That, in the opinion of the House, the government should endorse the report of the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities entitled “Rethinking disAbility in the Private Sector”, and its findings, and commit to furthering public-private cooperation by: (a) building on existing government initiatives, such as the Opportunities Fund, the Registered Disability Savings Plan, the ratification of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities; (b) issuing a call to action for Canadian employers to examine the expert panel's findings and encouraging employers to take advantage of private sector-led initiatives to increase employment levels for persons with disabilities in Canada; (c) pursuing greater accountability and coordination of its labour market funding for persons with disabilities and ensuring that funding is demand driven and focussed on suitable performance indicators with strong demonstrable results; (d) establishing an increased focus on young people with disabilities to include support mechanisms specifically targeted at increasing employment levels among youth with disabilities, through programs such as the Youth Employment Strategy; and (e) strengthening efforts to identify existing innovative approaches to increasing the employment of persons with disabilities occurring in communities across Canada and ensuring that programs have the flexibility to help replicate such approaches.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a thrill once again to rise and speak to my motion and again turn the attention of members of the House to a tremendously important issue: creating important economic opportunities for people living with disabilities and supporting their social and economic integration into our communities.
Private member's Motion No. 430 calls upon the House to endorse the recent report from the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, entitled “Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector”, and its findings, and to commit to further building public-private co-operation on this issue by taking a number of additional concrete steps.
I can think of no better way to begin than to quote the first three sentences of the report that was tabled. I will mention the panel members by name because of the excellent work that they have done. They are Kenneth Fredeen, who was the chair; Mark Wafer; Dr. Gary Birch; and Kathy Martin. All of these members are key individuals in advancing persons with disabilities and advocating for them to find gainful employment.
I will quote from the report:
We all have abilities, but some are more apparent than others. From what we have seen in companies that hire people with disabilities—and from our own experiences as friends or family members of someone with a disability—we know that they can contribute greatly to business and to society. Yet despite an aging population and a looming labour skills shortage, this significant talent pool is being overlooked.
That is the thrust of my motion. My motion calls not only on governments to endorse the labour market panel's recent report but also on the private sector to hear, examine, and act on the findings. It makes good business sense.
It also calls on the government to promote further public-private co-operation, because we know that leadership from the private sector is crucial if we are going to see real progress.
Motion No. 430 also calls for a specific focus on young people with disabilities in programs such as the youth employment strategy, which we currently fund, and new approaches to ensure that government programs are flexible and adaptable to innovative community-level strategies. It calls for improvements to our labour market agreements for people with disabilities to ensure that funding is relevant and effective.
These measures would help make sure that Canada is supporting those individuals who are on the front lines, supporting Canadians with disabilities, and capitalizing on innovative community-level approaches.
I will give the House an example. In my home community of Brantford, there is an organization called Crossing All Bridges. Crossing All Bridges is currently going through the process of developing skills and offerings to individuals in the private sector for those individuals and their clients to build social enterprises in the form of co-operatives that provide services. Social enterprises are not a new movement, but it is new terminology.
One such service that the organization is considering is a shredding service. This is a task that many individuals with disabilities not only enjoy doing but get a sense of fulfillment from, since they are working. Those services can then be offered, generate income, and sustain the needs of the people with disabilities.
There is momentum building on this behind the scenes and right across Canada. We know that more and more Canadians are beginning to speak up about this issue. There is a growing effort among businesses and disability organizations across Canada to break down the stigmas that have persisted for too long about hiring people living with disabilities. We are seeing the issue being elevated on the national stage through a renewed focus by our Conservative government.
The human resources committee has just completed a comprehensive report on employment opportunities for people with disabilities. We heard from many people and communities right across Canada. Organizations and individuals came to our committee and suggested that there are so many people who are ready, willing, and able to work yet are having a hard time breaking down the stigma and the barriers to employment.
We want to focus, as the report does, on those entrepreneurs and private companies that are great role models in the country. They have focused on hiring persons with disabilities, because it benefits their businesses.
In our government's 2013 budget, we placed a specific focus on helping to support people with disabilities who want to work, including with new funding for the Canadian employers disability forum. The employers forum is an extension of the panel's work. It will seek out and pull together the best practices of employers on a national level for the purpose of sharing and disseminating them right across the country to educate private business owners about the benefits and the business case for hiring someone with a disability.
In my community, we have a car dealership that has an employee who is one of the most wonderful people one could ever meet. Everyone in the business and the community is aware of Norman at this particular car dealership. Norman comes to work every day. He gives a 200% effort every day. Everyone sees Norman's commitment to the business. It inspires the culture of the business. It inspires the customer base. It inspires the whole community.
Another company in my riding is SC Johnson. When people come to the reception desk, they meet a young man who is blind. He greets everyone with a large smile on his face and introduces them to the whole perspective of the company, right there at the reception desk. If they are going anywhere in that large plant that employs over 400 people, he will take them to every corner, even though he lives with blindness.
It does not matter what the disability is. It could be a physical, mobility, intellectual, or episodic disability. These are all disabilities we need to address through heightening awareness across this country. My motion aims to capture and build on that momentum.
We know that Canada is projected to face very challenging labour shortfalls in the years ahead due to the aging population. This means that supporting Canadians who are currently under-represented in the labour force is more important than ever. We need to better connect them with the jobs that are available. Statistics tell us, and this information is quite startling, that today there are 800,000 Canadians with disabilities who are ready, willing, and able to go to work. Of those, 350,000 have a post-secondary education.
There are many barriers in the workplace today and stigma attached to having a disability, whether it is the way one walks or does not walk, the way one talks, or the fact that one is deaf. There are opportunities for all of these people, and their skill sets are solid.
As I have said before, I am thankful for the great work of groups like the recent Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and a host of other organizations. We now know that Canadians living with disabilities represent one of the most significant untapped pools of talented people in Canada who want to contribute more. In putting this motion together, we spent over a year talking with organizations from across the country that represent people with disabilities. There are specific groups. There are people representing the intellectually disabled. There are people representing all nature of disabilities.
We came together with them to listen to what their needs were. Inevitably, they ended up telling us these people just needed the door opened a bit and once it was open a bit for them in a private company, they would show their talent and shine in those roles. That is what we are witnessing. Not only do they want to work, but they make exceptional employees.
The panel's report carries an important message for employers: that hiring employees with a disability is not just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense.
Some other examples are pointed out in the report. Some are U.S. examples. A major 2005 U.S. survey of customer perceptions toward companies hiring people with disabilities found that 92% of Americans viewed these companies more favourably and 87% said that they would give their business to companies that hired people with disabilities.
A DuPont study showed that 90% of people with disabilities did their jobs as well as or better than non-disabled co-workers. It found that turnover, absenteeism, and tardiness dropped appreciably in organizations with disabled workers.
A widely accepted study conducted by the U.S. Job Accommodation Network found that providing workplace accommodation typically came at low cost, with 50% of participants reporting spending nothing at all. Imagine one of the barriers is a person who needs some accommodation in the workplace and the employer looks at that and says that it is one of the things it will have to do. Perhaps it is a physical accommodation in the workplace. Fifty per cent of the time there is no accommodation needed for persons with disabilities and when there is accommodation needed, statistics show us the cost is usually less than $500 to a business.
Businesses reported major benefits for reduced turnover when employing people with disabilities. For instance, the Marriott hotel chain has reported a 6% turnover rate among employees with disabilities versus 52% in its overall turnover rate. Canadian Rich Donovan, founder of the Fifth Quadrant Analytics, found that companies that performed well in disability were highly responsive to their customers and thus outperformed peers in revenue growth. This is the business case that is being made.
I am very proud to say our government has moved forward on a number of initiatives, ahead of the curve in terms of the momentum that has been gained. Under our labour market agreements for persons with disabilities, we transfer over $218 million to provinces to support programs.
My motion also seeks to take advantage of some of the new and innovative ways to integrate persons with disabilities through new negotiated labour market agreements with the provinces. They include the youth employment strategy, with $300 million annually for young Canadians, including those with disabilities. The opportunities fund provides $30 million annually to help persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain, and keep employment, and for self-employment.
In my community, there is a business that has been set up by Lisa Hooper. She, along with four others who work in her organization, consults with employers from across the community and consults with persons who desire to work. She matches them together. This is a trend that is happening more often, and it helps employers. Again, this is another avenue. We help support programs that Lisa delivers within my community.
This is an issue that is at the forefront.
I will conclude with one quote from an organization called People First Canada. It states:
There are so many benefits that come from being employed in the regular workforce. There are social, personal and community benefits that often mean more to a person than their paycheque does. People First of Canada believes...Motion...M-416 is an important step towards increasing employment across the country for Canadians with disabilities.
It is a privilege to put this issue on the floor of the House of Commons.