Mr. Speaker, since my appointment as Minister of Labour and Housing, I have met with workers, union leaders and business representatives. I have heard about issues that go straight to the heart of Canadians: job security, minimum wage, work-life balance, hours of work, annual vacations and maternity and compassionate care leave. All of these issues are covered by federal labour standards.
Labour standards are a key tool to ensure fairness in the workplace, to protect employees and to provide them with minimum conditions of work. For many employers, labour standards also help create a level playing field that allows them to compete on a more equal footing with other businesses.
Therefore, we have to ensure that federal legislation on labour standards is relevant and adapted to the changing needs of the Canadian workers and employers of today. This is why we are initiating a review of the federal labour standards, that is part III of the Canada Labour Code.
Part III of the code has been amended in recent years, but its overall framework is largely based on the world of work of 1965. Let us consider how dramatically our society, economy, workforce and workplaces have changed since then.
Today we think of work-life balance, flex time, and telework, where an employee can work from the car, the airport and the home. We are seeing a rise in self-employment as well as in the number of employees holding part time or term and casual jobs. The workforce is aging and is more diverse.
Also, many Canadian workers are feeling overworked and overwhelmed, especially those parts of the so-called sandwich generation. These are the workers who struggle to balance their work with their responsibilities to raise children or care for aging relatives.
Many workers also feel vulnerable and want more protection as well as a wider and more rigorous application of labour standards.
Employers today face many challenges. Canadian businesses need to be able to respond rapidly to technological change and stiff global competition. They want to boost their productivity and competitiveness. They want to attract and retain highly skilled workers and ensure that labour laws are applied in a fair and consistent way.
Today, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Harry Arthurs of York University, one of Canada's leading labour law experts, to conduct the independent review of federal labour standards. He will be supported by a panel of advisory experts and business and labour representatives.
Professor Arthurs and his team will examine the needs of Canadian workers and employers through research, international comparisons and a series of nationwide public hearings. Their work will lead to recommendations for both legislative and non-legislative measures aimed at producing practical and workable solutions to the difficult questions of regulation in the modern economy.
I strongly encourage parliamentarians as well as their constituents who have a stake in the modernization of federal labour standards to participate actively in this review process. By working together, we can build quality workplaces in Canada that will assure our economic success and a high standard of living in the future.