Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-23, an act to create the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. I am also happy to hear from yesterday's debate on Bill C-23 that there is wide support for this bill among political parties.
As we move forward in the 21st century, Canada will require a more highly skilled workforce. The new economy calls for highly skilled and adaptable workers who not only embrace change but drive change. In short, we have to, as the government has done, be ahead of the curve when addressing current and emerging labour force needs.
Countries that succeed in the knowledge based economy will be those in which all citizens can realize their full potential and contribute to overall productivity and competitiveness. This is integral to the mandate of the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and why I support this bill.
Today I would like to talk about the foreign credential program of the Government of Canada and its importance to the workplace skills strategy.
We know that promoting human capital development is critical for Canada to sustain a high standard of living. We also know that immigration is essential to Canada's continued social and economic growth, labour market development and success in the global economy.
Given that between 2011 and 2016 immigration is expected to account for 100% of Canada's net labour force growth, it is all the more important that the Government of Canada doubles its efforts to attract, select and integrate skilled immigrants so that they can maximize their potential and fully contribute to Canada. In short, Canada's success depends on how well we develop, and apply the skills and talents of all Canadians so that no one is left behind.
As part of this effort, and indeed my responsibilities as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, we are working as a team across the federal government and with stakeholders to meet our objectives, so that all Canadians have the opportunity to develop their skills and succeed.
These partnerships are an extremely important part of accelerating the recognition of foreign credentials and previous work experience of skilled workers. Governments cannot do it alone. We must depend on the cooperation of regulated professional bodies, trades, non-regulated professions, employers, business leaders, employees and employee groups, associations, and the not for profit sector; in short, all Canadians.
In the coming weeks, I will have the opportunity to discuss these issues with groups across the country. I look forward to working with immigrant serving organizations and other stakeholders to further identify the challenges faced by new Canadians and immigrant communities.
Through the federal government's foreign credential recognition program, we are working with the provinces and territories, sector councils, and other partners to accelerate the integration of internationally trained professionals. We are focusing our initial efforts on some key occupations experiencing skills issues, namely, engineers, physicians and nurses.
Our objectives are in the short term to: increase the understanding, consensus and commitment on issues and potential solutions related to foreign credential recognition; increase the knowledge of what works in developing a Pan-Canadian process to foreign credential recognition; and enhance the national coordination of partnership activities with regard to foreign credential recognition.
The government has provided this leadership. The 2003 and 2004 federal budgets pledged a total of $68 million over six years to support the attraction and integration of skilled immigrants into the Canadian labour market.
We are putting the collective efforts of several departments in the federal government to work on issues related to FCR and immigrant labour market integration. The Minister of HRSD, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and departmental officials have been working tirelessly with 11 other federal departments on an action plan.
With regard to FCR, the 2003 budget invested $40 million over five years to improve foreign credential recognition, with another $5 million per year committed in the 2004 budget, all with the purpose of improving opportunities for immigrants to effectively participate in the Canadian labour market, helping employers alleviate skills shortages and ensuring Canada attracts a talented, diverse, and skilled workforce to meet current and future economic and social demands.
FCR is of course part of our broader workplace skills strategy to promote the full development and utilization of the abilities and skills of Canadians. The workplace skills strategy aims to respond to the needs of adults in the workplace by: reinvigorating existing programs to focus on the needs of employers and the currently employed for skills for work; creating the conditions and incentives necessary to encourage workplace skills development; engaging employers and workers to better understand their needs, incentives and barriers; and also consulting on priorities while delivering on early key commitments.
For all of these reasons I welcome the vision of this government and the Prime Minister for the future labour market success of the country. This legislation will provide the legal framework for the minister and the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development to carry out our most important objectives in building modern, productive workplaces in Canada and increased economic and social prosperity for all.