This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Oh, good, my question can't be answered.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

That's the end of it, then.

No, I'm kidding. Go ahead.

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

We don't have those figures.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Is that right?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

We need better information-mining capabilities for the industry.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Chair, I think that might be a question someone else might want to pursue, because I think that is essential.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Ms. Leitch, did you want to pursue that line of questioning?

Ask whatever you wish. It's your five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Well, I think we got the answer to that question already.

Thank you very much for presenting today.

Earlier in the questioning we were talking about best practices and the issue with regard to training and the maintenance or recruitment of individuals. Can you outline very specifically the top three professions or skills your areas require where you see shortages? Give us some direction on what we should be zeroing in on and where the needs are. You've all commented on the data and how we may not have the best data. Can you tell us where we could be focusing our time and efforts? What are those top three skills in each of your fields that we should be zeroing in on?

4:20 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

I think there's a fairly wide variance across all commodities and all sectors as to exactly where that lies. There is, of course, the issue of low skills, and we have programs in the foreign worker program to address that. But there are medium to high skills as well. Some of the—

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Could I interrupt you, sir? I'm not looking for low versus high or medium versus not medium.

Is it that you need someone who can run a fish trawler? Or is it a mechanic, or is it...? I apologize. I'm an orthopedic surgeon, so I don't want to categorize people into big categories. Who do you really need?

4:20 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

Yes, I was getting to it, actually. It has been machinery operators, for example. The variance in the machine industry, depending on the commodity, can mean a lot of different things. In horticulture, it comes down to actually using the machinery for the picking of the crop, if you will, for the fruit growers. They'll tell you that they have a shortage of pickers. That might sound simplistic, but it's important to understand that.

In the livestock industry, there are what they call herders. Husbandry techniques are some of the areas. From the operator's standpoint, it's the issue of business management and being able to take all of the information that's coming at you today, right from making the best selection of machinery to HR decisions and financial decisions. There's a gap in the skills of farmers in terms of the enterprise owners and being able to operate from that standpoint.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Thank you very much. I represent, actually, a rural riding. It's about 65% farming. Your comments sound very similar to what I'm hearing on the ground, and I appreciate that.

Mr. Sutcliffe, did you have a comment?

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters

John Sutcliffe

Yes. I wouldn't say, by the way, that we have labour shortages in the fishing industry. I've heard no interest expressed by our members in temporary foreign workers, for example, but there is difficulty in acquiring crew.

The skill set that is most in demand—because it's a student, or sometimes a retired government worker these days, who goes fishing for six weeks when a lobster fishing area opens—is seamanship skills. If any of you are sailors, you will know that's a suite of skills that is hard to come by. Some of it is book learning, but a lot of it is practice.

Fishermen also express very strong interest in two areas, either of which may surprise you: science, and fisheries management. We are interested in becoming much more involved through the Department of Fisheries, as their resources decline, in engaging the labour force in the fishery in that kind of activity. There is a strong interest in those areas.

Finally, not unlike the agricultural sector, business management is a key new skill that fish harvesters have to have to survive these days.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Along the lines of each one of the three sets you've outlined, are there best practices you'd like to provide to us? Maybe they should be the template for recruiting and maintaining people into those portions of the field.

Obviously we don't want to reinvent the wheel if there's already a great best practice that exists for making sure someone who enters into husbandry is educated in that field and stays in that field. Do you have some suggestions on best practices that we should look at?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

We'll conclude with those remarks. You're both entitled to make them, so go ahead.

Who's going to go first?

4:25 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

Well, I know in the farming industry that we have targeted some of the modern farm leaders, if you will, to give their narrative and their exposé on some of the things they do from top to bottom to manage their farms. We've taken that experience, for example, how they manage their staff, how they create incentives for their staff, whether it's wages or medical insurance or the use of the machinery for their own affairs, things like that. From the financial perspective, we have them lay out some of the best options with regard to financing through the various training institutions and some of their practices relating to the succession of their farm.

Many of the farmers out there today simply don't have children to pass their farm on to. They're not interested. The average age of a farmer today is 60 years of age, and many of them don't have these people to pass their farms on to. But they have succession plans to pass their farm on to potential clients.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Okay.

Mr. Sutcliffe, a brief comment.

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters

John Sutcliffe

I'm not too sure how the question applies to my sector. I think it's my own failure to understand, but....

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Okay. You don't have anything further to add.

Portia, go ahead.

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

I think it's a really good question.

Business owners need to learn from other business owners and we don't need to reinvent the wheel. This is an opportunity to identify best practices and share them broadly. That's the role of sector councils, to look across the nation and really understand the business the organization is in and to help support that business. But it's also to link with the necessary stakeholders in terms of government and education. Best practices do have those linkages, so that's a critical element.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much, Ms. MacDonald-Dewhirst and Mr. Sutcliffe and Mr. Wiseman, for a good presentation. Thank you for answering the questions in the candid fashion that you did.

Mr. Wiseman, you want to have a real quick conclusion. Go ahead.

4:25 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

Very quickly, in terms of the crossover between fisheries and farming in general, I want to point out that the aquaculture industry has membership in the Canadian agriculture sector council. They actually sit at our table, so we do represent the HR issues in the aquaculture industry.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

All right, thank you.

With that, we'll suspend for five minutes and then recommence the second half of the meeting.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

We'll call the meeting to order.

We're going to adjourn about ten minutes early to deal with some committee business, so we'll get right to it.

The first presenter will be the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, then the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, and then the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. After everyone's presented, we'll open it up to some questions and answers.

We'll start with you, Mr. Kelly. Go ahead.

May 28th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

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

This is a five-minute block, I'm assuming.