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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

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Are you saying that, in your view, it would be helpful to add a section that would deal specifically with agricultural labour in the monthly Labour Force Survey? Is that what you are suggesting?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

Yes, that would certainly be helpful. Any elements that can delve more deeply into not just what crops are produced but into the human resource elements and the labour shortages that exist would be helpful to ensure that we all have a good picture of the labour market in agriculture and can develop good programs and policies to support that picture.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you.

Because I represent an agricultural riding, I know that, on the one hand, retaining skilled workers is a problem and, on the other, finding unskilled workers is very difficult. So you have to look overseas. That is what happens in my riding.

In terms of retention, we see that the workers who appear on the market these days are more and more skilled. Do you think that automation could be part of the solution? It could help to get the unskilled work done, to keep the more skilled workers and to provide better paid jobs. Perhaps people would stay in agriculture longer because they could feed their families over a long term.

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

I think automation is an interesting concept that is being considered within the industry. Innovation is always good. It can be applied to students identifying the right kinds of careers they're interested in within this industry, helping them identify career pathways. Putting training online is an innovative way to access the right skills, but also in terms of the actual work.

Yes, of course there will be innovation in terms of the work, and that's always a good thing. We need to progress and ensure that the industry is sustainable and viable. So it is being explored and it will occur.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Okay.

We'll move now to Mr. Daniel.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, witnesses.

Along the same lines, you spoke about a large amount of money or time being spent on research on HR issues. Could you just expand a little more on what that research contained? Particularly in light of the fact that you're saying you need better data, credible and reliable information, has any work been done to define what information you need for your industry?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

Yes, specific recommendations have been made. There are pages and pages of them. I've rolled them up into three broad categories for us today, just as consideration.

Certainly there has been a lot of time and attention—from subject matter experts across the country, and broad consultations across commodity groups—put on the kind of information we need to gather. That includes information so that we can gather longitudinal notions and trends about the labour force and where people are in terms of their careers. Succession is a critical issue as this workforce ages.

We also need to have a clear idea of the differences across the regions of Canada: size of farm and operation; the labour needs—full-time, part-time, seasonal—in terms of owners and employees; vacancy rates; access to labour; skilled and unskilled requirements.

So yes, consideration has been given. There are documented recommendations that are quite specific, with the stakeholders engaged in the process fully.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Have you identified which skills are actually in short supply for your industry and what can be done about that?

4:10 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Mervin Wiseman

Yes, we have, to a degree, but in our quest to get that basic database, that labour market information, we did two significant studies. One was on farms greater than $100,000 income per year. We did another significant study on farms less than $100,000, which represent, by the way, the largest part of agriculture in Canada.

We just had a very cursory look at that, but that is an area that we need to get into in more depth. We're starting to identify some of the needs out there, and we're also starting to identify some of the best management practices, if you will, so that we can convey this to other farmers across the country and try to get skills development in that kind of way.

On the issue of automation, it opens up the door for us on some issues. It's obviously a natural part of progression and something that has evolved and we have to go to. But in and of itself, it's created another layer of skills required that we simply need to address. Because of modernization and how quickly it evolves and comes upon us, it's hard to keep pace with identifying what some of these skills areas are.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Thank you.

From the fisheries side, do you have any comments on the data you have and on what's available in the industry to clearly identify any skills gaps?

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters

John Sutcliffe

There are some issues. To be specific, we're currently doing a study, a skills needs assessment, in relation to new training required by regulation. It's not easy to get at the data we need. Transport Canada has certain data around registered vessels. Transport Canada is setting regulations for what different operators we'll need to have in terms of different-sized vessels operating different distances from shoreline, but they don't have information on the particular fishing licences those vessels have, for example. I won't spin this out too much, but then you go to DFO to get that information and the databases don't fit. Consultants that we have working on the problem are exasperated because of the lack of mesh.

That's a relatively small but significant example. In a way, those problems pervade a lot of the labour force information we need, not only with respect to new required training but also industry-identified training and skills needs. That is the core of our mandate and what we do.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

As one last question to both of you, why aren't your organizations actually collecting this information yourselves? It seems like you're relying on Stats Canada, on this organization, on that organization....

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters

John Sutcliffe

If I could quickly reply to that, as I alluded to at the end of my brief opening presentation, we did have access to databases and surveys that provided a really terrific amount of information. In fact the sector study that I distributed is a widely sourced document by provincial and federal government agencies with an interest in human resource issues in the sector, as it is with academics. The requests are frequent for getting the updated information. What's important is using the samples and the data that we were able to collect to identify the trend, to be able to use the same samples and access the same databases, which apparently is no longer possible.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Your time is up.

Portia, do you wish to comment on that?

4:15 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

I'd like to echo the comment of my colleague John, that the councils are in the business of ensuring accurate information about their labour in order to support the industry. Like John's council, we have also conducted our own research. But this is about ensuring efficiencies across the system. It's inefficient if Stats Canada is collecting their own information, every province is collecting their own information, and every agency is collecting their own information. We're advocating for a consolidated and considered approach where we can all benefit from that same information.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

That's fair enough. Thank you for that comment. Your time is up.

We'll move to Mr. Cuzner.

May 28th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Thanks very much, and I thank the witnesses for being with us here today.

On things that have come up time and again through the course of the study, most presenters have made reference to mentorships and their positive impacts. I can think of no two sectors.... You know, people who work in your sector grow up in the industry, for the most part. They're mentored. It's intergenerational mentorship. It's a close and almost familial mentorship, but it's essential.

There's one thing I want to ask about the fishery. There was a very powerful statement made by Earle McCurdy in the prelude to the study. Mr. McCurdy talked about the owner-operator policy and fleet separation. He said that the absence of an owner-operator policy has brought the independent fishery sector to the brink of extinction on the Pacific coast. Young people, who are the future of coastal communities, will not be able to enter the fishery. The trend will undermine the economic future of many communities that depend on the owner-operator fishery for a stable source of jobs and investment.

We're talking about mentorship, training, skills, and that kind of stuff. Are we placing them at risk if we compromise the owner-operator policy, do you think?

4:15 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters

John Sutcliffe

I believe so. It's a big and complicated issue, and there are differences between the coasts that may bear comparison for the outcomes we're interested in here. I think your study of 2005 will indicate significant differences between the coasts with respect to opportunity for the traditional form of intergenerational transfer, and the informal learning systems and skills development associated with that. That has clearly broken down on the west coast.

In spite of the more than 40% reduction in the number of people engaged in the fishery now—and this is only anecdotal, as we don't have the recent studies—the anecdotal information is strong that the labour shortage issue is most acute in the B.C. fishery. The absence of the owner-operator fleet separation policy has resulted in certain forms of concentration of fishing rights; absentee owners of fishing privileges; participants in the fishery who don't have that stake in the fishery any more; and higher costs for those who fish in terms of leasing the privileges from those who own them in order to get out there. There are some quite extraordinary stories about the halibut fishery and the cost of leasing fishing rights.

It depresses crew wages. You end up with crews that are not properly credentialed, and some significant emerging safety concerns in those fisheries.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

That's a strong statement, seeing that we're losing the almost informal mentorship, or I guess family formal mentorship, or whatever.

Do you want to comment on that?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

I think it's critical. Knowledge transfer is essential. We're talking about the viability of businesses. Every business in every sector faces this issue. However, it's quite poignant in the agricultural sector, for the reasons you stated. It's a critical risk for the industry at large if they don't invest in doing some knowledge transfer and understand how to best do that. That is the role of this organization, CAHRC. It is to support businesses in that endeavour. It is to take the knowledge out of one person's head and ensure that it is transferred in a meaningful way that ensures the safety and success of individuals as they proceed in their jobs.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

I'd like to ask you about temporary foreign workers and their relationship with seasonal workers. As a sector, and this is just my observation from quite a distance, you guys have really matured. You sort of have that balance between temporary foreign workers and domestic workers. That has really improved over the last maybe eight or ten years.

Sixty-two percent of your employees are seasonal workers. What percentage of those would be temporary foreign workers? Maybe you could share that with me. Just give me a point, and then I'll remember the question I was going to ask.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Mr. Cuzner, your time is well up, so maybe you want to formulate your question.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Do you have me on fast-forward, Mr. Chairman?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

Your question can't be answered.