Mr. John Barlow (Foothills, CPC)
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.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Federal Trades Strategy