Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise in the House today to respond to my fellow member's motion and debate the NDP on an actual policy proposal, unlike the third party who, unfortunately, have a habit of talking in platitudes.
The hon. member is asking the House to approve a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. As the NDP knows, the federal minimum wage is pegged to the minimum wage of the province or territory in which the work is carried out. Provinces and territories are best able to assess and respond to the requirements of the local labour markets and establish whatever they deem an appropriate wage. That is why I cannot support this motion.
Allow me to explain why I do not support this motion.
Our government is focused on improving our country's economic prospects and performance. We remain focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity and policies that support good, high-paying, quality jobs. Our record of supporting Canadians' economic well-being is the envy of the developed world. We are proud of the over 1.1 million net new jobs that have been added since the worst of the recession, and two-thirds of all jobs created have been in high-wage industries. We have helped over six million youth obtain the skills and experience needed to obtain better jobs.
Under our Conservative government, Canadian families at all income levels have seen increased wages of about 10% in their real after-tax incomes, and the most vulnerable Canadians have seen an increase of 14%. In fact, the number of Canadians living below the low-income cut-off is now at its lowest level ever. Additionally, the low-income rates have improved by 20% for female, single-parent homes.
These are just some of the reasons why I do not support this NDP motion.
Another reason is that the Canadian Labour Code ensures that workers in federally regulated businesses receive a minimum wage that is matched to the provincial or territorial general minimum wage rate where they are employed. The minimum wage is adjusted automatically whenever a province or territory increases its general minimum wage. Our government believes that the provinces and territories are best able to assess and respond to the requirements of their local labour markets and to establish appropriate minimum wage rates.
I commend the member's desire to ensure all Canadians are paid a good wage for the work that they do. The fact is that the proposed solution is merely a band-aid that would help very few Canadians in the short term and would potentially put the jobs of many more Canadians at risk in the longer term.
If my hon. colleague wants to support higher wages for Canadians, why does he oppose Canada's oil sands which are providing high-paying unionized jobs for hundreds of thousands of Canadians? If my colleague wants to support higher wages for Canadians, why does he oppose the Keystone pipeline which will provide high-wage jobs for thousands of Canadians? If my colleague wants to support higher wages, why does he oppose the reforms that the Minister of Employment and Social Development has made to the temporary foreign worker program to put Canadians first?
However, there are many additional reasons why supporting this motion is simply bad public policy.
According to the Department of Labour, there is a growing body of evidence that increasing minimum wages in an abrupt manner could have negative effects on the employment of youth and inexperienced workers, the very people who need work experience to move on to better paying jobs.
Studies suggest that increasing minimum wage rates as a means to reduce poverty is a very blunt tool, which sometimes can hurt the very people it is aimed at helping.
Finally, the focus on minimum wages ignores the fact that they do nothing to help self-employed Canadians or persons who are facing unemployment or underemployment. Our government is focused on long-term fixes, not short-term band-aids.
We recognize the need for all Canadian workers to have jobs that provide them with a good living wage. Jobs paying well over minimum wage are available, with many more to come, and we are continually helping Canadians get them.
Let me discuss the government's skills agenda.
With our current skills shortage in certain regions and sectors, hundreds of thousands of highly paid jobs will available over the next 10 years for those who have the skills for which employers are looking. Canada is going to need more than one million people in the skilled trades to work on major initiatives in the mining and energy industries. Even if a relatively small fraction of these prospective investments proceed, we are talking about the creation of hundreds of thousands of high-paying, high-quality jobs, primarily in the skilled trades and vocations.
To help Canadians get the skills they need for these jobs, we are investing in the skilled trades through a range of measures.
For example, we are ensuring that apprentices get the financial support they need to complete their training. The apprenticeship incentive grants and the apprenticeship completion grants together provide up to $4,000 in support to apprentices in a Red Seal trade. In fact, the Government of Canada recently celebrated awarding $500,000 apprenticeship grants across the country. We also increased measures such as the Canada apprentice loan, which will provide apprentices with interest-free loans of up to $4,000 to complete their training. We have also made it easier for apprentices to find employment where they can gain on-the-job experience in conjunction with the apprenticeship job creation tax credit for employers.
Another key pillar in our plan to help Canadians get good jobs in the long term is the Canada job grant, an innovative, employer-driven approach to help Canadians gain the skills and training they need to fill available jobs.
We have negotiated these arrangements with provincial and territorial governments to put a greater emphasis on ensuring employers are involved in training decisions. By involving employers in training, we are ensuring people will be trained to get a real job at the end of that training period.
We have now finalized agreements with all of the provinces and territories. Six provinces are now accepting applications from employers with a plan to train people for a job they require. This is a critical step in ensuring employers can find the employees they need to keep our businesses open and growing, and it is a critical step in ensuring Canadians are equipped and prepared for the jobs that are out there.
Through these and other measures our government is working hard to strengthen the labour market, support workers and employers and ensure Canadians have the skills they need to find jobs that provide them with a good standard of living.
This is why I will not be supporting this ill-advised motion that does nothing to help the majority of Canadians get better-paying jobs. Our plan is working, and if New Democrats were serious, they would have supported our budgets that have been improving the lives and livelihood of all Canadians.