House of Commons Hansard #432 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was projects.


Notice of Closure MotionCanada–United States–Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It being 5:32 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's Order Paper.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

June 12th, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.


Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, 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 the creation of a federal trades strategy, to consider, amongst other things, (i) regional labour shortages in the skilled trades, (ii) the impact that labour shortages could have on major projects across Canada, (iii) how skills shortages are exacerbating these labour shortages by preventing workers from being able to find employment.

Madam Speaker, I stand in the House today to call attention to the enigma of our time. Too many Canadians are seeking good, quality, secure jobs with too little help. At the same time, too many industries are in desperate need of skilled workers. Therein lies the opportunity. As such, I am tabling this motion to establish a federal trade strategy to consider, among other things, regional labour shortages in the skilled trades, the impact labour shortages could have on major projects across this great nation, and how skill shortages are exacerbating these labour shortages by preventing workers from being able to find employment.

We have made remarkable strides since being elected almost four years ago. One of our greatest achievements, on which we have all worked so diligently together, is that by working together, we have established an environment in which to create one million new jobs since November 2015. However, as we celebrate this achievement, we know that there is much more work to do to further progress.

Some provinces and regions across this great country are struggling to find enough workers to fill open positions. Niagara is no exception. This is what I will speak to today: the severe shortage of skilled trades workers and how important it is that we take action now.

Niagara, not unlike other jurisdictions, is beginning to experience a skilled trades shortage. There is a need for welders, pipefitters, boilermakers, seafarers, tile setters, plumbers, technicians, cooks, chefs, and other hands-on, hard-working skilled tradespeople. I have heard from our business community, our overall community, residents and others, as well as union partners across Niagara, as have my colleagues here in the House, that there is an immediate and severe lack of skilled tradespeople.

The Ontario Construction Secretariat conducted a survey in the first few months of this year to understand key issues affecting the industrial, commercial and institutional construction sector in the province of Ontario. Of the 500 contractors surveyed, 72% identified a skilled labour shortage and the recruitment of skilled workers as the main challenge facing the industry. Not surprisingly, this problem has had wide-ranging impacts, including increased project delays and costs, the need to turn down work and overall slowed growth.

Our government can help. Our government will help.

Thanks to the efforts of the hon. Patti Hajdu, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order. The hon. member knows that he is not to mention the names of MPs or ministers who sit in the House. I would ask him to be mindful of that.

The hon. member for Niagara Centre.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, thanks to the efforts of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, our government has significantly boosted federal support to provinces and territories, by $2.7 billion over six years. This is to help more unemployed and under-employed Canadians access the training and employment supports they need to find and keep good jobs. We have also invested $225 million over four years to identify and fill skills gaps in the economy to help Canadians be best prepared for the new economy.

However, we cannot do it alone. We have worked with our partners to bring forward federal support. It is critical that our working relationship continues well into the future.

Although we have momentum to build on, we, as a government and as a country, must continue to listen. We must be engaged with our partners, employees and employers to best understand their unique needs. By engaging with and encouraging people to tell their stories, we promote understanding and create the framework we can use to work toward our common goals.

As one of our partners put it, “Nothing about us without us”. Thankfully, employers and employees alike see the value in working together.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress and one of our many partners, said, “ Workers need to retool and upgrade their skills in order to be successful and to succeed in Canada's rapidly changing labour market, but far too often, they're not getting the support they need. Today Canada's public spending on training is about half the OECD average, and in real terms, employers invest less in per-employee training and adult learning than they did 25 years ago. Too many employers simply do not invest in on-the-job training and vocational education for workers, and it is holding us back.

“Employers need a new generation of skilled workers to replace retiring baby boomers, and workers need access to skills training as well as upgrading to cope with the technological change and the impact of climate change policies. We can overcome the skills shortages, but we need to listen to stakeholders and learn what works in other jurisdictions.”

Support for this motion and the creation of a federal trade strategy is wide-ranging and spans industries.

Arlene Dunn, of Canada's Building Trades Unions, said, “It is absolutely crucial that the Government of Canada instruct the appropriate body and include the appropriate stakeholders to undertake a study of the creation of a federal trades strategy to ensure Canada remains both nationally and globally competitive and well prepared for the future while utilizing all resources available.”

However, a federal trades strategy does not help where demand outpaces the supply of workers. For example, Canada's marine industry is thriving, and in Niagara, home of the Welland Canal within the St. Lawrence Seaway system on the Great Lakes, there are more applicants than jobs, yet there are struggles with access to the necessary training to open opportunities to new workers.

Jim Given, president of the Seafarers' International Union of Canada, said, “Though we have seen a surplus of applications for Canadians and permanent residents interested in joining the industry, continued access to proper training, funding for education and providing upgrading opportunities for current seafarers is essential.

“In having government work with labour organizations to identify current labour and skills gaps, we can together ensure that the future needs of our country's marine transportation industry are met and that these good-paying middle-class jobs are made available to Canadians both entering the labour market as well as those looking to transfer current skills to this growing industry.

“We are encouraged to see this government take the necessary steps to undertake a study to identify labour shortages in the industry with a view to developing and creating a federal trades strategy that will, among other things, assist our industry to ensure our mariners have access to the resources necessary to retain and improve the skill sets needed for the industry as well as to recruit and train the next generation of seafarers.”

There is, however, one aspect of partnerships that we have yet to discuss, and that is the how. While it is certainly critical to identify skills gaps and the need to train new workers, we also need to consider how we will accomplish this. In one sense, the answer is deceptively simple: Invite our partners, our high schools, our post-secondary institutions, the private sector, the unions and all levels of government to the table.

During my former life as a mayor, we worked with our partners as just described, and we were successful in putting in place a program that brought students together, beginning at the secondary school level, into the skilled trades.

Today, we continue to work with our partners to further the interests of employers as well as employees. Dialogue has begun to contribute to the context of what a federal skilled trades strategy will look like and what we would like to work toward. For example, through consistent dialogue with our partners, we have heard, loud and clear, and recognize that balancing parental roles and work life in the construction industry is critical, as is balancing multiple priorities, making trade-off decisions and placing high value on tradespeople who are in fact raising families.

Retirements and an aging population are beginning to have an impact on the future of our industries. Knowledge and technical transfer to strategically support the processes to innovate and adapt to changing environmental, safety, production and market conditions are factors that must be a priority.

Unions have taken leadership roles in the work of skilled trades promotion and advocacy. Many of them have hired in-house rank and file member expertise whose jobs it is to focus entirely on the promotion of their trade and raising its public profile.

We need to work with them to do more education, educating young people about the opportunity to access well-paid, in-demand, highly valuable training, and teaching them about the economics associated with belonging to the skilled, organized trades, such as the exemplary pensions included, as well as health and welfare benefits and the ability to obtain a rewarding career.

If we are going to succeed in making a real tangible difference for under-represented groups, we must in fact advocate for the implementation of strategic tools that build community wealth and human capacity, which is beneficial for under-represented groups, veterans and persons with disabilities, offering them tremendous opportunities that unfortunately might not exist otherwise. In doing so, we create the opportunity to learn from experts in education, as well as training, and identify existing programs that can be adapted or changed to meet local and national industry needs, as well as attaching safety training at a younger age to ensure safer working environments.

In Niagara, we are extremely fortunate and proud to have Niagara College and Brock University working to this end. As good corporate citizens, responsible neighbours and community leaders, these institutions do an amazing job of not only providing education but also understanding the unique needs of the community they serve.

A common thread for Niagara College and Brock University are well-developed, tried-and-true, co-operative education programs through which students learn in a hands-on environment taught by industry experts. Applying classroom knowledge to real world, on-the-job experiences better prepares students to be successful in the workforce. Consequently, employers are more confident that their needs can be met and spend less money retraining or compensating for a lack of skilled workers.

Secondary schools can also be a big part of this equation. Through programs such as the specialist high skills major program, which is part of the Ministry of Education's student success initiative in the province of Ontario, dual credit and co-op program students are better prepared to transition successfully into the workforce, whereby co-op programs at the secondary school level can begin.

Mark Cherney, business manager of the IBEW Local 303 and president of the Niagara and Haldimand Building Trades Council, tells us, “Shortages in the skilled trades are a genuine concern. With a national strategic skilled trades plan, we could better predict where and when these shortfalls will occur and how labour mobility from across the country can serve to mitigate shortages. A study on how labour mobility strategies can be explored, as well as attracting and retaining more women, indigenous people, youth and new Canadians to a career path in the skilled trades, is needed. The current government has done a great job investing in the skilled trades. Now is the time for the next step, and that is for a national strategy.”

In summary, Mark Cherney says, “A unified national Red Seal standard for compulsory skilled trades will go a long way to tackle the concerns of skills shortages."

It has been a great pleasure this evening to present this motion to my colleagues in the House. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish by working together to find solutions to such challenges.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his efforts on an issue that many of us care about.

My concern is really about the substance of what is being proposed. He and other colleagues on the Liberal side have felt that calling for a study on an important issue is good enough and that is simply not the case. I remind him and his colleagues that they are part of a government that could be taking action on a number of key issues facing working people, including labour shortages and access to the trades.

I have many more questions on my mind. Why are we not studying the stagnating wages afflicting so many working people? Why are we not addressing the root causes of the shortages that they face?

Would the member be open to broadening the topic of this study to issues other than labour shortages in order for the committee to have the full scope of the issues and for a trades strategy to truly be meaningful and make a difference for Canadians?

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, quite frankly, we have already begun through the efforts of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. Once again, our government has significantly boosted federal support to the provinces and territories by $2.7 billion over six years.

There is no doubt that as we move forward together, not only members on this side of the House but members on all sides of the House, as well as all our partners, we look forward to hearing those very comments the member brought up so that the strategy is all encompassing, not only including the best interests of employees but also those of employers and those who are under-represented so that all interests can be included within a federal trades strategy.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that my colleague from Niagara Centre brought this motion forward.

If this was such a huge issue for him and his constituents and certainly for his region, earlier this year the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville brought up a similar motion to study the skilled labour shortage in the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas. At that time, Conservative members of the committee asked why we would not expand this study to include a Canada-wide study into the skilled labour shortage, and the Liberals at that time refused that amendment.

If it is important now, why was it not just as important then? We could have started this study in committee in this session, had the Liberals supported that amendment.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

That was a great point, Madam Speaker.

Once again I will repeat what I said earlier. We have already begun this process. This is a process that I began in my former life as a mayor, working with our local partners, industry and education, as well as unions and others, to put forward strategies to ensure that we introduced the trades to our younger students so that they could get introduced to something that they might be interested in doing as a career.

Now working with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, we extended that by giving federal support to different jurisdictions throughout the country. Yes, there was a lot of financial support but also support through other programs and other ministries that were also put in place to look after this program.

What is most important is that we do receive not only some tangible evidence but also action plans to attach to deliverables that, ultimately, will be attached to a federal strategy.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for touching on a topic that is near and dear to my heart as a mechanical engineering technologist from Red River College in Winnipeg.

We looked at the issue of funding through the EI program, through budget 2019. Maybe earlier this year, that was just rolling out. However, there is more than financial issues. There are also ratios between journeymen and apprentices that vary from province to province. Would coordinating some efforts across Canada be something that the member would be willing to consider in this study?

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, in one word, I say absolutely. Just recently, the minister and I met with all of the building trades of Ontario, which I mentioned earlier. That subject was brought up and that we would be looking at those very issues. This is not just the obvious. There is a lot work to be done here. Although the minister has started, our job right now is to continue, to take it to the next level and to ensure that a trades strategy is all encompassing.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, it is great to stand and speak about a very important issue tonight, and that is the lack of access or inability for some regions of this country to access the very important skilled labour they need to ensure that their businesses are successful and that Canada can build the important infrastructure it needs.

I know I asked this question of my hon. colleague in the question and answer portion, but I want to highlight the frustration of Conservative and NDP colleagues at committee when, earlier this year, we were debating Motion No. 190, looking at labour shortages in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area. We asked the sponsor of that motion, the Liberal member for Mississauga East—Cooksville, whether he would be open to an amendment to the motion that the HUMA committee study labour shortages and imbalances, especially in the skilled trades, not just in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, but in the entire country. I was really surprised that the Liberals continue to talk, and again tonight, about how critical this issue is, but at that time, the Liberal members of the committee and the sponsor of that motion said that the Liberal Party was not going to support that amendment, and it was refused.

Had that amendment been approved at that time, we very likely could have had this study completed by the end of this session. Unfortunately, since my colleague from Niagara Centre has brought up this motion so late in this Parliament, it is very unlikely that any work will be done on this study. I am disappointed that something as important as this will not get addressed in this Parliament because his colleagues refused to expand on an earlier study at committee, which is truly unfortunate.

There are labour shortages in the skilled trades that are more in demand, certainly as our population ages. I think all of us here would agree, and we know from meetings with stakeholders across the country, that our aging population is going to be putting a very real stress on our labour situation. From the numbers we have heard, over 400,000 jobs in Canada are unfilled. That is why I was really proud to see the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, bring forward a policy or a platform that we are going to be undertaking a government-wide initiative on addressing labour shortages, and a big part of that will be appointing a minister of internal trade.

The focus of that will be to remove interprovincial trade barriers, which are really holding back our economy and our ability to grow our economy in Canada. From the statistics we have seen, this is costing our Canadian economy $130 billion in lost GDP, but it is also impacting the ability of skilled tradespeople to move from one province to another when their certifications are not recognized from one province to another. There have certainly been some issues with labour mobility that we also could have addressed as part of a study on a nationwide strategy.

The idea of having a dedicated minister of internal trade also builds on the work of previous Conservative governments, which brought forward the apprenticeship incentive grant in 2009 and the apprenticeship completion grant, also in 2009. We provided funding for more than 530,000 apprenticeship grants, totalling almost $700 million, to ensure that Canadians could complete their training.

I was really proud, in 2014, to be part of a government that created the Canada apprentice loan. I remember distinctly that at that time, as we were having the discussion in the House, we heard that more than 50% of Canadians who start an apprenticeship program never complete it. That was a huge void that we saw under our Conservative government, and we tried to address it by initiating the Canada apprentice loan program. It was there to provide Canadians with the opportunities to finish their programs.

As my colleague mentioned in his intervention as well, we should not have more welders or pipefitters in Alberta right now. There is a surplus of these very skilled tradespeople. Earlier this year, I was in a training facility for the boilermakers and pipefitters union in Edmonton, and 70% of their members are out of work. I could discuss why that is the case, and certainly Bill C-69 and the tanker ban are very distinct reasons for why that is the case. Cancelling the northern gateway pipeline, bungling the Trans Mountain expansion and regulating energy east out of existence are three very big reasons why we are facing this job crunch in Alberta.

That being the case, having these skilled tradespeople unemployed and not working in Alberta when they are desperately needed in other parts of the country, it just goes to show that we have some issues we should be addressing.

I wonder if my colleague from Niagara Centre would be open to amending his motion. I do not want to read the entire motion, as we have a minimal amount of time, but I would like to add the word “imbalances” to his first bullet point so that it would read, “regional labour imbalances in the skilled trades”.

I would also like to add a fourth section to his motion. I hope he would be amenable to approving this amendment. I would like to add:

(iv) how interprovincial harmonization of professional and trades certifications and training could assist unemployed and underemployed workers in the skilled trades find work in other regions by encouraging greater labour mobility and portability of qualifications in Canada.

I think that something all of us in this House could agree we have heard from many of our stakeholders is the inability to have the certifications of trades workers recognized from one province to another. The encouragement of labour mobility is a huge issue that I would like to see us try to address. We could have addressed it had we been able to do a study earlier, which is unfortunate.

This goes to a larger narrative with the current Liberal government when it comes to doing what it says and saying what it does. To bring this up so late in this Parliament almost ensures there is not going to be any significant work done on it.

However, it also brought out the Canada skilled training program. I was really interested to ask the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour about this program when she was at committee. One of the stipulations of this program, which is supposed to be part of the skilled trades strategy, is that it does not proceed unless there is an agreement with all the other provinces. The provinces would have to amend their leave provisions in their own labour code to ensure that the skilled training program would even work. When I asked the minister if she had these agreements in place, she could not answer that question. I asked the officials and they said they had not started those negotiations. Therefore, this pillar of the 2019 budget, which is supposed to address the skilled trades shortage across the country, very likely will not happen.

Certainly, the discussions we have heard from the premiers over the last two days, and their relationship with the current Liberal government and the Prime Minister, is that he is calling them out as a threat to Canadian unity and confederation. I am very confident that a lot of these premiers are not going to be in a big rush to sign an agreement on a Liberal labour initiative when they have to change their own labour code. There is a lot of window dressing and things that come out that the Liberals want to try to address, but when it comes to the actual work of governing, they fall woefully short.

In saying that, I want to assure my colleague from Niagara Centre, who has brought this motion forward, that even if he does not support the amendment I have proposed, we will be supporting this motion because I believe that addressing the issue of a lack of skilled trades is important.

I toured the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and its new new construction campus and petroleum engineering campus last week. It is an incredible facility. It just shows the opportunities we have and that the training facilities are there. We just have to ensure Canadians understand that these are opportunities that are well paid. Going into the skilled trades is not a demeaning career choice. This is an outstanding career choice with incredible opportunities and very high incomes. We just have to ensure we change some of those misperceptions about what goes on there.

One of the areas where we do have a real opportunity is in attracting more women into the skilled trades. One of the more interesting studies I have done here as a parliamentarian, when we were in government, was at the status of women committee on encouraging women to get into the skilled trades. I have read through that study. It had some outstanding testimony and recommendations from our stakeholders. Less than 5% of the participation in many of these skilled trades is by women. We have seen in northern Alberta where heavy-duty mechanics and the people driving that large equipment are women. Therefore, I think we have some great opportunities there.

I wish we could have done this study and found some resolution to this.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to discuss the matter of the motion on a federal trades strategy, Motion No. 227, put forward by my colleague from Niagara Centre. This motion proposes a study of the creation of a strategy that would consider labour shortages in the skilled trades as well as the impact these shortages could have on major projects across the country.

We in the NDP welcome initiatives to gather more information and data on labour issues and shortages, and we will support this motion, but reluctantly, because this motion's stance is nowhere near what we need to tackle the problems Canadian trades workers and Canadian workers are facing.

First, this motion is missing a key fact, which is that rampant labour shortages in the skilled trades industries are not happening all across our country. There are labour shortages in some regions, and they need to be documented, but the context of these shortages needs to be appropriately discussed. While there are shortages in specific sectors and regions, it is not an industry-wide phenomenon across the country.

Focusing on the overall unemployment rate or job growth data is not acceptable when this data does not include important facts, such as the unemployment rate being higher among both youth and older workers, for example. We know that 10% of young people in Canada are unemployed, as opposed to 5% of the overall population.

It is also important to consider the perspectives of all parties in the study my colleague is putting forward. Any study on labour shortages must include vigorous consultation with unions and labour representatives, including rank and file labour activists, to understand the unique issues facing different industries, because it would be an uneven perspective otherwise. If one asks workers, they will say that despite labour shortages, wages are not increasing, which should clue the government in to the fact that the issue is not simply one of shortages across the country.

It is still taking Canadians just as long to find jobs as it did during the great recession of 2008. The average duration of unemployment during the great recession was 21 weeks, while the average duration of unemployment in 2008 was 15 weeks. In 2018, the average duration of unemployment was 19 weeks. It is taking workers four weeks longer to find work now than it did 10 years ago.

The CFIB put out a business barometer that found that nearly 47% of small and mid-sized businesses are being held back by a lack of skilled labour in several provinces. We know that in British Columbia, for example, multiple large-scale construction projects that are under way are facing a serious labour shortage. Provinces such as Ontario expect a shortage of 100,000 skilled workers within the next 15 years. Considering that unemployment is at a 43-year low, it is concerning that Canadian businesses are saying that they struggle to fill job vacancies, while at the same time, we know that Canadians are struggling to find employment. This kind of situation cannot stand.

What is the context for these labour shortages? FTQ Construction, the largest construction union in Quebec, told us about how industry workers are faring. Despite the labour shortages announced in the sector, the average construction worker in Quebec makes $38,853 per year. This compares rather poorly to the Quebec median income of $59,822. Moreover, 43% of construction workers make less than $29,999 per year, which is the living wage in Quebec for an adult with a child. FTQ Construction is right to affirm that “we will continue to say that there is no labour shortage so long as there are families who cannot make ends meet because they are not working enough hours”.

Basing the motion on broad labour shortages is simply not sufficient. If the government has not identified the problem correctly, it is not going to be able to find the proper solutions, no matter how hard it looks into labour shortages. There are solutions, but this pointless motion from the Liberals will not lead us to any of them. If we follow their lead on this, we will just be running in circles, and working-class families will continue to suffer from government inaction.

We must stand up for workers and their families. This motion will do nothing to help them, and it will not help anybody looking for a job to find one. Workers deserve a government that shares their concerns and takes wage stagnation seriously.

A recent OECD report found that 13.5% of jobs in Canada were at risk of automation and that 28.6% were at risk of significant changes due to increased automation in industries. Overall, more than 40% of the Canadian workforce is at risk of being replaced by automation in the next two decades.

Automation is a threat to the jobs of many workers and insisting that job shortages are a problem, while being unwilling to recognize the effect automation will have on employment, shows that the government does not get it and does not care about the workers who are most at risk of unemployment. Increasing access to both post-secondary education and jobs training will lessen the impending problems automation will pose in the future.

The NDP has solutions for helping workers. Canada's rural regions need help attracting labour, and that is why we are proposing to offer a tax credit directly to people who agree to move to our country's rural areas and stay there long-term.

We want to foster worker retention by offering a helping hand directly to workers. That is the kind of action that is needed to solve the problem.

We must also focus on finding legitimate answers as to why there may be shortages in the skilled trades. While it may be easy for Liberals to assume labour shortages are due to a lack of skilled workers, more research and data are necessary to reach conclusions on industries that have low job security. However, we will not find the solutions we need by proposing a motion where the premise of the study is that the only challenge the trades industry is facing is job shortages. The solution for labour shortages is to provide incentives that work for workers, not just for employers.

Furthermore, the topic of labour shortages is already under study in the human resources committee as of May 2019. This motion in front of us just shows that the Liberals are so dedicated to avoiding the real problems Canadians are facing that they would rather sponsor repetitive motions that will burden the HUMA committee and fail to help workers, than actually doing anything. Working-class Canadians deserve a government that is focused on supporting them with better education and living wages, not one that is just listening to employers by proposing motions under the incorrect assumption that the only obstacle the trades industry is facing is a country-wide labour shortage. This is simply not true.

It is not that a study to gather more information on the trades industry is a bad idea. It is just that this motion would not do anything worthwhile to solve the actual issues that are driving the labour shortage in the first place. Studying what should be a potential federal trades strategy should be seen as a good opportunity to help workers and promote investment in skills training. Any study that does not involve considerations of child care and access to education and training is not a study that would completely look at this issue.

Finally, this motion should prioritize workers' needs such as the right to make a decent living with a decent wage. Instead, it is just another meaningless gesture from the current Liberal government to feign its concern for the working-class people of Canada. The NDP believes that more can be done and we are proud to be on the side of working people in the fight against labour shortages and the fight for a decent living for working people.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Terry Sheehan Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking my colleague, the hon. member for Niagara Centre, for bringing forward such an important motion and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the merits of Motion No. 227 today. This motion presents an opportunity to explore solutions aimed at increasing participation and success in the skilled trades.

Today, I would like to highlight the measures our government is taking to enhance training and apprenticeship opportunities for Canadians in the skilled trades. Our government introduced the innovation and skills plan to build on Canada's strengths and address areas of concern along the innovation continuum, from people and skills, to building innovative ecosystems, to exporting and scaling up globally competitive companies across all sectors of the economy.

The innovation and skills plan includes measures to build a more diverse and inclusive trades workforce and help Canadians improve their skills and upgrade their credentials as they transition through their careers. Careers are now about lifelong learning. The trade trajectory is not just up and down as it used to be, but now we see lateral moves reflecting shifts in the economy and changes in the workplace, and this has been generally accelerating over the last few years.

One of the recurring ideas that came up during the study on my recent motion, Motion No. 194 on precarious employment in Canada, is the idea of lifelong learning and training. We heard from Andrew Cardozo from The Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy, who said budget 2019's “support for lifelong learning is great.” Our government has moved toward adopting a more robust national strategy for skills development, which is critically important to prepare Canadians for future work because this is the new normal.

Through the government's innovation and skills plan, the Canada training benefit will give workers more money to help pay for training, provide income support during training and offer job protection so that workers can take the time they need to keep their skills relevant and in demand and to ensure we have a skilled workforce available for employers when needed. Budget 2019 really is a skills budget, in that the government not only recognizes the shift away from traditional, lifelong, single-prong careers, but is actively responding through policy measures to the need for retraining in our workforce to develop alongside our advances in technology and innovation. The very factors changing the face of the workplace, innovation, AI, etc., and the types of skills required by employers to keep up with these shifts will change often over a person's working lifespan.

We are also investing $25 million annually to support union-based apprenticeship training, innovation and enhanced partnerships in the Red Seal trades through the union training and innovation program, UTIP. This program not only helps unions purchase equipment, it also supports innovative projects that break down barriers to getting into the trades, particularly for women, people with disabilities and indigenous people. In addition to UTIP, in budget 2018, we invested in other federal initiatives, such as the skilled trades awareness and readiness program, the apprenticeship incentive grant for women and the women in construction fund.

The skilled trades awareness and readiness program, an investment of $46 million over five years and $10 million per year thereafter, encourages Canadians, particularly those facing barriers, including women, indigenous people, newcomers, persons with disabilities and youth, to explore and prepare for careers in the skilled trades. In my riding of Sault Ste. Marie, the local chamber of commerce has been a champion of increasing indigenous participation in the trades. As we know, the population is growing significantly in all of northern Ontario.

We know that being a woman in a male-dominated industry can pose several barriers and can be specifically difficult for women who are unsure about how to break into the industry. That is why we want to encourage women to pursue careers in well-paying Red Seal trades and to ensure that they are increasingly able to model leadership to other aspiring female tradespeople.

To achieve this goal, we launched the apprenticeship incentive grant for women in December 2018. This new grant provides $3,000 per year or trade level to registered women apprentices who have successfully completed their first or second year or level of an apprenticeship program, up to a maximum of $6,000 in eligible Red Seal trades where women are under-represented. We allocated approximately $20 million over five years to pilot this program, which is expected to provide support to approximately 5,000 women over a five-year period of time.

We also invested $10 million over three years, starting in 2018-19, for the women in construction fund. This fund builds on existing models that have proven to be effective in attracting women to the trades. It provides supports such as mentoring, coaching and tailored supports that help women progress through their training and find and keep jobs in the trades.

Recently, I attended a skills trade forum organized by the Algoma District School Board in my riding, which was attended by unions, industry, parents, teachers and students. We heard from Jamie McMillan, an iron worker, who spoke enthusiastically about the positivity of being a woman in the skilled trades. Everyone was moved by her presentation as she spoke passionately about loving her work.

We also know that more needs to be done to help young Canadians get a good start in their working lives. That is why we are taking steps to make education more affordable by lowering the interest rates on Canada student loans and Canada apprenticeship loans, as well as eliminating interest charges entirely during the six-month grace period. Because we know that it is important to attract young workers to the skilled trades, we are making more investments in apprenticeship programs that support a skilled, mobile and certified skilled trades workforce.

For example, budget 2019 proposes to provide Skills Canada with $40 million over four years, starting in 2020-21, and $10 million per year ongoing to encourage more young people to consider training and work in the skilled trades. This investment will enable Skills Canada to continue to promote skilled trades and technologies to young people through skills competitions and by providing resources to better equip them for careers in the skilled trades.

We also propose to invest $6 million over two years, starting in 2019-20, to create a national campaign to promote the skilled trades as a first-choice career for young people.

According to Sarah Watts-Rynard, a former executive director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum:

...78% of those who pursued apprenticeship were not considering it while they were in high school.

Simply put, apprenticeship has not been promoted as an equal pillar of post-secondary education.

We need to change this perception around careers in the skilled trades, promoting their merits, including high demand, high wages and continual professional development.

Before I was an MP, I was an employment training consultant with the Ministry of Training, College and Universities. I was affectionately known as the “Apprenticeship Guy”. Therefore, I could not agree more that a national strategy for the skilled trades will help achieve the goal of promoting the fantastic benefits of working in the skilled trades.

Finally, budget 2019 proposes to develop an apprenticeship strategy to ensure that existing supports and programs available to apprentices will address the barriers faced by those who want to work in the skilled trades and support employers who face challenges in hiring and retaining apprentices.

Another great tool to increasing our skills trades people in Canada, for which I have been strongly advocating, is a northern and rural immigration program.

Since 2015, we have made it a priority to help people get the education and training they need to find good jobs and build better lives for themselves and their families. The proposed federal trades strategy will support the building of the skilled trades capital that Canadians and employers need.

Our government supports this motion. I will be supporting it. I encourage all members of the House to provide their support as well. I thank to the member for bringing the motion forward.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House. As usual, I want to say hello to all the residents of Beauport—Limoilou who are watching right now. I had the honour of meeting thousands of them last weekend at the Grand bazar du Vieux-Limoilou, where I had a booth, as the local member of Parliament. It was a fantastic outdoor party, and the weather co-operated beautifully.

Before I discuss the motion, I just want the people of Beauport—Limoilou to know that we will have plenty of opportunities to meet this summer at all the events and festivals being held in Beauport and Limoilou. As usual, I will be holding my annual summer party in August, where thousands of people come to meet me. We often eat hot dogs, chips and popcorn from Île d'Orléans together. It is a chance for me to get to know my constituents, talk about the issues affecting the riding, and share information about the services that my office can provide to Canadians dealing with the federal government.

I also want to say that this may be the last speech I give in the House during the 42nd Parliament. It was a huge honour to be here, and I hope to again have that honour after election day, October 21.

I plan to run in the upcoming election and I hope to represent my constituents for a long time to come. I am extremely proud of the work I have done over the past four years, including the work I did in my riding, on my portfolio, Canada's official languages, and during debates.

I am asking my constituents to do me a favour and put their trust in me for another four years. I will be here every day to serve them.

Today we are debating Motion No. 227, a Liberal motion to conduct a study in committee. It is commendable to do a study at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. This is a very important House of Commons committee. A Liberal Party MP is proposing to conduct a study on labour shortages in the skilled trades in Canada.

As soon as I saw that I wanted to say a few words about this motion. Whether it be in Quebec City, Regina, Nanaimo, or elsewhere in Canada, there is a crisis right now. The labour shortage will affect us quite quickly.

We have heard that, a few years from now, the greater Quebec City area will need an additional 150,000 workers. This remarkable shortage will be the result of baby boomers retiring. Baby boomers, including my parents, will enjoy a well-deserved retirement. This is a very important issue, and we must address it.

I would like to remind the House that, in January, February and March, I asked the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour about the serious labour shortage problem in Canada. Each time, she made a mockery of my question by saying that the Liberals had created 600,000 new jobs. Today, they say 1 million.

I am glad that this motion was moved, but it is more or less an exercise in virtue signalling. Actually, it is more of an exercise in public communications, although I am not questioning my colleague's sincere wish to look into the issue. In six or seven days, the 42nd Parliament will be dissolved. Well, the House will adjourn. Parliament will be dissolved in a few months, before the election.

My colleague's committee will not be able to study the motion. My colleagues and I on the Standing Committee on Official Languages are finishing our study of the modernization of the Official Languages Act. We decided that we would finalize our recommendations tomorrow at noon, to ensure that we are able to table the report from the Standing Committee on Official Languages in the House.

In essence, this is a public communications exercise, since the committee will not be able to study the issue. However, I think it would be good to talk about the labour shortages in the skilled trades with the Canadians who are watching us. What are skilled trades? We are talking about hairdressers, landscapers, cabinetmakers, electricians, machinists, mechanics, and crane or other equipment operators. Skilled trades also include painters, plumbers, welders and technicians.

I will explain why the labour shortage in the skilled trades is worrisome. When people take a good look around they soon realize that these trades are very important. Skilled tradespeople build everything around us, such as highways, overpasses, waterworks, subways, transportation systems like the future Quebec streetcar line that we have talked about a lot lately, the railroads that cross the country, skyscrapers in major cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, factories in rural areas, tractors, equipment and the canals of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which were built in the 1950s.

China, India and the United States are making huge investments in infrastructure. For example, in recent years, the U.S. government did not flinch at investing $5 billion to improve the infrastructure of the Port of New York and New Jersey, which was built by men and women in the trades. In Quebec, we are still waiting for the Liberals to approve a small $60-million envelope for the Beauport 2020 project, now called the Laurentia project, which will ensure the shipping competitiveness of the St. Lawrence for years to come.

There has been a lack of infrastructure investment in Canada. The Liberals like to say that their infrastructure Canada plan is historic, but only $14 billion of the $190 billion announced have actually been allocated. That is not all. Even if the Liberals were releasing the funds and making massive investments to surpass other G20 and G7 countries, the world's largest economies, they would not be able to deliver on their incredible projects without skilled labour. Consider this: even Nigeria, with a population of 200 million, is catching up with us when it comes to infrastructure investments.

It is about time that we, as legislators, dealt with this issue, but clearly that is not what the Liberals have been doing over the past few years, although I have heard some members talk about a few initiatives here and there in some provinces. The announcement of this study is late in coming.

I would also remind the House that this is a provincial jurisdiction, given that provincial regulations govern the training of skilled workers. That said, the federal government can still be helpful by implementing various measures through federal transfers, such as apprenticeship grants and loans, tax credits and job training programs. This all requires a smooth, harmonious relationship between the provinces and the federal government. Not only do the political players have to get along well, but so do the politicians themselves.

If, God forbid, the Liberals get another four-year term in office, taxes will increase dramatically, since they will want to make up for the huge deficits they racked up over the past four years. In 2016, they imposed conditions on health transfers. Then, they rushed ahead with the legalization of marijuana even though the provinces wanted more time. Then, they imposed the carbon tax on provinces like New Brunswick, which had already closed a number of coal-fired plants and significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions. The Liberals said that they still considered the province to be an offender and imposed the Liberal carbon tax. Finally, today, they are rushing through the study of Bill C-69, which seeks to implement regulations that are far too rigid and that will interfere with the development of natural resources in various provinces, even though six premiers have stated that this bill will stifle their local economies.

How can we hope that this government will collaborate to come to an agreement seeking to address skilled trades shortages when it has such a poor track record on intergovernmental relations?

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Before I go to the next speaker, I want to remind that speaker that I will unfortunately have to interrupt her in a couple of minutes.

The hon. member for Humber River—Black Creek.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have a minute or two to voice my support for Motion No. 227. Updating the federal labour standards is way overdue and should have been done a long time ago. It should have been done before, never mind dealing with a motion on the eve of Parliament, but at least maybe we are starting to move in that particular area. We have been consulting and now we are attempting to act.

There was a review done by the previous Liberal government in 2004. After a decade of inaction by the Conservatives, we are trying to pick it up where we left off. Again, there is only so much that we can do in three and a half years, and we cannot deal with all of the issues that we want to deal with. Therefore, we do the best we can to get things moving in the direction we want to be able to protect Canadian workers and help set the stage for good, quality jobs.

We need labour standards that reflect current workplace realities that will also help employers recruit and retain employees while looking after their well-being. It is a win for everyone. It is why the member for Niagara Centre put forward a motion that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be required to undertake a study of the creation of a federal trades strategy to consider the labour shortages in the skilled trades, which we know are a high priority for our government, but they are also a high priority for the country.

We have already moved forward with some changes, and here are just a few examples. One of the first priorities our government had was to pass Bill C-4, restoring fairness, balance and stability to labour relations, which was an important thing that we did.

I see that you are standing, Madam Speaker. Thank you very much for allowing me to have one minute to make a point. I look forward to seeing this motion move forward.

Federal Trades StrategyPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member will have eight minutes remaining the next time this matter is before the House.

It being 6:32 p.m., 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.

The House resumed from May 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-98, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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6:30 p.m.


Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege, as always, to rise in the House and speak to legislation. As we near the end of this parliamentary session, one that precedes an election, we really should be wrapping up work rather than starting new work, as we all know.

Bill C-98 proposes to repurpose and rename the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP to the “Public Complaints and Review Commission” and expand its mandate to review both the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

In 2017, I began working as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. In studies on the border agency and when the agency came up in discussions on another bill, Bill C-21, the issue of oversight and complaints was discussed. Professor Wesley Wark, from the University of Ottawa, who was previously a special adviser to the president of the Canadian border security agency said:

...the committee should encourage the government to finalize its plans for an independent complaints mechanism for CBSA. There have been discussions under way about this for some considerable time now.

We were told that the minister already had a plan back then, was already dealing with it and that we did not need to. During his appearance at the Senate committee regarding the border security's oversight, the minister said:

The CBSA, however, does not have independent review of officer conduct, and that is a gap that definitely needs to be addressed....

Mr. Chair, while I agree absolutely with the spirit behind Bill S-205, I cannot support its detail at this time for—

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6:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I hate to interrupt, but I notice that the hon. member is wearing a button that he should not be wearing in the House. I ask him to remove it so that he can continue his speech. The member is not to promote that in the House.

The hon. member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner.

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6:35 p.m.


Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, I will continue with the public safety minister's comment at committee:

[T]he government is launching, almost immediately, a public consultation process on our national security framework that will touch directly on the subject matter of this bill, and I need that consultation before I can commit to specific legislation.

Well, that was almost three years ago. To say that the bill is late would obviously be an understatement. It has taken the minister over three years to bring forward this legislation. That is quite a long time for a minister who said he was already working on something in 2016.

In keeping with his recent history on consultations, there appears to have been little or no external consultation in preparation for the bill. Hopefully, at committee, the government will be able to produce at least one group or organization outside of the government that will endorse the legislation. However, I am not holding my breath.

The government even hired a former clerk of the Privy Council to conduct an independent report. Mel Cappe conducted a review and provided his recommendations in June 2017. It was only because of an access to information request by CBC News that Parliament even knows of this report.

A CBC News article noted:

The June 2017 report by former Privy Council Office chief Mel Cappe, now a professor at the University of Toronto, was obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act....

[A] spokesman for [the] Public Safety Minister...would not comment directly on Cappe’s recommendations, but said the government is working on legislation to create an “appropriate mechanism” to review CBSA officer conduct and handle complaints.

The proposed body would roll in existing powers of the civilian review and complaints commission for the RCMP.

The government and the minister had the recommendations two years ago, yet they are bringing this forward at the last minute. It appears to be an afterthought. Again, in February of this year, the minister said that they continue to work as fast as they can to bring forward legislation on oversight for the CBSA.

Perhaps the Liberal government was just distracted by its many self-inflicted wounds. It created many challenges for Canadians, and now it is tabling legislation in the 11th hour that deals with real issues and asking parliamentarians to make up for the government's distraction and lack of focus on things that matter to Canada, Canadians and our democracy. These are things like public safety, national security, rural crime, trade, energy policies and lower taxes.

There is an impact to mismanagement and bad decision-making. The Liberals' incompetence has had a trickle-down effect that is felt at every border crossing and also across many parts of the country.

We know that RCMP officers had to be deployed and dedicated to dealing with illegal border crossings. When the Liberals set up a facility to act as a border crossing in Lacolle, Quebec, RCMP officers were there covering people entering into Canada. Those RCMP officers were not commissioned that day. They were pulled from details across the country. They were pulled from monitoring returned ISIS fighters and from monitoring and tackling organized crime. They were taken and redeployed, most likely, from rural detachments across the country. We know that in my province of Alberta, the RCMP is short-staffed by nearly 300 officers. It is not a surprise, then, that there was a rise in rural crime while this was going on. Rural crime is now rising faster than urban crime.

However, it is not just the RCMP that has been impacted by the mismanagement at the border. It is also border officers, who will have the added oversight created through Bill C-98.

CBSA officers told me and many other MPs about more shifts and about workers being transferred to Manitoba and Quebec. The media reported that students were taking the place of full-time, trained border officers at Pearson airport. This is the largest airport in Canada, and the impacts of having untrained and inexperienced officers monitoring potentially the top spot for smuggling and transfer of illegal goods are staggering.

We have a serious issue in Canada at our borders, one that is getting worse. We know from testimony given during the committee's study of Bill C-71 that the vast majority of illegal firearms come from the U.S. They are smuggled in. At the guns and gangs summit, the RCMP showed all of Canada pictures of firearms being smuggled in as part of other packages. The minister's own department is saying there is a problem with smuggled goods, contraband tobacco and drugs coming across our borders.

Rather than actually protect Canadians, we are looking into oversight. Do not get me wrong. Oversight is good, but it is not the most pressing issue of the day.

The media is now reporting that because of the Liberals' decision to lift visas, there are many harmful and potentially dangerous criminals now operating in our country. This comes on the heels of reports that there are record-high numbers of ordered deportations of people who are a security threat. There were 25 in 2017. There are also record-low removals. Deportations were about or above 12,000 to 15,000 per year from 2010 to 2015, but that is not what we are seeing now. The Liberals, even with tens of thousands of people entering Canada illegally, are averaging half of that.

We know that the CBSA is not ignoring these issues and security threats. It just lacks the resources, which are now dedicated to maintaining an illegal border crossing and monitoring tens of thousands more people.

This failure is not just my opinion. It is the opinion of many Canadians.

A Calgary Herald headline from last August read, “Confidence in Trudeau's handling of immigration is gone”. The Toronto Sun, on May 29 of this year, wrote, “AG report shows federal asylum processing system a mess”. Another reads, “Auditor General Calls out Liberal Failures”. The news headlines go on and on.

This is not something the minister did when he implemented reforms in Bill C-59, the national security reforms. Under that bill, there would be three oversight agencies for our national security and intelligence teams: the new commissioner of intelligence, with expanded oversight of CSIS and CSE; the new national security and intelligence review agency, and with Bill C-22, the new parliamentary committee. This is in addition to the Prime Minister's national security adviser and the deputy ministers of National Defence, Foreign Affairs and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Oversight can be a good thing. Often, because of human nature, knowing it is there acts as a deterrent. From my career, knowing that police are nearby or ready to respond can deter criminals, and knowing that someone will review claims of misconduct will add credibility to an already reputable agency, the CBSA.

It is probably too bad that this was not done earlier, because it could have gone through the House and the Senate quite easily. It could have been a law for a year or two already, perhaps even more. Sadly, the late tabling of the bill seems to make it a near certainty that if it reaches the Senate, it might be caught in the backlog of legislation there.

The House and the committee can and should give the bill a great deal of scrutiny. While the idea seems sound, and the model is better than in other legislation, I am wary of anything the government does on borders. It has not managed our borders well and has not been up front with the House or Canadians about that. In 2017, the Liberals told us that there was nothing to worry about, with tens of thousands of people crossing our borders illegally. They said they did not need any new resources, security was going well and everything was fine.

Well, the reality was that security was being cut to deal with the volume, provinces and cities were drowning in costs and overflowing shelters, border and RCMP agencies were stretched and refugee screenings were backing up. According to the ministers, everything was fine. Then, in the budget, came new funding, and in the next budget, and in the one after that. Billions in spending is now on the books, including for the RCMP, the CBSA and the Immigration and Refugee Board.

What should we scrutinize? For one, I think we should make sure to hear from those people impacted by this decision, such as front-line RCMP and CBSA officers who will be subject to these evaluations.

A CBC article had this to say:

The union representing border officers has heard little about the proposal and was not consulted on the bill. Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), said the president of the CBSA also was left in the dark and could not inform the union of any details of the legislation.

How reliable is legislation when the agency it would actually impact and involve was left out of the loop?

It seems odd that the Liberals would appoint one union, Unifor, to administer a $600-million media bailout fund just after they announce a campaign against Conservatives, and, yet, the border services officers union is not even consulted about legislation that impacts it. I would hope that consultations are not dependent on political donations and participation.

That is why Parliament should be careful about who sits on this new agency. We do not need more activists; we need experienced professionals. We need subject matter experts. We need people with management expertise. We need to make sure that the people who work on these review organizations are appropriately skilled and resourced to do their work. We need to make sure that frivolous cases do not tie up resources, and that officers do not have frivolous and vexatious claims hanging over the heads.

We need to make sure that Canadians do not need to hire lawyers to get access to the complaints commission and its process.

We need to make sure that the minister and his staff, and other staffing leaders across the public safety spectrum cannot get their hands inside the processes and decisions of these bodies. We need the agency to have transparent, clear processes and systems that are fair to applicants and defendants alike. We need to make sure that these processes do not eat away resources from two agencies that are already strapped for bodies.

I hope there is time to do this right. I hope there is the appropriate time to hear from all the relevant witnesses, that legal advice is obtained, and that we have the appropriate time to draft changes, changes that, based on the minister's track record, are almost certainly going to be needed.

As the House begins its work on this legislation, I trust the minister and his staff would not be directing the chair of the public safety committee to meet their scripted timeline, which seems a little difficult to be done now with only a week remaining. Knowing that the chair is a scrupulous and honoured individual, he certainly would not suggest that legislation needs to be finished before we can hear the appropriate testimony.

There is a lot of trust and faith needed for the House to work well on legislation like this and many other pieces, trust that is built through honest answers to legitimate questions, trust that is reinforced by following integrity and the need to get it right, rather than the need to just be right.

I hope, perhaps just once in this legislative session, we could see the government try to broker such trust on Bill C-98, but I will not hold my breath.

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6:45 p.m.


Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to get up and speak to this important issue. I would like to start by recognizing the voters in Nanaimo—Ladysmith and thank them for seeing fit to elect me; and my team, my volunteers and my family, for supporting me through this process. This is my first time to have an opportunity to speak in Parliament. This is an interesting bill to get up and speak to.

My sister is a police officer. She has served some 23 or 24 years with the Ontario Provincial Police. She knows that when police are caught doing things they should not be doing it reflects poorly on all police officers. We need to respect the work that our men and women in uniform do: members of our armed forces, members of our police forces and members of the Canada Border Services Agency. It is very important to have oversight of these bodies, so that when there are legitimate complaints from citizens, they do not taint an organization.

I have just been reading a news article about a woman who was strip-searched coming into Canada and treated very poorly. There are many cases like this. When we cross the border, we enter a legal no man's land where we have no rights and we must do what we are told. When we are asked to hand over our cellphone and computer and give over the passwords, we are giving away some of our most personal information and letting people dig into our lives. When people are disrespected in this process, they need a proper way to complain about how they have been treated.

Bill C-98 would create an independent review and complaints mechanism for CBSA. This is very important. The objective is to promote public confidence in the system and for the employees. Those employees deserve to have confidence in their work and what they do. They deserve confidence and they deserve the respect of the public. The existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP would assume responsibility for review and complaints for the CBSA as well. It would be renamed as the public complaints and review commission, and be divided into RCMP units and a CBSA unit with similar powers, duties and functions and some modifications.

Why do we need this bill? Why do we need this oversight body? The CBSA is the only federal law-enforcement agency without an oversight body. It holds significant powers, including to detain, search, use firearms, arrest non-citizens without a warrant and conduct deportations.

We had a case in which the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands had to defend an indigenous man who was handcuffed, detained and taken away from his home during Christmas because he had an issue with his citizenship. He had been a resident of Penelakut Island and he was an indigenous person who has rights across the border. Indigenous communities and first nations in some cases do not recognize the border because the border is a false line that runs through their territories. For this person to be treated in this way, being bound, detained and forced from his home in this ruthless way, was highly problematic. It is important to have a complaints commission and somebody to review these kinds of cases and look at the conduct of the officers who were involved.

It is reported that the CBSA investigated over 1,200 allegations of staff misconduct between January 2016 and mid-2018. The allegations included sexual assault, criminal association and harassment. At least 14 people have died in custody since 2000. Those are incredible statistics, and a good reason why we need some oversight over this agency.

The public complaints commission would respond to a review conducted as a result of PMB S-205 in the 42nd Parliament, and the 2015 Senate report, “Vigilance, Accountability and Security at Canada's Borders”.

In the fall of 2016, the Minister of Public Safety announced the government's intention to address gaps in the CBSA's framework for external accountability, a feature already present in countries like the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and France.

I know we are getting late in this Parliament and we are early in the stages of this bill, but I think it is very important that we work on getting this through so that we can pass it before the House rises so there would be proper oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency. Then people would have a process to go through where they would have confidence, and other members of the CBSA would know there is a way for people who are bad apples in the system to have proper oversight over the kinds of actions they have taken, and the citizens of this country and the people travelling here can be confident that they will be treated with respect and dignity at our borders.

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6:55 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague and the other half of the Green Party caucus in this place on his first speech. I also thank the voters of Nanaimo—Ladysmith for growing us as a party, as well as the individual efforts of this particular community leader to be in this place and speak out as he has.

I want to add to the context around the story that he relayed.

Richard Germaine, in December 2013, was, for members in this place listening to the shocking story, taken from his home just before Christmas. His wife was a survivor of residential schools. Uniformed men, with no warning, showed up at his door, took him from his home and put him in leg irons to transport him to a holding cell. We were able to mobilize because, thankfully, he had some contact with academics, University of Victoria anthropologists and those working on biological anthropology with respect to developing community gardens based on the traditional knowledge of the indigenous people of Penelakut Island. We got a lawyer, we paid for the lawyer and we got Richard Germaine out of a holding cell where he was about to be deported. The previous minister of immigration, Chris Alexander, was helpful. We regularized his citizenship because he was an indigenous person from the United States.

That was a horror story. I will never forget it. It made me realize, as my hon. colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith said, most of the people working in uniform in this country are fine and upstanding, but that story shook me to my core, especially when Richard Germaine told me that all the other people in that holding cell were deported within 24 hours and the guards there said, “Who do you know? How did this happen? Nobody gets out of here.”

I want to thank my hon. colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I am making a comment, not so much a question.

I have a feeling there are other events this evening of a less weighty nature, so I will end there, unless my hon. colleague wants to add anything.

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6:55 p.m.


Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank you for relating that story again. I remember talking about that experience.

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6:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I just want to remind the member to make those comments, questions or debates through the Speaker.

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.