Evidence of meeting #6 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 program.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Doretta Thompson  Principal, Education and Communications, Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
  • Jylan Khalil  Director, Chartered Accountants Qualification, Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
  • Mathew Wilson  Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
  • Carole Presseault  Vice-President, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Certified General Accountants Association of Canada
  • Claudia von Zweck  Executive Director, Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
  • Katya Masnyk Duvalko  Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators
  • Carole Bouchard  Executive Director, National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities

4 p.m.

Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Mathew Wilson

That's a good question. I can't explain why it happens. I can only explain that it does happen and confirm what you're hearing as well.

We hear it regularly from our members right across the country, especially when there are short time-windows and gaps created because of excess demand for materials or for projects. It happens on a regular basis. The inability of workers to move between provinces still exists. People will say it doesn't, yet you can't actually hire the people to bring them in.

It's a real problem and it's not one sector. Nor is it the unions. It's nothing like that. It's a structural problem that we face in Canada. For some reason, we can't trust people from other provinces to be able to deal with welding a pipe together or something like that. I've even heard of examples in Alberta where the certification requires written tests so that they can't use robotic welders, which of course can't write.

It's a little bit ridiculous sometimes how tightly controlled some of these are, and it's a real challenge for industry to adapt in the face of this when we're confronting such critical labour shortages.

4 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

According to your documents and your line of thought, there will be quite a shortage. I am also hearing about this more and more from the employers in my riding.

What are your figures? What are your projections? What do you think will happen?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Mathew Wilson

I guess I'd say a couple of things. One is the labour mobility within Canada has to change. We have to be able to bring skilled workers across Canada from different parts of Canada to where the labour shortages exist. But that is only going to go so far.

Look again just at Alberta, because that's where a lot of the economic growth is right now, and it's pulling a lot of the rest of the Canadian economy with it, which is good because it benefits everyone. They have a skill shortage of about 300,000 workers coming over the next decade, 300,000 new, additional workers to everything they have today. That's really difficult to fill with the local labour pool, given that they only have a population of about three or four million people in Alberta, and unemployment is already at incredibly low levels.

Their ability to continue those major projects and continue to push and pump the Canadian economy is really challenged as a result, and manufacturers are challenged as a result as well. So we need to allow people to move in from within Canada, and we probably need to look at some of our closest allies. There are some big unemployment problems in the United States. Maybe we need the ability to move workers up from the United States on a temporary basis. I know it has been done. When there have been really critical shortages, they've allowed in the range of 1,000 or 1,500 workers to come up on a temporary basis to do welding and things like that. They gave them temporary certifications. Those types of things need to be done as well.

In the longer-term sense of things, we should trust that someone certified in the United States to weld a pipe or to be a carpenter or a plumber is probably safe enough for a Canadian to employ as well, and let the employers be the judge of whether the skills are adequate.

When you look at the broader global scale and what we bring in, we need to do a better job of categorizing and analyzing what's out there, of recognizing the credentials that people have on their way in, before they ever get here, so we can speed up that process a lot more.

We can't have companies waiting. If you're trying to build a plant, any type of project, or some type of consumable good, and have to wait four, five, or six months after you've done an interview process on a candidate, that's a really long time in the business world. You lose a lot of business if you're holding up a production process while you're looking for one person. We need to shorten some of those timelines down as well.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much.

We'll move on to the next questioner, Mr. Butt.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you all for being here today.

I want to congratulate the two accounting associations in particular for your presentations. It sounds like you've already done a heck of a lot within your accreditation process to recognize foreign credentials for individuals to practise in Canada, and you've done it electronically. You've set it up through websites and all these other wonderful things, which we should be doing, living in the 21st century. Someone who's in India right now, and wants to come to Canada to be an accountant, should be able to go online in India and find out what they need to do.

I think I'll split my time for my questions, Mr. Chairman, between the two accounting associations and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. So whoever is best to answer, or wishes to answer, should feel free to jump in when I ask my question.

What are you finding in the typical applicant from a foreign country with foreign credentials in accounting, at whatever level it happens to be, whether it's CA level or CGA level? What kinds of general credentials are you finding? Are they relatively close to what we would be looking for and what would be required in Canada, or is there a lot more to fill in? In other words, are most of them who apply 80% of the way there—you mentioned a number of countries that seemed to have more applications than others—or are they quite far apart? How long is it taking for that individual to get from where they are, with the credentials they have in the country they're coming from, to the level of certification we're looking for in a Canadian context?

Whoever or both, do you want to answer that?

4:05 p.m.

Director, Chartered Accountants Qualification, Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants

Jylan Khalil

What we're finding when we review other countries' professional designations is that there are three levels of designations. There are the South American countries, where the designation is usually issued by the universities, so you graduate with a university degree and that gives you the designation. Another format is the European format, which is similar to ours: you get the university degree, you have a professional program, and you have professional experience. Then there's the Asian model, which is very knowledge-oriented: although they have a practical experience component, a large part of the designation is based on knowledge testing. Each of those has different ways for us to approach them.

What we're doing with our initiatives—the evaluation of experience, for example—is trying to look at a candidate who's maybe ten or twelve years out and saying through their experience they've learned all the skills we try to put into our students. Let's figure out a way to measure that and give them credit for it.

Right now, if a candidate were to come with either the knowledge-based designation or the university-based designation, it would take them probably three years here in Canada to upgrade their skills. What we're trying to do with our evaluation of experience is take them right into the evaluation and have them obtain their CA within three or four months.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Very good.

Did the CGA want to comment?

4:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Certified General Accountants Association of Canada

Carole Presseault

In terms of full disclosure, I'm not personally involved in the evaluation, but I can tell you that according to HRSDC data there are about 1,200 to 1,500 immigrants each year who self-identify as financial auditors or accountants. So there are quite a few.

I think for us, the CICA has described the assessment process very well. I think that's part of the problem as well. You have folks coming from many places with a very different background. We're able to take them at whatever their level and complete the missing requirements through the CGA program. Our requirements include, as well as three years' practical experience at a senior level, one year at a very senior level, and that one year at a very senior level has to be obtained in Canada. That becomes part of the challenge, to find that high quality job that will give you that year.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

This may be for the CME. The second thing I hear from constituents who've been into my office is maybe they've completed the credentials—they have it or they're almost there—and the next phase is that they don't have any Canadian work experience. So here's the question for the employers: what are you doing or have you done, or maybe we can help you—that's what this study is all about...? How can we get more people to get that experience working for your members so they get direct Canadian experience?

Maybe they're a welder—they've got their certificate—but they can't get the Canadian experience to get them to the next level. Maybe you have already done some of this through your outreach with your members and so on. What are you doing to help fill that gap, especially in those skilled trades you were referring to earlier, which obviously are very important to your members?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Mathew Wilson

I think programs like E-MAP, the engineering matching and training program that we're running in B.C., is a really good place to start looking. It's been very successful from an engineering perspective. It's filled, I think, in the range of 10,000 engineering positions in B.C. over the last five or six years. It's been really successful in doing some of that initial integration and getting people working.

Those types of programs are good, but we do similar programs working with provincial governments in different places and promoting.... We have a number of government programs that we operate directly ourselves in Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba that try to match new immigrants with employment opportunities and different skills. We're doing quite a bit, but obviously more can always be done. A lot of the time it's finding the right people and matching them to the right companies. With programs like E-MAP, if you expand that beyond B.C. and make it beyond engineering, you could have a really successful program.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

We'll move now to Ms. Hughes.

October 20th, 2011 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Thank you.

I think this is great, because you have certainly brought more recommendations to the fore.

Mr. Wilson, you indicated there was red tape, as you called it, and that you'd have to get rid of some of the paperwork. I wonder if you could elaborate on that a little more. You mentioned that in your recommendations. That's what we're here to hear: your recommendations on how to improve the current program.

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, National Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Mathew Wilson

Maybe it would just be to look at the existing programs and things like the Service Canada recognition, under getting a work visa for a foreign worker in the four- to six-month timeframe. As for the request by Service Canada for a full HR plan, future product plans, and all the rest of that, what do they know about the company? If the company needs the workers, isn't it the best one to actually determine that? I don't even know who it would be within Service Canada. Why is a bureaucrat trying to analyze what a company needs, what the company says is necessary? Those are some of the things, I think, from a purely paperwork perspective. Considering the amount of time it takes to do those types of things, that would be a real benefit.

A lot of the other ones I think are outside of the government's control, at least outside of the federal government's control. A lot of them are within the hands of provincial bodies that regulate the skilled trades. I'm guessing you're probably in most cases not looking to go after some of those through this, but I think it's important recognition that the paperwork process and the certification process for a lot of those skilled trades are very difficult and very time-consuming for employees and employers.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

I just want to interject a little bit. I think part of that is to ensure that employers are not just going to try to get immigrants to come in when there could be work for Canadians. I understand the process is lengthy, and I think we do need to look at that, but I think that it also needs to be interjected here that it is also about protecting Canadian jobs for Canadian workers.

I know that Mrs. Presseault wanted to add something.