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 labour.

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

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

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

First of all, I want to thank the witnesses for being here.

Just so you understand, I represent a riding in southwestern Ontario that has about a 35% agricultural component. I've been getting feedback from all the different commodity groups, and we have a broad range of commodity groups: you name it, we have it. Tobacco probably dominated at one time, but it certainly does not any more. They have suggested that some of these changes would actually be to their advantage.

I don't want to go down that road, because the chair has said that's not why we're here. We're really here to talk about how we employ people full-time, year-round, if possible, in jobs where the shortages are.

From the numbers I received here today from Mr. Wiseman, he represents 30,000 businesses or groups. Is that the total number of businesses in Canada?

3:55 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

It's 300,000.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

So 300,000 in Canada.

You represent your membership, or that's all-encompassing?

3:55 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

That's all-encompassing. Our membership...our board of directors is made up of a director from each province of Canada, as well as each territory, as well as various leading commodity groups within Canada. For example, the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is actually one of the members and the vice-president of our organization.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Fair enough. I want to drill down on the numbers.

It's 300,000 employees, and then you said there is a deficit of farm workers of 10%, two times the national average. Would that be 30,000 in terms of job shortage, or 60,000?

3:55 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

If you want to look at the 10% deficit that I talked about, the jobs and the shortfalls, that would be 600,000, because the total numbers are 300,000 enterprises, approximately.

We have the exact numbers. Approximately—

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Excuse me, Mr. Wiseman.

Did you have a comment?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

No, I'm having trouble....

The communicators up in the box will look after the microphone for you. You guys don't have to. We're automatic pilot here.

4 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

Okay, thanks. I thought you were going to mention that I'm talking too fast. I have a tendency to do that sometimes.

If I could just recap, there are 300,000, approximately, farming enterprises. Each one of these enterprises has a number of employees, which also totals approximately 300,000. So it's a total of 600,000, 300,000 workers plus their enterprises. So, yes, the deficit is in the 30,000 range. I'm sorry.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

It's in the 30,000 range of pure numbers?

4 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

Yes, the deficit is unemployed, yes.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Most of the farms in my area are family-owned or have been passed down, or are still family-owned. They're not large corporate operators, although there are a few of those as well. It probably depends on sector. Describe to me, if I am one of these.... Let's say I'm a vegetable farmer and I need people. What kinds of shortages would I experience as a vegetable farmer?

4 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

The numbers tell us that.... Let me check here.

I think 62% of the workers who are out there across the country are seasonal workers, part-time workers. Not quite 40% would be full-time. Understanding the variation of the seasons, if you're in the horticulture industry, which is where a lot of the shortfalls come into play, you're starting to get into your seasonal worker program in early April.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

I have limited time, and that's why I have to go as fast as I do here.

A lot of my farmers bring in foreign workers, and I'm told that with the new expedited ten-day foreign worker program we've put in place it's not the nightmare that you described in your testimony. Can you square that for me?

4 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

I would square it with your comments. If your comments are accurate, praise the Lord, because up to this point I haven't seen it.

We have, as agriculture producers, some of it through our organization, CAHRC, been talking about these issues around the bureaucracy that's involved, and we want to have some shortcuts, if you will.

If you're saying that, then thank you very much, because it's something that we need, but what it means is that there will be a bigger and larger utilization of the foreign worker program.