I see that Rodger Cuzner has arrived. That's a signal we can start now. But we'll give him a little bit of time, as I speak. I just have a couple of preliminary matters I want to raise with you before we start.
Visiting with us is a committee of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia, which is responsible for legislative work pertaining to higher education. They would like to obtain information on the correlation between the national policy framework for higher education and the university and college quality assurance processes in Canada. In particular, they want to meet with members of this committee to discuss topics related to the processes of quality assurance in post-secondary education. Of course, it's a bit of a provincial matter, but I'm sure they'll have other matters to ask us about.
That's going to happen on Thursday, December 8, at 11 o'clock on the seventh floor of this building. For those of you who can make it, that would be great. For those of you who can't, that's fine. I'll be here. Perhaps we'll also have the analysts here, as well as the clerk. The clerk will give you a formal invitation. I just wanted to raise that with you.
We'll also have a budget presented probably next week at our Tuesday or Thursday meeting, depending on when it's available, for this aspect of the study.
Those are my preliminary remarks.
Of course, our study deals with skills development in remote rural communities in an era of fiscal restraint. It was, in part, inspired by the report entitled “The Business Case for Investing in Canada's Remote Communities”, authored by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
We're happy to have with us today the director of policy for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the director of parliamentary relations. We have two panels. We will have either one of you or both of you present for five to ten minutes, and then we will have rounds of questioning of five minutes, alternating between the parties.
That being said, you can start your presentation.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, honourable members, for this opportunity to be with you this afternoon.
My name is Susanna Cluff-Clyburne. I am the director of parliamentary affairs at the Canadian Chamber, and I wrote the paper we released in September entitled, “The Business Case for Investing in Canada's Remote Communities”.
I'm accompanied today by my colleague, Anne Argyris, who is the director of SME policy, skills, and immigration at the Canadian Chamber.
In a world with an increasing hunger for natural resources, the economic potential of Canada's remote communities is very much on the minds of Canada's businesses, governments, and community leaders.
Many remote communities face obstacles to attaining their potential, including distance from markets and the skilled workforce and critical infrastructure essential to business operations. An additional hurdle is the perception that public finances directed toward them are often considered to be subsidies rather than investments.
While governments must always be ready to play a role in the development of remote communities, looking at the challenges and opportunities of remote communities through a business lens can change the perception of subsidies, and more of Canada's remote communities can move closer to assuming equal economic footing with the rest of the country.
For that reason, GE Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce decided to work together to seek businesses' perspectives on what it takes to draw more sustainable private sector investment into remote communities.
During the first half of 2011, GE Canada conducted an extensive consultation process, hosting round tables with business people and community leaders in 11 locations across Canada. They also conducted an online survey. Altogether, they heard from approximately 500 stakeholders. At the same time, the Canadian Chamber reached out to members from our local chamber network and companies in the financial services, energy, mining, and construction sectors. We also spoke with other stakeholders, including those who manage infrastructure in remote communities, and with people representing remote communities during the planning, construction, and operation of major infrastructure projects.
We heard that after a business determines that a community offers a product or group of products for which there is a market, one of the first investment considerations is whether or not there is a skilled workforce available locally, or that can be attracted to the community.
Nearly all of GE's round table participants acknowledged the education issues in remote communities, and many raised per capita funding of education as a factor in the difficulties these regions face. When funding is geared to population size, a small community is at a disadvantage. In order to provide the kind of education that will equip people with the skills employers need and to attract business investment, new funding models need to be explored and pursued.
The quality and level of participation in education are often linked to the degree of social problems in a community. Ensuring a strong commitment to education will make a huge difference in a remote community. In addition, provincial curricula developed for urban areas may not address the needs of sectors and trades that are useful to remote communities. Building closer working relationships between governments and businesses in this area was seen to be a step in the right direction.
The common thread was that labour is a complex and often expensive component of doing business in a remote community. Many of those we spoke with suggested that public policies concerning education, training, and labour supply should be re-examined from the standpoint of ensuring their closer tailoring to the unique needs of remote communities.
As many of Canada' s remote communities are aboriginal, the failure of the education system to graduate aboriginal youth from secondary school and to give them the opportunity for post-secondary education and training are considerable barriers to economic development. As you all know, secondary school graduation or its equivalent is usually the minimal level of education required by employers.
There are complex reasons for why education and training programs fail to bring the desired outcomes. One is a lack of focus and flexibility rather than funding. Education and training programs developed to meet provincial, territorial, and--in the case of aboriginal programs--national goals may not be focused or flexible enough to meet the needs of residents of remote communities and their prospective employers.
In some remote communities, it may not be possible to offer on-site training; and mentoring programs may be the most effective way to convey the skills required for a particular type of employment. In communities where there is no prospect of a major extractive or construction project, training, perhaps delivered online, in skills that can be used to deliver services remotely--for example, accounting, or web and graphic design--might be more appropriate.
Often, there is no option for residents of remote communities other than to relocate, even temporarily, to an urban centre to obtain higher education and training. Governments need to do more to help people from these communities prepare for life in an urban setting. There needs to be effective transition support for those leaving remote communities to pursue studies in urban centres.
Private sector partners can help develop a skilled workforce. To quote GE' s report on its consultations, “...there may be a need for businesses and governments to work more closely together in planning education infrastructure, and perhaps in funding arrangements as well.”
Our paper mentions some best practices where government, business, and the community have worked successfully together with positive outcomes. Businesses themselves can play a significant role in developing a skilled workforce in remote communities by taking the time and making the effort to do more than what is legally required to consult with and engage local communities when planning, constructing, and operating major projects. Often, the knowledge gained from local communities can help projects proceed more quickly and inexpensively. Engaging communities early in a project can also provide the time required to leverage the potential of the local workforce.
While the challenges of bringing remote communities to their full economic potential can seem overwhelming, the opportunities for the communities themselves and for all Canadians are great. The private sector can play a significant role in making a reality what may seem unattainable if left to government alone.
Thank you. We would be happy to answer your questions.
I want to thank you very much for the presentation and for the very good report.
I want to touch on a couple of points. One is the issue of subsidies versus investment. I have a couple of quotes.
I'm going to specifically talk about British Columbia, but this is applicable to rural and remote communities across Canada. I don't have the numbers for other rural and remote communities, but there are two pieces here. One is an article that was done by a professor at the University of Northern British Columbia. He indicates that in British Columbia, rural and remote communities generate the bulk of export wealth. I oftentimes think people believe that large cities are the economic drivers in a province, but he has numbers here that indicate the bulk of B.C.'s export wealth, which is the key to the province's past, present and future success, derives from rural and remote communities.
Another presentation, done by Jock Finlayson, reminded people of two things. He was quoting a report on regions' contributions to B.C.'s economic base, and he says that B.C.'s “...economic base has historically been, currently is, and will likely continue to be...predominantly dependent upon rural and resource activities such as forestry, fishing, farming, mining [and energy production].” He pointed out that large cities actually benefit from rural and remote development because those resource firms purchase several billion dollars per year in business inputs from GVRD suppliers—the Greater Vancouver Regional District—such as engineering, legal and accounting, finance, advertising, and executive search firms, and so on.
I wonder if, in your round table and from your discussions with people, you have anything more quantitative to say about the economic contribution that rural and remote communities make to those large urban centres and the overall economy in Canada, and why it's important that the recommendations in your report be looked at quite seriously in terms of that piece around the economic drivers.
Thank you, witnesses, for coming this afternoon. Also thank you very much for the report and the time the chamber put into preparing the report. It's worth reading. I had a chance to skim through it once, but I picked up some points that are very interesting and helpful.
For example, you suggested that federal programs should be flexible. Then you talked about encouraging private investments. Also, you talked about public-private partnerships, which was very important and interesting.
I am sure you are aware that along the same lines, made an announcement yesterday that he has launched a program for a formal engagement process that will bring together the Government of Canada, provinces, territories, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and others to develop a new long-term plan for public infrastructure.
We all know we are going through fiscally restrained times, and I picked up these measures because they'll be very helpful—at least in my view. I'd like you to make some comments on all of the measures the minister is taking. Based on your recommendations, how will these measures benefit us in the long term?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, ladies, for being here today. I appreciate it.
I appreciate the work the chamber is doing and also its help for us. I think it's always helpful when we have organizations that take it upon themselves to do a study, to survey its members--and here, obviously, its members across the country--and provide those of us in the federal government with some valuable ideas to think about.
I think we all know that we have a challenge in this area; there is no doubt about it. I can't say I'm an expert on remote communities in Canada, representing as I do a suburban riding outside of Toronto, but I work with many of the small businesses in my riding, and I know they find challenges in those communities as well.
When we talk about remote communities, I'm still not quite sure, when I look over the list of recommendations, that I see any very specific things that the federal government should do, beyond the aboriginal issue, which you've highlighted in terms of education—which I get, and I think the other members have talked about. But I'm still trying to determine within your report the specific things that the federal government, in your view, should be doing that we are not doing. Or are there things we are doing that we should not be doing, in order to make investing in and running businesses more attractive in remote communities throughout the country?
Do you have one or two specific things that we're doing that we shouldn't be doing, where your advice would be to get out of the way and let you do your bit; or things that we absolutely and very clearly, within the federal jurisdiction, should be doing to help facilitate economic growth and new business opportunities in these remote communities?
On behalf of the membership of the Canadian Institute of Forestry—l'Institut forestier du Canada—and the Canadian Forestry Association, I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. In my capacity as executive director, I am representing over 2,000 forest professionals and practitioners from across Canada. Our non-profit voluntary organizations work actively with all who have an interest in maintaining the health of Canadian forests and promoting a better understanding of forestry.
Our institute's mission is to promote excellence in forest stewardship and sustainability, based on the application of sound science and research. We also proactively organize and deliver opportunities for continuing education and professional development to all Canadian forest professionals and practitioners to help them maintain their competency. Through the Canadian Forestry Association, we promote forest education and public awareness with programs such as National Forest Week, Envirothon, and the Forest Capital of Canada. Our activities are driven by our passion for forests and our desire to help people in a constructive and positive manner.
Canada's publicly owned forests are unique in the world, as vast renewable resources controlled by the provincial governments, but generally leased out to private corporations or cooperative groups of companies. This system has produced many benefits for our citizens, including the creation of high-paying jobs; access for a variety of recreational uses; and annually, a positive balance of trade. However, to continue to receive these and other benefits, we need to ensure that we protect the ecological integrity of these forests, that is, to ensure the ecological functions of the forests are not impaired. The acceptance of sustainable forests as the key concept in the national forest strategy demonstrates that Canadians want their forests to maintain biological diversity, carbon storage, water regulation, and the other myriad benefits we obtain from them.
Forests can and must continue to play a major role in Canada's future economic, social, and environmental solutions. The majority—or some 90%—of Canada's forests are publicly owned. Investment in these resources must be considered a long-term environmental investment, with significant corollary social and economic benefits. Despite current global economic uncertainty and the underutilization of forests in many jurisdictions of what can be sustainably harvested, governments should look to investing in the renewal and maintenance of our publicly owned forests. This would immediately employ people across Canada—especially those living in small, remote, rural, forest-dependent communities—to grow, plant, and tend young forests. In the longer term, this investment would create wood products, bioenergy, and habitats for wildlife, as well as sequester carbon. Science is telling us that good forest management can have a net positive impact on carbon sequestration and, possibly, the mitigation of climate change.
Harvested areas, as well as areas depleted by natural causes such as fire, wind, insects, and disease—which is substantial, but varies annually—should be considered for more rigorous, large-scale regeneration programs. We recommend the development of sound plans for areas where forest regeneration is required, and the development of a national seed crop forecasting system to assist in the timing of site preparation and tending operations. Such an investment would be beneficial to many remote rural communities. Our members are also seriously concerned that Canada is losing its silvicultural and forest regeneration capacity and knowledge base, both of which are well-respected throughout the world. Thoughtful and strategic investment will help to reverse this situation. Our institute's recently announced collaboration with like-minded forestry organizations in China has been largely fostered by this positive Canadian forestry reputation. This is something we do not want to lose and cannot afford to lose.
While there are differences in the processes used in each province and territory to monitor and regulate forest activities, certain similarities are uniquely Canadian. Electronic data and analytical methods, for example, are fundamental components of forest management in Canada. Unlike many other forest nations, the management of Canada's forests is based on forest inventories created primarily through the use of digital aerial photography. These forest inventories are the principal data sets used in computer models to project changes in the structure and composition of forests due to harvesting, regeneration, growth, and mortality caused by aging, natural, and human-caused disturbances. These usages of interpreted data and virtual forest computer models are beneficial, as they enable us to efficiently test and compare a variety of different harvest regimes and regeneration scenarios over very large land masses. However, we must recognize their limitations, as well as our need, ability, and obligation to use new science tools and technologies to improve the quality of this derived data and to ensure both it and the rules used in sophisticated electronic tools are verified in the real world.
This again presents an opportunity to train young forest professionals and practitioners in remote communities to develop, produce, and use enhanced forest and natural resources inventories and the associated technologies.
Currently, the human resources capacity across Canada is quite limited in terms of forest inventory production, while the need for up-to-date, high-quality, enhanced, and accurate inventories has never been stronger, especially if we want to be competitive within the global forest products sector. Addressing this need proactively through training could create high-tech employment opportunities in numerous communities where forestry is a primary or sole employer.
Advances in remote sensing technology, including the use of multi-spectral digital imagery and LIDAR technology, must soon become a pervasive part of the tool kit that significantly improves forest and natural resources inventories, improves our competitive advantage, and allows for overall improvement in forest management planning and practice.
Creating a desired future forest condition requires investment in information, planning, implementation, monitoring, and research. Remote rural communities would not only benefit directly, as described, but could also potentially see a benefit in a new and more focused type of ecotourism that includes visits to and interpretation of forest science and research and development installations and sites. From our experience, public interest is considerable with respect to learning about modern forestry and interdisciplinary forest science.
The bioenergy sector, which is developing rapidly around the globe in response to a need to reduce the use of fossil fuels, also creates opportunities for remote rural communities. As a forest nation, Canada has the potential to become one of the world's largest producers of forest biofuels and bioenergy.
While the use of residual biomass from existing forest products processing is beginning to see use in energy production in some centres, many remote communities also have the opportunity and potential to become more self-sufficient in terms of their own energy requirements through the use of biomass or bioenergy, if provided with incentives and some measure of initial investment. Billions of dollars have been spent in Canada to foster bioenergy in general, and tens of millions of dollars have been committed by governments to develop bioenergy networks to foster establishment of conversion plants. Remote communities should be seeing some share of this type of investment funding, especially when considering that the proximity of available forest biomass should allow for reduced transportation costs.
The task of ensuring the sustainability of the forest resource while extracting more biomass has not received as much attention from government agencies and networks, even though this is needed to underpin a sustainable bioenergy sector. It is therefore imperative that emerging forest bioenergy guidelines, regulations, policies, and legislation covering increased removals of forest biomass be built on a solid knowledge of environmental sustainability, be relevant within the context of current and anticipated forest operations in different jurisdictions across Canada, and be consistent in principle within a global context. Enhanced forest and natural resources inventories, as already discussed, play a vital role in this respect.
Youth internship programs that provide opportunities for recent graduates to gain experience, knowledge, and a network of personal contacts are an excellent vehicle and should see expanded use across Canada, especially in remote rural communities. Our institute partners and affiliates have achieved significant success with these programs over the past decade, providing a year-long experience to over 40 young people, most of whom have succeeded in establishing good careers in government, industry, and other non-profits upon completion of their internships.
FedNor, Industry Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation have been our main funding agencies, and we recommend that the internship programs they offer be thoughtfully and strategically expanded to meet the challenges of remote communities, ideally within the context of our other recommendations. Given our own structure of 18 sections across Canada, with many of our members living and working in remote rural communities, we would like to offer our experience and expertise to help expand the scope, scale, and impact of youth internship programs.
On a personal note, I was recently a part of a Canadian delegation that visited China. At the Asia-Pacific forestry week conference in Beijing, we had the opportunity to meet many young people from different countries and heard first-hand how Asia-Pacific nations are currently ramping up educational opportunities for young people with respect to forestry and forests. We also heard from these young people their adamant belief that forestry was a future growth industry. One young Chinese forester said that in the past a young man would not apply to post-secondary forestry programs, as he would not make enough money to get a girlfriend. He said that this had changed, that forests and forestry were now seen as playing a major role in our environment and also for manufacturing, through the sustainable use of wood products and bioenergy. Many of these young forest professionals and practitioners in the Asia-Pacific region are coming from relatively remote rural communities themselves.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The Construction Sector Council is a not-for-profit national organization that is led by industry and funded by the federal government. Our mandate is to identify and address the workforce challenges facing the construction industry across Canada.
The construction industry in Canada is once again in a period of growth following the recent downturn in the economy. This growth in construction investment will translate into growth in employment over the next decade. The Construction Sector Council's labour market information estimates that increased construction activity is going to result in employment growth of about 102,000 jobs across the 2011-19 period.
Added to this expansion in growth is the aging population. Our labour market analysis has estimated there will be a potential loss of 217,000 skilled workers to retirement over the next decade. So if we take a look at those two numbers--217,000 and 102,000--we have an issue of about 319,000 skilled workers that we're going to require over the next decade. Typically, all industries receive a certain portion of new entrants who come into the workforce every year, and construction will receive its share. This still is going to leave us, though, with a gap of about 158,000 workers over this next decade.
Major industrial and engineering projects are driving this new construction investment across Canada. Most of these projects are located in rural and remote areas, and securing the needed labour requirements will be a challenge. Investment in proposed major projects in rural or remote areas is expected to reach close to $200 billion over the decade.
In British Columbia, new mining, pipeline, port expansion, and hydroelectric projects in northern B.C. will drive growth over the next several years. Labour demands associated--
Labour demands associated with that Alberta oil sands are well documented. Increased mining activity in Saskatchewan will mean a considerable demand for construction workers over the next few years. For Manitoba, there are multi-billion dollar hydro projects, while in northern Ontario there are the Ring of Fire mining developments, all of which will generate many job opportunities. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Lower Churchill hydro project and proposed mining project development will likely generate demands that exceed the available local labour force.
The labour requirement for these projects will be substantial and raises the challenge of recruiting and retaining required workers. Based on this data, the industry will need to use all measures to meet its needs. Programs that support hiring and retention of youth, aboriginal people, women, immigrants, and older workers will be critical.
Today I'm going to focus my comments on aboriginal people in rural and remote areas, although some of my comments will apply to anyone living in these areas.
In many instances, aboriginal people populate the areas in and around major construction projects in rural and remote areas. The construction industry has identified the engagement of aboriginal youth as a priority. Most recently, the owner community--the people who purchase construction services--has developed a strategy to address workforce challenges. In this strategy, engaging the aboriginal community has been identified as key a priority. The strategy states:
||The Aboriginal population is the fastest growing in Canada, nearly 50 percent of which is below the age of 25. This represents a significant pool of largely untapped labour. To maximize this resource, relevant stakeholders (industry, governments, Aboriginal leaders, community leaders, educators and trainers) at the regional level need to accommodate cultural differences and identify training needs. These activities must include cultural awareness training about the industry for Aboriginal youth and greater awareness of the Aboriginal cultures among the industry's workforce.
||Programs to promote training and employment in the skilled trades are needed before high school to encourage Aboriginal youth to consider these trades as a viable option. Job location can present [some] challenges. Industry cannot wait for major projects to drive demand for this source of labour. It must be proactive in Aboriginal schools and in the community to attract Aboriginal youth and prepare them for work before new major projects begin.
The Construction Sector Council has worked with the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy agreement holders over the past six years to forge linkages between aboriginal communities and the construction industry. The 80 ASET agreement holders have close to 400 points of service across Canada, are a direct link to aboriginal youth, and provide training and counselling—among other services—in their communities.
Through this work, we have learned a few lessons about working with aboriginal people in the area of skills development and employment for the construction industry. Some of those lessons learned are as follows.
First, connecting employers to the ASET agreement holders is an efficient way to forge linkages to find, train, and employ aboriginal youth.
Second, on-the-ground relationships at the local level are critical to creating successful employment and training models. This again includes the same group: owners, employers, labour, training providers, apprenticeship offices, ASET agreement holders, and government.
Third, it takes time to forge the relationships necessary to build trust and create change.
Fourth, skills training needs to be directly connected to employment. Ideally, this needs to happen while on the job, so there has to be a context for the training that's made available.
Fifth, in addition to job-specific skills training, there also needs to be training available to address basic employment skills, that is, the essential skills of every worker, in order for people to succeed in the workforce and to be able to benefit from training.
Sixth, on-the-job training needs to be built into construction contracting agreements, labour agreements, and other types of agreements.
Seventh, we need a long-term strategy that will raise awareness of employment opportunities, as well as short-term strategies that result in employment supported by training.
Eighth, there needs to be an appreciation of the time it takes to create a tradesperson. It takes a minimum of three to five years to create a skilled tradesperson.
Ninth, there must be an identified industry need, and employers need to be connected from the beginning to any initiatives that take place.
Tenth, there has to be collaboration amongst partners at all stages of any initiative—the planning, development, and operationalization stages.
Eleventh, job coaching and support for the employer and the employee are critical to retention.
Last, cross-cultural training of employers and aboriginal workers is critical.
There are some unique challenges when we're talking about remote and rural areas. Specialized training is often not available in those areas. Those living in these areas need to travel or relocate to access training. There are often difficulties with people not wanting to leave their communities to go to job sites or attend training. These difficulties are both practical, in terms of finances and accommodation, and personal, in terms of leaving the support of your community.
There are examples of successful cases of long-distance apprenticeship programs in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. More people could benefit from this type of flexible and long-distance learning to bring training to the remote and rural communities. Anecdotally, it appears that the longer the period of time an individual has to be away from his or her community to take training, the less likely they are to complete that training.
Another challenge is the cultural shock that can be experienced on the job site. This, along with the isolation from family and friends, can impact the retention of aboriginal people. Employment and training opportunities that have more than one aboriginal person in attendance help to address the isolation issue. Cultural awareness training helps to provide an understanding of the workplace culture and helps employers understand the culture of aboriginal people.
Mr. Chair, and committee members, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Northern Remote Forum.
The FCM is the voice of nearly 2,000 municipal members, representing approximately 90% of Canada's population. Rural and remote communities make up the majority of our members and are on the front lines of remote economic development, creating conditions to attract business and labour.
As the FCM pointed out in its 2010 report, On the Front Lines, infrastructure, particularly transportation infrastructure, is vital to lasting and diversified economic development in our remote communities. For businesses, good roads, rail systems, and airports mean that their products and process inputs can move in and out of communities more easily. Particularly in the northern context, it will be critical for this infrastructure to be climate resilient as we experience the impacts of climate change.
Reliable power supply and communications infrastructure are also important for business. I can speak first-hand to this vulnerability. This past summer, the city of Whitehorse, as well as communities in remote parts of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, lost access to all phone, Internet, cellular, and data services for almost half a day when a fibre optic cable was accidentally cut during construction in northern B.C. There were no cellphones, no ATMs, and no telephones. You couldn't gas up your car and use a card lock. Everything was shut down. That was the second time this has happened.
On the energy side, a majority of remote communities are cut off from the North American power grid. In some communities, this means total reliance on diesel for heat and/or electricity. This is a very unsustainable model that exposes our citizens--and the employers, of course--to high costs and a significant risk of a system failure, with very few alternatives.
The federal government has just committed to working with the provinces, the territories, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to develop a long-term infrastructure plan to replace the Building Canada fund when it expires in 2014. That was announced by Minister just yesterday. This plan will be a critical step forward for remote communities and will literally lay a foundation for other important economic development work.
I will turn now to my colleague.
Thank you, Mayor Buckway.
As remote local governments across Canada can attest, economic development also requires conditions that attract and retain people with the needed knowledge and skills. On average, 84.6% of Canadians have access to a regular doctor, compared to 77.8% in the Yukon, 38.7% in the Northwest Territories, and 11.8% in Nunavut. Access to quality education is often limited in remote communities. Often many young people must leave their communities for higher education, and sometimes even for secondary education.
Finally, in many remote communities there is inadequate housing, with as many as twenty people living in one cramped home. This has led many employers to construct their own dormitory housing for workers. The net effect is twofold: First, businesses in remote communities often require skills the local residents do not have, causing local residents to lose out on the direct benefits of new opportunities; and second, living conditions are such that workers may not want to raise their families in remote communities, resulting in high turnover, workforce instability, and loss of corporate memory. This is bad for business, bad for communities, and particularly bad for Canada's north, where many new opportunities exist.
Many remote communities’ economies are resource-driven and face unique challenges in planning for diversification. Last year, in my own city of Thompson, Manitoba, we received news that our largest employer, a mining company, was scheduled to close its smelting and refining operations there by 2015. Our community faced the prospect of losing 500 jobs in a community of 15,000, a sudden and significant loss of property value and, ultimately, unpredictability as to our community’s sustainability.
Fortunately, we have risen to the challenge and, led by the municipality, Thompson has formed an economic diversification working group. The working group brings together stakeholders from all sectors, including the mining company and aboriginal organizations, to build a new future for Thompson.
We have done this on our own, but communities like Thompson and future resource-based communities could do more in partnership with the federal government. The federal government needs a strategy for partnership with resource-based communities to support economic diversification. It has an important role to play in supporting local efforts to attract new business, such as investments in core infrastructure, business development grants and tax incentives, education and skills training, and finally, capacity-building tools, particularly to assess diversification options in a given community.
If I have any time left, I'll be sharing it with Manon.
Thank you very much for your presentations.
It's obvious that what we're been hearing over and over again, not only at this committee but also at other committees, is the need to ensure there is proper support for first nations. You talked about 20 people living in a home. This is exactly what we're seeing in Attawapiskat as well. We have to realize that the amount of money that's actually being invested in an ordinary Canadian is almost $20,000 per person per year, compared to just $8,000 in Attawapiskat per person per year. We have to realize there is a deficiency there.
There was a lot of information given here and I'm struggling as to which questions I really should ask, but I think that even in difficult times savings cannot be achieved on the backs of our first people. Given the skilled-labour shortage, it is imperative that we recognize the potential of our first nation youth. As you indicated, the longer they're away from the community, the less likely they are to complete. That's why we have first nations communities in some areas that are really trying to bind together, to make sure that places like KTEI are able to try to deliver some courses. But, again, they can only deliver a limited amount of courses because they just don't have the infrastructure and the capacity to expand at this point.
Mr. Pineau, you talked about the forestry industry. I have lots of forest-industry communities in my area. I'm in northern Ontario, and I know how difficult it's been for Dubreuilville, for White River, for all of those communities who have had this shock of losing their single-industry town.
When you talked about the internship, it reminded me that some of my communities, since I've been elected, have been asking for a longer internship program. Even the Chamber of Commerce talked about this in their report here:
||Federal programs need to be flexible enough to accommodate the economic realities of individual communities and the alternate training models that may be required to deliver effective results.
On the internship programs, if they're only for a year, that person leaves and another one comes in, and it's a totally different program because they're not sure exactly what the other one had in mind.
So I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here.
As a former mayor of Dawson City, Yukon, I am familiar with the challenges remote communities have. So I'm going to focus my first questions on some of the challenges to communities.
A lot of the northern communities are developed around resource development, whether that be forestry, oil and gas, or mineral extraction. There are some challenges with infrastructure in that regard. First of all, it's energy. There has to be an energy source that's reliable and inexpensive to a certain extent.
I know that our government in the Yukon, for instance, has spent a lot of money helping to provide money for transmission lines for the Mayo hydro project to take some of those smaller, remote communities off of diesel generation. It's good for the environment and it's also a more reliable source.
I'm on the energy caucus, and it was interesting to hear about a number of the potential mines that are trying to develop in Canada, which face challenges because they're remote and away from the grid, and about how they are going to get power to develop their finds.
Mayor Buckway, could you maybe discuss that a little bit? I know Yukon has five potential mines, and there are some challenges with regard to energy.
I want to thank all of you for coming.
I'm going to start with the FCM representative.
Ms. Hogan, you talked about what happens in some of our communities when our major industry shuts down and we're left reeling. My community certainly has experienced that as well, although it's not considered remote. We've had a sawmill shut down in a place called Youbou. That devastated the little village. It goes on and on.
It's interesting, though, what you've recommended. What Thompson is doing is of course very forward-thinking in terms of putting together this group and working together to look at the diversification and the impacts on the community.
Believe it or not, the federal government used to have a very good industrial adjustment program--and this is not partisan, because it was before your time--that brought together community partners, business, and labour, not only to deal with communities where resource industries were being shut down and to do the work around that, but also to deal with business start-ups. It's unfortunate.... I think your community needs to be applauded for taking on that work without any other support.
But I also think you highlight a very difficult problem. The chamber also raised this issue in terms of resource communities going through transition. You mentioned it in your briefing, but if you have any other comments about what works well with that, it would be helpful for us.
Thank you so much, Chair.
Thanks for those presentations. They were really exciting and stimulating, especially for someone like me who usually sits on the national defence committee. It's great to hear about these domestic priorities that are so important in every community across the country.
I was struck in all of your presentations by a certain tension that all levels of government face and that all of you face. On the one hand, there is the imperative of getting the people to where the jobs are. In some cases these are new communities. Nunavut is going to be developing on a large scale for the first time, and Yukon is seeing mines opening after seeing them closed. Then, on the other hand, there is this phenomenon you've all pointed to of less successful or less desirable outcomes for people who are leaving their communities in order to train or work. And when there's a two-stage process, when people leave their communities to go somewhere to train, and then they go to a third place to work, where probably the outcome is even worse, especially for people leaving aboriginal communities where education levels, as we know, are unfortunately so often so much lower.
I'm wondering what existing programs, federal government or other government programs, you think could be retooled or reformed to address this kind of issue. We've discussed some of them today. We obviously need to get people the training they need at home, before they go to work. But they also need to feel at home more quickly where they're going to find the work, whether it's in the oil sands, in Nunavut, or in Yukon. Have you seen programs under Human Resources Development Canada or Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada or at a provincial level in your communities that could be scaled up and do that work on that front?
We heard about these mobile trucks, which not all of us have seen, and I assume that's a fairly small-scale operation so far. But are we missing something there? Is there a model that could be scaled up that would not cost us too much, that would be retooling an existing program and making it more effective for what is going to be a wave of demands in small, and even large, new communities where these developments are happening?
I would tackle that in an offshoot way. One of the issues we face, of course, is housing. So even if you have a community that you can take people from another community to provide the training, there is not always adequate housing. We're seeing that right across the north. We have people who want to bring skilled people up north for jobs, but there's no housing for them. The people come up for interviews but say goodbye because there's no housing. Away they go.
In a lot of senses, it ties into the training, because although there are programs people can do, if they take the training and want to go back, there's no housing. So there could be some different incentive programs for housing and trying to find more rental housing for people. People who are training generally want to rent; they don't want to own a $450,000 house when they're in training. That doesn't work.
So I would urge you to look at the housing situation, and not just social housing, but market rental housing for people who are starting out, who are wanting to work their way up, and who are getting into the businesses to succeed. That helps individuals and it also helps businesses.
I can tell you that in Whitehorse right now, for two of our businesses it's only through the immigrants coming in to work that those businesses are able to survive. The housing situation isn't always great for them either, but that's how we're making a success of it.
Well, the softwood lumber dispute, which is chronic and probably isn't truly over....
I think that we are very good that way. We're seeing industry invest in a lot of research and development. They can always do more—certainly more on the forestry side, anyway—and governments are investing. I see federal and provincial governments and academia cooperating with industry as well. Again, FPInnovations, the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, and Natural Resources Canada are all working together with industry and different universities to be more competitive, to come up with new products, and to make forestry work again.
With respect to your other question, that's a tougher one to answer. I think in some schools, some universities, and some colleges, they are oversubscribed. There's great interest in forestry still.
Often if the school changes the name of the program from forestry to say forest ecology, or natural resources management, or environmental science, it seems to get more kids into that stream.
That being said, traditional forestry, which has changed a lot, is interdisciplinary now. I think it's starting to see a resurgence at the community college level. Certainly in the technical programs, I'm seeing really good numbers there.
I think the universities are doing well. Certainly UBC is doing well. I think Lakehead is starting to turn around. I'm not as familiar with UNB. I'm on their advisory board, but I haven't seen any statistics lately. I think they're coming back too. So we're starting to see a little bit more interest there.