Evidence of meeting #23 for Public Accounts in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was transition.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jerry V. DeMarco  Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General
Francis P. McGuire  President, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Andrew Brown  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development
John Hannaford  Deputy Minister, Department of Natural Resources
Dylan Jones  Interim Deputy Minister, Prairies Economic Development Canada
Chris Bates  Director General, Apprenticeship and Sectoral Initiatives Directorate, Department of Employment and Social Development
Justin Riemer  Assistant Deputy Minister, Alberta, Prairies Economic Development Canada

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative John Williamson

I call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number 23 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), the committee is meeting today to undertake a study of “Report 1, Just Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy”, of the 2022 reports of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development.

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.

In light of the directive of the Board of Internal Economy on March 10, 2022, all those attending the meeting in person must wear a mask, except for members, when they are seated during parliamentary deliberations.

To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules for witnesses and members to follow.

Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. If you are on the videoconference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute yourself. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute.

For interpretation for those on Zoom, you have the choice at the bottom of your screen of either the floor, English or French. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.

All comments should be addressed through the chair.

Members attending the meeting in person must raise their hand when they wish to speak. Those members who are attending through Zoom should use the “raise hand” feature. The committee clerk and I will do the best we can to maintain the order of speaking. We thank you for your patience and your consideration in this matter.

In accordance with our routine motion, I am informing the committee that all witnesses have completed the required connection tests in advance of the meeting.

I would now like to welcome our witnesses.

From the Office of the Auditor General, we have Mr. DeMarco, commissioner of the environment and sustainable development; and Elsa Da Costa, director.

From the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, we have Francis McGuire, president.

From the Department of Employment and Social Development, we have Andrew Brown, senior assistant deputy minister, skills and employment branch; and Chris Bates, director general, apprenticeship and sectoral initiatives directorate.

From the Department of Natural Resources, we have John Hannaford, deputy minister; Mollie Johnson, assistant deputy minister; and Ainslee Emerson, acting director general.

From Prairies Economic Development Canada, we have Dylan Jones, interim deputy minister; Justin Riemer, assistant deputy minister, Alberta; and Douglas Zolinsky, director general, enterprises and ecosystems.

Mr. DeMarco, I'm going to start with you. You have the floor for five minutes, after which we will hear from one person from each of the departments I just read out.

We go over to you, Mr. DeMarco, and thank you for joining us today.

11:05 a.m.

Jerry V. DeMarco Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We are happy to appear before your committee this morning to discuss our report on the just transition to a low-carbon economy, which was tabled in the House of Commons on April 26. I would like to acknowledge that this hearing is taking place on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe. With me today is Elsa Da Costa, the director who was responsible for the audit.

Our audit focused on Natural Resources Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada and two regional development agencies. This audit covered two related areas: Canada’s preparedness for a just transition to a low-carbon economy and Canada’s support for coal workers and communities affected by the coal phase-out.

Canada has committed to moving away from fossil fuel dependence toward a low-carbon economy that reaches net-zero emissions by 2050. Canada has also committed to what is called a “just transition” for the workers and communities affected by this economic shift. However, the government has been unprepared and slow off the mark. We found that as Canada shifts its focus to low-carbon alternatives, the government is not prepared to provide appropriate support to more than 50 communities and 170,000 workers in the fossil fuel sector.

In 2019, the government identified Natural Resources Canada as the lead department to deliver just-transition legislation. We found that the department took little action until 2021 and it did not have an implementation plan to address this significant economic shift. Without a proper just-transition plan in place, the risks are comparable to what occurred with the collapse of the northern cod fishery in Atlantic Canada in the 1990s. In our 1993 audit, we found that the government was unprepared to deal with the consequences of the moratorium on cod fisheries for local communities and workers.

I would like to turn now to the coal phase-out.

Burning coal to produce electricity has significantly contributed to greenhouse gas emissions. Phasing out coal is an early part of the government's plan to transition to a low-carbon economy.

We found that, without a coordinated federal approach to support a just transition, federal organizations relied on existing mechanisms, such as social assistance programs. These fell short of achieving a just transition for coal workers and the communities they live in.

As the coal phase-out is the first of several transitions to a low-carbon economy facing Canadian workers, communities and governments, the federal government has an opportunity to learn from this experience to improve future policies and programs. The future will involve changes at a much larger scale than the coal phase-out, so it is essential for Canada to make up for lost time and ramp up its approach to a just transition.

Our intent is to provide Parliament with useful information as the government works to meet some critical deadlines that it has set for itself. I trust that the findings and recommendations I have brought forward in this and in our other reports will help the government improve its performance in this area. Because climate change is an intergenerational crisis with a rapidly closing window for action, it is essential for Canada to translate its commitments and plans into action and results. Our future depends on it.

I would like to add that the departments and agencies agreed with all five of the recommendations in our report.

Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We are happy to answer any questions the committee may have.

11:10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative John Williamson

Thank you very much for that. We're first going to hear from our other witnesses, and then will have opportunities for many questions. We will turn now to Francis McGuire from ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

You have the floor for five minutes.

11:10 a.m.

Francis P. McGuire President, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Good morning to the other members.

I would like to acknowledge that I am joining you today from the traditional territories of the Mi'kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati people.

I'm here to speak about the delivery, via ACOA, of the Canada coal transition. ACOA, as you know, is the federal department charged with fuelling the Atlantic economy. It works with both businesses and communities to build a strong and inclusive environment.

ACOA was mandated to deliver $55 million, under two programs, to help five affected communities in terms of transition. The five communities include Belledune in New Brunswick, Trenton in Pictou County, and Point Aconi, Point Tupper and Lingan in Nova Scotia.

It’s important to understand that the situation across the country can be very different. In fact, when we look at our five communities, the situations are different and we need to adapt to them.

In New Brunswick and in Nova Scotia, there is no imminent shuttering of the coal-generating facilities. Therefore, the labour transition is not going to occur for another five or six years. For us, focusing on the community adjustment rather than the labour force was timely. In our situation, the respective power companies are well equipped to redeploy employees to other higher-skilled jobs and to look at things like early retirement and other measures.

With that in mind, we were really focused on delivering to impacted communities and working with employers first, to establish their priorities in terms of what they saw as a transition. This is consistent with the just transition recommendations, to meet with the affected communities and to learn about their local priorities and goals of developing and diversifying their economy. In Atlantic Canada, we are dealing, as I said, with community transition more than employee transition at this point.

This long-term approach aims to help the communities diversify and build up other sectors to make the most of their local assets to grow the economy and create local employment. Once those goals are established, ACOA then engages with other government agencies to implement measures and meet the needs. Establishing a program or framework comes after community goals are set.

To date, ACOA has supported major, often long-term, projects, including the expansion and upgrading of port infrastructure in Belledune, financing an accelerator in Pictou County and supporting the growth of the bioprocessing sector in Cape Breton. I would like to point out to the committee members that all of the projects supported by ACOA were developed in consultation with and in partnership with community leaders and employers. Through the two CCTI initiatives, ACOA has supported to date 32 projects with total investments of $24.6 million.

For example, some of the things we've done include, in Cape Breton, financing the development of a company called Protocase, creating 50 jobs there; and in New Brunswick, with AJN Investment, developing a green-certified, building panel manufacturing facility that will use 100% recyclable material, creating over 140 jobs.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the Canada transition is helping communities, one by one, to look at their prospects in developing things. We will continue to work and bring in other partners as necessary, once these are identified. I would use, for instance, the accelerator that the community wanted to develop in Pictou County. We brought in people from Innovacorp, Volta, NRC, etc., to bring the federal and provincial provincial partners together to address those issues.

With that, Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I appreciate being invited.

11:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative John Williamson

Thank you very much for your opening statement.

We turn now to Mr. Brown, with the Department of Employment and Social Development.

It's over to you for five minutes.

11:15 a.m.

Andrew Brown Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning to you and members of the committee.

I'd like to begin by acknowledging that I'm joining you today from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.

Thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee today and for this opportunity to discuss the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development's Report on Just Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy.

Employment and Social Development Canada, or ESDC, plays a key role in supporting a just transition for Canadians, including supporting Natural Resources Canada to develop just transition legislation and supporting Canadian workers, including equity-deserving groups, in gaining the skills they need for in-demand jobs in key sectors, such as those being created by the transition to a cleaner economy.

We understand the importance of this audit, we agree with its recommendations and we are currently taking steps to address the findings from the Office of the Auditor General.

The commissioner noted that the world is increasingly shifting to clean options. ESDC will continue to support sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic by helping employers address labour shortages and giving people living in Canada the skills they need to find good jobs.

Under the leadership of Natural Resources Canada, we have completed public consultations on the just transition legislation to seek feedback from a broad range of stakeholders, including workers, unions, employers, communities, provinces and territories, as well as indigenous groups. This valuable input will help us make informed and thoughtful decisions on the just transition.

As most of you already know, labour market pressures are affecting practically all sectors of the economy and most regions of the country. As of February of this year, there were more than 820,000 job vacancies across Canada, which is still significantly higher than prepandemic levels.

To address the labour shortages facing the Canadian economy, it will be necessary to maximize all sources of labour but also capitalize on the opportunities presented by the transition to a low-carbon economy.

To this end, ESDC has a large suite of skills and employment programming and has taken concrete measures to help workers thrive in a low-carbon economy.

For example, to help Canadians access training to meet the changing needs of industry and help employers retain and attract a skilled and diverse workforce, ESDC has recently completed a call for proposals for the sectoral workforce solutions program. This new program will fund sectoral projects that focus on a range of industry-driven activities to help address labour market needs, with a particular focus on building talent for the clean economy.

Maximizing workforce participation is also about accessing untapped labour pools and removing the barriers that restrict workforce participation.

In order to make our workforce more diverse and inclusive, budget 2022 proposes to provide $115 million over five years, with $30 million ongoing, to expand the foreign credential recognition program and help 11,000 skilled newcomers per year get their credentials recognized. Their experience and talent will be needed in technology fields such as automation and digital innovation, which will play a key role in our transition to a low-carbon economy.

In addition, budget 2022 plans to double the amount of funding going to the union training and innovation program to $84.2 million over four years. This funding will help 3,500 apprentices from equity-deserving groups begin and succeed in careers in the Red Seal trades by providing targeted investments that are aimed at addressing barriers that limit participation in fields such as the clean economy.

We recognize the important role that the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development plays in holding the government to account on its environmental priorities.

So, I can assure you that ESDC will continue to work closely with Natural Resources Canada and all of its partners to support a green recovery that will create jobs, build a clean economy and fight and protect against climate change.

Again, thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to appear before you today.

I'll now end my opening remarks.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative John Williamson

Thank you very much, Mr. Brown.

Turning now to the Department of Natural Resources, Mr. Hannaford, it's good to see you. You have the floor for five minutes, please.

11:20 a.m.

John Hannaford Deputy Minister, Department of Natural Resources

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for this opportunity.

I'd like to begin by recognizing that we're meeting today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples.

I'd also like to thank the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development for his audit of the just transition, and I'm pleased to inform you, Chair, that Natural Resources Canada is working with other departments to execute a plan to fulfill his recommendations. This plan will complement the work that is under way to seize the economic opportunities of Canada's transition to net zero, particularly regarding jobs.

The government's focus is on ensuring opportunities to create more jobs for workers and families in all regions of the country. Much of this work was not included in the audit because of its timing and scope. For example, the audit's time frame included the pandemic outbreak, a time when Natural Resources Canada was focusing on helping resource companies and their workers face the impact of plunging commodity prices.

We're now well into advancing the just transition. For instance, on June 1, the Minister of Natural Resources launched the regional energy and resource tables. This process will identify, prioritize and pursue opportunities for economic growth and sustainable job creation in the energy and resources sectors across Canada.

Through this process, the government will work with provinces and territories, indigenous organizations, as well as industry, labour and experts, to develop growth strategies geared to the strengths of each region. A key part of this work will be to identify the skills and training needs required to ensure that Canada's labour force is poised to participate in the net-zero economy of the future.

In addition, Natural Resources Canada is investing in sustainable energy, mining and forestry initiatives across the country. We are also supporting indigenous peoples, communities and businesses in their participation in Canada's net-zero future.

Meanwhile, regional agencies in Atlantic Canada and the Prairies continue to roll out and deliver the $185 million already committed to communities impacted by the accelerated phase-out of coal-fired electricity. This work is supporting local job creation and economic diversification in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. As of April, the government had invested $75 million in 72 projects across these provinces.

I should also mention the recent measures in the 2030 emissions reduction plan and in budget 2022. They include new investments in renewable power, green buildings and neighbourhoods, critical minerals and small modular reactors.

I will turn now to the pending just transition legislation.

Since last July, we have been consulting broadly, drawing on the expertise of the International Labour Organization, to ensure that social dialogue is at the core of the just transition. The legislation will codify how the government puts people first, and that's why we're engaging broadly with workers and their communities, indigenous partners, unions, employers, academics and non-governmental organizations.

We also opened this discussion to anyone who wished to send us a written submission—and some 30,000 people have done so. My department will make public a report summarizing what we heard. To stay on top of the entire just transition process, NRCan is working with other relevant federal entities to monitor, measure and report on programs and to inform parliamentarians and Canadians of the results achieved.

This work is not static. Labour market trends will continue to evolve, and much depends on the pathways that Canada and the rest of the world take to reach net zero. These are decisions taken by everyone, from CEOs to students and workers looking for opportunities in exciting and emerging fields.

For these reasons, the just transition doesn't have a set end date. It requires careful, coordinated and proactive planning to ensure that Canadians have sustainable jobs well into the future.

With that, I thank you for your time, and we welcome your questions.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative John Williamson

Thank you, Mr. Hannaford.

We will hear from our last witness, from Prairies Economic Development Canada, Dylan Jones.

You have the floor for five minutes. Go ahead, please.

11:25 a.m.

Dylan Jones Interim Deputy Minister, Prairies Economic Development Canada

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Good morning to you and to all the honourable members.

Today I am joining you from near the Bow River. I am in Calgary, Alberta, which is Treaty 7 territory, traditional land of the Niitsitapi and, of course, part of the Métis homeland.

The phase-out of coal-fired power production has had a fairly high impact in Saskatchewan and Alberta. We are, in that context, working quite hard to support the affected communities and the people who live in those communities and rely on it. Our goal is that people and the places they live in not be left behind as Canada moves to a net-zero economy.

We believe strongly in the concept of “nothing about us without us”. That's why PrairiesCan staff have spent countless hours at community meetings, municipal and band council meetings, worker transition meetings and events, and talking one on one with community leaders, businesses and workers. This people-centric approach puts workers and communities at the centre of our policy and decision-making on climate change action. That just makes sense. It makes sense to listen to the people who are affected by all of this.

PrairiesCan is delivering $25 million under the coal transition initiative and $105 million under the related infrastructure fund. That is a total of $130 million. PrairiesCan has invested about half of that amount so far. We have funded 52 projects, valued at almost $61 million in 17 coal-affected communities. These are proud towns like Coronach and Bienfait, Saskatchewan, which are working hard to keep families in those communities.

These are not simple projects. Transition centres in places like the two that we set up in Castor, Alberta, are offering training programs and business development opportunities for laid-off workers, and 2,400 people have attended programs like these across coal country. To put that in perspective, we're looking at about 2,800 affected workers. It is a measure of new hope because we know it can be difficult to create and find new jobs in communities that have relied on one high-paying industry.

That's why our funding is also helping rural municipalities in places like Parkland County, Alberta, to align their land-use services and create infrastructure to attract investors and other businesses with new possibilities to make up for their missing tax bases.

This isn't the federal government acting alone. We have partners. These projects involve a wide array of proponents, including municipalities, unions, Community Futures and other local development organizations. All are working to help communities to survive and prosper.

The just transition task force recommended we create flexible funding for communities. That has been our focus. We now have a clearer picture of what communities want to do. It only makes sense to also become more clear on how we measure performance in the future. We thank the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development for this and other recommendations.

I appreciate that the commissioner acknowledged our work to engage local communities. Our aim has been that the people and communities impacted by the phase-out have access to the programming they need. It's really that simple.

Mr. Chair, through you to the committee members, I say that the intentions of these programs are important and good: to support people affected by the move away from coal, to be fair, to be compassionate and to be hopeful.

This is a work in progress. We have more to do. The team at PrairiesCan has been working hard to engage communities. Ultimately, though, it will be the hard work, courage and innovation of the people in these communities that will determine their futures. We need to be there. We need to listen to them. We need to be flexible, and we need to help how we can. I am proud that we have a good start on that.

Thank you.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative John Williamson

Thank you very much.

We'll now turn to our first round of questioning by members.

First, it's Mr. Eric Duncan.

You have the floor for six minutes. Go ahead, please.

11:30 a.m.


Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

I think I'll go today where I went last week, starting off with the point or the conclusion, when we had the Auditor General here, that spending money is not a result. Saying that you're spending x number of dollars to do something is not actually a result; it's the actual outcomes and changes that would be effected and that we're not seeing.

We saw that with several reports last week, and we're seeing that again in this report this week. We see the commissioner say things like the government “committed to”, but again, afterwards the conclusions were that it was “unprepared and slow”, with “little action” and missed deadlines. I think one of the things that was most concerning was the commissioner alluding to a “collapse” similar to what has been seen in Canadian history in other comparable things.

One of the frustrations I have, Mr. DeMarco, particularly right now with the geopolitical situation in the world, is that we talk about phasing out oil production, for example, and a decrease and lack of emphasis on that. We're seeing Canada's ability to be a leader on the world stage of supporting geopolitical partners in Asia, Europe and the United States with high gas prices, in the production of natural gas and so forth.

In terms of world leaders, there was a recent news article about Prime Minister Boris Johnson visiting Saudi Arabia seeking “more oil output”. We're seeing the European Union banning Russian oil, rightfully so, and looking for other markets. Right now the 27-country bloc relies on Russia for 25% of its oil. One of the frustrating points is that there was a recent article in the National Post, entitled “Joe Biden begs dictators for oil while Canada's energy industry remains hobbled”, saying that in Canada we have the “ability to produce and export [our] natural resources, at little to no cost to the treasury”.

Again, we have a democratic country here that abides by the rule of law. We have strong environmental standards and I think good human rights standards when it comes to around the world.

Mr. DeMarco, as you mentioned, climate change is an intergenerational challenge. It's an international one as well. When Canada does A, country B could come in and fill in a gap of where it is. Do you track emissions of other targets? When oil production is decreased in Canada, for example, and a project in Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia or China is undertaken, are you comparing what those emissions are that are going into the global emissions versus what they could have been by using clean, ethical Canadian oil?

11:35 a.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Jerry V. DeMarco

Thank you for the question.

On your first point about outcomes versus outputs, I completely agree. Auditor General Hogan and I both wish to focus our performance audit work on value to Canadians—that is, whether the outcomes that are being sought by the various federal government objectives are being achieved, as opposed to whether there are just outputs being measured, such as money spent, as in the example you used. I agree with you completely on that point.

In terms of global emissions and the challenge of climate change, which is an international and an intergenerational challenge, as you mentioned, in our lessons learned report, which this committee looked at a little earlier this session, we have looked at some of these broader issues you talked about. This is a whole-of-society problem that needs to be looked at, not just in terms of Canadian emissions but also worldwide emissions. That's why, for example, if we have an increase in production in one region and not in another, it may not necessarily result in a net increase, because there may be a decrease somewhere else. So yes, absolutely we are interested in that.

The current geopolitical situation needs to be addressed. The just transition we're talking about in this report is of a longer-term nature, to 2030 and 2050 and so on, and that is happening. The International Energy Agency is quite clear that this transition will happen, but that doesn't mean we have to ignore current realities. They need to be addressed as well.

Canada's role as a G7 nation has been disproportionately poor, I would say, in terms of emission reductions. We're the only one since 1990 to have increased GHG emissions. We do look at our performance in regard to others, while recognizing that there are important energy security and geopolitical situations that may drive shorter-term changes that need to be looked at as well.

11:35 a.m.


Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

I appreciate that.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but, if I look at Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, China and Russia, I would assume that you don't have counterparts in those countries. I'm assuming they don't have commissioners of the environment and sustainable development who are looking at the same targets as you are. You don't have counterparts in any of those countries, do you?

11:35 a.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Jerry V. DeMarco

We have counterparts to our office, the Office of the Auditor General, but we don't have counterparts in terms of a dedicated commissioner of the environment in those countries. That's correct.

11:35 a.m.


Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

I think that speaks to where I'm going, looking at the global situation of projects A, B, C and D. The list of Canadian energy projects in our country being cancelled and scrapped is endless. Some are thinking, “That's great, because it's lowering emissions.” It's not, because the demand is still there. Who's picking it up? Countries that don't have a Mr. DeMarco or a commissioner—

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative John Williamson

Mr. Duncan, I'm afraid your time is not endless. It has come to an end.

I'll turn now to Ms. Yip.

You have the floor for six minutes, and it's over to you

June 7th, 2022 / 11:35 a.m.


Jean Yip Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Welcome back, Commissioner DeMarco.

Thank you to all the witnesses for coming today.

It's nice to see you, Mr. Morrice, as well.

This is a very timely audit as we strive to meet our greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. We have a lot to do, and a just transition for those impacted workers and communities is important.

My question is for Mr. Hannaford.

The commissioner found that the government did not adequately support workers and communities affected by the phase-out of coal-fired electricity. Where do you believe the gaps are, and how will they be addressed?

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Natural Resources

John Hannaford

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for the question.

As I mentioned in my opening statement, we accept the recommendations of the commissioner and welcome the analysis being done for this important evolving area of policy. The specific recommendations of the task force on coal are largely under way. My colleagues from the regional agencies have highlighted some of the areas where investments have been made and will continue to be made as we evolve towards the phase-out of coal-powered electricity.

NRCan has been highlighting some of these areas of activity through our website, where we are reporting on projects funded through the resources allocated to that end. I think it's important to highlight our overall ongoing work and our work for a net-zero economy.

As I also mentioned in my opening statement, we are now launching, with each of the provinces, a conversation that will focus our activities on areas where there are real opportunities for economic growth and development. Those areas of activity will provide ample employment opportunities over time, so this is a critical piece in our plan to evolve our economy in a way that will benefit all regions of the country and ensure that a people-centric position is taken—one that is informed by the circumstances of each region of the country, and by the opportunities those circumstances present.

11:40 a.m.


Jean Yip Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Are these supports timely enough, in light of rising prices for gas and groceries?

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Natural Resources

John Hannaford

I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, but I'm not sure I heard the beginning of the question.

11:40 a.m.


Jean Yip Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Are these supports timely enough in light of rising prices of gas and groceries? I'm thinking of those impacted workers and communities, and of Canadians in general.

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Natural Resources

John Hannaford

The government is obviously very conscious of rising prices and affordability, generally. The process with respect to net zero and a just transition is one that will evolve over time, in part based on the circumstances we are dealing with. Those sorts of supports—again, my colleagues from the regional agencies can provide more detailed analysis of the outputs achieved—are looking at specific opportunities at a community level to evolve toward the goals we are seeking to achieve. Those will be partly reflective of the international environment in which we're operating, but also of the objectives we are setting together.

11:40 a.m.


Jean Yip Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Thank you.

My next question is for Mr. Brown. Under-represented groups were not considered in the GBA+. Data collection and analysis are needed to reflect the diversity of workers and communities.

What action has been taken to remedy this?

11:40 a.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development

Andrew Brown

There are a couple of pieces to that. I can certainly speak to the role of ESDC and the sort of efforts we are undertaking with respect skills and employment training for diversity groups.

We recognize that there are additional barriers to the full participation of under-represented Canadians. The work we are undertaking right now and the supports we are providing to workers reflect the desire to provide additional assistance and help them get involved.

First off, the sectoral workforce solutions program was announced in budget 2021 to help key sectors of the economy implement solutions to address their current and emerging workforce needs. One feature here is to support equity-deserving groups by promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce and providing wraparound supports such as transportation, accommodations and child care costs to reduce barriers to participation.

Another example would be the apprenticeship service, which helps to promote careers in the skilled trades and which will be investing $470 million beginning in 2021-22 to provide targeted support to employers who hire apprentices.

With respect to this particular program, an additional $5,000 incentive is provided to eligible employers who hire an apprentice from an equity-deserving group.

These are a couple of the examples of where Employment and Social Development Canada is investing in under-represented groups to help them to more fully participate in the labour market.