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

3:50 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

Oh, no question, because, look, there's one thing about the foreign worker program.... These workers are hard workers, and let me tell you that it's not the choice of Canadian farmers to go out to the foreign worker program. I and others have said that you have to go to bureaucratic hell and back to get a foreign worker into this country. It's a very long bureaucratic process. You have to go through all kinds of checks and balances. On average, the cost of bringing in a foreign worker would probably exceed the cost for our own workers here in this country, for people who might be on EI or otherwise, by about 20%, and sometimes even more.

I myself have had workers in from Poland. I bring in a couple of workers every year because that level of expertise I need is not available to me during the pelting operation. I have to pay for the airfare for Polish workers to come here. I have to pay for their lodging. I have to take care of insurance needs such as health care insurance and so on. So the layer of cost on top of it is really very cumbersome and inhibiting. It's something that we're scared is going to....

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Thank you, Mr. Wiseman.

Mr. Sutcliffe, can you tackle that question now?

3:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters

John Sutcliffe

Briefly, it's really hard to know until we have more details what the specific impacts are. I would guess that as far as the availability of crew in the inshore fishery goes, given some of the regulatory requirements for training, to address what we all know are outstanding safety issues in the industry and the difficulty now in acquiring crew, that it would exacerbate the problem. That is, if crewmen had taken other jobs in other communities, in what generally are remote areas in our industry, and were not available for start-up of the season and so on, it would create some significant jeopardy for that important fleet.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Is it fair to say, then, both of you gentlemen, that your industries are against the—

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Your time is up. I'll let you conclude, but I will say this: I think it's appropriate to make some general observations, but as you know, the EI regulations have not yet been passed. There has been some speculation as to what they may be and some statements as to what they might look like. I think you're making some general comments based on what you've heard. I have accepted that and have not intervened, notwithstanding my earlier remarks. I don't want us to get into a specific fishing expedition about what the EI regulations might be and what has been said publicly. That's not the nature of this study.

I think the questions asked and answered so far have been appropriate, so I'll let you conclude your remarks on that question, if you will, and the same goes for Mr. Sutcliffe, if he wishes.

Go ahead.

3:55 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

I'll be very quick. I liked the pun.

You know, I wouldn't want to say that we're for or against them. It's too premature. All I would say is that we would want to raise the flag on that, and we would need more consultation.

It creates a level of uncertainty. We just simply don't know.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Hold on a second.

May 28th, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

The witness is only speaking to employment insurance, not to job shortages. That's what our study is about. I'd ask the witness to speak to job shortages.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

As a point of order, I'll either rule it in or out.

I think there is a thread of connection. I think you understood what it is, so conclude, if you could.

3:55 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

I won't exacerbate that. I'll just say it's there. It's an underlying current we need to appreciate and understand within the scope of labour and skills. Other than the fact that I would want to, at this stage, highlight it, I wouldn't want to commit to good, bad, or otherwise.

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Mr. Sutcliffe, did you wish to make a point?

Just before you do that, there is a point of order.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

I would think so, Mr. Chair. The minister, at every opportunity during her press conference last week and in every response to a question from the opposition, made reference that the EI changes are as a result of what was necessary to address the unprecedented skills shortage in this country. It's their reference point on each response to an opposition question, so I think it's legitimate.

I commend the witnesses for bringing it forward today, and I think it's legitimate to understand their observations.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

I think, from that general perspective, I've allowed the questioning to go on. I'm not about to get into an examination of the EI rules or regulations that have not yet been passed, so I'll rule any of that out of order.

From a general point, because there is that connection, if you stay on that connection, it's fine.

Mr. Sutcliffe, do you wish to make a comment on that or not?

3:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters

John Sutcliffe

I would simply say that as we learn more details and hear from our members—because there will be different regional impacts with any changes—then we would like the opportunity to appear before this committee or participate in any other process in regard to those changes.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Okay, we appreciate that comment.

Now we have Mr. McColeman on deck.