Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It's an honour to be here with you all today.
I'd like to thank my team for joining us to talk about main estimates. It's always great to appear before this committee and talk about the things we're doing for Canadians to make sure they have the skills to succeed no matter what their circumstances.
Our department's 2019-20 main estimates clearly outline what our priorities are for this year, which is really all about creating jobs and growing the economy.
Our economic record speaks for itself. Since we were elected, we've seen the creation of 900,000 jobs and unemployment is at a historic low. As I travel across the country, it's clear that this growth—although wonderful for the economy of Canada and for the many people who now have jobs who didn't have under the previous government—has created a new problem. The new problem is labour shortages. The challenges that I hear now from employers are about where can they find people and how do they find people with the right set of skills that will help them grow their business.
I know this committee has done several studies on these shortages and how they affect different industries in different regions, so I thank you for your very important work. We've all heard these stories of employers who are increasingly struggling to find employees and we've all heard that we need to make sure that Canadians have the right skills they need to fill these growing shortages. We know the importance of skills training and education, not just for Canadians—obviously for Canadians, so they have a fair shot to succeed no matter where they live—but also for our businesses, so they can continue to grow and prosper and to have people to fill those important jobs that help them continue their important work.
We know that continued investments in people are the best way to ensure our economic success. These investments are highlighted in the 2019-20 main estimates. I will say that in the face of ongoing labour shortages, it's been particularly disappointing to see other governments not take the call from employers seriously. While our government is helping Canadians reach their full potential and ensuring that businesses have the people they need to grow, it's disappointing to see provincial Conservative governments doing the opposite and creating barriers to business growth. This is very short-sighted and will lead to a significant increased pressure on businesses in terms of being able to find people with the skill sets they need. I always say that good social policy is good fiscal policy. We just can't afford to leave anybody behind. We need to make sure we're maximizing our full potential as a country.
These cuts should really be concerning to us all. Without a skilled and robust workforce, we're not going to be able to fill these growing labour shortages. Our businesses will suffer, our economy will stagnate and in the end the workers themselves will pay the price. As the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, cuts to skills training always deeply concern me.
We are moving in directly the opposite direction of these kinds of provincial Conservative governments by investing in things like student financial assistance, so that more Canadians can access and afford post-secondary education; a modernized youth employment strategy, so that young people have the skills they need to succeed in the workforce no matter what their own personal circumstances might be; and student work placements, so that new graduates get those on-the-job skills—those new relationships with employers in their sector—so they can immediately enter the labour market after their graduation and have the kinds of skills that employers are looking for, so their employment opportunities are very quick and immediate. As well, of course, there are scholarships for indigenous learners, so that Canada can reach its true potential.
Again, with a shrinking population, we have new challenges, one of which is that we need more people than ever to fill those important jobs all across the country. Making sure that every single student in this country has the ability to reach their full potential is not just good social policy, it is good economic policy.
Of course there are other items, which are contained in our main estimates all along the same theme of ensuring that people have what they need to be as competitive as possible in the labour market and that our businesses can continue to grow.
When it comes to labour shortages, there's another part of the solution that this committee knows all too well. My parliamentary secretary—who I've been quoting a lot lately—has a saying when we talk about labour shortages, which is to find a Canadian, train a Canadian or make a Canadian. I'm sure that many of you are aware of a Conference Board of Canada report that came out on Friday titled “Can't Go it Alone.” This report highlights that immigration will be the only way to fill labour shortages in the next couple of decades.
The board says that by 2030, all 9.2 million of Canada's baby boomers will have reached retirement age, placing Canada under immense economic and fiscal pressure. When political parties and leaders purposely use messages of fear and confusion to mislead Canadians, they do a huge disservice to our businesses and our economy.
We know that we need Canadians to understand the need for immigration and to understand that immigration is a vital part of growing our workforce, our economy, our businesses and our communities.
In fact, the CEO of the Business Council of Canada said, “There's too much at stake and we cannot afford to keep playing these tired political games.” In the coming months, business leaders will be engaging the public on the issues that matter and leading the way on elevating the discourse. It's not just about our economy; it's about Canada.
While our government is doing our part thoroughly to find and train untapped talent, even if every Canadian is fully trained, we will still need more people.
I ask my colleagues on all sides to ensure that we provide opportunities for every Canadian, every permanent resident and newcomer. Our businesses will very much thank us.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair, for giving me this opportunity to address this committee. I'll be pleased to answer the questions that you have.