Evidence of meeting #140 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was contract.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Katherine Lippel  Professor, Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
Allyson Schmidt  Financial Empowerment Coach, Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie and District, As an Individual
Monique Moreau  Vice-President, National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Francis Fong  Chief Economist, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada
Andrew Cardozo  President, Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy

12:20 p.m.

President, Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy

Andrew Cardozo

I'm sorry. I don't have all the answers to that.

One of the things is certainly training and retraining people to get into other areas. It depends on what other factors there are. Some of the factors that Allyson Schmidt mentioned are really key and they're very real inasmuch as if you have certain family obligations that don't allow you to sign up for a new set of courses, you're not going to be able to ascertain that. It's a multi-million dollar question you're asking and it's quite complex. It's a really good one that I hope you will pursue, because it's key to this issue.

12:20 p.m.

Chief Economist, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada

Francis Fong

Mr. Chair, may I add to that?

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

You have 10 seconds.

12:20 p.m.

Chief Economist, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada

Francis Fong

One point I want to make on that is that we may never be able to get rid of these types of jobs. We're always going to need people to work at McDonald's or Tim Hortons, so it is incumbent on us as policy-makers to make sure that the people in those jobs are taken care of.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

MP Barlow, go ahead for five minutes, please.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate the great answers and input from our witnesses. You can see that the issue we face has a lot of different nuances, as Mr. Fong said.

Ms. Moreau, I want to ask you a bit about one of the slides you had about the transition. You were talking about the transition from part-time or precarious employment into those full-time positions. Do those numbers include apprenticeships, internships and those types of things, which usually might be defined as precarious? Are those situations included in those numbers?

12:20 p.m.

Vice-President, National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Monique Moreau

They would be, but they don't represent the vast majority of the figures. Based on how our membership breaks out over the economy, we don't have as many sectors of the economy that require partnerships as we do others, so it would be even more vast.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Certainly, what we hear a lot here when it comes to EI numbers is that welders, electricians and plumbers are not included in those numbers because they are contractors and business owners. That's the decision they make and that's the situation that works.

I would be really curious—and I know my colleague Mr. Diotte asked this question right off the bat—to know CFIB's definition of precarious employment, or which direction you would like to see us go with something like this.

12:25 p.m.

Vice-President, National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Monique Moreau

Again, I think we've had some good suggestions.

It can't be just about income or just about part-time or full-time status or permanency. I think a good place to start—or another ingredient to add in, if you will—is the intention of the parties. What are the individuals who are in the employment worker relationship seeking? As I've said, going back to slide 5, if you're looking to address the older worker who is retired and is enjoying.... I had an Uber driver in a really nice car; I got lucky one day. He is a car aficionado and is retired and does this three months of the year, and he's in Florida for another four. He's thrilled to get out for a few hours a day and talk to individuals. It gets him out the door every day. Is this person with a decent government pension who has a great lifestyle, frankly, the person we need to protect, or is it the full-time, minimum wage workers who are seeking different protections? Are we trying to protect the part-time teenage worker who's living at home and is learning how to be in the workforce for the first time, or a student who is trying to work two part-time jobs to ensure that they pay their tuition?

Those are the constraints that I think the committee needs to be careful of, and it's again why we try to do a bit of data-based, evidence-based myth busting, if you will, to show that it's not a crisis. There has been no increase in precarious employment. The data for the last 20 years have stayed relatively stable. If the solution is a bit more focused, can we then spend the limited resources that we have helping individuals who need it?

April 2nd, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Right.

You touched on it at the beginning. Looking at your graph on page 5, I agree that this is not something we've seen a massive trend in. It may be, as Mr. Fong said, that we just don't understand the underlying part of it yet.

I don't think when Uber, Airbnb and those types of things started they were really intended to be full-time careers or jobs. They were intended to be some fun money on the side, but we've seen them start to grow into those full-time careers.

Ms. Morneau, you were talking about addressing some of the regulations on that side. Can you quickly give me a couple of things you'd like to see there to address that?

12:25 p.m.

Vice-President, National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Monique Moreau

Certainly.

Our view is that the sharing economy and the gig economy have come up because of over-regulation. Disrupters have come in and said, “We're going to try it this way.” They're playing in a sandbox of no regulation, and governments are trying to cope. We think the answer is somewhere in the middle, not in over-regulation and obviously not letting those disrupters sort of fly by night.

Again, it's considering somewhere in the middle, a way to make sure.... Our view is that government will have to cope. We have to go forward now with this new economy. Instead of trying to regulate everything in, can we look at making sure that we're not impeding those businesses that are legitimately working, protecting their workers and paying them well, and make sure that we're just getting after what we think is a smaller piece of the pie?

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

I think all of us would agree we're playing catch-up on the sharing economy. It's just grown so much faster than I think any of us would have expected. Any input you would have on that, and perhaps a future study, would certainly be welcome.

Allyson, you didn't have a chance to answer either. Really quickly, what would be your definition of “precarious employment”?

12:25 p.m.

Financial Empowerment Coach, Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie and District, As an Individual

Allyson Schmidt

I'm not really sure, because in listening to everyone and just seeing.... Take my position, for example. I'm educated. I've been working. I have experience. Yet somehow, for whatever reasons, I'm not able to move beyond into full-time, permanent employment. The ramifications that has for me are shared by many other people.

I have a quick anecdote. I went on to a master's level of education. I was told by my supervisor at the time that there was no point in my getting an education because statistically, as a single mother I have more hope of getting out of poverty by getting married than by pursuing an education.

This is the reality that I'm living in. So when everyone speaks about statistics.... I live in Sault Ste. Marie. I don't have the ability to move to Toronto or Ottawa or to a bigger centre. I am in a small town in northern Ontario, and this is where I have to live because of the nature of my family.

While Canada has a lot of opportunities, there are these places across Canada where we don't have the opportunity that's out there, and we're hurting. We see people lose a job and be stuck; the contract runs out and another one doesn't come in, whether it's in social services or contract to contract or a funding-based activity.

I'm not quite sure, because there are all these things going on, but it's a landscape that can be very hostile.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you for that.

Madam Sansoucy, you have three minutes, please.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you very much.

My question is for Ms. Lippel and Mr. Fong.

Ms. Lippel, you explained how the definition must take the context into account.

Mr. Fong, in your document, you talk about the conditions needed to develop a good definition. We know that the International Labour Organization, or ILO, a tripartite agency that brings together government, employer and worker representatives, has a definition for precarious employment.

Should the national standard definition of precarious employment be aligned with the ILO definition? If the ILO definition can be improved, should we take steps based on our own definition? Given that more and more companies are transnational, are we better off operating with the same definition and benefiting from research being done elsewhere? Since Canada is a member of the ILO, should we start with its definition first? What is your view on that?

12:30 p.m.

Prof. Katherine Lippel

Thank you for the question.

The report to which I referred is specifically about occupational health. In my opinion, the harmful consequences of precarious work should not become the definition of precarious work. I find it somewhat concerning to say that, when an employer is abusive, it is precarious work. Employment in a unionized multinational company where there is abuse does not mean that the job becomes precarious.

So we must avoid defining work on the assumption that it is precarious if things go wrong and that it is not precarious if things go well or if people do not oppose it. We really need to be very specific about what we are looking at.

The ILO talks about the sectors of activity and issues that need to be addressed. Job insecurity is something that can be measured. We must measure the job insecurity, not its precarious nature. Precariousness means 10, 15 or 20 cumulative variables which, because of the context in which the work is done, put lives at risk. Some studies say that the situation is as bad in Toronto as it is in Sault Ste. Marie. This context must be highlighted for the legislation. So don't try to find a one-size-fits-all definition. You must be specific in your objectives.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Fong, I would like to hear your answer if the chair will allow it.

12:30 p.m.

Chief Economist, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada

Francis Fong

It's a great question. As an economist, I would love to have a definition that's internationally comparable, because it would allow someone like me to look across countries and say how Canada ranks up. That would be great.

I think the challenge for aligning with the ILO is that, if I recall correctly, the ILO's definition is purposely quite broad in order to be manageable, I think, but if we go down this road of trying to define it for ourselves, taking into account health and safety, temporary agencies and all of these different circumstances that Canadians might face, we risk that those same conditions might not be present in Germany, or that they might interpret them differently, maybe not as negative or not as positive, whatever.

While it might be great, my concern would be that how we define it for Canadians doesn't translate as well maybe culturally to other countries, so I think that would be the challenge. I will note that even coming up with a harmonized definition of unemployment isn't necessarily that easy on an international basis. While I would love it, I think it would be very difficult.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much.

That brings us to the end of two rounds.

I have had a request from MP Morrissey for an additional question.

Madam Sansoucy, would you like an additional question as well?

Okay. Maybe five minutes, if you guys want to jump in.

I will start with Bobby.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

My question is for both Ms. Lippel and Mr. Cardozo.

Do you see a difference between precarious employment and a side gig?

Just give a short answer.

12:35 p.m.

Prof. Katherine Lippel

You talk about the gig economy where your whole life is side gigs.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

No. Okay. That's not the gig I was referring to. The side gig is just a side job.

12:35 p.m.

Prof. Katherine Lippel

Okay. The status of precarious employment is, when people have no choice but to accumulate contracts that are precarious, that is when you have to act. But it doesn't become more secure if it's a side gig. It's still precarious employment.

12:35 p.m.

President, Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy

Andrew Cardozo

I guess I'd focus on the word “side”, because somebody could be part of the gig economy when they're doing several gigs in order to survive. If it's a side thing.... I think Monique Moreau used the term “passion”. If it's a passionate thing where you're doing something because you're passionate about it and you make some money on the side not core to your survival and that, then there's a difference.