Evidence of meeting #40 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 shortages.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Mervin Wiseman  Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council
  • Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst  Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council
  • John Sutcliffe  Executive Director, Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters
  • Daniel Kelly  Senior Vice-President, Legislative Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business
  • Mathew Wilson  Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
  • Perrin Beatty  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much.

Mr. Shory, go ahead.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses.

It was an excellent presentation. I don't think I could agree with you more. I'm from Alberta, from Calgary, and we have a shortage of skilled and general labour not only in the oil sands industry. Let me share with you that in my own law office, we have been trying to find someone who is able to help us with the skills we need, as an assistant even, and it's been months and months but we're not getting anyone.

As Ms. Charlton did, I will just throw out my questions and ask you to please help us and guide us as we deal with all these issues.

Number one, how do we meet the need for skilled labour for businesses? And how do we encourage workers to seek employment in areas where they are needed the most?

Then I would like to hear from you on whether, in your opinion, providing more timely and precise information to job seekers on the skills they need to find meaningful employment can help.

Also a concern is that we have been studying shortages, and on the other hand we are talking temporary foreign workers. Now, I have noticed that in some places we have a category of people filing EI claims in the same area that businesses are getting positive LMOs. How do we connect the dots in this gap?

5:05 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Legislative Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Daniel Kelly

Since my light is on here, I'll go ahead. I'll address just a couple of the questions. I won't address them all; otherwise, there would be no time left.

On the information for job seekers, I struggle with this one a little bit, in that it is very hard for governments to know—it's very hard for businesses to know—what jobs they will need in the months and years ahead. We can tell what jobs are available now. We can give a sense of where things may head. But labour market information is very, very difficult to do, and government's ability to do it is terrible.

I'm not convinced that giant investments in improving this will accomplish a great deal, and I caution us in terms of viewing that as a solution. It's one of the reasons I'm a little troubled about one of the recommendations that the government looks like it's making with respect to pumping out information about available jobs when somebody's applying for a labour market opinion—which is bridging to your next question.

If we put in a bunch of additional processes for employers to take before an LMO is approved, I'm not convinced that this will necessarily accomplish very much. The folks in that community know where the jobs are. I don't really believe it is a struggle that we have these phantom jobs, and if employers or governments just did a better job of flagging them for those who claim they're looking for work, this would somehow be the miracle that is necessary. I do think we need to give a gentle push to get people back into the workforce who perhaps are on EI at the moment.

Papering the business community even more before they're approved to get a TFW is not, I'm hoping, the direction we go in. If it is, it would create trouble for us. One thing that I think needs to be addressed is that if there is somebody in the local community who is willing and able to work, and interested in that job, there is no way an employer is going say they'd rather have a temporary foreign worker and go through that hassle and process. It takes months, it takes money, and it is a struggle. There is an inherent bias towards locally available workers. We don't need extra steps to prevent that.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Maybe Mr. Wilson and Mr. Beatty would also like to comment.

5:05 p.m.

Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Mathew Wilson

Sure. I will try to keep my comments short.

I agree with everything that Dan just said on that, but I'll take on the matching side of things, because I made some comments about that when I spoke.

We launched the iCME.ca website and portal. What we're trying to do with CIC and HRSDC right now is to link up the available jobs that our network and members have across Canada to the skills of immigrants as well as people on EI, and then allow people to move to match those job skills. We're in the process of developing that right now. That kind of behind-the-scenes linkage is going to be critical so there can be almost instantaneous job-matching. Someone with certain pre-qualified skills can get into the system, and an employer can draw from the available pool. We're trying to set that up to help that along.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Mr. Beatty, could we have your comments with respect to this question?

5:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Perrin Beatty

To keep things as tight as possible, I will focus my comments on the issue of information.

I fully agree that we've done a terrible job in terms of projecting what the labour force needs are going to be in the future, but in my view that's not an argument for downing tools. It's an argument for us to redouble our efforts and to try to project more.

I'm also a university chancellor. I can tell you that for educational institutions, which have to make their plans well in advance, we need to do a much better job than we're doing today, to have a dialogue among employers, governments, and educators in terms of planning for what sorts of skills will be necessary. We need to do a much better job as well in terms of informing young Canadians about the sorts of opportunities there will be, so that as they're planning their careers and their training, they have a sense of where the opportunities are.

There's no disagreement at all about how badly we've done it in the past. The only disagreement may be over whether it's possible for us to do it better. I believe we have no choice. We have to do it better.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

The time is certainly up.

We'll move to Madame Boutin-Sweet.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, gentlemen.

In question period today, the minister suggested putting job seekers and employers in touch with each other. So let me give you a hypothetical situation. Tell me what you think.

Take, for example, a town with a plant that is about to close its doors. The plant has a number of employees. In the same town, another plant needs workers. How would you feel about an arrangement between the two plants and the federal government? The plant planning to close its doors would let its employees go for training to the other plant, say, two days per month, with the federal government possibly providing a partial subsidy.

The first advantage of the arrangement would be that the plant planning to close its doors would not lose all its employees as they went off to look for other jobs right away.

The second advantage would be that the other plant, the one needing people, could have access to workers because it would be training them on the spot. So it would cost less in employment insurance benefits, which the employees would not need. But financial help from the government would still be available.

What do you think of an idea like that?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

It's a hypothetical question. It's up to you whether you wish to answer it.

5:10 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Legislative Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Daniel Kelly

I don't think I'd have any conceptual problem with the suggestion that has just been made. To a degree it sounds similar to what already exists with the work-sharing program. That was something our members did say was quite helpful to them during the recession. There was the ability to downsize a little and have EI supplement wages during the recession and then allow them to pull those people back.

Again, it's not a perfect analogy, but that was a program our members did favour. It was a way of integrating uses of employment insurance while people were still working, which I think is at the heart of what you're asking. I can't see any particular reason to say that it would be a bad idea. Again, the proof would be in testing it, and I don't think that would be something we'd oppose.

5:10 p.m.

Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Mathew Wilson

That's good enough for me, for the time.

5:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Perrin Beatty

I have had many years of political training. I was told never to answer a hypothetical question, but having done that and having forgotten that lesson, I'll be Maoist and say that we should allow a thousand flowers to bloom. If it's a matter of experimenting and seeing whether an experimental program would work, why wouldn't we experiment?

Is it the solution to our problem? No, it isn't. Obviously the problem is very complex, but any tool we can use effectively that's cost-efficient we should be open to using and have the flexibility to experiment. And if it works, why not use it elsewhere?

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Thank you.

In Quebec, we have a program whereby employers have to set aside 1% of their payroll for training. A number of you talked about continuing education. Do you think that the feds could or should get involved in something like that?