Evidence of meeting #64 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was going.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

6:05 p.m.

Chief Economist, Canadian Labour Congress

Andrew Jackson

I might mention that the CLC is partnered with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters and HRSDC in what's called the Roundtable on Workplace Skills, which brings labour, employers, and government officials together to think about some of these issues. It's a pretty low-key operation, but I think there are productive discussions going on between employers, unions, and the government around some of these workforce issues.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Clemens, did you have a few comments in that regard as well about future training?

6:05 p.m.

Director of Research, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Jason Clemens

One problem that we observe in many industrialized countries is, for one reason or another, the ethos that we've created that if you don't go to university, you're a failure. Even if you look at the past 20 years in terms of government expenditures, these tend to be allocated toward the university. I can tell you that there's a whole set of trades that are not going to be replaced by a robot.

So part of it is just about taking leadership and changing that ethos to the effect that it is an honourable task and job to be a plumber or a carpenter—or a whole set of tasks that are largely at the community college level, if not exclusively at the community college level.

Again, I would leave this to the provinces, to be respectful, to sort out, but some general leadership is needed about the fact that not everybody has to be an economist or a doctor or a lawyer, or whatever, that it is equally acceptable to go to college or to apprenticeship programs.

The key, though—and where I think Andrew and I agree completely—is that we've got to ensure that kids finish grade 12 and don't see that as the finish line, but say, okay, I need another two years in apprenticeship. Again, I think much of that should get sorted out at the provincial level.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Van Kesteren.

Monsieur Caron, please.

May 29th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Thank you very much.

My colleagues have spent a lot of time talking about Old Age Security. I am going to take a bit more time to talk about employment insurance. In my constituency, in the east of Quebec, it is a specific concern.

My first question goes to you, Mr. Céré, because you know the reality too. The reforms were announced on Thursday morning. On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, I spoke with a lot of people in my constituency at some public forums I held on various issues related to Bill C-38.

What surprised me was that more employers than workers came to see me about the problems that Ms. Finley's proposed reforms were going to create. Among them were employers from ZECs—controlled harvesting zones. They were in tourism and cabinet-making. They all told us that they were having a lot of difficulty because they train their workers in the specialist ZEC areas, such as tourism and cabinet-making. Since the employment is seasonal, they have to lay off their employees for two, three or four months. The workers try to find other jobs but getting employment for two, three or four months is not the easiest thing in the world. The employers can hire them back and so can get back the expertise that they provided. The employers are thinking that, because of the reform and the measures that are proposed, they may well lose the employees whom they have trained.

I would like to know what you think about that. You mentioned a lot of employees and workers who are affected. But I feel sure that employers in a region like mine and like those in Atlantic Canada, may well be adversely affected too.

6:10 p.m.

Spokesperson, Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses

Pierre Céré

Since last Thursday, the reaction in Quebec seems to be quite unanimous. We mentioned the media, and the commentators and columnists from all the newspapers. But we have also heard from employers. Last Thursday, the chief economist of the Quebec Employers Council said that things were going way too far and this was not what employers wanted.

We keep an open mind. In 2010, less than two years ago, sir, we brought together the principal, very senior, employers' representatives around a big table in Montreal to talk about employment insurance. There was the president of the Quebec Employers Council, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec, as well as leading union representatives. The meeting lasted an entire day, right in the middle of August. There was unanimity between the employers and the unions: the government is doing what it likes with the employment insurance program and with our premiums, with money belonging to the employers and the workers. The employers also told us very clearly that the government in Ottawa was not listening to them. That is why the reaction in Quebec is unanimous in opposition to the government's proposals.

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Do I have time for two more questions?

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Yes.

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

It has often been said that the proposed measures are going to put a downward pressure on salaries. Do you agree with that?.

I am sorry, Mr. Smith. Mr. Céré, you can start, and then Mr. Jackson and Mr. Clemens.

6:10 p.m.

Spokesperson, Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses

Pierre Céré

Certainly. Take the example of a carpenter making $20 per hour in his region. He is a seasonal construction worker and he is laid off. Starting in the first week in which he is unemployed, he has to take a job at 80% of his previous salary. Starting in the seventh week, he has to take a job at 70% of his previous salary. Any employer could offer him the same job as a carpenter, for example, but at $14 per hour. If he refuses, he will lose his benefits.

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Clemens, do you agree that it could put a downward pressure on salaries?

6:10 p.m.

Director of Research, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Jason Clemens

The changes in OAS?

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

No, EI.

6:10 p.m.

Director of Research, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Jason Clemens

Sorry, I didn't prepare for EI.

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Jackson?