Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating all my colleagues who were elected to the House of Commons on October 25. I would also like to thank the constituents of Lincoln for electing me to office. I consider it an honour and will do my best to serve them. I would like to thank my family and friends for their support and also the many volunteers who worked so very hard during the election.
For those hon. members who are not familiar with my riding of Lincoln, it includes part of east Hamilton through to St. Catharines which encompasses Stoney Creek, Grimsby, Beamsville, Vineland and Jordan.
Lincoln's workforce combines the industry found in Hamilton East and Stoney Creek and the farming area for which the Niagara Peninsula is so famous. Both of these industries have been under severe pressure due to increased global competitiveness. That is why I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the hon. members on some of the means by which this government will effectively manage its labour and employment programs despite the continuing financial constraints.
At the outset I want to acknowledge the Minister of Human Resources Development. My colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre, is playing a strategic and visionary role in leading our government on these critical matters.
As the Minister of Human Resources Development has pointed out, in developed societies like ours the primary source of income is derived from paid work. Earnings are distributed among family members and savings are put aside for education, retirement and the unforeseen contingencies.
In the same way our social security network allocates funds for the benefit of children, the unemployed and our senior citizens. Learning, training, income security and old age pensions are all inextricably intertwined and this is a reality that we must face as we approach the whole question of social reform in a rapidly evolving society.
We cannot do this in piecemeal fashion, as there are many considerations we have to take into account. While this government must and will take the lead in this process it is vital that all affected parties, particularly labour, business and special interest groups, be involved in the consultation process.
Recent history shows that countries best able to contend with economic changes are the ones committed to strong labour-management partnerships. These types of networks and alliances set up by consistently successful industrial nations illustrate how critical consultation and co-operation are to achieving that competitive edge.
Human resources are at the very top of this government's list of priorities with respect to restoring Canada to a leading industrial nation. Our focus is to get Canadians working. To get Canadians working the contribution of skills development to economic performance must be emphasized.
One of the pivotal factors leading to improved productivity, trade performance and creativity is the enhancement of those proficient skills. These skills are the key to our long term competitiveness, both in specific industries and in the entire economy. The very nature of employment is changing.
Most income securities were designed in an era of strong demand for labour at all skill levels. It was possible for individuals to leave school at almost any age or to arrive in Canada from any country and find work quickly. The prospects that work would pay reasonably well and would lead to a career with the same employer were quite good at that time but the economy and labour markets have changed since the mid seventies Traditional sources of high wage and high benefit employment such as large companies and government are cutting jobs.
Most jobs now being created require relatively high skill levels. Often these are difficult to fill because too many of the applicants lack the required proficiency. This has lead to a disproportionate impact on two groups of workers. One comprises of the older workers whose skills are now obsolete and whose wage expectations are high, and the other group is made up of young people who have not undergone the training necessary to move into these positions.
We all know that young people are facing hardship today. They have the highest rate of unemployment in the country and in Lincoln, in particular, the unemployment figure for youth is close to 22 per cent. We cannot permit this new generation to reach adulthood without any sense of achieving employment security. It has become increasingly evident that market forces alone will not solve our problems. We must focus our attention on providing Canadians with the opportunity for meaningful employment, employment that contributes to the growth and development of our economy.
There will be employment gains made in some sectors of the economy. For example, the service sector, including both the high tech and the more traditional service industries, is expected to continue to grow in the 1990s as well as the small business sector.
Almost half of the new jobs created between 1979 and 1989 came from firms with fewer than 20 employees. The economy is creating jobs that demand more education. Between 1990 and 1993 jobs from university graduates increased by 17 per cent, while those for high school graduates remained about the same. More important, jobs for high school dropouts dropped by 17 per cent.
At a time when jobs that pay well require higher skill levels we have almost 40 per cent of Canadians with limited or no reading skills.
The statistics are quite alarming but the difficulties that they reflect are not insurmountable. Working together we can galvanize our intellectual resources and face these daunting challenges as we have done in many areas of endeavour before.
It will take a collaborative approach with the provinces, the private sector and communities across the country. It will also take creativity and courage to change our preconceived notions about how to go about changing the business of the activating of our work force and instilling it with confidence.
Through consultation with all members of the House, small business, labour and other interested parties, we will ensure labour issues are dealt with in a manner that provides for the highest possible standards, consistent with progressive training and leading-edge technology.
Through consultation we may devise restructured working arrangements to better accommodate work and family responsibilities. This could well involve reducing the number of working hours or bringing in shared employment to protect jobs and ensure the equitable distribution of the total hours of work available.
In conjunction with the provinces, private sector, unions and local communities, this government will strive to improve the income security programs. A comprehensive and integrated approach to reforming the whole raft of national and provincial social programs is necessary to restore the hope, confidence and pride of the Canadian people.
These redesigned programs will better meet our current and future needs within the context of providing work incentives rather than disincentives. The government is undertaking the redesign of programs because it has a vision. The vision will have the objective of encouraging individual incentive, promoting the creation of wealth, and establishing a robust export-oriented economy which will benefit Canadians.