Speech in Support of Bill C-38 (Jobs, Growth & Long Term Prosperity Act)
On Monday, June 18, 2012, I had the pleasure of rising in the House of Commons in support of Bill C-38 (Jobs, Growth & Long-Term Prosperity Act).
The following is a copy of my speech in support of the Act:
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House at third reading in support of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-prosperity act, and the important steps it takes to implement Canada’s economic action plan 2012.
Specifically, I would like to discuss the many ways that today’s act would strengthen Canada’s immigration system
We all recognize that Canada needs a flexible and efficient immigration system. Practically speaking, we need an immigration system capable of addressing the very real labour shortages faced by communities right across Canada, especially in my home province of Saskatchewan.
As Chris Dekker of Enterprise Saskatchewan has noted, “Labour shortages and demands are the No. 1 barrier to doing business in Saskatchewan”. It is no longer a provincial NDP government; it is actually labour shortages.
The degree of labour shortages has forced the provincial government to undertake numerous creative recruitment efforts, such as a recent skilled worker recruitment mission in Ireland, led by our Premier Brad Wall and numerous Saskatchewan businesses. I have to give them credit. They went out and looked for the skills that their employers needed and talked to people who were looking for jobs. What a way to bring them together. I give the premier credit for going to Ireland and recruiting those people.
To assist the good work of the province, our Conservative government has made significant progress in recent years to refocus our system to reduce backlogs, reverse wait times and improve the timeliness of the services we provide.
These reforms ultimately ensure that Canada’s economic prosperity is our system’s number one priority.
For example, we have placed a high value on attracting newcomers to Canada with the skills and experience to meet our economic demands. However, we need to do more. We must deliver transformational changes to the immigration system that will better generate economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians.
We envision a just-in-time system in which the entire process for a skilled immigrant to apply to come to Canada, be accepted and admitted, and become gainfully employed would take only a few months instead of many years. To achieve this vision, we must first address the legacy of the large backlog of applicants under our federal skilled worker program.
We took measures to address the dysfunctional federal skilled worker backlog of 640,000 persons that was allowed to fester under the previous Liberal government. However, the fact remains that we still have a backlog of nearly 300,000 old federal skilled worker applicants.
I am pleased to inform the House today that economic action plan 2012, along with today’s act, would help us to reform the immigration system, so it aligns more closely with our economic needs and so it achieves better results, both for newcomers and for Canada. These reforms, I note, have been warmly welcomed in Saskatchewan and beyond.
Canadian Home Builders’ Association president Ron Olson of Saskatoon has applauded economic action plan 2012’s immigration reform saying, “We have urged the government to address the growing shortage of skilled people required to build and renovate homes. We’re pleased that the budget tackles this issue”.
Listen to what Janice MacKinnon, a former NDP finance minister in Saskatchewan, had to say, “[As] somebody from Western Canada…our biggest problem are labour shortages. We have projects that can’t proceed because they can’t find the skilled workers. The changes they’re proposing [in economic action plan 2012] to immigration matter to us so we can get the immigrants we want, when we want”.
How are we doing that?
First, we will eliminate the backlog of old federal skilled worker applications that has nearly crippled our immigration system. This will transform the federal skilled worker program from one that has moved at a snail’s pace for older applications, to one that will be able to bring to Canada the people we need when they are needed. The backlog hurts our economy by impeding our system’s abilities to respond quickly to our changing economic priorities.
As a result, we will now be able to shift our processing priority toward newer federal skilled worker applicants who are more likely to have the current, in-demand skills that our economy requires.
To ensure that Canada’s immigration system will benefit our economic future, Canada needs immigrants who are ready, willing and able to fully integrate into Canada’s labour market, particularly where there are existing skills shortages. However, we also need to ensure that the skilled immigrants we choose are the ones Canada needs and that once they arrive here, they are able to put their skills to use immediately.
Economic action plan 2012 also commits to continue working with the provinces and territories to speed up and streamline the credential recognition process for regulated professions.
Under the pan-Canadian framework for the assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications, our goal is to give applicants an answer within a year of their application. We can tell skilled professionals whether their credentials will be recognized or if they will require additional education, training or experience to become licensed in their field.
To date, we have processes in place for eight regulated occupations and we are working with an additional six regulated occupations to add to the list this year. We have also made considerable progress toward improving the foreign credential recognition process for many newcomers who are already in Canada, but we can and must do more.
Skilled immigrants come to Canada with the expectation that they will be able to work in the profession in which they are trained and we owe it to them to ensure that is the case. That is why the changes we are proposing to our immigration system will ensure mandatory assessment of foreign education credentials for federal skilled worker program applicants. This will involve a new requirement for applicants to first have their overseas education credentials assessed by a designated third party before they are accepted. The results of this assessment will be part of the immigration application. The process will be separate from more in-depth assessments that regulatory bodies will use to license professionals from abroad.
Our Conservative government believes that by working together we can find practical ways to give people a green light before they get to Canada, especially if we know they are going to have a better than even chance of being licensed and joining the workforce in Canada. Our goal with this change is to better select immigrants, so they can hit the ground running once they arrive by integrating quickly into our labour market.
This is part of the broader changes we are proposing to improve the federal skilled worker program, bringing it in line with the needs of our modern economy. For instance, we are working to introduce a new skilled trades program that would create a means for skilled tradespersons to be assessed based on criteria geared to the reality of the job, putting more emphasis on practical training and work experience.
It is common sense that to ensure immigration will fuel our future prosperity, we need a system that will help position Canada to attract the world’s best talent. That is why our Conservative government is committed to strengthening the immigration system to make it truly proactive, targeted, fast and efficient to help sustain Canada’s economic growth and deliver prosperity into the future.
The Canadian Construction Association, or CCA, one of the many of the many supporters of this portion of Bill C-38, states:
I join the Canadian Construction Association and others asking that this House support and pass today’s legislation.
When I go back to my province and my riding and talk to the constituents there, they talk about this budget and they see so many benefits and structural changes to our future economy. It really lays a proper foundation for Canada to grow and move into the future. This is a good budget. I cannot see why anybody would vote against it. I encourage all members to get behind the budget and move it forward.
Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to what the member had to say and I do not understand where the Conservatives are coming from. On one hand, they say that we have to fill the skilled labour shortage. On the other hand, they want to take skilled labour people who are seasonal workers and force them into other jobs that do not really meet their skills, because we will not using them to their full potential.
However, at the same time, the Conservatives would create a void in the seasonal workforce. Where are these people going to get their training skills? Where will they get people to fill those, if they force the seasonal workers to work somewhere else and then they cannot go back to their seasonal jobs?
Maybe the member can tell me this. Will those workers be able to go back to their seasonal jobs and will they be penalized that?
Mr. Randy Hoback:
Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate my colleague does not understand how the process will work. As we see it unfold, hopefully she will get a better understanding of why this would be better for all of Canada.
I will use the example of what happens on the farm in Saskatchewan and has happened throughout the last 15 or 20 years. We have a lot of grain farmers who farm throughout the summer and spring. Once the snow hits in the fall, they have all their grain hauled out. Now that we no longer have the CWB, they actually control their product even better. They go into Alberta or southern Saskatchewan and work in the oil patch and they take on that seasonal work in the winter. That is something of which they can take advantage. When we have a strong and vibrant economy, we have all sorts of opportunity and people have choice of employment.
When we take on policies that restrict business activity and suppress people, which the NDP government did in Saskatchewan, our kids are forced to go to another province to find jobs. Hopefully, with these proposed changes in the budget, we will see so much economic activity across Canada and that issue will take care of itself.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to challenge the member on his assertions in regard to the backlog in immigration.
First, the member should be aware that the Minister of Immigration, through ministerial instructions, increased the backlog significantly, over 150,000 virtually overnight. Then the minister tried to say that the Conservatives would get rid of this backlog and he tried to blame it on the former Liberal government. In reality it is the Conservative government that needs to take responsibility for the backlog of skilled workers. Now, to put icing on the cake, the government has made a decision to hit the delete button. My question—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The hon. member for Winnipeg North.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, the government pushes the delete button for those individuals who were in the process. That is a cruel policy.
Now that the federal court has ruled that what the government has done is morally wrong, would the member not agree that those individuals who applied to come here as skilled workers should be allowed to at least go through the process?
Mr. Randy Hoback:
Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the member has misconstrued the facts of what is actually going on. I will explain it for him as we go through.
The reality is that they had a system that we inherited from the Liberal government that was totally inadequate and not functioning in a way that was appropriate for both the employer or the person trying to come to Canada. How could it be acceptable for people to be on a waiting list for six years to find out whether they can come into the country? That is something we inherited from the Liberal government.
I want to clarify one other thing that will happen. Yes, there will be a reduction in the backlog. We will give the money back to the people who have been in the queue for six years but they can apply right away and they will know within a year. They will not be waiting six more years to get their application processed. That is what the Liberals think is acceptable. Well, let them have 10 kids and wait an entire life–
The hon. member for Essex.
Mr. Jeff Watson (Essex, CPC):
Mr. Randy Hoback:
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hard work my colleague does in representing constituents in his riding. I also congratulate him on the hard work he has done in bringing that new bridge to his riding. It is something that has been needed for such a long time. I congratulate him for getting that job done. He did a great job there.
As far as employment insurance, the one thing I found talking to businesses in Prince Albert was that they were looking for employees from areas where there is high unemployment. The first thing that came back to them when they had approached those people with jobs was that they had another five or six months of unemployment insurance so they were going to wait until that ran out and then maybe take a job. We are just correcting some of those problems and making it easier so those people can find a job that much quicker.