To the Chair, Mr. Chong, the Vice-Chair, Mr. Godin, who is also the member of Parliament for Acadie—Bathurst, Ms. Vice-Chair St-Denis and members of the committee, good morning.
First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation to appear today before the Standing Committee on Official Languages of the House of Commons. I am pleased to appear as President of the Board of Governors of the Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick, or the CCNB. What's more, the theme of the economic situation of official languages minority communities is of particular interest to us.
I do not have to convince you of the importance of action to support official languages in Canada on the development of minority communities. In the field of education in New Brunswick, that action supports a number of initiatives at all levels, initiatives that contribute to the vitality and economic development of our communities.
I will start by briefly describing our training institution. I will provide some figures that show our economic contribution to the province, and I will speak to the challenges that we face in fulfilling our mandate. I will finish with some possible solutions and recommendations that could help us meet these challenges with our partners.
The CCNB is a technical and professional training institution that, for the last 40 years, has contributed to the development of the Acadian and francophone population in the only officially bilingual province in the country.
Our community represents one third of the 750,000 residents of the province. However, neither the New Brunswick Official Languages Act, the Act Recognizing the Equality of the Two Official Linguistic Communities in New Brunswick, or the inclusion of the principle of the equality of the two linguistic communities in New Brunswick in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have provided, in actual fact, for equality and the desired level of economic development.
Recently, in 2010, the New Brunswick Community Colleges Act recognized the CCNB as an independent French-language college, replacing the bilingual structure that had previously been in place.
The CCNB's mission is to contribute to the development of individuals and of the Acadian and francophone community by offering training programs focused on skills that meet the needs of the labour market, by supporting applied research that stimulates innovation, and through active engagement in our communities. Our five campuses offer more than 92 technical and professional training programs which reflect the needs of the market.
In 2012-2013, the CCNB's regular and continuing education programs served more than 8,560 students. Of those, 86% found a job in the year following their graduation.
Economic Modeling Specialists International recently undertook a study on the impact that the CCNB has in the province. In 2012-2013, the CCNB employed over 700 people and had a budget of $60 million. According to the study, the overall contribution of the CCNB and its students to the economy of New Brunswick was $400.5 million, representing roughly 1.4% of the province's GDP. The payroll was $44 million. The CCNB represented, to provincial taxpayers, a return on investment of 3.6%. Every dollar spent led to the following results: a return of $4.50 for students in terms of lifetime income, and $5.40 to society due to additional provincial revenues and savings to social spending.
The socioeconomic situation is troubling. In 2012, professor Maurice Beaudin, an economist at the Université de Moncton, published a study on labour market trends and the need for labour force training in northern New Brunswick. It showed that more than 70% of the Acadian and francophone population of the province lives in this largely rural area. It also showed that the economy of northern New Brunswick is currently faced with demographic decline, high levels of unemployment, and low literacy and education levels among the population. Although good jobs are available, businesses often have a hard time filling them.
With the exception of our Dieppe campus, which benefits from a better economic climate in the south-east of the province, the CCNB's other campuses are located in northern New Brunswick, in Bathurst, Campbellton, Edmundston and on the Acadian Peninsula. This is a resource region where the economy is based on mines, forestry, peat, and fishing. Major structural changes to the economy over the last 20 years mean that the region is currently in economic transition.
As a result we have seen a number of troubling trends. These include an exodus of young people from northern New Brunswick to the western provinces and to urban areas in southern New Brunswick. There is also the ageing population, which is one of the main reasons for smaller cohorts of skilled workers available to the labour market. A third trend linked to education means that we have low literacy and graduation levels, as well as a high number of individuals who are unemployed and who do not have a diploma or a certificate.
Given this context, the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick has been warning for several years that regional employers are facing a shortage of skilled workers, representing one of the biggest challenges to their development. This shortage includes not only specialized knowledge, but also skills like adaptability and the ability to work as part of a team.
I will now provide some recommendations for action that could be taken.
It is clear that, as things stand right now, northern New Brunswick is not well prepared for structural changes to the economy. However, the CCNB sees a number of possibilities for training, institutional development and innovation.
Given the CCNB's major role in the New Brunswick Economic Development Action Plan and the New Brunswick Labour Force and Skills Development Strategy 2013-2016, the CCNB is well placed to offer recommendations and suggest positive actions.
It follows that it is essential for the CCNB to increase the skill level of those who are untrained or undertrained, as well as for those who are unemployed or underemployed. The CCNB is ready to play its role in collaboration with major industry stakeholders, the community, governments and other training institutions.
Meanwhile, industry stakeholders wish to see more added value in the natural resource sector. Promising projects include secondary and tertiary processing of natural resources and industrial manufacturing. This is particularly true for megaprojects and large industrial sites.
Working in cooperation with the province, the federal government can directly contribute to local economic development through investments in several sectors. First of all, there needs to be more funding for applied research and innovation at the post-secondary level, and particularly at the college level. Second, the government must invest in infrastructure projects under the Building Canada 2014 program. For the CCNB, this means investing in maintaining our current infrastructure and adding space to adequately meet our training and research needs. Third, the government must support efforts to recruit students internationally, as well as student and staff mobility. Fourth, there must be adequate funding for a system of loans and bursaries that are tailored to the needs of students. Fifth, there must be funding for business internships. Sixth, there must be funding for health care training in French. We already receive funding from the Consortium national de formation en santé, the CNFS. We also rely on funding from the Official Languages in Education Program administered by Canadian Heritage. Finally, we look forward to the establishment of federal institutions in the regions.
In conclusion, it is clear to us that higher literacy levels and lower school dropout rates in our province would allow the CCNB to make a greater contribution to the economic success of our province, as our pool of potential recruits for post-secondary education would be much larger.
Because of dropping birth rates, these recruitment challenges will become even greater in the coming years if nothing is done to keep young people in school and to allow us to reach a larger proportion of our undereducated population.
This will only be possible if we define and better control the idea of access to education in such a way as to reduce financial barriers. It is essential that we work in cooperation with all of our partners to meet the needs of Acadian and francophone communities. It is essential that the provincial government, which is responsible for education, make a culture of learning and ongoing training an interdepartmental priority, with the support of the federal government through various programs designed to support official languages minority communities throughout the country.
Thank you for the invitation to provide our views. I wish the Standing Committee on Official Languages nothing but success with its consultations.
Thanks to all of you.
Serving in elected office is one of life's highest callings, in my opinion. I want to thank all of you for your service to Canada and to Canadians from one end of the country to the other.
Also, I particularly want to say hi to my two good friends, John Williamson and Yvon Godin, who are from New Brunswick. I've had the pleasure of working closely with both of these people in my career. I'm always glad to see them, as well as all of you.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for this opportunity.
The City of Moncton is proud to have become Canada's first officially bilingual municipality in 2002. This distinction allows us to experience outstanding economic expansion since the severe crash in the 1980s when CN, one of our largest employers, closed up shop.
Mr. Chairman, when the CN shop closed, an aggressive economic development agenda was pursued under the direction of highly motivated and committed political and community leaders. We pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps and got to work, starting with a local economic development summit that gathered these leaders and set the foundation for Moncton’s future. In fact, someone involved at the time told me recently that bilingualism was the first marketable attribute identified, and upon which we could rebuild.
Over the past three decades, New Brunswick’s—and Moncton’s—economic successes can often be linked to an available skilled and bilingual workforce. Clearly, other factors also come into play, but what we've done rather well is create an opportunity by promoting the talents of our bilingual residents.
To sustain such growth over the years is no easy feat. While some may attribute that success to luck, for the most part it cannot happen by magic or by chance alone. Moncton, as a community, has embraced bilingualism, and there is an overarching realization that learning two languages is an advantage. It expands horizons, opens doors, and encourages collaboration and cultural exchanges.
The sheer hundreds of children registered in the French immersion programs offered by our local anglophone school district, as well as the numerous children born from exogamous families that are registered in our francophone school district, demonstrate that parental buy-in to the value of bilingualism in our region is important.
Over 50% of our population speaks both English and French. But achieving bilingualism is never a done deal; we cannot rest on our laurels.
We have a significant percentage of francophones in Moncton: approximately 35% of the population cite French as their first language and approximately 50% speak both languages. Their status as a minority linguistic group is very real. The municipality is well aware of the ongoing efforts required to nurture the development of French in Moncton.
Ever since the Congrès mondial acadien was held in Moncton in 1994, local francophones have shown their commitment. Their pride shines through. Moncton hosted the Sommet de la Francophonie with resounding success in 1999, and other renowned events such as the Frye Festival, the only international bilingual literary festival in Canada, and the largest one in Atlantic Canada, are gaining in scope.
The francophone community is therefore putting a great deal of effort into ensuring its cultural and economic vitality. But what about us, as a municipality?
Some claim that bilingualism or linguistic duality is very costly in this time of deficits and budget cuts. The real question we should be asking is: can we allow ourselves to abandon the very asset that sets us apart in an increasingly competitive world? The City of Moncton sees the so-called costs of bilingualism rather as investments.
Of course, we do have certain legislative obligations, but it is not mandatory for us to hire francophone performers for large-scale community celebrations such as Canada Day. We are pleased to aim for a cultural balance that pays tribute to our two main linguistic groups, to continue offering our residents opportunities for a wide variety of exciting experiences.
Establishing the Université de Moncton in 1963 undoubtedly contributed to the success of francophones in this minority setting. Generations of Acadians have received a high-quality post-secondary education. Thanks to the harmonious coexistence of the two linguistic groups, francophiles from other parts of Canada and around the world are drawn to Moncton to study, and to settle there permanently.
Now, Mr. Chairman, our regional economy certainly benefits from large francophone institutions or employers such as Radio-Canada, the Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital, and the publicly traded Imvescor.
Assomption Vie specializes in financial and insurance services, employs some 200 people, as well as over 7,000 brokers across Canada and in the United States, and has recently expanded, as I say, into western Canada and the U.S. even more than before. That's not to mention that they also built the city's only skyscraper. We're proud of that, only having one.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Jacques Dubé: Another exciting example is ShiftCentral, a technology- and Internet-based market intelligence agency that was founded by a francophone Acadian entrepreneur in 2000. Based in Moncton, the company has since expanded to open an office in Boston to serve the ever-growing number of U.S. clients.
The bottom line is that language is not the deciding factor regarding investment. If it’s profitable and the business plan is solid, it will succeed.
Moncton is well positioned, thanks to our location and bilingual nature, to support centralized government back-office tasks in administration, for example, or finance, and to become a key player with the launch of the Canada-Europe free trade agreement, CETA. Also, of course, we are fortunate to be home to a thriving sub-industry relating to translation services as well.
In closing, as a municipality we recognize that there is always room for improvement, and our newly created Bilingualism in Moncton Committee is looking into how we can improve the overall experience for residents. For your review at your leisure, I left with the clerk a brochure in terms of our promotion of bilingual signage in our community.
Mr. Chairman, Monctonians are generally well served in both official languages whether visiting a public or a private enterprise, as our environment can be better defined as bilingual rather than a clear-cut English-French dynamic. Some of our most successful entrepreneurs have led the cultural shift in support of bilingualism, people like Larry Nelson of Lounsbury, an anglophone who has led the charge in making sure that Moncton is bilingual and offers services in French and English.
The private sector appreciates our collaborative approach to bilingualism, for example when creating awareness with investors on the linguistic composition of our city and our region. The city’s philosophy is to lead by example, which means that we encourage and value bilingualism, and by extension, the use of French in cultural and business environments.
In the end, born-in-Moncton residents and newcomers alike are not only proud of our community’s bilingual nature, but they recognize its numerous economic advantages.
Thank you. I will be happy to answer your questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour welcomes the opportunity to present to the Standing Committee on Official Languages and share labour's view on the economic situation of Canada’s minority linguistic communities.
Since our foundation in 1913, the NBFL has been New Brunswick’s largest central labour body. Today we represent 40,000 members, 18 different unions, 378 locals, and seven district labour councils located throughout the province. Virtually all industrial and public sector unions in the province have locals affiliated with the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. This wide diversity in membership obligates the NBFL to address issues and concerns impacting workers, their families, and their communities.
I'm very proud to say that the NBFL is a bilingual organization as guaranteed in our constitution. All our documents are published in both official languages and translation is provided at executive councils, conferences, and conventions. We believe it is essential in ensuring full participation from both linguistic groups so we can fully accomplish our mandate to advance the economic and social welfare of workers in New Brunswick.
I must also add that I currently sit on the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick. Literacy is a real problem in our province, with 60% of our population over the age of 16 who do not have the literacy skills they need to function in everyday life. Of course this has a direct impact on their employability and the province’s economic growth.
Figures from StatsCan shows that francophones are particularly affected with 66% who have difficulty understanding basic written material compared to 50% of anglophones. The literacy coalition was notified verbally that as of July, all our federal funding will be cut. We have yet to receive this notice in writing. This funding represents 90% of the literacy coalition’s funding.
As pointed out by other witnesses before the committee, francophones in northern New Brunswick are facing particular socio-economic challenges. The NBFL fears that those challenges will only get worse with the employment insurance reforms of 2012. The seasonal nature of employment in New Brunswick, particularly in the north, is simply part of the economy. It’s very important to clarify that the jobs are seasonal and not the workers.
People who work in natural resources, tourism, and some government departments are laid off by their employers every year for a period of time because there is simply no work for them. These workers would rather work all year round, but the seasonal nature of work forces them to rely on EI for part of the year. With the reforms of 2012, they are now classified as frequent claimants, making it much harder for them to qualify for EI benefits.
As previous presenters pointed out, although francophones represent 32% of New Brunswick's population, in 2011 they accounted for 40% of the labour force in primary sectors that include agriculture, forestry, and fishing. All the seasonal work is very instrumental for the province’s economic growth. If people working in those industries cannot qualify for EI, they will have to go elsewhere to work.
The last census showed that New Brunswick's population grew to 751,000 in 2011 from 730,000 in 2006. However, figures released in September 2013 by Stats Canada showed that New Brunswick’s population dropped back down to 750,000, while the population of Alberta grew by more than 200,000.
All these facts taken into consideration, there’s certainly a very strong possibility that the new EI regulations contributed to the decline in population and that this decline will only continue. The Atlantic Premiers’ Panel on Impacts of Changes to Employment Insurance is currently studying the impacts of the 2012 EI reforms, and we are impatiently waiting for this report.
Another area of concern for the New Brunswick Federation of Labour is the wage gap that still exists between men and women in the province. This is a human rights issue and an equality issue. The hourly wage gap between women and men is 11.7%. In other words, women in New Brunswick earn 11.7% less than men. Furthermore, 67% of the women in the New Brunswick labour force work in the private sector where there is no pay equity legislation.
Although we don't have statistics on how this affects francophone women, we do know that in New Brunswick 35% of francophone women versus 25% of anglophone females have less than a high school education, and 23% of francophone females versus 30% of anglophone females completed high school.
In 2006, the federal government reduced Status of Women Canada’s budget and changed its mandate to prevent them from funding research and advocacy work. The New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity was told in April 2010 that it will not be receiving project funding from Status of Women Canada.
Unfortunately, many groups that advocate for women’s rights across Canada were also victims of the funding cuts by our federal government. The cuts made it that much harder for the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity to do its work and lobby for legislation that would close the wage gap and give all women in New Brunswick justice in their workplaces.
In closing, I once again want to thank your committee for giving the New Brunswick Federation of Labour the opportunity to make a brief presentation, and I hope that you will take great consideration of our concerns and make the proper recommendations to government.
Thank you very much.
I would like to welcome our friends from New Brunswick who are here with us today. My colleagues asked me earlier if I wanted to ask all of the questions, given that all of the witnesses are from New Brunswick. I replied that we work as a team, and that I wouldn't let them off the hook that easily.
It is a pleasure to have you with us today as we continue our important study. We all agreed that it should be done.
I will start with you, Mr. Caron. You have a lot of experience in the field of education. You were once the director of the Shippagan campus of the Université de Moncton. You are very familiar with northeastern New Brunswick.
My questions will be for all of you. We have an excellent group of witnesses here today. You represent many different spheres of activity: colleges, universities, municipalities, and workers.
Frankly, I have to admit that I am very jealous of the city of Moncton. People leave northern New Brunswick, emptying our rural areas, to go and work there.
For those who might not be aware, I should note that Mr. Dubé comes from the Beresford area. He once participated in an international swimming competition between Grande-Anse and Paspébiac. He is obviously an excellent swimmer. I have known him for a long time. He has represented our local municipalities.
I will now turn to the important questions. What more can the college do? How could the government help colleges train our students?
Labour force mobility is a reality in today's world. I don't like talking about this, in a way, but, even if we don't want our workers to leave, the situation is what it is. Some young people do their training and then leave to work in the West. Their schedule is to work for 14 days and then come home for 10 days. Our young people receive an education at home, but our regional economy is unable to offer them a job.
What more could the government do?
This question is also for the representative from the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. The government used to offer good training programs, through employment insurance for example. Workers could take a literacy program, for example, while they were receiving benefits. They did not pay to participate in the program.
How can the government contribute to training our youth so that they can succeed in the labour market?
I will start with you, Mr. Caron. I would then like to hear Mr. Colford's comments.
In fact, a good number of young people continue their studies after graduating from high school, at both the college and university levels. As you just mentioned, our bigger challenge is that young people in rural areas often do not finish high school. They do not have a basic level of training. The CCNB would like to offer programs to help all of these people finish their education. I agree with you on that.
A study conducted by Professor Beaudin revealed that, over the last 10 years, more than 142,000 jobs created in Atlantic Canada required post-secondary training, while only 4,000 jobs were created that did not require a high school diploma. This means that we need to continue to educate and instruct our citizens.
You talked about programs to achieve this. Over the last two years, we have repeatedly asked the government of New Brunswick for funding that would allow us to reach people where they live, because we know they will not necessarily come knocking at our door. Our institution would appreciate help in guiding them. In some cases, they are undereducated and require guidance to help them identify which career to pursue or how to change careers. You know as well as I do that the economic foundations of northern New Brunswick have profoundly changed in recent years. The result is that many people need to change careers. This is where the provincial and federal governments could help institutions like ours.
That deals with the people who need an education.
It is also clear that the CCNB also needs support to help businesses that wish to innovate. We know that innovation will be key to success in the future. With that in mind, as I mentioned in my presentation, we have great hopes for funding for applied research. This is a new mission that the CCNB has taken on to help businesses.
At the end of the day, however, a large part of our population needs to go back to school.
I'd like to hear Mr. Colford on that.
You were talking about the employment insurance. You were talking about the 35% of francophones compared to 25% of anglophones. I mean, you said it, too, in the north most of the jobs are seasonal work. I always said that you don't get a lobster on Yonge Street in Toronto. The cod fish, you don't get on Sainte-Catherine Street in Montreal. It's in the Baie-des-Chaleurs.
The people who left school to work in those fish plants.... At that time you didn't need any education to take a herring and put it in the box, or you didn't need grade 12 to do the lobster industry and all of that.
What can they do, maybe through the EI, to help workers who are on EI to get literacy programs? Do you think it would be a good idea if the governments slacked off a little bit and said, “Here, we'll take more money from the employment insurance and instead of paying the debt with it”—as I've said many times, it's stealing the money from the workers—“we'll do something with it to put the people back to work”, maybe through the college, for something like secondary and tertiary processing, stuff like that.
Do you think that would be the way the government should go?
We talk a lot about training our people so that they can get a job. The strange thing is that there are actually a lot of jobs. This morning I was reading an article in L'Acadie Nouvelle, a francophone newspaper in New Brunswick, about an employment summit currently taking place in New Brunswick. It said that over the next 10 years it is possible that 40,000 job openings requiring certain qualifications will not be filled. This is not only because of a lack of training. We must ensure that the necessary training is provided so that jobs left open by retiring workers can be filled.
In answer to your question, I would say that people realize that the economy of New Brunswick is changing, particularly in the northern part of the province, which relies heavily on natural resources. Today, businesses are not just in competition with each other, but with businesses from around the world. They need to innovate more and acquire more skills, among other things.
There also needs to be a culture shift in the population. Let me explain. In the past, when young people finished high school, if they did well, they went to university; if they did less well, they went to college. Today, people are realizing that at the national level—and it's the same in our region—a balanced society like ours needs as many trades people and technologists as university graduates. Even in our high schools, the culture needs to change.
Earlier, Mr. Godin asked how we could help those who do not have enough training to get ahead. I think that they will need additional support. We cannot simply tell them to go and get educated and something will come along. They need someone to help guide them. This is where community colleges can offer guidance throughout the training process. Today people, especially young people, are realizing that they will not have a livelihood or a career if they do not continue their education after high school.
It is because we are very diversified. We can offer services in both languages. We are going beyond that, in that we are trying to promote multiculturalism as well. Moncton's multicultural aspect is very important. For example, the Université de Moncton welcomes people from Africa who speak French. People from the African francophonie come to study at the Université de Moncton. We have to keep these people. They are all great people we absolutely need to keep with us.
But there is still a challenge for Moncton. Even if we are the best place in Canada to do business, even if we are the economic engine of New Brunswick, according to our numbers there will be 3,000 jobs to fill in Moncton by 2015. In other words, even though we emptied out the northern part of the province—all its inhabitants really are in Moncton now, myself included—we will still require 3,000 people to fill the jobs in Moncton. Why? The reality is that the economy is growing faster than the workforce. The baby boom bubble is bursting and the generations coming behind do not have the same numbers.
So, even though we are highly successful, we face great challenges. We must maintain this rhythm, maintain the economy. It is quite the challenge.
Earlier, Mr. Colford spoke of the Fort McMurray phenomenon out West. People are told that they need to go there. In my career, I was deputy minister of Economic Development in New Brunswick for six years. I went out West to see. I invited 50 people originally from New Brunswick who had settled in Calgary. I did the same thing in Toronto, in Ottawa, in Montreal and in Vancouver. I discovered that once people had moved there, if they did not return within five years, that was it; they were not coming back. If they have been there for five years, there is a good chance they have fallen in love, bought a house and made friends. It's not complicated. Their friends are no longer in Shippagan or in Moncton, but in Calgary and Fort McMurray. So, they don't return.
If we want to bring back people from New Brunswick, we have to do it quickly. Otherwise, if they are given the opportunity to stay there, they will, for the rest of their lives.
That is the challenge we face in Moncton.
On the other hand, the great success of Moncton is entrepreneurship. The private sector makes the economy thrive.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much to the witnesses for their presentations.
I was looking especially at Mr. Colford's presentation. The 60% illiteracy issue is a huge problem, and is disturbing me in a country that is in the G-7 group. Mr. Caron is telling me that the Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick offers technical training in French, including training for specialized trades.
You are recruiting for post-secondary education. You are recruiting people from the province only from the 40% who are qualified by literacy to go into post-secondary education. What can you do to increase literacy? If you are looking at the trades you need to have a basic understanding of mathematics, not only language, to be able to do something in the province.
Mr. Caron, what are you doing? What kinds of trades are you specializing in on your five campuses? How are you working with Mr. Colford to gather the needs of the province?
It's unacceptable for a rich province like New Brunswick, which has the statue of the lobster I think—I visited there—that it is in that situation, that you cannot work together and establish an economic plan and an industrial plan. You also have technologists in the province. You have a nuclear power plant, which needs a lot of skilled, qualified employees.
How are you developing the trades? What trades are you offering in both languages, French and English? How are you cooperating with Mr. Colford? I am also bringing the three levels of government into this area: federal, provincial, and municipal. How can they work together to get out of this situation in the province?
Thanks very much for the question.
Firstly, on the immigration question, one of the realities of Canada is that regions such as Moncton or other regions outside of the major centres in Canada do not benefit from immigration the way we'd like to. I would argue that Montreal has a refugee problem, not an immigration problem. Moncton, New Brunswick, has an immigration challenge. The closure of the immigration office in Moncton—they moved it to Fredericton—certainly was disappointing. It certainly didn't help. However, we continue to put a lot of emphasis on immigration.
We just went through an immigration summit with the support of the federal government. The federal government gave us money, along with the province, to put on an immigration summit and come up with an immigration strategy for greater Moncton. That strategy is going to be espoused by the greater Moncton municipalities. In fact, the City of Moncton has two full-time dedicated staffers who are focused solely on attracting immigrants. When they get up in the morning their job is to make sure that immigrants coming to Moncton, who are coming through various consulates or through the programs of the Province of New Brunswick, are welcomed. We give them sales pitches. We guide them to different places.
We have organizations like MAGMA, which is a multicultural organization, and CAFi, which is a francophone version of that. Those agencies are well funded by the federal government. We haven't seen any challenges in that area.
Where we have challenges in immigration, frankly, is that I don't think there's a culture out there in the embassies worldwide that is necessarily conducive to having immigrants land in rural Canada. New Brunswick is a rural province, and Moncton, even though it's a city, is still 130,000 people. It's a small city in Canada. We need more help from the embassies in helping immigrants choose areas other than Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.
Part of our immigration strategy now is to go to Toronto and meet with immigrants who have already landed in Canada, and encourage them to come to Moncton. That's working. We're doing trade shows and job fairs, going to Toronto and Montreal and other places with our own staff and partners, and saying, “We have real jobs for real people, here in Moncton.”
The other area that's challenging in immigration is the cultural reality of immigration. We still have employers that are reticent to get involved in a process that takes nine months for the immigrant who happens to be in Ireland to come to Canada and land in a real job. The reality, as I mentioned earlier, is that we have 3,000 jobs to fill in Moncton. It's hard to fill the funnel when you have to wait nine months for that little grain of sand to fall into the funnel and come out the other end. It doesn't work very well. If there's something that can be done to fast-track.... I know the Government of Canada is working on that. Minister Kenney is trying to fast-track the processes and all that, but there's a lot of red tape to be cut in that area.
Another area that could be helpful is to educate the embassies more in terms of what's available, and to work more closely with the entrepreneurs to try to change that cultural mindset that says immigrants are bad or it's going to take too long and cost too much money. There has to be a better mousetrap than we have now, in my opinion.
I think I've touched on immigration, the CIC office closure. There was one other point you made and I forgot to note it.
Well, I think it's clear.
Moncton is the economic driver of the province.
It's driven primarily by entrepreneurship. Generally speaking, I think if you look at Moncton you see that it's been a success story because of the entrepreneurial spirit of the community and a great supply of labour, both skilled and unskilled, over time. That's basically where we are.
We are, within New Brunswick, in a bit of an anomaly. Monsieur Godin spoke about the golden triangle, and it's true that Fredericton, Saint John, and Moncton are the drivers of the economy in New Brunswick at the moment, simply because the natural resource sectors have not been as successful as they have in the past. We haven't transitioned to secondary, primary, and tertiary transformation, say, in those industries the way we possibly could have, whether it's value-added wood or value-added fish or whatever.
I think Moncton has certainly been a star, a shining light of hope in New Brunswick as a result of the economy and what's happened there, primarily based on the labour force and its national geographic location in Atlantic Canada as a hub.
We've called for a moratorium largely because of not enough health regulations and not knowing the health implications of unconventional fracking. One may and will make the argument that fracking has been done for a century, and yes, it has. This unconventional fracking bothers us. It's only been done for 10 to 12 years. Until it can be proven safe, we in New Brunswick don't want another DDT or asbestos problem that we're going to find out about 30 years down the road. That's the biggest reason we've opposed it.
Currently around 23 wells are operating in Penobsquis. Six people are employed there. When I spoke to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, I asked how many were local; they answered that they're local now. I must say I laughed in her face, because I told her I could move to Fort McMurray tomorrow, and in two week's time I'd be calling myself a local. The jobs aren't there at this point.
I don't know if you follow the news, but there were some protests in Elsipogtog.
When we're being told of these jobs, I must ask how any government can dictate to a company that they only hire locals, because those people who were on the ground running the seismic testing were not New Brunswickers; they were brought in. As you said, I have friends who are out west doing seismic testing.
If this is the case and this is going to bring our people home, why hasn't it happened already?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for being with us.
Mr. Dubé, I found your presentation very interesting, especially when you talked about bilingualism is an economic asset and that it is not an expense, but rather a real investment. You are sending a strong message there.
Regarding investments and the economic outlook, I will not hide the fact that we have a difficult time getting the government to pay attention to the real issues. For example, the government could invest in our future by improving the Canada Pension Plan, but in its speeches, it is in the habit of portraying initiatives like that as a tax. This shows how far out in left field it is.
Coming back to your presentation, the situation in Moncton is quite interesting because it is similar to what happened in Quebec City. Our city went from being in an economic downturn in the middle of the 1990s—I had just graduated from university at that time—to being very much a remarkably vibrant city with full employment.
Given the efforts over the past 30 years, how did the federal government help you? Did it miss opportunities to help you or could it do more to support growth?
I believe the federal government could play a much bigger role with entrepreneurs. We have economic development agencies in the regions. In ours, it is ACOA. Earlier, someone mentioned secondary and tertiary processing. There are federal organizations, particularly Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada, but some of them could work much more closely with entrepreneurs. Jobs are created by entrepreneurs, not by governments. I think there has to be more communication with entrepreneurs individually and that it has to be targeted by sector.
ACOA already works with entrepreneurs to develop exports. Could it do more and provide more support? Yes, it could do more in Moncton than in the northern part of the province. Earlier we talked about the challenge facing the regions in New Brunswick. Entrepreneurs are not looking for bureaucracy. They do not want more interventions from the government. What they want is specific assistance to meet their immediate needs. This is the kind of thing that could help them.
There is also the issue of training for trades. Today, it is difficult to find a mechanic, a plumber or an electrician. In Moncton, we have the same problem. I just hired two plumbers for the City of Moncton. I had a very hard time finding them. We have to encourage more young people, even people who have lost their jobs, to choose the trades. We should also be giving them direct grants, specifically so that they can get the training they need. We need to help them out a little more if we want to encourage them to do so.
Infrastructure is also important. The municipality of Moncton is no different from other Canadian municipalities; it also has infrastructure problems. Our infrastructure deficit has now reached about $150 million. It is a small city, but it still has a high infrastructure deficit. We are pleased to see the federal government invest in infrastructure, but we would definitely like to have more support.
The problem in New Brunswick is that the provincial government is having financial problems. It has a debt of nearly $12 billion. For small provinces with limited financial capacity, it can be a challenge to right away inject as much money as federal programs provide. We are not all as lucky as Alberta, which has it revenues from royalties and natural resources. This is why we also need support for infrastructure.