House of Commons Hansard #356 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.


Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:05 p.m.


Terry Sheehan Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON


That the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be instructed to undertake a study of precarious employment in Canada and be mandated to (i) develop a definition of precarious employment, including specific indicators, as well as examine current data and options to expand available data, (ii) identify the role that precarious employment plays in the economy and in the federally-regulated private sector and the impact it has on the lives of individual Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak today to my private member's Motion No. 194, regarding precarious employment in Canada.

My motion proposes that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, HUMA, be instructed to undertake a study of precarious employment in Canada and be mandated to: first, develop a definition of precarious employment, including specific indicators, as well as examine current data and options to expand available data; and second, identify the role that precarious employment plays in the economy and in the federally regulated private sector and the impact it has on the lives of individual Canadians.

I firmly believe that this motion is of critical importance. In order to develop effective public policy, we must first have a clear and consistent definition of precarious employment in Canada.

It is a priority of our government to make evidence-based policies that reflect the needs of Canadians. We must study and consult and build a strong foundation of knowledge to truly understand and define precarious employment in Canada.

No matter the province or the territory one lives in, whether one lives in a rural or an urban area, whether one is a lawyer or a labourer, a man or a woman, each and every Canadian deserves the same standards and opportunities from the government's policies.

In order to have a fair chance to succeed, we must level the playing field and provide support for those who need it the most. To do this, we need to know things such as who is affected by the precarious employment, what are the indicators, and what are the social and economic symptoms of precarious work.

The ultimate purpose of my motion is to enable families in Canada to thrive and to support themselves with dignity and respect. We need a national definition that applies specific indicators to identify precarious employment in order to accomplish this objective.

Motion No. 194 has been well received by my constituents in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie. It is a riding that has experienced the many challenges of employment insecurity, but it is also a riding where hard-working, employed folks tell me that they are not able to afford to go to the dentist, that they cannot take any time off work when they are sick because they cannot afford to lose a day's pay, or that they fear losing their job. As a result, they go to work sick instead of taking care of themselves, and they may also end up making other co-workers and their clients sick.

One constituent told me about the panic she goes through when her child is unwell, knowing her family will lose a day's pay or more. Imagine the anxiety and the stress created for families in these situations. Too many Canadians are facing these types of difficult circumstances and have too few options.

My constituents work very hard. Canadians work very hard, and they deserve some stability for themselves and their families.

There is a vast amount of research available on different aspects of precarious employment, both internationally and nationally. What all this research shows us is that no one is immune to the effects of precarious work.

A recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, entitled “No Safe Harbour”, found that more than one-fifth of Canadian professionals, 22%, are in some form of precarious work, including part-time work, contract work or freelance work.

This study reports that precarious work cuts across all employment sectors, professional occupations, wage levels, ages and career stages. Unfortunately, one cannot count on age and experience to help out. Data indicates a spike in the share of precarious work among the 55-plus age group and, interestingly, among those with 10 or more years of experience in their profession. These are folks who are only 10 or 15 years away from retirement, and if they are not able to put away money for a good retirement, how is it going to be for them in the future?

Another element in trying to avoid precarious employment is that education alone will not shield people from the problem.

The survey found that precarious professionals are actually more likely to have a post-secondary degree. This number is at 30%, versus non-precarious professionals at 23%.

Additionally, having a full-time job might not be enough to avoid precarious work. Twenty-six per cent of precarious workers report having full-time jobs. Typically, these jobs lack security, where the workers are uncertain that they will have a job a year from now, or there is a lack of benefits, such as sick days or pensions.

Further, several studies clearly demonstrate that the labour market is tilted against women. In other words, women are disproportionately affected by precarious employment. Professional women are far more likely than their male counterparts to be in precarious work, with women accounting for 60% of all precarious professionals. This has little to do with women gravitating toward less secure jobs; rather, it is more a reflection of the labour market. This needs to change.

A constituent in my riding shared with me her experiences with precarious employment. For her privacy, I will refer to her as Ms. Jones. Ms. Jones is a single mother of two boys. One of her sons is on the autism spectrum and thus requires increased care. Her older son is a foster child with his own unique challenges.

Ms. Jones escaped an abusive marriage with only her young son and one bag of personal items. She has worked incredibly hard to support herself and her sons. Ms. Jones currently works full time but has an end date to her contract in three years' time. At her previous job, Ms. Jones worked six days a week as a personal service worker, a difficult and physically demanding job. Despite the number of hours she worked and sacrificing so much time with her boys, Ms. Jones was struggling financially. Distressingly, she was also without any benefits, which is very unnerving for a single parent.

In an attempt to better her family's future, Ms. Jones decided to pursue a master's degree. Unfortunately, student loan debt is now one of the barriers to financial security Ms. Jones is facing. She is paying the monthly payments but is seeing little progress in her loan decreasing. She is unable to save for a down payment on a home and is frustrated paying rent and not paying a mortgage, where she would at least have an asset.

We must be able to assist hard-working Canadians like Ms. Jones to ensure fairness and to prevent personal catastrophe. Ms. Jones says she is one paycheque away from such a fate.

There is no doubt that there are many legitimate social and economic concerns regarding vulnerable employees in precarious employment. The combination of low income, lack of control over scheduling, and lack of benefits, such as pensions, health care, personal emergency leave or sick days, altogether or in various combinations, creates a great deal of uncertainty, anxiety and stress, which undermine the quality of life and physical well-being of a wide swath of workers in our society.

Indicators of precarity, including workers holding multiple jobs, more temporary work and unpaid overtime, are on the rise, though not uniformly and not for everyone. It is evident that the current mechanisms for measuring precarity, its growth and its implications for quality of life on a large scale are inconsistent and inadequate.

How can those who are disproportionately or negatively affected by the changes in the labour market find support? We know that precarious employment is seen mostly among women, youth, and increasingly, older workers and visible minorities.

We must study precarious employment to understand and address the barriers that people, especially people from these groups, face in their pursuit of stable employment. Precarious employment negatively impacts vulnerable workers, as part-time workers are often low-wage earners and are highly concentrated in the retail, accommodation and food service industries.

Clearly, precarious employment transcends the standard versus non-standard work distinction such that forms of employment that are full-time or part-time, permanent or temporary may be characterized by precariousness. In other words, some non-standard work is highly paid, secure and not precarious, while some standard or full-time permanent work is poorly paid and is precarious.

As we see the landscape of the traditional workplace changing due to innovation and technology, we are now seeing fundamental transformation in Canada's workforce. To be clear, some individuals who are choosing alternative forms of work arrangements for flexibility and personal job satisfaction may find that this is suitable to their way of life.

However, this does not reflect all precarious workers. Many are finding themselves as involuntary participants in the gig economy.

In July 2018, BMO released a report on the gig economy. The report states that 85% of companies surveyed in the study foresee an increased move to an agile workplace. In the next few years, employers estimate almost a quarter of their workforce is already working virtually or remotely as part of the agile workforce. For some workers, the flexibility afforded to them by technology in the gig economy is great. There is no doubt that innovation is a positive element of the changing workplace. With innovation changing how we live and work, we see new opportunities but also some new challenges for Canadians.

In 2015, the Ontario Ministry of Labour was mandated to consider the need for labour code reform through the lenses of changes that have been occurring in the workplace and in the economy. After two years of consultation and study, the Government of Ontario released a report in May 2017, “The Changing Workplaces Review”, 2015-16. This report found that the changing nature of the workforce, the workplace and the economy itself, particularly in light of relevant trends and factors operating in our society, including globalization, trade liberalization, technology change, growth of the service sector and change in the prevalence and characteristics of standard employment relationships, clearly demonstrated that changes needed to be made to the provincial labour code.

Undoubtedly, the rise of new technologies and the emergence of the platform economy, such as Uber or Airbnb, are contributing to the transformation of the labour market and will continue to do so. While technology and globalization open up new opportunities and create new occupations, they also contribute to other issues for other occupations.

In recognition of this developing shift, the Government of Canada is focusing on investing directly in Canada's greatest asset, its people. A fluctuating employment landscape requires a responsive and contemporary plan for both employers and the workforce. The nature of work is changing, and we need to understand how it impacts our workers so that we can better protect Canadians and help employers recruit and retain employees.

Members of this House are certainly aware of the measures to modernize the Canada Labour Code in the budget implementation act that was tabled on October 29. I believe that these updates to the labour code would benefit Canadians. These labour code changes were created after extensive consultations to gain a real-world perspective on developing effective policy. Between May 2017 and March 2018, the government consulted with Canadians, stakeholders and experts on the changing nature of work and how federal labour standards could be updated in order to better reflect current workplace realities. One strong message was repeated throughout the consultations: Canadian work has changed but the federal labour standards have not. These consultations also made it clear that there are a number of complex issues related to federal labour standards and the changing nature of work, which required more in-depth review and discussion.

This is the reason precarious employment requires its own study and consultative process. To remedy an issue, we must first define it clearly and then apply standards consistently across this country. While there is a large amount of literature on the topic, significant data limitations for measuring and understanding the impacts of precarious work still exist. For example, specific data on the prevalence of precarious work among the vulnerable populations such as people with disability, newcomers and indigenous people is very limited. Canada must be able to define precarious employment in a structured, cohesive manner so that we can recognize potential indicators of vulnerabilities that are uniformly identified across this great country.

In conclusion, with precarious work federally defined, it would enable us to look to prevention, support and the opportunities for innovation in both the public and private sectors. By having the committee undertake a study, the necessary consultations, witness testimonies and research would be considered, providing the government with a comprehensive and informed definition of precarious employment in Canada.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, while I appreciate the member's efforts, many of us here in the NDP know that precarious workers themselves know all too well what precarious work looks like. There are no benefits, no pensions and no security. This is the kind of work that so many people of all ages, particularly young people, in our country are seeing as the norm. They do not feel they need a study. What they need is federal leadership when it comes to putting a stop to precarious work.

Will this study, in the member's view, look at the role of the federal government in using precarious workers, particularly the use of temp agencies and the hiring of temporary workers in the federal public service?

We know this is a common practice. We know that despite the rhetoric, the government continues to lean on temporary workers and temporary work agencies, which, of course, is unacceptable. Therefore, will he and his government not just take a look at but put an end to the exploitation of these workers?

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


Terry Sheehan Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member very much for the question and for the passion for this issue that we both share. However, as I noted in my speech, we definitely would be looking at the federal government, and federally regulated and private industries as well.

The study is important. I have sat on the industry and trade committees with Liberal, NDP and Conservative members, where we put forward questions to witnesses to get at very important matters. As I said in my speech, there are so many views, both in studies and papers, from the private and public sectors that we can really create a good blueprint to tackle this very national issue.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.

Kate Young Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member about women in the labour market. Of course, many women are in precarious employment. I am just trying to get a sense of how a definition of precarious employment in Canada would help women in the labour market, and how this would move forward some of the problems we have in the workforce today.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


Terry Sheehan Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have also had the privilege of sitting on the pay equity committee working on that issue with all of the other parties. There are several factors that contributed to the pay equity issue. It is not just an issue facing women but other subsets too, such as first nations, minorities and newcomers who are susceptible to it.

However, we can first tackle the issue head on and bring some people in from coast to coast to coast to have a broad conversation nationally about this issue. The first thing we need to do is to start addressing it and recognize that it is indeed an issue, because some people do not think it is. That is one of the keys.

In talking with Ms. Jones, the Canada child benefit certainly is helping her a lot more than what she had three years ago, but we can still do more, because we know better is possible.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, it sounded to me from the question by the hon. NDP member that temp agencies should be banned. I am thinking that small businesses use temp agencies as a way of pre-qualifying people and transferring skills between the workforce and small and medium-sized businesses. Some of those nuances might be interesting for the study to take up.

Maybe the hon. colleague down the way could mention what he thinks about the study of temp agencies and the role they play in the marketplace.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Terry Sheehan Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my speech I addressed a number of potential things to take a look at. The member will note that full-time work is not necessarily totally secure. Some people who are in full-time work consider it as being precarious. Some people who are working part-time, freelance or temporarily, whatever term one wants to use, are satisfied where they are working. The issue is when someone is not satisfied because they cannot look after themselves or their family. All that needs to be addressed and looked at, as my hon. colleague has mentioned. It is a big undertaking, but I think the people in this House are up to the task.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be delivering my first speech in English in the House, so I hope my colleagues will be understanding. If they do not understand something, they can just refer to Hansard afterward and will understand everything.

I rise in the House today to speak to Motion No. 194. The purpose of the private member's motion requests that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities undertake a study of precarious employment in Canada and be mandated to, one, develop a definition of precarious employment, including specific indicators, as well as examine current data and options to expand available data, and two, identify the role that precarious employment plays in the economy and in the federally regulated private sector and the impact it has on the lives of individual Canadians.

ln preparation for the introduction of legislation this fall to modernize federal labour standards, ESDC officials from the labour program conducted consultations between May 2017 and March 2018. The resulting report, released on August 30, 2018, touches on many aspects of this motion and more. The report also defines non-standard employment.

Let us talk about employment opportunities in Canada under the Liberal government. Three years into the Liberals' mandate, they have failed to make progress on many of their promises, one of which is their failure to create well-paying jobs for youth and middle-class Canadians.

As the Minister of Finance said himself, Canadians just have to get used to precarious employment because that will be the norm. This is not the lackadaisical approach the Liberals should be taking, or telling Canadians to get used to the job churn of short-term employment. The government needs to start listening to taxpayers, who are the people burdened by the government's debt. The lack of income security associated with uncertain or temporary work reduces consumer confidence, leading them to spend less, which in turn reduces business profits and investments, thereby depriving the government of revenue. It is simple.

A 2014 study conducted by Statistics Canada found that nearly one-third of the Canadian working population was in unstable employment situations. While our biggest competitor, the United States, is cutting red tape and taxes and making its economy more attractive to investors and job creators, the Liberals are jacking up taxes and punishing Canadian enterprises. If the Liberal government put the effort into making Canada more inviting for investment and business opportunities, we would see the benefits first-hand in full-time, stable job opportunities for Canadians.

Non-standard employment is certainly not a new phenomenon. However, we do see it in different forms as job types, social demands and technology change. With well-paying skilled labour jobs in our natural resource sector disappearing because of poor Liberal policies, Canadians are forced to turn to employment alternatives just to make ends meet.

Technology is one force that has begun to significantly alter the future of work. Canadians are turning to ride-sharing and short-term home rental work models for extra cash, a shift that reflects the growth of non-standard labour in Canada. Work in the sharing economy could be becoming more precarious than other forms of work the economy has experienced simply because people feel forced to, or that there are no other employment opportunities in their area. Nearly 50% of all new Canadian jobs are non-standard work arrangements, which includes the number of workers providing their services on one or more intermediary platforms in the sharing economy.

People are piecing together a few hours a week driving a car and a few hours a week renting out a space in their homes as a means to earn money. That is not going to afford them a stable, secure income.

Canadians rely on the government to put job creation first, ahead of Liberal political interests. Canadians want to see action from the Liberal government. They want to get back to work in full-time positions in sectors they are trained and educated for. We know that job creation is a cornerstone of a strong economy.

Under the previous Conservative government, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression—I repeat, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression—Canada had the best job creation and economic growth record among G7 countries. That is the truth. The Conservative government's policies resulted in the creation of more than one million net new jobs. We created almost 20% more jobs than our closest competitor since taking office in 2006.

Private sector investment creates jobs and drives economic growth. Canadian firms will not invest in the Canadian economy if they do not know the overall cost of doing business. Whether it is failing to find a solution to the softwood lumber dispute or on other matters, Liberal policies are stifling private sector investment that creates jobs for hard-working families.

Failed policies have made it more difficult to do business and create jobs in Canada. As a result, a large “closed” sign now hangs on a country that was once one of the very best places in the world to do business. Canadians are turning to the work they can get, including non-standard work, because of the inaction and failed policies of the Liberal government to provide them with full-time employment opportunities. We must also take care of the mental health issues of all people who have to work at precarious employment.

I will cite an article that I read. It is in French and I hope all of my colleagues will understand:

Taking on a precarious employment would create more conflicts between work and personal life. [The author] pointed out that “non-standard schedules and potentially long commutes make it more difficult for workers to create and maintain social and professional relationships.”

Financial insecurity then triggers a vicious cycle of lowered self-esteem and sense of accomplishment, and low acknowledgement of work completed...factors that significantly contribute to increased isolation....

The risk of having precarious conditions become more entrenched and expand to other areas of life then become both cause and consequence of this psychological suffering.

I hope this will be addressed at committee. It is important. We have to oversee all of the different circumstances of precarious employment in Canada.

While I appreciate the Liberal member's intentions behind requesting yet another study, I believe that Canadians would prefer the Liberals to get to work on job creation so that they can get back to work, too.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about a disturbingly growing trend, that of precarious work. I am guessing my colleague, the member for Sault Ste. Marie, is attempting to bring the issue forward to indicate to his constituents and perhaps to Canadians that he is focused on finding a solution to the problem of precarious work.

Unfortunately, he has chosen a means to achieve this goal that will ultimately lead to no concrete advances for precarious workers. Gathering more information and data is usually relevant in many ways, but what we are dealing with is a growing crisis. What we actually need is stronger legislation, and most importantly, political will, to put an end to precarious work in our country.

I intend to vote in favour of the motion before us, but I want to underscore my disappointment. I am disappointed that the government is calling for yet another study to talk about a growing crisis, instead of taking action to tackle what is a growing problem for so many of us across the country.

The rise of precarious work is not something that is started by accident. It is the result of neo-liberal policies put forward by successive Liberal and Conservative governments. The phenomenon of precarious work is not new, but it is becoming more and more common. Women, racialized people, people living with disabilities and LGBTQ folks are disproportionately affected.

Increasingly, precarious work is a phenomenon we see among young people, the millennial generation. It is becoming increasingly difficult for workers entering the labour market to skip ahead of what are new entry-level jobs. They are stuck in a cycle of temporary, part-time and contract work with no benefits, no pension and no security. Furthermore, many workers have been forced to launch their careers with unpaid labour, namely, unpaid internships.

The resistance is mobilizing in civil society. More than 60,000 students in Quebec are currently on strike and took to the streets of Montreal, Gatineau and Sherbrooke yesterday to demand what should be expected: being paid for work. This is something so basic.

The labour movement continues to fight against precarious employment. Steelworkers in Alma made headlines in 2012 when they refused to let good jobs in the region be contracted out.

To this day, Quebec unions are fighting to protect workers, while the Syndicat des employés de magasins et de bureaux de la SAQ, affiliated with the CSN, is fighting with its employer, which is trying to create more precarious situations for employees.

The labour movement is paving the way, and when workers stick together, they can stand up to big corporations that are threatening their way of life. Unfortunately, not all workers are unionized. A number of workplaces have been shut down and the jobs contracted out to places where employees are paid less.

This is a familiar issue for workers in workplaces from schools to call centres.

Neo-liberalism tries to set the bar as low as it can for working people. People feel as if their work is not valued. According to those who follow this ideology, workers in some fields should not be deemed to be able to make a living wage. These are people who work as cashiers, call centre operators, and the list goes on.

What is more, we are selling post-secondary education as a way to make things better. This comes at a high cost, luring students into what is becoming a debt trap with the promise, one hopes, of quality employment. However, more often than not, we do not have anything to offer other than part-time, temporary or contract work, with few or no benefits.

It is millennials and the upcoming generation who are facing the brunt of this new reality. It has them postponing important life milestones, like starting a family and buying a home.

We heard heartbreaking stories when we hosted a national tour on precarious work, which culminated in the national forum here in Ottawa, a forum we called “The Precarious Generation: Millennials Fight Back”. I will never forget hearing from a young woman in Edmonton. In response to her stress working in precarious work, she was told by one of her employers that if she wanted security, what she needed to do was find a husband.

I remember a young woman in Windsor who talked about how she was working already on her second degree. She was living in her parents' basement. She hoped to find work as a result of her second degree. However, one thing she knew she was not able to do was to have children because she could never offer them what her parents had offered her.

We heard from workers across the country who were fed up with their jobs that did not provide any benefits, job security and the ability to build a future for them and potentially their families.

Let us be clear. Today's economic system paves the way for low wage jobs or stagnating incomes for the working class, This is at a time where the fortunes of the country are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a handful of people, namely big CEOs.

I am reminded of the way in which it is a systemic issue. Black Lives Matter activist, Hashim Yussuf, who spoke at our national forum, made it very clear by saying, “The system isn't broken, it was built this way”.

The stories we heard are a reflection of what is happening across Canada. Precarious work causes mental health issues, anguish, physical health issues and it prevents our society from moving forward. That is why I find it difficult today to stand here and talk about a motion to study it, rather than fix the problem. This is a testament of the government's preference to disguise its inaction as action or “caring”. The Liberals love to use that word.

We have seen this play out before. I am even reminded of what the Liberals have done on pharmacare. They know what the problem is, but they cannot seem to muster the political will to actually fix it.

There are solutions to the precarious work crisis. We toured the country to get a better sense of the problem and to come up with solutions. We consulted workers, students, teachers, experts in academia, trade unionists and community advocates. People are aware of the problem. We are not even close to finding a solution. The harsh reality is that the government has to invest in Canadians. It has to modernize the Canada Labour Code, but also change its hiring practices and trust workers. That means setting aside the interests of their cronies in big business.

What the government should have done is take action. I want to share with the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie and with all hon. members of the House the call to action launched by the people who took part in our tour and the forum, “The Precarious Generation: Millennials Fight Back”. It was a call for action that was heard by the NDP, but clearly not by the Liberal government.

The time has come for Canada to implement a decent employment policy. The emergence of precarious work is a clear indicator that the status quo is not working. Too many Canadians with full-time jobs are unable to escape the cycle of poverty. Most of the new jobs being created are part-time, low-paying jobs with few or no benefits. We can and must do better. We can start by introducing a $15 minimum wage, regulating temporary placement agencies, combatting sub-contracting, including in the public service, and putting an end to the exploitation of migrant workers by giving them a path to citizenship.

We must also do more to improve the social safety net, something the government is well aware needs to happen. As Canadians, we say that we are proud of our social safety net, but thanks to precarious work, young Canadians are experiencing first-hand why we need to expand it. Many millennials have no private benefit plans. With only 38% of Canadians able to access employment insurance benefits, many also face precarious unemployment. We must therefore change El and bring in a universal 360 hours of work measurement so people can access it.

We must implement public insurances where the private sector is increasingly failing, like pharmacare and dental care. We must also put an end to the housing crisis and implement a national housing strategy that leaves no one behind.

As I stand in the House, I think of the hundreds of young people who were part of our national tour on precarious work and part of our forum. I think of with what sincerity they shared the anguish and stress they were going through.

I remember hearing from parents and families who are worried about the future of their kids because of the rise of precarious work.

To act or not to act on this matter is not a matter of choice. The government has clearly chosen to postpone action on this front and make it look as though it cares. This crisis is happening now and it deserves immediate action. Canadians, particularly young Canadians, can no longer wait.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the motion put forward by my hon. colleague from Sault Ste. Marie on precarious employment. I certainly enjoy working with him on industry committee. He brings a depth of experience to everything he does. I really thank him for bringing this forward for us to talk about in the House and hopefully take forward to committee.

The committee work that is done for the House of Commons by members of all parties and by the witnesses who come from across Canada to share their expertise is critical to us developing good policy in Canada. I really do not want to undersell the advantage that we have as members of Parliament to put our committees to good use, to give us the input we need to come up with good regulations and good laws.

As I begin, I would like to share the story of one of my constituents. Karen is a personal support worker in Guelph. Personal support workers care for the elderly, the disabled and sick persons in their homes by providing services such as bathing and dressing and even just being there for conversation. Karen can work up to 70 or 80 hours in a week. She works full-time hours but she is classified as part time. In her own words she, "takes care of sick people but doesn't have a sick day." Karen has no pension and her benefits are not guaranteed. She says, "Because my employer says I'm part time, I have to requalify for benefits every year, by working at least 1,500 hours.”

She told me that last year her friend, another precarious worker, found out she had cancer. She missed a lot of work because she was so sick, and then she lost her benefits.

Karen's story is not unusual. She is paid $15 an hour during her time with clients, but she is not paid for her travel time. She cannot afford a car so she often rides the bus 30 to 45 minutes between appointments. She has no guaranteed hours in a week and she has no job security. Karen is a precarious worker.

Precarious employment is non-standard work that lacks stability, security and control. It can be part-time or temporary and it is under-protected by regulation.

This emerging trend is the reason this motion has found its way to the floor of the House of Commons. This motion would direct the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to undertake a study on precarious employment.

The emergence of precarious workers is a result of a rapidly changing marketplace. The standard employment relationship, the term for permanent, full-time, secure employment with a single employer, is still the most common form of job. The proportions of standard employment relationships, though, are dropping. However, as Karen's story tells us, norms do not reflect everyone's reality.

The rise of precarious employment is concerning for a number of economic and political reasons. It reflects a growing inequality in Canada and it contributes to racial and gender divisions in our society. Most worker advocates talk about the economic unfairness of precarious employment and the problems it creates in the labour market and in communities.

Precarious employment is also a health and safety issue, as has been discussed in other speeches in the House today. The status of being a precarious worker leads to worsened health and safety outcomes.

Precarious workers earn less and are less likely to have benefits or may have fewer benefits than other workers. Women, immigrants and young workers are more likely to hold precarious jobs than other Canadians. This leads to unequal access to some of our health care services, such as medication or counselling services that are available to other Canadians.

The status of being a precarious worker leads to worsened health and safety outcomes overall. Repeated studies with different types of precarious workers have shown that they are also more likely to be injured, for example, hotel cleaners who work for a temp agency. Most will be women who are paid low wages and have little job security or control over their schedules. Their work will be physically demanding and if they are unwell they are reluctant to call in sick for fear of not being hired again.

That is not to disparage temp agencies. As a small business employer myself, I did not have an HR department to help screen candidates. I did not have an HR department to help do the pre-training required to meet the conditions of my employment. Using temp agencies gave me access to labour that I would not have had on my own, apart from calling friends and neighbours about who they knew might be available for work. Temp agencies do have their place.

We have to look at the impact on workers chronically going through short-term contracts, never getting to full employment, never getting benefits or the security they need, mentally and physically, to be able to fulfill their lives in Canada.

Some studies suggest that jobs that demand a lot of effort but provide workers with little control over their work and little support can damage workers' health via stress. Currently, little to no work has been done to determine how to reduce the ill effects of precarious work, in large part because precarious work is just becoming recognized as a health and safety hazard.

To confront a problem like precarious employment, we first need to know more details. This is where the motion by the member for Sault Ste. Marie can play a very meaningful role. By attaching a definition and identifying the indicators of precarious employment, we can understand the cause and effect, so that we can provide recommendations to reverse this trend in the labour market. We can also hear from Canadians with lived experience, who might otherwise not have a voice to come forward.

However, the motion goes further in part two. It stresses the need to identify the role that precarious employment plays in the economy, particularly within the federally regulated private sector, to understand the impact it has on the lives of individual Canadians, like our study at the industry committee on how we could get more diversity on boards so that we would have better representation of all Canadians in the governance of companies. This study would say how we could get all Canadians participating in the labour force.

That the nature of work and the employment relationship can affect workers' health is a new concept. It requires us to rethink what constitutes a hazard and how hazards can cause health consequences, including how they interact with non-work aspects of workers' lives. It also causes us to contemplate new ways of controlling these new types of hazards.

One sure-fire way to reduce the health effects of precarity is to create jobs that are more secure and to support workers more fully. This solution requires broad-scale social, political, and economic change. I would also argue that it has to be environmentally sustainable.

As my speech draws to a close, I encourage all my colleagues to support the motion before us today. The labour market is changing. We need to understand how and where gaps are forming as a result of these changes in the market.

The first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one. Canada's labour markets are changing and government policy needs to change with them. This review would help provide insight into the current changing situation and recommendations on how to manage this emerging problem, which would allow for more detailed debate in the House.

I again thank my hon. colleague from Sault Ste. Marie for bringing this forward for debate and for all he does to serve his community and Canadians.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate . I will just let the hon. member for Perth—Wellington know that we are just shy of the 10 minutes available. I do not want to say much more than that, as I do not want to cut into his time. We will let him get under way.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to participate in the debate on Motion No. 194, tabled by the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie. It is a worthwhile motion and the official opposition will support it.

However, I have to question why we are using House time to debate the motion. Not that it is not a worthwhile topic, not that it is not something that is worthwhile to be studied, but could the motion not have been tabled at the standing committee? Could the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities not undertaken the motion on its own?

Certainly, for parliamentarians, having a private member's slot come up is like winning the lottery. I know I am No. 235 on the order of precedence, so I will be significantly older than I am now by the time that number comes up. I suspect that probably will not happen within this Parliament.

However, I wonder why we are debating the motion here to undertake a study at a standing committee. Could we not use this time to do that within the committee itself?

As I said, we will be supporting the motion and we will undertake the study at committee. It is that part that I would like to focus on today, the study that will be undertaken at committee.

The motion calls for the standing committee to “develop a definition of precarious employment, including specific indicators.” I think that is worthwhile. There currently is not a coherent definition of what might constitute precarious employment.

We did receive a helpful research project from the Library of Parliament, which talked about precarious employment. I thought the first paragraph was worthwhile to read, if only for the purpose of starting a conversation. It states:

Simply put, precarious employment is a “bad job”. However, problems arise when we try to define and measure more precisely the characteristics that constitute a “bad job”. According to the International Labour Organization, precarious employment refers to an inadequacy of rights and protection at work. This can apply to informal work, but also to several types of formal work, including subcontracting, temporary contracts, interim work, certain types of self-employment and involuntary part-time work. These types of employment are more precarious because they are associated with reduced financial security stemming from lower wages, less access to benefits such as private pension plans and complementary health insurance, and greater uncertainty about future employment income.

That encompasses a lot of what most Canadians would consider precarious employment. However, at the same time, as in so much of what we debate, there is always a grey zone. What one person might constitute as precarious employment, others might constitute as innovation, as risk-taking, as starting something new. We have to be mindful of this.

I want to focus on this kind of concept of the definition of what might encompass precarious employment so we are not going against what we might want to be encouraging in the economy.

First is self-employment. Self-employment by its definition does come with risks. It is precarious. Nonetheless, it is something we should still be encouraging. We should still be encouraging those who want to set out on their own to start their own businesses, to try something new, to take that risk. We want to encourage that even if it is precarious, even if it is a risk. That is what built our country, hard-working risk-taking Canadians who were willing to go out and try something new. Innovation comes from that, when those risks are taken, when people start something new, when they start new businesses. They find new products and they go out on their own. It is precarious, no question about it, but is that the definition we are encompassing within the motion?

I am certainly very honoured, as a member of the official opposition, to serve in the shadow cabinet as the shadow secretary for the sharing economy. Certainly, the sharing economy is something new. It is different. It is changing how we do business and it is changing how we work within the economy. While this specific example is new, disruptions within the economy are not new. We have seen disruptions in how we work for centuries.

We saw the printing press in the 1400s. The printing press changed how the world operated and changed how we worked. The industrial revolution changed how we worked. The invention of the telephone changed how we communicated and how we worked.

The early 20th century saw the personal automobile become mainstream. We saw electricity in homes, indoor lighting, refrigeration and electric appliances.

The mid- to late-20th century saw the advent of the ATM and the expansion of credit, including credit cards. The 1980s to the 2000s saw the microchip revolution and the invention of the Internet, although Al Gore may claim otherwise. It changed how we work and how the economy functioned. Today it is changing again. We are living in the smartphone generation, the WiFi age, and it is changing as we speak.

We cannot predict what the next disruption in the economy might be. We cannot predict what changes are going to happen a week from now, let alone a year from now, but we have to be prepared to recognize that those changes are coming and that those changes are going to affect how we work and how our economy functions on a day-to-day basis. I do not think we have really recognized that. Other countries have. Other countries have gone to extensive lengths to try to adapt and prepare for the changes in the economy.

I want to focus specifically on the sharing economy, because that is my interest. It is considered precarious employment by many.

The United Kingdom has done extensive research and preparation on how it will deal with the sharing economy. Indeed, the Minister of State for Business, Enterprise and Energy commissioned an extensive study on this. He did not have a private member's motion to do the study. He just did the study on his own, which showed innovation. He commissioned a study. In his forward to the study, he said:

The U.K. is embracing new, disruptive business models and challenger businesses that increase competition and offer new products and experiences for consumers. Where other countries and cities are closing down consumer choice, and limiting people’s freedom to make better use of their possessions, we are embracing it.

Canada would do well to follow that example. We should be embracing innovation, embracing the sharing economy, and finding out how we can do better for consumers and those who are participating in the sharing economy. The sharing economy and that aspect of the economy is not going away. In fact, it is becoming larger. The same U.K. study said:

the sharing economy is currently worth £9 bn—with this set to rise to a massive £230 bn by 2025.

Canada is not quite yet where the U.K. has gone in embracing the sharing economy, but the sharing economy is nonetheless present in Canada. Indeed, a recent study by Statistics Canada showed that Canadians spent approximately $241 million in 2016-17 on peer-to-peer ride-sharing services within Canada. That is the Ubers and the Lyfts of the world. We are seeing how these types of activities are gaining ground.

Indeed, I was recently privileged to join my colleague, the member for Barrie—Innisfil, in his riding and spoke with the mayor of Innisfil. They are using new technology, the Uber platform, instead of a mass transit system. It is showing innovation and how we can use new technologies.

I have appreciated the opportunity to speak to this motion. I recognize that this will be going to committee and we will be having further study. The important thing is that we need to recognize where the study needs to go and how to embrace some of the changes and innovation in the economy.

Precarious EmploymentPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

November 22nd, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, tonight I rise regarding a question I asked the minister several months ago. Although a lot of time has passed, I think the issue is even more relevant today than when I asked it at that time, which I certainly did not feel I got a satisfactory response to.

It was about the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. At the time, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations had just granted the commissioners a limited six-month extension. It is important to say from the outset that when the government decided to move ahead with this inquiry, all parties in the House said they would support it, but it was not unconditional support. It was a support in the expectation that the government would create success.

What we meant by success is so important. It was peace for the families, for them to be able to share their tragedies, knowing that someone cared and was listening to them and that perhaps even some of the cases would be reflected on again. The other important thing that we wanted to see was a positive path forward with action items. Those were important, and we truly are waiting. We will see if we get that kind of response.

The inquiry's original budget was $53 million and we wanted to know how it was spent. We wanted to know how much funding would be associated with the extension. Of course, we did not get any answer at that time, but last week in the supplementary estimates, we noticed that $38 million was added to the inquiry. The budget now stands at $92 million for the two and a half years. I cannot help but compare that with to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which had a six-year mandate, or perhaps three times the length of this inquiry, but did it with $60 million. We have $98 million for a two and a half year inquiry, and approximately $60 million that was spent on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

We are still looking for some clarity. Why was $38 million needed for a six-month extension when the majority of the work, hopefully, was done in those first two years with the initial budget?

This is important because $38 million represents indigenous opportunities to do things. We have grassroots organizations across this country, especially our urban indigenous groups. Whether it is in support of their plan, whether it is a friendship centre, or whether it is some of the other urban aboriginal organizations, they are making a difference on the ground. What has happened to them? Their funding is on halt while the government says it has to put the programs on hold because it needs to do some more consultations. There is $38 million that is going to the inquiry for six months to finish this initiative, but meanwhile we have urban indigenous organizations that are actually doing the important work on prevention and yet are being told, “Sorry, we need to have some further consultations. Maybe next year we will have some funding for you.“

The government members promised to continue with important action while they did the inquiry and, quite frankly, they are failing.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Marc Miller Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, Canada is committed to ending the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has been directed to examine the broad systemic and institutional failures that have led to and perpetuated the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Our government gave the inquiry an extension in order to provide more time for the families to be heard. This extension will also provide additional time for institutional and expert hearings and to finalize the report. After listening to survivors and family members, indigenous organizations and the provinces and territories, the commission asked for more time to carry out its important work. This request for more time had to be balanced with the needs of the families, foremost, who have been waiting years for answers.

Our government is confident that this six-month extension will enable the commission to deliver on its mandate to provide recommendations on the systemic causes of violence against indigenous women and girls. However, we have not waited for the final report to act. Since the inquiry was officially launched on August 3, 2016, we have been making progress. We have taken immediate action with investments in women's shelters, housing, education, and the reform of child and family services. As well, we have responded to the inquiry's interim recommendations by providing nearly $50 million in additional investments.

Canada is dedicating an additional $9.6 million over five years to support the RCMP's national investigative standards and practices unit. Funding was also provided for organizations with expertise in law enforcement and policing to review police policies and practices.

Our government is increasing health supports and victim services for families and survivors. We are also expanding the family liaison units that were set up to help families navigate the system and get the information they need. We have also allocated an additional $38 million to assist the inquiry with its operational needs during the extension and to provide aftercare to families and survivors who testify.

We remain committed to working with indigenous governments and communities, the provinces and territories and other key partners to end the unacceptable rates of violence against indigenous women and girls in this country. Our government will continue to support and empower indigenous women and girls.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will again reiterate that we all want to see this report in the House and the change that was promised. I acknowledge that I continue to be concerned. As we watched the inquiry, we saw personnel, whether it was chief executive officers or commissioners, leave.

Most importantly, the parliamentary secretary talked about money spent here and money spent there, but across this country, urban indigenous organizations are truly making a difference. I will use the Bear Clan again as an example. In the first hour I spent with them, there was a sexual assault that they very capably and compassionately dealt with. They were told that the government would not have the $100,000 they might need, because it is doing more consulting.

He talked about a lot of programs, but, quite frankly, the organizations I am hearing from are not seeing it on the ground.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Lib.

Marc Miller

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for her advocacy for indigenous rights. I encourage her to perpetuate that within her party.

Clearly, this is not theoretical. People are suffering and wounds are being reopened by this inquiry. Friends of mine have testified at this inquiry and, indeed, the healing has barely begun. My sympathy goes out to them and I have deep concern for their well-being.

As well, there has been an impact on commissioners. We cannot deny that people have left. This is an extremely hard job and I salute those who have pushed through this and, nevertheless, striven to turn out a report that will be insightful to the systemic violence incurred by indigenous women and girls.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:15 p.m.)