tax credits and the funding that we offer, the constant flexibility, and the constant re-examination of the efficacy of our mechanisms are how we are starting to keep that talent here.
Mr. Wayne Gates: That was part of my next question. Are there a lot of young people going into the industry and that type of opportunity? You mentioned the colleges, like Ryerson and Sheridan. Is that something that you’re seeing? They’re young, they go to school, they’re staying, and some are opening businesses and some are working for other people. Is that what you’re seeing?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: That’s absolutely what we’re seeing. There’s a huge benefit in that. The young people who are entering the media industries now are a highly diverse group, so they are diversifying the media industries. It’s so crucial that the media industries be diverse because they reflect our society back to itself and they light the way to the future. If women are not represented equally and if what’s on our screens and who is making that content doesn’t look like our society, then there is a real disconnect there that I think is a business problem and a cultural problem.
Those youth staying in this province and getting into the industry are absolutely crucial in terms of—
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Two minutes.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: Thank you.
Mr. Wayne Gates: She’s only allowed to talk every eight minutes, see, so she jumps in on us.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: I’m sorry.
Mr. Wayne Gates: No, it’s good.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: I think I’ve answered your question.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Listen, I talk a lot about the importance of giving young people opportunities. I have three daughters who are, obviously, younger than myself. We want to make sure that our young people have opportunities, and we want to make sure that they can stay in our province. There’s nothing worse, I find, than that your family gets split. Some go to BC, some go here, because there are no opportunities.
We’ve got to make sure in the province of Ontario that young people can go to school here and they can get a good education and, at the end of the day, they can get a good-paying job, stay in Ontario and be very productive. If we’re going to get better at anything in this country, we need the great young minds that are here and we’ve got to make sure there are opportunities for them.
The second part of that—I might not get to my other question, because I don’t have a lot of time. Tax credits, which I believe are a very important part of protecting important industries in the province of Ontario: Are they working really well in this particular industry?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: I’m so delighted that you asked me that question.
The statistic that I provided in my opening remarks is, for the Ontario cultural media tax credits, for every dollar invested, $17 is spent in the province of Ontario. That is a remarkable return on investment that is not just a return on financial investment in that moment, but it is building infrastructure. It is creating talent bases that then get on their feet and build businesses, so it has an exponentially beneficial impact over time.
Mr. Wayne Gates: A follow-up to that and maybe as much a statement as anything: If councils right across the province of Ontario would understand the importance of culture—some of it is heritage as well—the opportunities that we have in Ontario I think could really grow and could give a lot of young people more—
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Thank you, Mr. Gates.
We’re going to turn it over to the government side. You have three minutes and 50 seconds. Ms. Vernile.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Since you work in media, you know all about timing, right? I feel a kindred spirit to you. I spent over 30 years in Toronto and Kitchener working in media as a broadcast news journalist. I agree with you: The one thing that is constant in your industry is change. When I began producing my program I used to bang out my scripts on a typewriter. We had just switched from film to video, and when I left, it had all gone digital, and many more changes are coming.
I want you to give us a few more details, if you can—and by the way, the wealth of experience that you bring to this position is very impressive. This agency is very fortunate to have you wanting to stand as vice-chair. Tell us more about what you would like to see the OMDC do in order to keep talent here and to continue creating jobs. You’ve talked about the tax credits; what more could it be doing?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: When I think about the road ahead for the OMDC, the first thing I think of is digital. That has got to be the number-one focus. People are working very hard to adapt their business models. Our sector is very varied. Some of them are winning on a global level. Companies like Secret Location are winning international Emmys. They are leaders, internationally, in VR and so on. So we’ve got those kinds of leaders, and we’ve also got people in the industry who are a bit more reticent, because they haven’t yet figured out the business model. So we have a broad group of people that we have got to serve.
With our annual conference, Digital Dialogue, which is an annual brain-dump of wisdom in terms of digital business model adaptation—I think that’s a really important tool. Ensuring that the interactive digital media fund and the various siloed sector funds work in such a way and have flexibility that allows us to leverage each sector off each other, that allows them to work together, that allows them to come to the table with innovative business models and allows us to respond and participate—that kind of flexibility is going to be very, very important, and continued investment and continued promotion.
The international market is also absolutely crucial. I mentioned the impressive stats from the export fund. A $1.6-million investment, fueling $330 million in sales, tells you where the dominant market for Ontario content is. So we also need to keep focused on the international market, getting our content creators and entrepreneurs out there, getting them known, getting them engaged in that marketplace and helping them to bring partnerships back home that they then use to finance the production of content here in Ontario.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: So if we’re not there with these grants and with these tax credits, what happens?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: I don’t mean to catastrophize, but the best example is the province of Saskatchewan. They cancelled their film credit, and within months they had rolled up the sidewalks in Saskatchewan. The industry had absolutely left. Some of them went to BC, some to Winnipeg and some here, but the industry instantaneously died in Saskatchewan. The industry that they had invested in, the talent that they had educated in that province, all left. Now they’re trying to rebuild there, and they have a really steep hill to climb. They’ve lost their competitive edge, and they’re no longer regarded as as reliable a source of funding in the industry as they once were before that enormous disruption occurred.
I think that the creators, the businesses that we are building here domestically, are a very mobile talent base, so we need to work aggressively to keep them here. Certainly, in terms of bringing foreign direct investment, that money is even more mobile than the people it belongs to, and they will invest in the best regime, the best jurisdiction, the best deal they can.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Thank you, Ms. Pigott. That’s all the time we have on this side. Now, we’re going to turn it over to Mr. Oosterhoff.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: Excellent. Thank you so much for coming in. It’s very apparent that your passion for the subject is very real.
I really appreciate your comments to both the honourable members about digitalization. I’m the critic for digital government, and it’s something that I think a lot of people, either within government or outside of government, don’t realize: how far ahead technology has advanced in that field and also where it’s going.
I would love it if you could extrapolate a little bit on what you mentioned earlier about where digital is going, what you see the future of media being and what that looks like impacting traditional media forms. We talk about the newspapers going out of print—I don’t necessarily think that that’s such a bad thing, but anyway—I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on how that has changed throughout your career, how you’ve worked to work with that change, what you think the change will be going forward and how you can help that.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: Okay, thank you.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: I know, a big question.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: A big question. If you thought my answers before were long, just wait.
I’ll start by addressing my own career because I think it’s a really good example, actually. I started out in theatre, a medium older than Aristotle. I realized I wasn’t reaching an audience as big as the audience I wanted to reach. I had a message; I wanted people to hear it. So I moved to feature film and then saw that it was being so challenged by this enormous media of television, in terms of the quality of the product and the audiences it was reaching. That was enormously appetizing to me, so I moved there. Then, when I got there—and you will certainly understand this story, Ms. Vernile—I understood how broadcast was being challenged by digital platforms, and I moved to the CMPA to begin to understand that.
So, I guess in my own way, I’ve been a mobile worker even though I’ve lived within a 15-minute walk of Queen’s Park all that time. My story is one of adaptation.
In terms of where the industries are headed, this is where I will not catastrophize. There are going to be newspapers. I’m sorry, Mr. Oosterhoff.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: That’s quite okay.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: There are going to be newspapers. There are going to be magazines. There are going to be movies, and they’re going to be shown in theatres. There’s going to be television. There are going to be all these things. As new forms of media develop, the ecosystem adjusts and each finds its own new place and its own unique value proposition. There are certain things you’ll watch on television that you wouldn’t watch on your phone. There are certain movies that you only want to see in cinemas, that you don’t want to see on Netflix or whatever.
But for all of these other platforms, they have a unique value proposition. So, if I’m working in feature film right now, all of the funding mechanisms for feature film were previously predicated on having a theatrical release. That is now a very narrow idea of what makes a feature film. Feature films: Sure, they’re shown in theatres, but they’re also on all kinds of digital platforms.
Same with documentary. Documentary is really fascinating in terms of how it’s evolving. The market for documentary was really, really contracting, and digital platforms have given it an entirely new life. It’s really fascinating how digital platforms are actually adding a three-dimensionality to the experience of documentary that they did not previously have. VR is putting people in Rwanda, or whatever the setting is for the documentary on Ebola, or whatever the topic is. People are having more direct experiences of the stories that are being told.
I do think traditional media is going to continue to exist. It is all going to be more multi-platform, and so content creators need to think about not just the content for each platform but their relationship to the audience for each platform and, crucially, the business model for each platform and how they all work to drive the audience to the more profitable piece of that IP.
When I look at where all this is going I see the siloed industries melting, the distribution mechanisms melting, becoming less formal and all more oriented around digital. Then when you add to that the really intriguing promise of the Internet of Things—Kitchener-Waterloo is doing such an amazing job in terms of leading with technology in this space. You look at the Internet of Things, and your car is now a content bucket. So is your refrigerator. So is any number of other things in your home or in your daily life.
In that scenario, what’s the limit for content? What’s the limit for our content creators? It’s their imagination. It’s their business capacity. That’s where the OMDC comes in. Certainly not with respect to their imagination, but definitely with respect to business capacity, and that’s where we can serve.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: Very interesting.
One of the other questions that I had: I’m also the associate critic for research, innovation and science, and the Kitchener-Waterloo corridor is definitely something that’s near and dear to my heart.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: You should come visit sometime.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: All right.
I was curious about the outflux of talent you mentioned leaving toward Los Angeles. I’m curious what international pressures look like on the Ontario media market and what the unique strengths are, if there are unique strengths, of the Ontario media production and what that looks like and how we can strengthen them further.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: I think Ontario content creators have a better reputation outside of Ontario than they have within it. When you look at Canada—particularly because you’re digitally oriented and you’re in research and innovation, I will address this more through that filter. When you look at Ontario competitively in the international marketplace, because of things like the interactive digital media fund and the interactive digital media tax credit, our content creators have been encouraged to work in this space. We were very early to the game in terms of offering this kind of encouragement and because of that, our creators have a competitive advantage in the international marketplace, and Ontario’s and Canada’s reputation is as a leader.
We are actually an envied jurisdiction internationally and are looked to for leadership internationally. When you look at international round tables on the subject of the future of digital media, like Power to the Pixel in London or something like that, you will always see a dominant representation of Canadians at that table, and that’s something to be really, really proud of and something to build and to protect. That means we’ve got to keep people here.
I do feel that we need to be aware of all of the benefits we’re bringing to the table in this province, from the education, which is sterling, to the business opportunities. The OMDC’s tax credits and, again, the interactive digital media fund—I know I keep harping on these two things, but they are cornerstones and you can’t talk about the future of media in this province without talking about those two things.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Two minutes.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: Did you have a question?
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: I just have—
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: Yes, go for it.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Mr. Pettapiece.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: First, Chair, I wonder if you could speak to somebody about this coffee.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Is it good?
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: It is really strong.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Is it really strong?
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Oh, yeah.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): You’re speaking to a European who drinks espresso, so I don’t know what that means.
Mr. Granville Anderson: You drink it strong, or you don’t.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Anyway, I’ve listened with interest to your comments throughout this questioning. I guess there are some of us who go back maybe a little bit longer than the rest and enjoy having a newspaper in our hands. I know my friend Mr. Bradley over there is one of them who likes to have that feel of a newspaper. We listened last night to a lady who is retiring from the newspaper industry, who laments that the digitizing of things is taking that away. The newspaper industry is declining, reporters are losing their work and stuff like that, so I do see that happening.
I come from a town near Stratford—that’s in my riding; you may have heard of that. They have also gone into the digital age. To go to live theatre, to me, is thrilling, and they do an excellent job at it, but they’ve actually had to move into the digital, for income reasons, so that you can get a play and they will sell you that play on digital.
We have an exodus of people going to the States. Is that a real big thing now, that people are leaving Ontario so much, or are they staying here more?
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: It’s more of a challenge in the film and television industries than in the other industries, to be frank. In terms of actual numbers, I don’t have those numbers. I can’t provide you with that. But certainly something that we find is that when talent reaches a very high level of success here, they do often migrate to the US to get the bigger market, the bigger opportunities, and we can only salute their success. Well, actually, that’s not true. We can do two things: We can salute their success and we can repatriate them by making sure that they come back home and they keep working on our projects so that we are leveraging the talent that was built here.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Thank you very, Ms. Pigott. That’s all the time that we have for today—very enthusiastic members here today asking questions about the industry that you are a part of. Thank you very much for being here. We’re going to look at the concurrences following all of the interviews, so thank you very much.
Ms. Marguerite Pigott: Thank you.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka
Review of intended appointment, selected by third party: Phyllis Tanaka, intended appointee as member, Grant Review Team, Toronto, Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Our next intended appointee today is Phyllis Tanaka, who is nominated as member, Grant Review Team, Toronto, Ontario Trillium Foundation. Please come forward, Ms. Tanaka. Take a seat at the table.
Welcome and thank you very much for being here this morning. You may begin with a brief statement if you wish. Members of each party will then have 10 minutes to ask you questions. Any time used for your statement will be deducted from the government’s time for questions. When we get to questions, the questions will begin with the government.
Welcome, Ms. Tanaka. You may now begin.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Good morning, and thank you, Madam Chair and members of this standing committee. I do appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about my desire to become part of the Ontario Trillium Foundation grant review team, Toronto.
I made my submission to become a member of the grant review team at the same point in time that I made a decision to move away from my full-time position as vice-president of scientific and regulatory affairs at Food and Consumer Products of Canada into a part-time role as senior adviser.
With my decision to work in a part-time capacity, I decided to explore new avenues to stay engaged and contribute to society in a volunteer capacity. I knew I would be able to make the time commitments associated with taking on additional volunteer work.
The mission of the Ontario Trillium Foundation—to build healthy and vibrant communities by strengthening the capacity of the volunteer sector through investments in community-based initiatives—resonated with me. The work of the Grant Review Team calls on skills I have developed and honed throughout my career path, including but not limited to FCPC experience.
I am cognizant that we have a 30-minute time frame for my presentation and the question period, so I will limit my examples on how I believe my skills and experiences provide a match with the stated position requirements for the review team. I do know how to work collaboratively, contribute to effective group decision-making, and make sound judgment calls.
I was a member of the federal government’s multi-stakeholder sodium working group that produced the Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada in 2010 with a three-pronged set of recommendations to reduce the sodium intake of Canadians.
I was also a member of the Ontario Healthy Kids Panel that produced the 2013 report No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy, with recommendations on reducing childhood obesity in Ontario.
In my role at FCPC, I chaired many committee meetings made up of members with diverse points of view, while the end objective of the meeting was to develop consensus on the matter at hand to move forward.
Currently, I sit in a volunteer capacity on the federal-level Health Canada-led Food Expert Advisory Committee. Individuals with expertise from different stakeholder communities related to food and nutrition act as a sounding board to Health Canada on policy and regulatory matters.
In all these situations, collaboration, group decision-making and utilizing sound judgment was required, as was respect for the framework one was operating within and the need to maintain confidentiality in all matters discussed.
Further, in my professional world it is essential that I work with technological tools. I utilize the Internet, routinely accessing scientific publications, government and NGO reports, as well as media stories related to the food and nutrition issues I worked on. I led many teleconferences and participated in many webinars. Email was always a necessary tool. I am reliable and I’m willing to invest the time and energy required to review documents and attend meetings and events.
With respect to reviewing grant applications, at the very beginning of my career I worked at the University of Toronto in the department of nutritional sciences. I wrote grant applications and ran grant-funded research projects there. I learned how to develop and report on grant-funded projects and how to stay current through peer-reviewed publications, skills I continue to use throughout my career and ones I see as a good fit for the task of the Grant Review Team.
I have media training and am comfortable speaking publicly.
Finally, as of August, I am now fully retired, with even more flexibility in my life.
Thank you for listening.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Thank you very much, Ms. Tanaka. We will now begin questioning with the government. Mr. Anderson?
Mr. Granville Anderson: Thank you, Ms. Tanaka, for being here today and putting your name forward. It’s people like you that keep our communities vibrant.
This is basically a volunteer position, correct?
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Yes.
Mr. Granville Anderson: So you’re not doing it for any remuneration or anything.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: No.
Mr. Granville Anderson: And as you said, you’ve retired and you have some time and you want to give back to your community and your province.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Yes.
Mr. Granville Anderson: That’s so wonderful. Thank you so much for doing this.
I really have no further questions—unless my colleagues have any.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Thank you.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Any further questions from the government? Ms. Vernile.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Just out of curiosity: You say you’ve just retired. Aren’t you supposed to relax in retirement?
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: I think it’s essential to stay engaged in the world if you want to stay a vibrant part of society. So, yes, I am relaxing, but I also want to make sure I’m not just always relaxing.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: I want to mention too, for the record, the importance of the Trillium Foundation. In my community of Kitchener-Waterloo, just last week we made an announcement for KW Counselling Services. They provide counselling to families, and have done so for the past 50 years.
Recently, they sprang a leak in their foundation. It was very serious; they were ankle-deep in water. They didn’t know what they were going to do. They service so many people, and there are also many community groups and cultural associations that use their facility. Because of a $130,000 Trillium Foundation grant, they’re now able to fix that. They were absolutely thrilled that this agency stepped in with the grant.
Can you talk to us a little about the importance of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and how it helps so many associations, so many groups, across Ontario?
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: I did do some background, looking at some of the things that go on. Actually, I live in Mimico, the south part of Etobicoke. Just as an example of how they help out in that community, there are three examples that I bring to mind where groups have received money from the Trillium Foundation recently. It also speaks to the diversity of the type of projects that Trillium helps out.
JobStart is one of the ones in the Mimico area where they’ve got an additional grant to expand their mentoring program.
Another one, Lakeshore Arts, is a group in the Mimico area. Here, it’s a different way of supporting 12- to 14-year-olds to become more interested, in particular, in photography and in art.
A third one is the Women’s Habitat, which is located on Islington. They received a grant to expand their kitchen facilities, which were needed to help meet local needs of drop-by people. It was an example, similar to Kitchener-Waterloo, where the needs of the community were identified and the grant helped them to fulfill getting ready to meet those needs.
Those are examples. There are other ones. One of the examples that was provided me in advance of coming here is the Catholic cross-cultural organization, which basically helps settle new immigrants to Canada.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Thank you. I suspect that one of my opposition colleagues may ask you the question: Have you ever given funds to the Liberal Party? You may be asked that question, so we’ll get ahead of that and let you answer that now. And do you feel that those contributions, in any way, will hinder your ability to volunteer—because this is not a paid position—with the Trillium Foundation?
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Yes, I do support the Liberal Party. But at the same time, in the context of the political world, I am a founding member of Equal Voice, which is an organization set up to be multi-sectoral in approach to bring more women to the political table. I am interested in politics—I think it’s a very important part of life—and I have chosen to support the Liberal Party over the years.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Thank you. That’s a fantastic organization, Equal Voice.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Thank you very much, Ms. Tanaka, and thank you, Ms. Vernile.
We’re now going to turn it over to Mr. Pettapiece.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: There are moments on these committees that are a real kind of light sometimes; it brightens up the mood every once in a while.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): That’s the coffee.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: If I start shaking in a minute—
Ms. Daiene Vernile: That’s the one thing we agree on, Randy.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Coffee sounds wonderful.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Anyway, I was going through the sheet that we have on you, listing a lot of your work that you’ve done in the past. One is in community involvement, which is something that really interests me. I’ve been involved within our community for years through service clubs and different things.
One of the things in the community of Stratford, which is about in the middle of my riding: They saw an issue with people not being able to eat properly. It’s not so much that they didn’t have access to good, nutritious food; it’s that they didn’t know how to prepare it. Some of the clients that they reached out to actually were buying packages of things because you could throw it in the microwave and have it done that way. But if you went to the store and got the same ingredients of fresh vegetables or meats, whatever, which is generally less expensive than buying the pre-packaged things—it wasn’t there. They couldn’t handle that because they didn’t know. They hadn’t learned how to cook.
There’s a location in Stratford where they actually started a program that way to teach individuals how to prepare their own vegetables and meats and food. What we were seeing—we throw an incredible amount of food out in this country. It’s criminal. What you see behind restaurants, behind homes, what we throw out—and a lot of it is because people don’t know what to do with it. They haven’t really been taught that way.
I read in your community involvement that you’ve had a lot to do with this type of thing. How can you translate that to the position you’re after now? The way you worked with this type of thing: Translate it into what you want to do in the Trillium Foundation.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: That is my area of expertise, food and nutrition. I think within the context of working on the Grant Review Team, obviously the key parameter in the review process that I understand is identifying what is needed in the community and providing the funding to help support that. If there was a proposal put forward around how to deal with things like food illiteracy or cooking illiteracy or food waste, then definitely my personal expertise there would be very helpful in assessing the grant application to see that it did move forward in a good way.
The food waste issue is a huge issue. It’s just sort of coming to the fore, I think, in the political domain on how to deal with it.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: I’ve heard estimates of up to 40% that we throw out, which seems high to me. I’ve heard estimates that way.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: I think it’s a wide range of estimates right now, but yes, we are a society that has food waste as a problem.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: What they also found was that some of this that was being thrown out was because people didn’t know what to do with it afterwards. For my parents and my grandparents, you didn’t throw anything out. You put it in the fridge or you put it somewhere and you ate it as leftovers the next day. That’s the way things worked. In fact, my wife is really good at doing that now. She will not throw anything out if she can help it.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: I think it’s part of the changing dynamics of society too. The report I looked at on well-being speaks to the issue that is one of the parameters that the foundation uses to measure their effectiveness: the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. It does identify that we have a time-crunch society. I think some of our choices are made just because we have too much on our plate, and we don’t have the time, or don’t feel we have the time, to go into the kitchen and prepare foods.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Yes, I think that’s it. We don’t feel we have the time. It’s probably not that we don’t have the time. I’ll just say a little bit more about that: They’ve actually expanded that to diabetic people, to teach them how to cook, because it’s a lot better than eating out of a bag or whatever.
It seems to me by your resumé here that you think things out rather thoughtfully, which is something that’s going to have to be done with the Trillium Foundation. It’s a great program. We certainly do benefit in my riding, and I’m certain that everybody benefits in their ridings. Thank you so much for coming here today.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: You’re welcome.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Thank you, Mr. Pettapiece.
Mr. Oosterhoff, any questions?
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: Yes, I just had a brief question. Reiterating the point my colleague made, thank you so much for applying for this. You’re retired and you could go fly around the world, and you’re willing to help all Ontarians through this fund, which does excellent work in all our ridings, as mentioned.
I just had a quick question. The responsibilities of the position say that in this Grant Review Team, you will be ensuring “effective outreach and communications regarding the funding programs” and you will be reviewing “grant applications within the guidelines provided by Trillium.”
What does “effective outreach and communications” look like for you? What do you see as effective outreach and communications, and how will you be helping to promote that?
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: I personally would think that part of the outreach communications would be to make sure there is a broader awareness of just what the Trillium Foundation does to help communities to stay vibrant. Attending events, volunteering to speak at local community events, that type of thing, would be useful to make our population more aware of what the Trillium Foundation does do. That would be, to me, a key component of an effective communications outreach.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: Okay. What do you see as some of the challenges, perhaps, in that role, and some of the opportunities also?
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: In outreach?
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: In the role of ensuring effective communications and outreach. For you, what do you see as something that you’re going to be working on improving, or something that you think is good but we need to do more to promote?
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: I really don’t know how aggressive the communications strategy is within the Trillium Foundation right now, so I don’t have a reference point.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: Okay.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: But I just believe that if one of the outcomes is to make more people aware of the Trillium Foundation, then having a program where you make methodical outreaches to the different communities would be the best approach. That might exist; I don’t know at this point.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Sure, go ahead. You have just over a minute, Mr. Pettapiece.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: One of the issues that we face in the communities that I’ve worked with on Trillium grants is the application process, which is difficult at best. I think that’s what makes people sometimes back away from applying for these things. Something that you may have an interest in is trying to make this process a little bit more—
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: Streamlined.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Streamlined.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Definitely. Writing a grant application, I know from personal experience, when you first start out, is an awesome task.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: It’s daunting, yes.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Separate from making everybody aware of the opportunity to do that, that would be an effective outreach strategy for the Trillium Foundation. Again, I don’t know if that’s already in place. Helping people to not be afraid to tackle the grant application form, and helping them to do it properly, is definitely something that would be very useful.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Thank you.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Thank you, Mr. Pettapiece. Thank you, Ms. Tanaka.
We’re now going to turn it over to Mr. Gates, please.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Thanks very much, Chair. I appreciate my Liberal colleague asking this question, but I’m going to ask the question I want to ask, not necessarily driven by the Liberal Party. You did say that you support the Liberal Party, so it’s good that you’re involved with politics. But my question is: Have you ever donated to the Liberal Party?
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Yes.
Mr. Wayne Gates: It’s a little different than saying—I just wanted to make sure that we clarify that.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Oh, sorry.
Mr. James J. Bradley: Wayne, so have I.
Mr. Wayne Gates: And I’m glad you have, Jim. I have not. For the record, I have not, although I certainly do respect Mr. Bradley.
A couple of things before I get into some of the questions around Trillium: First of all, our Trillium Foundation in Niagara works extremely well. They work very well with our staff. When we do have some problems with applications and stuff, they’re very helpful.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Oh, good. I would assume that to be true.
Mr. Wayne Gates: So I can say nothing bad about the foundation as far as getting back to people and talking to them. We have had, as Mr. Bradley knows—who’s from my area as well—a lot of Trillium Foundation grants that have helped a lot of clubs.
One thing I want to say is: Thanks for volunteering. I think one of the best things we can do in life, quite frankly, is volunteer. I certainly knew that when I became chair of the United Way. But one of the things that I want to say, because you did raise it, is that we need young people like Sam to volunteer as well. We have, in almost every service club in Ontario—
Mr. Wayne Gates: Yes, I know. I think it’s important that young people understand the importance of volunteering as well. So I’m glad you’re doing that.
You’re really going to be more into Toronto. What I found in this—you touched a little bit on it, but you said you didn’t know how they could do it. They’re talking about that the foundation should try to inform more community organizations on the availability of grants and the application process. It says here—some of the examples they could do were to advertise periodically in local—and this, I think, was the part that jumped out at me—“ethnic community newspapers.”
Then I turned the page over a little bit here, going through this—and I think this is something that maybe surprises people outside Toronto, quite frankly. One in two residents in Toronto say they were born outside Canada, which is interesting to me. It says here that, “More than 1.2 million Torontonians reported” having a language other than English and French, and number one outside of those two was Chinese. How would you make sure that the $15 million—that’s what was given last year in grants to 123 organizations—is balanced and that it reached all ethnic groups in Toronto? What do you think would be a good idea to do there?
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: I think that probably working with some of the organizations that are already in place to help, say, immigrants like the one I did read about, the Catholic cross-cultural association. Their specific area of work is with helping new immigrants settle in the Toronto area. So even starting with some of those organizations who have expertise and experience to get ideas on how to make sure you get out effectively to the different groups, making sure you have useful data on the demographics of each of the different communities within Toronto to see what the dominant immigration population is and then developing a strategy to figure out how to reach them. Toronto is very different than a lot of Canada. I know that when I go—
Mr. Wayne Gates: It’s diverse; it’s great.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Yes, it’s diverse, and yet I know when I go 90 minutes outside of Toronto to a friend’s place in Fergus, you’re not diverse anymore. So, yes, Toronto is very interesting because the diversity is here, but it’s not the full Ontario population situation.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Okay. I was a little off the subject before I got into a real question.
Correct me if I’m wrong, my colleagues across the aisle there—the Liberals. You said that in Canada, we did a reduction of sodium in food. I think that under the Ontario health act, we didn’t. I thought that was pretty interesting. I remember that when I spoke on that issue, I talked about my favourite meal, which I have on Wednesday nights, and that’s Kraft Dinner and hot dogs with lots of ketchup.
Mr. James J. Bradley: Very healthy.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Listen, my wife laughed that I was actually chosen by my party to talk about healthy eating, because as Jim knows, I might not be the best one.
I thought that was pretty interesting, that we did it in Canada but we didn’t do it in Ontario. Really, sodium should be one that we should continue to reduce. So I just thought I’d mention that, because I thought it was funny.
The second thing—because my colleagues in the PCs raised it—is that one of the reasons why I think we’re not eating healthy—and you can correct me if I’m wrong—is that we don’t have the same quality of jobs that we had. A lot of people are running to two and three jobs in the province of Ontario, so you don’t have that same time to make healthy meals, quite frankly. I think that’s some of the issue too. I’m not saying I’m right on that, but that’s how I feel. It’s particularly some of the young people that are starting out.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: That is what was found in the Canadian Index of Wellbeing report. In particular, related to Ontario, was that we do feel a time crunch. We are addressing the fact that we have many more part-time jobs in a population that is looking for full-time, long-term positions. The things that are going on in society right now don’t help people to develop healthy eating patterns, in this case. Yes, it’s harder.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I guess this was already done before I realized that you are retired. It says that the Grant Review Team is between 15 and 40 hours. You certainly have the time to do it.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Definitely. I looked at the time commitments, and it’s well within my means to make that commitment.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Okay. Well, thanks for coming today. I appreciate talking to you. Take care.
Ms. Phyllis Tanaka: Thank you.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Thank you, Ms. Tanaka. You may now step down.
We will now consider the concurrence for Ms. Marguerite Pigott, nominated as vice-chair, Ontario Media Development Corp. Would someone please move the concurrence?
Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: I move concurrence in the intended appointment of Marguerite Pigott, nominated as vice-chair, Ontario Media Development Corp.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Any discussion? All in favour? Opposed? The motion is carried. Congratulations to Ms. Pigott.
We will now consider the concurrence for Ms. Phyllis Tanaka, nominated as member, Grant Review Team, Toronto, Ontario Trillium Foundation. Would someone please move the concurrence?
Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: I move concurrence in the intended appointment of Phyllis Tanaka, nominated as member, Grant Review Team, Toronto, Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The Chair (Mrs. Cristina Martins): Any discussion? All in favour? Opposed? The motion is carried. Congratulations, Ms. Tanaka.
We have one deadline extension to consider: Ehren Cory, nominated as member, Ontario Infrastructure and Lands Corp. (Infrastructure Ontario). Do we have unanimous agreement to extend the deadline to consider the intended appointment of Ehren Cory to—let me just get the right date here for you. Currently, the certificate expires March 5, 2017. I’m looking to have unanimous consent to have the certificate extended to April 4, 2017. Do we have unanimous consent? Yes? Carried.
I believe that’s all for today. We are adjourned. Thank you.
The committee adjourned at 1004.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Chair / Présidente
Mrs. Cristina Martins (Davenport L)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Présidente
Ms. Daiene Vernile (Kitchener Centre / Kitchener-Centre L)
Mr. Granville Anderson (Durham L)
Mr. James J. Bradley (St. Catharines L)
Mr. Wayne Gates (Niagara Falls ND)
Mrs. Amrit Mangat (Mississauga–Brampton South / Mississauga–Brampton-Sud L)
Mrs. Cristina Martins (Davenport L)
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff (Niagara West–Glanbrook / Niagara-Ouest–Glanbrook PC)
Mr. Randy Pettapiece (Perth–Wellington PC)
Mr. Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North / Etobicoke-Nord L)
Ms. Daiene Vernile (Kitchener Centre / Kitchener-Centre L)
Clerk / Greffière
Ms. Sylwia Przezdziecki
Staff / Personnel
Ms. Erin Fowler, research officer,