moved that Bill C-318, an act to require the establishment of national training and certification standards for trades that receive apprenticeship training, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it has been a long road to get to the point where we could bring this issue to the floor of the House of Commons.
In a nutshell, let me just explain the principle. We have a situation in the country where apprenticeship training does not rise to the same standards that we see in other countries around the world. I will go into some details to give a comparison, for example with Germany.
Yet we have young people right across Canada who are looking for opportunities that may not follow in what is perhaps some of the more popular areas today such as IT, high technology or something of that nature. They are interested in working in construction, in building trades, at being plumbers and at being carpenters. They are working with their hands. They also require a great deal of technological training today, unlike our forefathers from several years ago when the latest technology was not available.
I think there is a fundamental problem in our society that led me some three and a half years ago when I arrived on Parliament Hill to draft a private member's bill. It was not easy, I might add, to get the bureaucracy in Ottawa to even agree to draft it. I will go into the reasons for that in a moment.
I wanted to draft a private member's bill telling young people that if they became apprentices, if they received a ticket for whatever trade they wished to pursue in the province of Ontario, and if they received an opportunity to work in that trade in the provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta or Newfoundland, they would be able to do that. Their apprenticeship ticket or licence would be recognized equally in every province, territory, region, municipality, village and community in Canada.
Sadly that is not the case today. It came as a great surprise to me to find out that we did not have the necessary procedures in place to allow for the mobility of our young people to ply their given trade across the country. I did some research. I met with people in the trade labour movement, particularly in the building and construction trades, to find out why this was.
I was informed that we have a system called the red seal system for registering trades. There is a copy of it here. It is fairly extensive. It covers 44 trades across the country. The principle is that if one receives a red seal designation it should therefore qualify one as an apprentice anywhere in Canada. One of the fundamental problems, and I think this goes to the heart of our constitution, is that not all provinces and territories recognize all 44 of these trades with the red seal designation.
Certainly some of the more obvious ones, mechanics and cooks or jobs of that nature, are recognized in most of the provinces but many are not. I would also submit to the House that there could be more than 44 trades involved in apprenticeship training across the country.
I was surprised when I arrived here to see the resistance from the bureaucracy. I asked what the problem was and was told that it was not federal jurisdiction. I asked the bureaucracy to help me understand. I argued about it. I understood that we had entered into training agreements and labour agreements with provinces and were at that time currently negotiating with the province of Ontario. We had agreements on the table with other provinces, but I am not talking about delivering the service of apprenticeship training. I am not talking about the actual physical educational process that might take place in a combination of learning on the job in the workplace and then attending a community college in my province or some other learning institution in other provinces.
I do not want to interfere in that. I happen to believe that the delivery of education is better handled by the provincial governments in co-operation with the school boards and with other training associations.
We may get involved, and do indeed with HRDC funding, in many of these areas where we will provide some money for these training institutions and directly channel that money to the young people who are taking the training. We do that all the time. In fact, we have seen hysteria in this place by members opposite about some of the funding from HRDC that has gone out to help these young people. That hysteria has caused a great deal of difficulty for those young people.
I do not want to interfere in provincial jurisdiction. There are those who support my bill, and I am going to share with the House who some of those people are. In addition to some members here, the critic from the NDP party from Winnipeg has been a great supporter and a believer in it. It is supported by other people in most of the provinces, if not all, in many of the ridings and communities represented by members on both sides of the House. I normally get a little partisan, but this is not a partisan issue. This is about our young people.
I cannot for the life of me understand why my own government, if it is opposed to, or the people opposite would be opposed to putting in place national standards for a young person who registers for a program or gets a job. My own son is 25 years old. He is a bright young guy. He takes after his mother obviously. He decided he wanted to be an apprentice electrician. He obtained a job. He enrolled at community college for the educational portion of it. Should he be able to work anywhere in the country? He is a Canadian citizen born in this country, educated in this country. He received an apprenticeship licence in this country but he cannot go to Quebec or he cannot go to Newfoundland because his ticket does not allow him that mobility.
Frankly, not allowing that runs contrary to the social union contract which was signed by every province save the province of Quebec. Let us think about that. The social union contract called for mobility in educational activities across Canada. It was signed by all the provinces except the province of Quebec. We understand the reluctance of Quebec to sign on to anything that would promote national unity or any kind of national activity. That is no surprise. I am not surprised that the Bloc Quebecois would be opposed to this initiative in this private bill.
At first I was a little surprised to learn that Canadian Alliance members were opposed to it, but then I guess I understand that their vision of this country is to devolve all authority and all responsibility down to the provincial level. To use the term used by our Prime Minister, he said that they wanted to be a head waiter for the provinces, that that is the role the federal government would fulfil.
Members of the Canadian Alliance would oppose this kind of national initiative because it runs contrary to their support for devolution of authority and power and the absolute dismantlement of the federal government because of their provincial views, very narrow views I might add.
I ask members to think about who has supported this bill. This bill has changed titles because of the recess of this place, but it is the same bill with a different number. It received support from business, received support from organized labour, received support from the educational community, and received support from numerous colleagues in this place. It is a bill that has a vision attached to it that would benefit all young people.
Too often in our generation, those of us in this place, we think in terms of our sons and daughters becoming doctors and lawyers, becoming experts in certain fields of technology. What will happen when the day comes when we can no longer get the workers we need to build the infrastructure, the workers we need to build the communities, the roads, the highways, the sewers, the waterpipes, the bricklayers? In fact I have had an experience where a constituent of mine was attempting to get some bricklayers and he could not get them. The union could not provide them. Do members know where he had to go to find them? It was not to Newfoundland, not to Nova Scotia. He had to go to Portugal.
Does it make sense if we have an opportunity to provide training and apprenticeships for our young people in Canada to learn how to become bricklayers, to make the kind of wonderful living that a good quality, well trained bricklayer can make, for us to be looking to Portugal to import workers?
Obviously there are situations, and the trade labour movement will support this, where one-off projects require us to use our immigration system to go out around the world to find particular workers so that we can build a particular project that will indeed save, keep and create jobs for Canadians. These are temporary worker permits and they are issued all the time.
It would not happen overnight, but one of the ways we could solve these shortages would be to encourage our young people to become apprentices, to make them proud to become bricklayers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers. Why should they not be? What honourable professions those are. This place should reflect society and frankly, society has lost sight of the true honour of working in those professions.
Let me share with hon. members a letter from the Canadian Labour Force Development Board supporting the original bill. This is from Brian Skrogs, business co-chair, and Joe Maloney, labour co-chair. This is a business-labour coalition, both sides of the spectrum. In a letter to me they said “It is our pleasure to inform you that at our meeting of June 10, 1998 there was unanimous support for supporting the bill”.
It is bipartisan unanimous support from business and labour. That is a national organization. It understands. It does not have parochial views. It is not concerned about constitutional matters. It does not care about jurisdiction and who does what. It cares about having good quality opportunities available that will create the mobility right across the land of having young Canadians do apprenticeship work in every community.
Another letter is from the Building and Construction Trades Department, affiliated with the AFL-CIO which is a huge organization. In a letter that went out to all members of parliament, it stated “We would urge the government to adopt this bill as government legislation. Further we would ask all members to support this bill, either as a private members' bill or as a government bill”.
The Building and Construction Trades Department has offices here in Ottawa and it represents people right across the country. Once again it is not concerned about jurisdiction. What it wants to see is some national standards.
Let me add that what is most interesting is that we agreed in negotiations on the bill that we would adopt the highest standards in the land which I believe are from Alberta. We would adopt the Alberta standards as national standards. I am not being parochial and saying that it has to be Ontario's way. I want the best. I want the best standards that are available to help our young people.
There is a letter urging that the government and all members support the bill from the Bridge Structural Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers. It is an international union. This letter is to the federal minister of labour at the time from its international headquarters in New York City. It states:
Approximately three years ago at the first ministers meeting it was agreed that they would relax certain interprovincial trade barriers, one of which was the mobility of labour. However we now find ourselves in a virtual gridlock relevant to labour mobility due to the fact that certain provinces have red seal standards while others do not. Therefore, I would once again respectfully request that you endorse the bill.
I have dozens of letters from unions and business groups in every province right across Canada. I have letters from Newfoundland, New Brunswick and from Ontario in abundance. One is from the United Transportation Union and states “I am pleased that somebody has finally found the wherewithal to introduce a bill that makes such plain sense”. And it does make plain common sense.
I know there is opposition to the bill. I am pleading with those who have decided not to support the bill to reconsider that. I appreciate those who are supporting it. This is not partisanship. This is not about nation building. This is not about separatism or a national debate on Quebec. This is about our young people, about their future and their opportunities to pursue apprenticeship programs that will be recognized and effective from sea to sea to sea.