Evidence of meeting #22 for Natural Resources in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was transition.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Denise Amyot  President and Chief Executive Officer, Colleges and Institutes Canada
Janet Morrison  President and Vice-Chancellor, Sheridan College, Colleges and Institutes Canada
David Agnew  Representative and President, Seneca College, Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2)
Larry Rousseau  Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress
Kevin Nilsen  President and Chief Executive Officer, Environmental Careers Organization of Canada
Noel Baldwin  Director, Government and Public Affairs, Future Skills Centre
Tricia Williams  Director, Research, Evaluation and Knowledge Mobilization, Future Skills Centre
Michael Burt  Vice President, The Conference Board of Canada
Monique Pauzé  Repentigny, BQ
Tara Peel  Political Assistant to the President, Canadian Labour Congress

4:25 p.m.

Vice President, The Conference Board of Canada

Michael Burt

Yes, it was 900,000.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

It was 900,000. Thank you.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

We had a slight delay in getting started today. When I do the calculation, if everybody is tight with their questions and sticks to the time we have, we may be able to get through three full rounds of questions. That would take us to about 5:40.

If people go over their time, I may have to cut into the third round, so let's try and stay as close as we can to the time. If our witnesses are available to stay for a few minutes beyond 5:30, which is what we had requested, that would be appreciated, but if you do need to drop off, just let us know.

The first round is one set of questions of six minutes for each of the parties.

We will start with Mr. Bragdon for six minutes.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to each of the panellists and guests today. We appreciate hearing from you, the insights you provide and the work you do.

It is obviously a very important subject that we're discussing today. Coming from the Atlantic region, which you just referred to, Mr. Burt, there are challenges there, but also opportunities.

I want to preface the question with an observation. We're hearing great concerns across the country from various sectors regarding the future of employment and being able to provide for families. We're already arguing about the huge rise in the cost of living and inflationary pressures. People need good-paying jobs. We know the jobs that have been in the natural resource and energy sectors have provided good-paying, meaningful work for many Canadians.

Many of us on the east coast have had family members travel to the west coast and to other places to work in the resource sector. Many are wondering about a very legitimate question. We have heard today, and we're understanding, that many of the manufacturing jobs that are being produced in the new green economy for things that are being transitioned to are often in other countries. They're offshore.

There seems to be a transition from the production and use of the resources that our own country is blessed with in ample supply to where we're headed, largely based offshore. That could mean a meaningful transition of jobs offshore as well. That is the concern we're hearing from many of our constituents.

I'd be interested in hearing from you, Mr. Nilsen, and then Mr. Burt. What are we going to offer Canadians who are concerned about the fact that they see their jobs going offshore, and not necessarily in a more responsible environmental fashion? We're just replacing our workers here with workers in other jurisdictions.

Canada has the best environmental regulations among many resource countries in the world. Maybe we should look at ways of continuing jobs in this sector within our economy rather than offshoring them.

Have you any comments? I'll start with you, Mr. Nilsen, and then Mr. Burt.

4:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Environmental Careers Organization of Canada

Kevin Nilsen

Those are things we grapple with all the time.

To address a bit of the pay concern first, that was a bigger challenge five years ago than it is today, for two reasons. One is that salaries have increased significantly within the environmental sector. We do compensation studies every year. We're about to publish one in the next couple of months. Salaries are going up there. Oil and gas salaries went down significantly. They started to go down in 2014 after the price of oil and gas started to decline a bit, so we're seeing that salaries aren't as high as they were. With the new uptick we have right now, we'll have to monitor to see how that's going, but environmental salaries are increasing, and you are very capable of having a meaningful career and providing for your family while working within the environmental sector.

Local manufacturing is a big focus. It should be a big focus from an environment point of view, as I mentioned in my opening remarks. However, if we allow others to manufacture our parts and use coal-powered energy in the process, we're not seeing any gain. Canada has strict social guidelines and environmental targets. Other countries where we are manufacturing these parts may not have that.

I'll use one example. We frequently talk about the need to stop travelling and have meetings over Zoom. That would be a great contribution to reducing emissions, but the world is—

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you, Mr. Nilsen. I'm sorry, but my time is short and I do want to get a few questions in. You've covered a lot there, and I appreciate that.

The big thing is.... You hit it. We have some of the best environmental regulations. We have the capacity to even increase our production of more of those needed resources here in Canada, while we're not even sure what the regulatory requirements are offshore or what kind of coal footprint or other energy footprint they may have there.

Especially since COVID, I'm seeing a huge increase in demand from Canadians to make sure more things are made, manufactured and produced in our own country. We have some of the best regulation in the world. That transition should consider more Canadian work for Canadian workers, including in the resource and energy sector.

Mr. Burt, maybe you have a comment along those lines as well. I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say.

4:30 p.m.

Vice President, The Conference Board of Canada

Michael Burt

First of all, I totally agree with you that for a transition to be desirable, you can't have a big drop in pay or something like that, and it needs to be something in your community. You don't necessarily want to force people to move halfway across the country. I think those are both conditions that it would be desirable to implement.

That said, in our work we have found that there will be job creation in a variety of different green industries going forward. The opportunities will vary depending on where you are in the country, including in manufacturing.

To your point, we do need to make sure that we're not essentially exporting emissions. We need to ensure we set policies in place to ensure we're competing on a level playing field with foreign competitors. We do think there's plenty of room for growth and opportunities within Canada within the manufacturing sector.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you, Mr. Burt.

In regard to this, I'm thinking there's an opportunity here for Canadians to continue to work in these sectors. As we improve our technology, we improve our resource development practices, and perhaps if the emphasis is on more of it being closer to home, it's going to save a lot of the carbon footprint as we go forward.

I've reached my time. Thank you both for your input on that aspect. Hopefully we can employ more Canadians going forward.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

There may be a chance to pick up that train of questioning. For now, we're going to move to Ms. Dabrusin, who will have six minutes.

May 16th, 2022 / 4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Thank you.

I was really interested when Mr. Nilsen said there was tremendous opportunity for new jobs. He then gave us some numbers of green employment increasing by 5% during the pandemic, I think it was. There was a second number, which I think was 17% by 2025, if I'm correct.

I was wondering if you had a breakdown for what that employment would be. When you're looking at green employment and a 5% increase in the pandemic, what was that employment?

4:30 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Environmental Careers Organization of Canada

Kevin Nilsen

I'd probably need a full hour to give you the full picture of that.

The quick story will be that it's in energy efficiency, clean technology and some of the new emerging areas like the blue economy. It's also in the traditional areas of environmental work, such as land reclamation. Canada has a lot of mines and old oil fields that need reclamation. A lot of effort is needed to clean up those projects. A couple of big ones in the north, like the Faro Mine and the Giant Mine, would provide jobs for the next 100 years in monitoring and reclamation.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Do you have any analysis of what the pay scale is for those jobs you saw on the increase?

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Environmental Careers Organization of Canada

Kevin Nilsen

It's always difficult to give specific numbers when we're talking about a sector that employs people from a grade 8 level of education up to a Ph.D. and who are working for both not-for-profits and for-profits.

The median salary within environmental work, if you count everything, would be $60,000 a year, but that spans very much up and very much down. We have a detailed report, as I mentioned, coming out in a couple of months. We have that detailed report from last year that I'd be happy to share. It would allow you to see the nuances from certain factors.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I would love both reports, please. It would be great if you could provide the one you already have and send the new one when you have it.

I'm sorry, Mr. Nilsen. I'm still picking on you for my last question.

For that increase you see leading up to 2025, are those jobs in the same areas where you saw increases over the pandemic, or are there other sectors and other types of jobs we should be thinking about?

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Environmental Careers Organization of Canada

Kevin Nilsen

The sectors that we saw growing would be work that considers environmental protection, which would be air, land and water. It would be within the management of natural resources as well as sustainability.

One big shift we're seeing is that you need more people whose skills are less technical than people had in the past. That's one big transition. You need more people with commercialization skills, business acumen and marketing skills who can take the equipment and innovations that we have and make them profitable. That last little bit is where we're not as strong as some other competing countries.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I will go to Mr. Agnew.

You presented three sectors of training, I believe: upskilling; incoming, new or returning to the workforce; and international. These are the three sectors. It was mentioned that there are potential time challenges for people in any of these—what they have to set aside—and a bit of a crunch on the jobs or skills needed right now.

Is there an average timeline for, say, an incoming person or a new person entering the workforce to get trained for these new jobs? What timeline are we looking at?

4:35 p.m.

Representative and President, Seneca College, Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2)

David Agnew

I'm going to pull a Mr. Nilsen here and say, “It depends.” There's such a big range.

Let's look at the range of credentials offered, for instance, at Seneca. It goes from microcredentials—these are short-term, literally a matter of weeks—to four-year degrees. It goes from one- or two-year diplomas to two- or three-year diplomas, or a year- or two-year graduate certificate. It really does depend.

I tried to set out those three sectors to say that you really have to be nuanced in what you're offering to each of those groups. A student coming out of high school doesn't traditionally need a microcredential. They need a longer set of studies to acquire a career path or skill than somebody who's working now but needs a bridge to a new set of skills—we've talked a lot about upskilling—to continue in their work, because their work is evolving. It's not changing overnight.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Do we have enough people registering for those programs right now, in your estimation? Do we have enough people registering for the new skills?

4:35 p.m.

Representative and President, Seneca College, Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2)

David Agnew

The short answer is probably no.

This is very much industry-driven. What we need is a tighter connection with employers, which, of course, colleges are very proud to have. This isn't a theoretical exercise. We need to be right on point about what the skills are, particularly in microcredential and short-term courses. What exactly are the skills you need to take your current workforce to a new place?

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I only have a very short bit of time for the Conference Board of Canada. I'm sorry.

I think you said it costs more for retraining and upskilling in Alberta than it does in, say, Quebec. Why is that?

4:35 p.m.

Vice President, The Conference Board of Canada

Michael Burt

It's tied to two things.

First, the actual cost of tuition in the college program is higher or lower in different provinces.

Second, there is the factor of opportunity cost. In Alberta, average salaries tend to be higher. If people have to take a year off work to retrain, the cost to them in terms of lost earning potential is higher in Alberta than it is in some other provinces.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

Ms. Pauzé, you have the floor for six minutes.

4:40 p.m.

Monique Pauzé Repentigny, BQ

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd also like to thank the witnesses for being here this evening.

My question is for Mr. Rousseau of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Almost all stakeholders so far would agree that the Canadian government has no plan to end to fossil fuel development.

The Commissioner of the Environment spoke about the employment and social development sector. He said that in 1992‑93, the federal government had to act to help fishers and communities affected by the collapse of the cod industry. In the end, the federal government did nothing, and the cod population in Newfoundland and Labrador is at a critical low.

I could also give the example of the asbestos sector, which has been completely destructured.

Since there is no just transition plan, shouldn't we be concerned that the same fate awaits communities that depend on the oil and gas sector?

How do you think this plan should this plan be initiated to transform the economy and make a true green transition?

4:40 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress

Larry Rousseau

Thank you, Ms. Pauzé.

You've put your finger on the right question. It is all well and good to talk about training and what we need to equip workers in the renewable energy sector, but if there's no plan, how can we say that we're going to depend on a single sector, whether it's the public sector or the private sector? When I talk about the private sector, I'm talking about employers.

Are employers going to invest the necessary funds to ensure that people are equipped and trained for the future?

The top priority for the Canadian Labour Congress is to ensure we have a strategic plan for—