Evidence of meeting #62 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was brunswick.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Laurie Hunter  Director, Economic Immigration Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Ümit Kiziltan  Director General, Research and Evaluation, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Corinne Prince  Director General, Integration and Foreign Credentials Referral Office, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Donald Arseneault  Minister of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour, Government of New Brunswick
Sonny Gallant  Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island
Charles Ayles  Assistant Deputy Minister, Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Population Growth Division, Government of New Brunswick
Neil Stewart  Deputy Minister, Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island
David Cashaback  Director, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Michael MacDonald  Director General, Immigration Program Guidance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Christopher Meyers  Director General, Finance, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

She got a job.

With that, it's not to say all young people will escape, because they do go back and they want to go back, and there are opportunities there.

To that end, what can the federal government do in terms of economic development opportunities to help you create the job opportunities that are there and to help retain the young people there and also the immigrant population?

I'll go to both provinces for quick answers to those. Just give me one or two quick things that you can say the government should do x, y, and z, that would be great.

5:10 p.m.

Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island

Sonny Gallant

One way would be to continue to support the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, for future initiatives.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Okay.

5:10 p.m.

Minister of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour, Government of New Brunswick

Donald Arseneault

Continue to support the pilot project on immigration. This is something that we've been talking about for many years. I used to be the minister of this portfolio back in 2009. On the aging demographics in New Brunswick, this is not the first time we've talked about this. We've talked about it for many years, and we wanted the government to help us be a partner with Atlantic Canada, especially New Brunswick, and now we finally have that. It will make a difference, and I hope we can come back in three years at the end of this pilot and say it was successful, and hopefully we can continue to build on that.

May 29th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Do we need to take action also with respect to job opportunities? Some of the temporary foreign workers program people come in temporarily and then they go. They don't stay. With respect to that, how could that be addressed in terms of the long term? Maybe they shouldn't be temporary foreign workers to begin with; maybe they should be immigrants right off the top, and therefore be here to stay, and they could move their families here to stay.

5:10 p.m.

Minister of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour, Government of New Brunswick

Donald Arseneault

That's a very pertinent question, and it's a tough one, too, because temporary foreign workers do fill a very important gap in various economic sectors, especially the tourism, fishery, and agriculture sectors, which are more seasonal work. We have to recognize that, and I can give credit to the government that it recognizes that. It is an important component.

However, there is no doubt that we want these people to stay even longer. We've been working hard trying to find ways, like maybe going from one industry to another in that region. It's not that easy, but we're working on that.

On the other issues such as the pilot project here, yes, we want to focus on long-term growth, and there are sectors that are thriving in New Brunswick, but we lack the skilled workforce, and that's why this is so important.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

It has been suggested by some in the temporary workforce that in that instance, we should allow people to move from industry to industry and not be tied to one employer.

You would support that kind of approach, not just for your region but across the country?

5:15 p.m.

Minister of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour, Government of New Brunswick

Donald Arseneault

Yes, although I would support it, it's not my decision to make.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I was trying to get your opinion; that's all.

5:15 p.m.

Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Government of Prince Edward Island

Sonny Gallant

It's not our decision but we'd certainly support it. If these temporary foreign workers could stay, they could be permanent residents; they could work year-round.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

To build on that—

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

You have 10 seconds.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

A lot of the temporary foreign workers are the same people who come year after year. Shouldn't they be permanent residents?

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Thank you.

Mr. Arseneault, you have seven minutes.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Ayles, Mr. Arseneault, Mr. Gallant, Mr. Stewart and Ms. MacPherson, thank you for being here.

I do not agree with our colleagues Mr. Tilson and Ms. Rempel. I come from New Brunswick, from a constituency in the north where we have a critical shortage of labour. Unlike what those from urban areas may think, we have areas where the employability rate is 100% and the unemployment rate is 0%. Companies want to expand but they do not have the workforce to do so.

It would be too simplistic to say that, when I was studying at the University of New Brunswick, or wherever, there were no jobs and now, 30 years later, there are still no jobs. That is pretty simplistic. But I do not want to get into the demography of the Atlantic provinces and the whole sociopoliticocultural question that makes that Atlantic demography look the way it does today.

My constituency of Madawaska—Restigouche is the one with the oldest population in Canada. As for jobs, you could bring 500 people into the constituency and they could all be working tomorrow morning. We have to be able to make a connection between jobs, the type of jobs, and the training.

I was fortunate to sit on another committee where we dealt with matters of immigration. We said that we need first to attract immigrants, but once that battle has been won, and we have attracted immigrants to work, we have to keep them. Retention seems to be the biggest problem.

New Brunswick is doing quite well in terms of immigration, but there is still a lot of work to do. We can use the pilot project, but the problem is still retention.

This week, I was holding consultations in a small village of less than 1,000 people. They brought in 14 people from Belgium to work in a factory. They need some training, it is a specialized area. I bring that up because of the retention problem. As I understand it, the immigrants want to meet up as quickly as possible with people close to their culture, their ways and their language. Once they have work, they can get work elsewhere. If we are talking about a Belgian community, for example, they could go to Montreal to settle, because there are more Belgians there and they can all drink beer, and eat mussels and fries together.

As in Prince Edward Island, or wherever, what is the strategy in New Brunswick, for trying to achieve that retention in rural areas? Most of the Atlantic region is rural, as we know.

5:15 p.m.

Minister of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour, Government of New Brunswick

Donald Arseneault

That is a very good question. We are trying to match the right immigrants to specific regions.

Over the years, we have noticed one thing. We tried to recruit immigrants from all over. However, like it or not, New Brunswick is a rural province with a very small population, especially in comparison to major centres like Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto. When immigrants arrive in predominantly rural areas of New Brunswick, they are sometimes alone. The fact that they are not surrounded by family or friends affects them. It is easier for them to move to other parts of the country.

We have to start focusing on a certain number of countries. We have to do it for fewer countries but in a better way, if we want to attract people to our province. We are successful with some countries. I feel that if we can develop communities—where you can eat fries, donuts or anything you like—we will have more success in retaining people in our region.

In the constituency of Madawaska—Restigouche, the Groupe Westco has put expansion plans on hold several times because of a shortage of qualified staff in the region. New Brunswick needs those jobs. It is regrettable that we are not seeing those expansion plans. It is happening elsewhere, in other regions of the country. I feel that if we were to choose new Canadians better, we would be more successful than we are today.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Do you think that the pilot project poses any problems in terms of classifying the profession or in terms of training?

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Population Growth Division, Government of New Brunswick

Charles Ayles

The pilot offers us enough flexibility and leeway so we can address all the NOC codes that are needed. Previously, we had smaller numbers for that, so with the pilot and with the ability to fast-track the permanent residency, that NOC code issue shouldn't be a problem. We're also addressing the FQR issues. There are still challenges around that, but those challenges are diminishing as we make greater inroads with professional associations to make sure that we bring down those barriers.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

As you are aware, there is a lot of forest industry in the northern part of New Brunswick. This is a complaint I hear once in a while concerning the classification D, as they call it there.

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Population Growth Division, Government of New Brunswick

Charles Ayles

Yeah, NOC code D.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Anything related to the forestry industry or the transformation of wood seems to be excluded. Am I correct? Is my interpretation good?

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Population Growth Division, Government of New Brunswick

Charles Ayles

No.

NOC Ds tend to be more difficult, although we can use them through the provincial nominee program. On the forestry-specific issues right now, we're working closely with the industry. We've identified a number of places in eastern Europe that have similar forest practices to ours, and we're working right now with those companies to go overseas to find those big operators, skidder operators, and all those other pieces that are needed.

However, the NOC Ds are a bit of a different issue. They tend not to be full-time jobs. The seasonal nature of it sometimes gets confused with the NOC code. They have to be full-time jobs, permanent, full-time positions. That's sometimes what some of the forestry industry can't offer, so we can't use immigration to fill some of those labour market needs.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Are you saying that one of the criteria for this pilot project is that you need a full-time job? I thought it was 10 months to full time.

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Population Growth Division, Government of New Brunswick

Charles Ayles

No, it has to be a full-time job.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

In the forestry industry, it's usually a full-time job, except during the freezing and thawing of the forest roads.