Evidence of meeting #38 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was industry.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jennifer Steeves  President, Canadian Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) Council
  • Sarah Watts-Rynard  Executive Director, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum
  • David Suess  Incoming President, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum
  • Ryan Montpellier  Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council
  • Paul Hébert  Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

Sure.

The last point I will make is that the labour market intelligence we have provided has been absolutely well valued and key to our industry. I think the most important element of that is how our industry stakeholders are using it.

The one example I will give is from Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Mining Association worked very closely with us to develop labour market intelligence for that province. As a result of that, a number of new programs have been created at SIAST, the Saskatchewan institute of technology, and at the University of Saskatchewan we'll be launching a mining engineering program. All of that is as a result of the LMI that we were able to develop in partnership with them.

I will conclude there. I look forward to your Q and A session.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

All right.

Go ahead, Mr. Hébert.

4:45 p.m.

Paul Hébert Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Good afternoon, and thank you for the invitation. I'm happy to be here today.

My name is Paul Hébert. I'm vice-president, government relations, at the Mining Association of Canada, or MAC.

MAC is the national voice of Canada's mining and mineral processing industry. Since 1935, we have worked to promote one of Canada's most integral economic sectors. We provide leadership and we share resources, primarily through three activities: advocacy, stewardship, and collaboration.

We promote industry growth and development while addressing the needs of important communities of interest. It's our goal to ensure that success in the mining sector is based on a strong commitment to sustainability and ready access to accurate, up-to-date information for industry members and associates, policy-makers, and the general public.

We believe that a constructive business environment in Canada depends on public understanding of our country's major industries. We represent over 30 members who are engaged in exploration, mining, smelting, refining, and semi-fabrication across a whole host of commodities, including iron ore, gold, diamonds, oil sands, steelmaking, coal, base metals, and uranium.

As you're probably well aware, for the past several years the Canadian mining industry has been enjoying a period of tremendous growth, even during the economic downturn of 2008-09. That downturn had a relatively short-lived impact on the mining industry. We were one of the first to bounce back, and we bounced back quite quickly and strongly.

A very strong demand for metals and minerals from emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil, and others has created a tremendous opportunity for Canada. Commodity prices for both base and precious metals are strong and are expected to generally remain so for years to come.

The mining industry will always be cyclical, to a certain degree, but the consensus is that the general trend in prices will be positive for decades to come.

All this demand is translating into opportunity and prosperity for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. As Ryan mentioned, we anticipate over $140 billion in mining investment over the next five years. That's a figure that includes investment to build new mines and to expand existing operations across the full range of commodities, in every region of the country, with the exception of Prince Edward Island. I'll save the potato mining joke.

To capitalize on this opportunity, a number of challenges must be overcome. The challenges can be grouped into three categories. They include, first, inefficiencies in government review processes. We've started to see those begin to be addressed through the Budget Implementation Act.

The second challenge is remote regions or inadequate or uncompetitive infrastructure. We tend to operate in very rural and remote areas, and we need railways, roads, ports, and power grids to develop mines and get our products to market.

The third challenge is in the area of human resources and skills constraints.

Ryan has just provided you with a good overview of the magnitude and breadth of the HR challenges for the mining sector. So in the interest of leaving more time for questions, I won't reiterate. I will add, however, that given that the Mining Industry Human Resources Council was one of the highest performing sector councils, the Mining Association of Canada and its members were disappointed to learn of the abolition of the sector council program. Nonetheless, we're cautiously optimistic about MIHR's ability to continue operating beyond March 2013.

Individually, all MAC members are very actively working to address skills and personnel issues within their own operations. However, there's recognition that to best meet the needs of the entire sector, a more concerted approach is required. Our board of directors recently struck an HR task force to oversee the process of determining how industry can collectively address HR issues, in light of the elimination of sector council funding.

The coming months will bring a measure of clarity on the future of MIHR and how industry will continue to work together on skills issues to make sure that the mining industry continues to thrive and grow for the benefit of all Canadians.

We hope that government will continue to support industry efforts to attract, recruit, and retain the next generation of the mining industry workforce. Industry efforts, such as those undertaken by MIHR, which Ryan mentioned, specifically in the areas of labour market information and intelligence, worker certification, and aboriginal engagement in training programs, are particularly useful.

Thanks again, and I look forward to your questions.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much for that presentation. Certainly infrastructure and human resources are very important to mining.

You can share the potato mining joke with Mr. Cuzner, who will share it with Mr. Easter, I'm sure, in due course.

We'll start with Mr. Lapointe.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for being here, gentlemen. We appreciate it.

It is important to always keep in mind that we are encroaching somewhat on provincial jurisdiction here. Nevertheless, I am going to take advantage of your expertise to explore some rather glaring problems further. There is a mining boom happening, especially in the northern parts of the country, including northern Quebec and the territories. There are a lot of jobs, and they are often well-paid. Still, the whole situation gives rise to many issues, not the least of which is human resources.

In some regions, we see one thing happening, and in others, we see the exact opposite phenomenon. For example, my colleague, Mr. Cleary, was telling me that certain industries in the southern part of his province had a very high unemployment rate, despite the boom up north and the resulting labour shortage there. In my area, the much talked about Plan Nord is beginning to bear fruit, and we have the opposite problem. In some sectors, all the young people who were trained on the south shore of the St. Lawrence are heading north where they make salaries that secondary and tertiary processing companies on the south shore cannot match.

Sometimes a young person who has just completed a cooking program will not join the tourism food service industry because they can make two-and-a-half times as much in a simple cafeteria job up north. Some industries are feeling a tremendous labour squeeze because young people are going north for work, despite needs at the local level. Other sectors are dealing with unemployment and do not yet feel the difference.

How can we come up with a labour plan tailored to the conditions of each rural area while meeting the development needs up north?

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

Thank you. That problem exists. On our end, we envision a system where people have the ability to choose where they want to work, in the job market that is best suited to them. The question is this: can we eliminate the labour mobility barriers so people can travel to or work in a region for a period of time and then return to their own communities. Today, the vast majority of new mines are built up north. In terms of the work schedule, people fly in and fly out. They work on site for a few weeks and then go back home for a few weeks.

That's a departure from the past because communities are no longer built around the mine, as was the case years ago. I would say the challenge today is to enable workers to move around freely and work where they want when they want.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

I was describing the labour imbalance that is happening as we speak. In some regions where unemployment is way too high, there doesn't seem to be enough solicitation, but in regions like mine, Rivière-du-Loup, we need expertise in areas that are also growing, even though they may be secondary, tertiary or quaternary processing companies.

How do we put a labour plan in place? Forgive me for saying so, but what you are selling is wishful thinking, as if giving people free mobility will solve the problem. We all know that if you don't do just a fraction of HR planning, things won't necessarily be fine.

4:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

As we say in English,

“there is no silver bullet”.

I don't believe in creating a system where every industry anticipates its labour needs and then we limit workers' mobility so that we can manage human resources more effectively. If compensation is what motivates them, workers will go wherever the highest-paying jobs are. Don Drummond, the economist, often says

that there is no skills shortage. There is a price that clears the market.

Those who are the most competitive will attract the most skilled workers. All of our research at the council shows there is more to attracting workers and meeting their needs than just money; considerations such as career advancement and safety also come into play. The money will indeed continue to draw people in the regions—

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you, Mr. Lapointe. Your time is done.

We'll now move to Ms. Leitch. We're running a little tighter in this round. Go ahead.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Great, thank you very much.

I thank you both for presenting today.

I have two questions. First, are there some specific industry leaders or industry programs that you find have been particularly effective in encouraging young people to enter into trades? Can you give me some specific examples of best practices, or specific companies or firms we can look to that we should be examining to encourage young people to enter into skilled trades?

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

Yes, there are a number of high performers in our sector. One that I would point to to begin with in terms of diversifying their workforce would be IOC, the Iron Ore Company of Canada--Rio Tinto. In the Labrador Trough they made it a strategic priority to diversify their workforce a number of years ago. When they started, for example, their rate of participation from women—and Ryan can correct me on the precise figures—was about 4% or 5%, and seven years later they're now at over 20%. That's a remarkable increase, and really demonstrates industry leadership and commitment to attracting young people, specifically women, to their workforce.

Teck Resources, a large Canadian company, has been quite successful as well.

The common denominator in these high performers is really a strong commitment from the highest levels of the organizations and making it a strategic priority, recognizing the strategic importance of the HR challenge, and building strong linkages with the very youngest members of our society in reaching out to grade schools, high schools, and post-secondary institutions to make sure that young people at least understand the opportunities that exist.

One of the biggest barriers for us is just the lack of awareness of our sector and the opportunities that exist. So familiarity and outreach are really some of the hallmarks of the higher performers.

4:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

I would have echoed both companies that Paul mentioned. The other one I would add is Cameco, in northern Saskatchewan. The investments they've made in the community, particularly around apprenticeship and aboriginal engagement and inclusion, in my opinion are leading the sector. They are the largest industrial employer of aboriginal people in Canada, and they have done some remarkable work in attracting and developing apprentices in that province.

May 14th, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

We receive a whole series of data. There's a variety of different places you can receive it from, whether it be Stats Can, NOC rankings and everything, and in some of the projections that we're seeing, even up to 2020, they're not projecting any shortages.

From what we hear from all the consultations that we have, and quite frankly also from what I know on the street, because my family runs a small construction company in western Canada, there are needs.

What are the top three areas where you think there are skilled trades that need to be developed and then feet put on the ground in your industry?

4:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

I would say we're seeing skilled shortages throughout, but I would say in particular for mining engineers.

I think your question was around skilled trades in particular, but if I look at all occupations in mining, there are nine mining engineering schools in Canada. Enrollment in those schools has almost doubled in the past five years, which is fantastic news, but five years ago we were seeing very few people entering mining engineering programs, and in fact a number of them were on the brink of closing. So although the enrollment has doubled, we are just now seeing the fruits of those enrollments. I would say that's probably the occupation highest in demand. And along with them, a number of the specialist occupations in geosciences, the geologists, geophysicists, and geochemists, who not only serve the mining sector but also serve the prospecting, developing, and the mineral exploration sector, have also seen a number of shortages throughout.

I'd say the third would be skilled trades.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Which specific trades?