Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Motion No. 190 today, introduced by the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville. I stand here also as the deputy shadow minister for employment, workforce development and labour. I am so thrilled to work with the previous speaker, the shadow minister for employment workforce development and labour, the member for Foothills, Alberta. This file is very important to us and to all Canadians.
There are many challenges in the construction industry and I want to give a few statistics before I delve into what I want to talk about. The Canadian Construction Association says that its sector employs almost 1.4 million Canadians. That is seven per cent of Canada's total workforce. That is significant. Annual construction is responsible for about $120 billion in economic activity, or seven per cent of overall GDP in Canada.
Construction work in Canada will continue to be a large economic contributor for years to come and it is essential that all governments support the efforts of the industry and efforts to attract skilled workers and provide workers with the training and support they need.
As we heard earlier, the Liberal government announced $180 billion in spending on infrastructure several years ago. Unfortunately, I hear from many contractors in my constituency and province that they are not seeing the money. The statistic we heard earlier was that only six per cent of that $180 billion has been let and is actually working on real projects. That is very concerning.
I want to talk about my own experience in the construction industry. I am involved in the heavy construction aggregate industry, so I have a firsthand knowledge. I am a member of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association and I spent time working on the aggregates committee, as my company is involved in that type of work.
It is very difficult to attract skilled workers such as apprentice heavy duty mechanics or welders, and there are lots of different reasons for that. It is difficult to attract drivers. The transportation industry in Canada is robust. Some of the largest transporters internationally and across Canada are located in my riding, so there is a heavy draw on class 1 vehicle motor operators. They also contribute to the construction industry by driving gravel trucks and heavy equipment haulers.
There is also a serious lack of heavy equipment operators in the construction industry that contributes to the overall shortage of workers. One of the aspects that is missing is training for heavy equipment operators. Training is not very accessible. We do not have a program for it in any of our colleges or universities, and oftentimes it is the job creator who does on-the-job training for heavy equipment operators. This is a direct cost to contractors and employers and something that governments need to look at.
The scope of the motion has been narrowed by definition in the motion to the GTA and Hamilton areas. Several speakers, including speakers from within the Liberal Party, have indicated that it is a very narrow scope and that there would be good reason and merit to expand the scope of the study to include the construction industry right across Canada. The member who presented the motion should entertain expanding the scope of the study, because the issue is not just problematic in the GTA and Hamilton areas.
In fact, the Business Development Bank of Canada says that 40% of Canadian entrepreneurs are already having difficulty finding the workers they need. I have some statistics from the BDC. In Ontario it is 40%. The member obviously is very aware of that. The scarcity of workers in British Columbia is also at 45%, and in the Atlantic region it is 50%. Quebec is at 37% and in the Prairies we do a little better at 32%, but there is a significant need for workers in the construction industry. I would encourage the member who presented the motion to be open to expanding the scope of this study to include all sectors right across Canada.
How do labour shortages affect construction? Contractors are sometimes faced with the problem of not knowing if they will have adequate labour resources to complete a project, so they have to bid on projects accordingly. When they do that, the price of a project goes up and we see construction prices rise as entrepreneurs and contractors have to anticipate that they may not be able to complete a project on time because of construction labour shortages. That is something we need to look at as well.
Another thing that was mentioned earlier is that our trade sectors and Red Seal programs need to be given proper attention. That is why, when the previous Conservative government rolled out programs that supported the Red Seal training program, it was very well received. It encouraged people to consider enrolling in colleges, even universities, that would train them in the trades, with the ability to get licensed and their Red Seal certification. The Conservative government supported that financially for employers and employees to pursue that avenue.
If schools, high schools and parents would encourage children that there are very viable, honourable careers in the construction industry, I think more young people would explore the idea of participating in the trades. A lot of folks absolutely love working in the trades and if they received that encouragement in schools and at home, I think we would see a significant increase in young kids enrolling in trades programs. That is something that I hope this study will also conclude: that we need to get youth interested in the trades.
Working in trades is a very good occupational option for a lot of people. I know a lot of people in the mechanical side of the heavy construction industry, whether it is automotive or heavy industrial mechanics, making well into six figures, and there is nothing shabby about a six-figure job these days. That is something most people do not realize is available and attainable in the trade and construction industries.
There are a lot of challenges in the construction industry, but one challenge I want to allude to is seasonal work. As we know, we live north of the 49th parallel and we have winter. Winter has hit Calgary with record snowfalls already this year. My wife sent me a text this morning showing that there is snow in southern Manitoba today. The construction industry is seasonal. We need to recognize that. That creates specific challenges not only for getting the work done but also employing people in the construction industry. We have to have programs and backstops that accommodate the fluctuation in the construction industry so that people do not only have work for six months of the year and then have to look for other types of employment to support their families.
We have to make sure there are backstops in place that support workers in the seasonal construction industry. There are some trades, of course, and some construction that carries on year-round, but not all construction. We need to be sensitive to that and I am hoping that the study will recognize that and offer up some solutions.
Another sector I would like to talk about, which is not directly related to the construction industry, is the aviation industry. I happen to be a pilot, so I have some interest in that. The aviation industry employs 154,000 people and right now Canada is facing a shortage of 3,000 pilots. We heard recently in the House that our military is short 450 pilots. Therefore, we are experiencing labour shortages not only in the construction industry but in many different sectors.
I know this study focuses specifically on the Canadian construction industry in the GTA and Hamilton areas. I hope that study will be expanded. I am looking forward to the outcome of the study and supporting the motion.