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

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Thank you.

The first question I have is for Mr. Cardozo. This is somewhat of a follow-up to Mr. Morrissey's question.

Is entrepreneurship training, then, something that you would suggest be in school?

12:10 p.m.

President, Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy

Andrew Cardozo

Yes, I certainly suggest it be in high school, as well as in colleges and universities. It should be in all of high school, but once you get to college or university and you're taking a program in arts, there should be an entrepreneurship component in there. It is essentially just getting people ready for the workforce.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

It's an interesting thought.

Recently, when we were in the ridings, I had an opportunity to moderate a panel. It was basically for women entrepreneurs. It was crazy how many women didn't view themselves as an entrepreneur until somebody said, “Oh, you have a business. What you're doing, even though it is a hobby, you've turned into a business.” It's having this group and this opportunity for them to be able to tap into mentorship, experience they could tap into, and then they're turning around and actually employing people and that type of thing. I find it interesting, too, just how many people don't realize that with what they're doing, they're an entrepreneur.

12:10 p.m.

President, Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Monique, I have a couple of questions regarding the CFIB's position on recommendations.

On the first recommendation, “Support regulations that give flexibility to both employees and employers”, what type of flexibility would be suggested?

12:10 p.m.

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

Monique Moreau

Again, that gets back to going to the intention of the party, that if the employer is seeking an independent contractor and the independent contractor wants to be an independent contractor—they don't want to be part-time or full-time permanent—we respect that and make it easy to then accommodate them in that role.

It would be minimizing for the independent contractor, as a self-employed person, the red tape involved with being self-employed, and minimizing for the employer any complications resulting from other obligations on them as a business owner.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Would that just be conversation, then, at the time of employment or hire?

12:10 p.m.

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

Monique Moreau

Typically that is how it happens. We recommend that people sign a formal contract, certainly, that outlines exactly what the length of the contract is, the reimbursement, compensation and so on, all those details, and that it speaks to the intention of the parties that they both are willingly entering into the agreement together and are not unduly being made a contractor when they don't want to be.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

I don't know whether this is something you can answer, but do you know how many contractors or temporary employees would enter into these contracts, not ideally wanting to but taking it because they need the work?

April 2nd, 2019 / 12:10 p.m.

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

Monique Moreau

I can probably get into further detail on that with a bit of research, but if you go back to my chart on slide 5, you get a sense of that by the percentage of total employment, the number of people who are in part time by reason of what we call“opportunity constraint. In 2016, it appears to have been around 5% of total employment in Canada, so it's relatively small.

If you want, you could even include personal constraint in that batch. These are individuals who perhaps are constrained by caring for family members or children, or they cannot accommodate full-time work. You can include them as well, or even a portion, as Francis talked about earlier. Say there is a student who is studying part time and wants more hours but is constrained in their current role. You can even inch towards some of those. However, as a whole percentage of employment, even including all of those elements, you'd be looking at somewhere between 8% and 9% of total employment in Canada.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Okay.

I don't remember who had asked this question earlier or where this conversation came from, but how do we as federal legislators focus on that part of the population that has economic constraints? How do we successfully do that without stepping on provincial jurisdiction?

That question is for anyone.

12:10 p.m.

Prof. Katherine Lippel

You do have jurisdiction in terms of the working conditions of people who are regulated federally, and if you set a good example, that helps. That's the first answer.

The second element, which relates to what was just said, is that the reason we do not have laws that allow parties to contract out and to say they are independent contractors is that regulatory protections are a public order. You can't, for instance, say, “I'm going to say I'm a self-employed person today and not earn minimum wage,” because that would be illegal and it has been that way for 100 years.

You have to be careful in terms of freedom of contract that you're not opening up the idea of people, as I've seen in my research, working for temp agencies and being told “Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, you're self-employed”, and they're doing the same work on Tuesday and Thursday. That's a way of getting around public order legislation such as the Canada Labour Code, which is in your jurisdiction.

Of course, if you have best practices legislation federally, that helps in terms of the models you're giving to the provinces.

12:15 p.m.

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

Monique Moreau

I would just add the sidebar that we agree with that approach. Certainly, we're not interested in carving out of legislation, you know, horrendous working conditions for individuals.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Sure. I don't think any of us are.

12:15 p.m.

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

Monique Moreau

It's more about respecting the intention of the contract and the intention of the parties. We could do a whole other committee on the resulting conflict that comes out of that when the legislator, or the government, comes in and says, “I don't care that you two decided on an independent contractor-employer relationship. This looks like employee-employer to me. Now you owe back taxes and all these other things.” For a number of years we've been having difficulty with that, because the world of work is changing in terms of how we define a long-term contract, as the IT example provided. It used to be that bringing in your own tools made you a contractor. You used to be able to have short contracts. Now you come in with the tools in your brain. You might work as an IT worker for four or five years, but then that contract ends. Whatever software you have mounted for a system doesn't need you anymore. Then you're on to your next one.

That's where we have to adapt.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

MP Ruimy, please.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Thank you, everybody, for your presentations.

This is something we have been hearing about for a long time. When I look back at my vast career, I remember a point when I delivered pizza for two separate companies. With one company I was actually on their payroll. With the other I wasn't; I was considered a subcontractor.

Part of what I think we're trying to accomplish here is that we absolutely need to start to define what precarious work means. In the case of being a driver, has the company decided it's in their better interest to pay me not as a regular employee but just as a driver? They don't have to worry about payroll. They don't have to worry about taxes. They don't have to worry about anything else. When I start to look at precarious work, that's what starts to come to my mind. How many situations are we presented with, and that have evolved to where we are today, where if you have a set of tools, you can be considered to be a contractor? But are we doing this to avoid our responsibilities? I get that business has a role to play, but we also have to make sure, as governments, that our policies and our legislation support our people. It has to be both. If they're not paying taxes or they're not being taken care of with employment insurance, for instance, then that's a disservice to all Canadians.

Having said that, I have a couple of questions. One is for the CFIB.

I get why people want to hire outside contractors, but why not train in-house? In Toronto right now we have a massive problem because we don't have any contractors to build. Why not create an in-house training program rather than always hire out?

12:15 p.m.

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

Monique Moreau

I'm so thrilled you asked that question. Now I can share with you that we know that small business owners in Canada—this is 2014 data, so it's probably even more now—spend $9 billion a year on informal training in their own business. So it's not necessarily a lack of training; it's training that goes unrecognized by governments. They get no compensation for that. They just do it when they are trying to skill up their workers or bring on new employees.

I think we have to challenge this myth that precarious work is increasing and that independent contractors are being forced into it. That's not what our data shows. That's not what StatsCan data shows. That's not what public opinion research has shown us. Again, it's not about capturing the group of people who want the work and cannot find it and who need the work. That's different from individuals who are choosing this work and who want to be there and it satisfies all the parties.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

I'm going to push back on that a little bit. Again, because it hasn't really been fully defined, we don't know what those numbers look like. We don't have a great understanding. That's just one sector. Allyson's sector is another. A ton of people work at chain restaurants. Some get their part-time work and some don't. Until we actually define what this is, how can we actually measure and prove your point? I'm going to say that even though you're spending the $9 billion, I still question why we have such a shortage of people.

Mr. Fong, in your studies do you see a decline in job security?

12:20 p.m.

Chief Economist, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada

Francis Fong

I'll point to the data that Monique has shared already and add that the aggregate data doesn't necessarily show it. What I'll point to is that it might mask some underlying trends. I already pointed to the part-time data. The share of part-time employment has not moved since 1993, so we've had almost 25 years or whatever of it being stable in terms of its total share. But within that we might be seeing a shift towards more types of precarity in industries that pay lower wages or where people don't necessarily have knowledge of their future hours of work or what have you.

That's the real challenge here. We have all these little bits and pieces of information. Certainly, the committee has shared a number of stories already and the folks on the panel have already shared a number of stories. We're hearing about it and we're seeing it, so how do we line that up? The first thing we have to do is to define it and start collecting data so we actually know.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Agreed.

Do you see precarious work being linked to employer misconduct in any way?

12:20 p.m.

Chief Economist, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada

Francis Fong

There certainly has to be some portion of that. As part of our proposed definition, we want to start collecting data on that as well. Any definition of precarious work can't just be about money. It's not just a certain level of income and then volatile income and then we're good. No, it has to do with what Katherine was talking about in terms of safety. It has to do with fear of losing one's job or being on the margin and fearing losing one's job and things like that. Employer misconduct absolutely has to be part of that definition.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Okay.

Mr. Cardozo, once you get somebody who's in a precarious situation, for whatever reason, like Allyson is in her situation, how do they get out of that situation?

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Be very quick, please.