I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting No. 34 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Thursday, February 3, 2022, the committee is meeting to study anticipated labour shortages in the Canadian transportation sector.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.
Members of the committee, we have appearing before us today, from the Canadian Ferry Association, Mr. Serge Buy, chief executive officer.
We will hear the director of government and stakeholder relations of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, Mr. Maguessa Morel‑Laforce.
From the Freight Management Association of Canada, we have Mr. John Corey, president.
Before I turn to our witnesses for their opening remarks, I'd like to begin by turning it over to the clerk for some housekeeping. I believe we have to elect a vice-chair.
Mr. Clerk, go ahead.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for inviting the Canadian Ferry Association to speak on this important issue.
First, let me provide you some background on the sector.
Ferries in Canada annually transport over 60 million passengers, 23 million vehicles and billions of dollars' worth of goods. Our members provide a crucial linkage to communities. They cross rivers in isolated communities in rural and northern Canada, an example that most do not fully realize. There are free ferry crossings along the Dempster Highway in the Northwest Territories to get to Inuvik; when ferries do not run, the cost of goods significantly increases in that city.
Ferries bring not only people but also most goods to islands such as Newfoundland and Vancouver Island. We also provide urban transit solutions in various municipalities, such as Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver and others.
The Canadian Ferry Association represents most ferry operators across Canada, from Crown corporations to indigenous, provincial, territorial and municipal governments and private operators. We also represent some of the suppliers to the sector.
The issue of labour shortages is not new in the marine sector. Indeed, we have an aging workforce. An informal survey of our members sent out in 2019 showed that about 55% to 62% of the employees holding senior positions were able to retire within five years. The pandemic has made the issue even more pressing. We have seen unprecedented levels of retirement in the past couple of years.
The result is simple. There are increasing numbers of ferry crossings that are cancelled due to labour shortages. This weekend, some ferry crossings between Kingston and Wolfe Island in Ontario were briefly cancelled, as the operator was looking to replace a crew member. You can see weekly in the media instances of crew shortages on the west coast, the east coast and indeed throughout Canada, even in the Prairies, where this is the number one issue for our operators there.
The brief we submitted to the committee provides some of our recommendations. To be clear, Mr. Chair, there is no magic wand that will solve the issue. There are multiple directions to be explored, and each will have an impact.
The financial impact of labour shortages in the ferry sector is important. It means goods not arriving or arriving late. It means higher prices for some products. It means that employees are not getting to work because they can't get the ferry. It also means that people may not be getting home in time or getting to their hospital appointments, etc.
Ultimately, it is about communities. That's why it is essential for us to remember that when ferries do not run, entire communities are affected.
There are many considerations. I would like to explore some with you.
Immigration will not solve all problems, but it is an important avenue to look at. We thank Transport Canada for having taken some steps in the right direction, with support from Global Affairs, on the signing of agreements recognizing credentials, but more can be done, and more needs to be done soon.
Technology is also an important consideration, but the regulations that need to accompany the use of new technology also need to follow, and we're seeing challenges in that.
Can working conditions be improved? Absolutely, always, but I would say that ferry operators are normally employees of choice, and working conditions are very good already. Raising salaries may attract a few people, but then others will raise their salaries, and this endless race to poach each other's employees will end up benefiting no one.
Employers, unions and training institutions will have a role to play. This is why, for example, you will see some recommendations in our brief that deal with hybrid, in-person, and virtual training.
The recommendations provided in our brief are in four categories: international recruitment, where, again, signing agreements with other countries is essential; training, from virtual training to changing the requirement that sees institutions in the marine sector refuse international students; modernizing, in terms of crewing requirements that deal with technology, and the need to modernize some regulations and adopt a risk-based approach; and data, where better data collection needs to occur to have a clearer picture of the existing issues.
Mr. Chair, I look forward to questions. Thank you.
Mr. Chair, honourable members of the committee, I am grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to speak with you today.
The Chamber of Marine Commerce represents more than 100 marine industry stakeholders, including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as Canadian domestic ship owners.
The Canadian marine sector moves goods and people everywhere in Canada. Of all the transportation modes, ours is the one that has the least impact on the environment.
During the pandemic, seafarers and shore personnel were designated essential workers and have continued their important work to ensure that Canada's supply chain remains resilient and responsive to deliver the goods that Canadians count on.
Canada has an extensive network of private docks and public ports used for international trade and moving people, all of which underpin national industries. Some 200 Canadian ships are operated in the country for commercial purposes, which include trade between Canada and the U.S., and domestic trade as well. The Canadian marine sector, both private and public, has over 1,000 employers and more than 100,000 professional employees.
Helping to build the domestic marine sector workforce ultimately benefits other key sectors of the economy—agriculture, construction, manufacturing, natural resources and tourism—that rely heavily on having access to marine transportation for their supply chain requirements.
The marine industry falls under federal regulations which cover most of the positions on a commercial vessel. However, the federal government offers little support to training institutes and to students in the marine sector. The federal government should provide regular funding to support the training of new employees for the private sector, the Coast Guard and other areas of our sector where we are lacking personnel.
Unfortunately, my colleague, Julia Fields from the Canadian Marine Industry Foundation, could not be here with us today, so I will give the presentation that she prepared.
The Canadian Marine Industry Foundation was launched in 2020 to help address workforce development challenges in the private and public marine sector. Our partners include employers, such as marine shipping companies; unions; pilots; marine colleges; as well as key government departments that have maritime responsibilities, including the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board.
Like our multimodal partners in trucking and rail, we have a tremendous challenge ahead. The Canadian marine sector is already struggling to fill positions across the country, and in recent years labour shortages have even led to ships being idle temporarily. Marine colleges are finding it difficult to hire teachers, and government agencies are competing against private companies for the same small and aging talent pool. For the most part, the marine industry operates efficiently and often quietly away from the public eye. Consequently, awareness of marine sector careers is low. Most youth and those looking for a second career do not think of seafaring or many related career paths within the industry.
You should be aware that labour market data for the marine sector is scarce, and what does exist is usually dated or incomplete. However, a recent study conducted by Transport Canada found that 43% of the Canadian marine transportation workforce is expected to retire over the next 10 years. This figure is even higher in critical positions, such as engineering officers and deck officers. Transport Canada estimates that there will be a need to hire approximately 19,000 new workers over the next 10 years.
It is important to note that building our future pipeline is an urgent problem, as the marine sector depends on an ongoing talent pool willing to undergo specific training at all levels. It is a skill-intensive industry for shoreside and, especially, seagoing positions. For example, becoming a captain on a larger commercial ship can take six to eight years.
We believe the federal government could help us in three key areas. These are areas in which many other sectors have received government assistance.
The first is working with us to improve marine sector labour force data analysis to better identify the true scope of the problem and to benchmark and track progress.
The second area is funding to help increase awareness, as a variety of marine career paths, high wages and high job match rates are largely unknown to the general public, particularly high school students.
The third is to work with the sector to improve the availability, reach and funding opportunities of training programs. There are limited numbers of marine training facilities or colleges in Canada, and many prospective students would need to travel and pay for both program tuition and living expenses. As a result, marine training can be difficult to access for many communities and also for workers already in the industry who are looking to upgrade their skills and licences.
As an example, two of our college members have recently applied for funding to develop new program offerings that will help lower the overall cost of training and increase marine training accessibility for first nations and equity-deserving groups. These programs include increasing online courses and accelerating the adoption of virtual reality and simulation in marine training.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the marine industry in Canada.
I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak today about anticipated labour shortages in the Canadian transportation sector.
The FMA represents purchasers of freight transportation in Canada, including rail, marine, air and trucking. I hope I'm in the right meeting, because I will be speaking about rail and trucking labour issues.
Like other G7 countries, we have an aging population and a low birth rate. Our recent COVID experience has highlighted the reality that there are not enough skilled workers to fill all vacancies. Coupled with the pandemic, work-life balance has become a more important factor for workers. Salary alone is no longer a chief motivator.
How is this affecting transportation services and the supply chain? We have all experienced the supply chain chaos that was exacerbated by COVID. At the beginning of the pandemic, Transport Canada deemed both rail and trucking services to be essential. Truckers and rail workers helped Canada continue to function during COVID by continuing to move vital food, fuel, PPE, chemicals and other necessary materials. Without this transportation service, the effect of the pandemic would have been much worse.
Even though transportation workers performed admirably and the job got done, there are two main labour problems.
First, we have an aging workforce. Generally, the baby boomers who powered the economy through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s have left the workforce or are retiring en masse. There are not enough skilled workers to adequately replace them. Not everyone can work from home.
The truck driver shortage continues to be a problem. The Conference Board of Canada now finds that the average truck driver's age is 46 years, compared to the average for all workers, which is 41.5 years. The industry needs to attract younger workers. It's estimated that there are 23,000 driver vacancies right now, and that will go up to 56,000 by 2024. This does not bode well for the Canadian economy, going forward.
In the rail industry, rail crew and locomotive shortages—not railcars—are recurring problems through periods of negative network fluidity. There is a great concern in the shipper community that the above-average grain crop this year, the coming winter and the staff shortages will create chaos on the rails, going forward.
The second employment issue is a changing attitude toward work. Workers are looking at work differently today from how they did in the past. COVID did not cause this change, but it has certainly sped it up. Working from home, virtual meetings and the demand for a better work-life balance are issues currently on the table.
Employee turnover in the trucking sector is very high—around 70%. Drivers routinely leave their employer or the industry. This turnover can be attributed to long hours, pressure to deliver, poor food and rest conditions on the road, and lack of recognition and appreciation.
In the rail industry, the practice of precision scheduled railroading, operations focusing on sweating the assets, does not apply only to equipment. Staff is cut to a bare minimum, resulting in increased pressure on the employees who are left.
In the U.S., railways and unions are currently working out their labour agreements. Although wages will go up 24% over the next three years, some union members are not ratifying agreements, because they say management holds no regard for their quality of life—illustrated by their stubborn reluctance to provide a higher quantity of paid time off, especially for sickness. Employees feel management is more concerned about operating ratios and profits than workers' well-being. It's no wonder they can't find anyone to employ.
What are the possible solutions?
One way to increase the number of workers available in the short term is by increasing immigration. I understand this solution may not be that simple, but it is worth the effort. Let’s remember that Canada is a country built with the help of people from many places.
Pay an hourly wage to truck drivers, which will prioritize safety, thereby reducing the “need to get there at any cost” mentality. Require new energy-efficient trucks and encourage digitalization of the industry. Make trucking a skilled trade; many trades require an apprentice program and mentoring, especially in Europe. Make trucking a vocation instead of a default career. Ensure there is sufficient funding for the infrastructure necessary for the future. Ensure there are more safe places for drivers to eat and rest.
Railways need to be more cognizant of the labour market realities and their customers’ service requirements when downsizing their workforce in response to temporary volume downturns. Excessive cuts followed by deliberately slow restaffing should not be an option. Leave some slack in the system, and make the supply chain more resilient.
Provide better working conditions for rail workers, with less punitive action for legitimate time off. Having more workers working fewer hours results in safer working conditions and a happier and therefore more productive workforce.
Thank you very much.
My first question is going to go to Mr. Morel-Laforce.
We've heard a lot of discussion about labour shortages. I am aware that there was approximately a 20% reduction in grain shipment last year in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. You spoke about some of the collateral effects of the labour shortages and you mentioned that even ships were remaining idle because of the labour shortages.
I'd like to talk about how that impacts our food supply chain. I'm assuming that this also created a problem of congestion at the ports because of the shortage of labour, because you would have shipping containers sitting at the ports longer.
Is there anything you think the government could do legislatively in order to modernize the Canada Marine Act to help with this problem? That's my concern.
On the grain shipments, most of the grain will be exported in bulk cargo, so your typical route will be going either west or east. In the case of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence, the cargo will be moved by train, let's say to Thunder Bay. From there, it will be put on a laker and brought further east for export. Most of the grain in the country is being exported.
In that regard, the seaway has a capacity right now at about 50%, so we could double the number of ships crossing the seaway today without much impact on traffic. That's certainly something we could do, although manning vessels and manning them in the future could become a difficult thing to do.
I appreciate the line of questioning from Ms. Lewis. It's nice to see the appreciation that she has for the Great Lakes. I see Mr. Masse here from the NDP, as well, who has been a real champion for the Great Lakes. Brian, I am glad to see you here.
I have to agree with the comment earlier. The bottom line is that the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence will create the fluidity that this country needs to bring trade not only domestically but internationally, to strengthen our overall trade performance.
I have to be very specific, especially now that we're digging deeper into the CTA review that was completed in 2015 by David Emerson; the transportation and logistics strategy reports that this committee has both commissioned and completed in the interim, and hopefully in the future and the final stage; the ports modernization review, which has already been mentioned; the supply chain report that we've embarked on; and now the labour strategy. They're all part and parcel together.
The final comments before I get to my question are these. There's no doubt that we understand that the partners include the companies, the labour and the supply chain within the marine industry, the trucking industry, the rail industry and the air industry. We understand the effects on the overall supply chain when it comes to labour shortages. Ships are docking at docks with no captains, no cooks, no engineers, no deckhands and no mates. The ship's docked. That cargo is now held one day, two days, three days or maybe a week in getting to port. We also understand that the effects on the multimodal partners are great as well. It's a domino effect. The ship docks, and the trucks and trains wait. They have nothing to carry, because it's still sitting on the ship.
What do we do about it? We're moving forward now with a strategy that, I would only suspect, is not specific to one of these different methods of transportation, but is a multimodal transportation labour strategy that includes all methods of transportation.
With that, I'm going to ask all three of you the same question. Jump in as you see fit.
I'll give you an example from the Niagara region. We are now embarking on the construction and building of a Great Lakes innovation and training facility that will include education vis-à-vis the environment of the Great Lakes and its ecosystem, as well as the economic side when it comes to working with companies and the unions—such as the SIU and others—and, of course, other NGOs, to be part of that facility from the operating standpoint.
The key is to integrate the distribution and logistics, working hand in hand with up-to-date movement of goods along strategic trade corridors—such as that on the Great Lakes—integrated with road, rail and air, and aligned with up-to-date data analysis leading to integrated management. My point is that it's not just about the person driving the vehicle, truck, ship, plane or train. It's also about how it's moved and the training that goes along with that.
The question is to all three of you. How do you see that playing out? How do you see the trucks, trains, rail and boats moving, not only in terms of the product, but also in an integrated fashion and, therefore, the training that's needed to accomplish that?
I'll go first, if that's okay, gentlemen.
Right now, we have a supply chain that is really silos. Each member of the supply chain does what's best for that particular company or group. What you're talking about is coordination of that supply chain so that the most effective and efficient movements are made. That's going to take a lot of political will, if I could use that term, to force the members of the supply chain to be on the same team.
Shippers want that to happen, because “what's good for me” is good initially, but if everyone pulls together, it's going to be good for Canada in the long run. We're going to become a much more effective, efficient trading partner, and that's going to be good for everyone, because it trickles down.
The question is, how do you do that? I think that's the conundrum we have. The report that came out from the supply chain task force I think is a good start. There are some interesting ideas in there. How do we do that?
A lot of things are already in place that can help us have a more effective, efficient supply chain. Strengthening the Canada Transportation Act is one of them. There is legislation already there to regulate railways, which are, in this country—let's be honest—monopolies, and there are ways to level that playing field, but there has to be some will to actually do what needs to be done to level that playing field.
You talked about coordination, and indeed, there needs to be better coordination of the supply chain. Some recommendations were made to the task force. Other committees are also studying the supply chain, so I'm going to focus on the labour shortage, if you don't mind, which is the study of this committee.
You talked about training. You don't train a marine worker in the same way that you train a truck driver. While you can coordinate certain things in training, on that side it's a little more difficult to coordinate training. However, the coordination of the supply chain is essential. I will give you that.
What the government can do to help at the present time is to look at some of the legislation it has on the training side and modernize some of that legislation. The Canada Shipping Act can be looked at, to be modernized a bit, to enable more flexibility for training institutions to look at foreign students, as an example, or to enable virtual hybrid training. You can train a doctor virtually, partially, in a hybrid model, but you can't train a marine worker in a hybrid model right now.
We know that there were some movements made, but the movements are very slow, sir. I think your help and the help of this committee on the labour shortage is essential to drive the agenda a bit faster.
Thank you, Mr. Morel-Laforce.
That is exactly what I'm drilling down to. It's basically not working in silos, not training people to just simply drive trucks, steer ships or navigate ships, trains or planes. It's also the next layer, which is in fact that data integration. They're being trained to do what they are actually disciplined to do with respect to driving, navigating, flying or engineering, but also, on top of that, the next layer is that integration of distribution logistics systems so that they're being trained to do that as well. Then, of course, it means working all together in a multimodal fashion to get the word out there so that people are actually interested in getting into the industry.
Would you find that an advantage?
My first question is for Mr. Morel‑Laforce and Mr. Buy.
During the last legislature, my colleague from the Bloc Québécois, Maxime Blanchette‑Joncas, the MP for , sponsored Bill , after listening to the grievances of the Institut maritime du Québec, which is based in Rimouski. A good number of international students were coming to Canada to learn how to pilot our boats and then, sadly, once they had finished their training, they had to go back to their home countries because they needed a permanent residency visa or a certificate of competency in order to work in their field.
I think we should amend the act, especially in light of the labour shortage, because those students learned how to use our system and were trained here. They could easily pilot our boats.
I would like to know if you would be in favour of amending the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, in order to allow people who have been trained here to stay.
Thank you. Yes, he's just behind me, but he's going to let you be subjected to me for the first round here. You can get him back later.
Thanks for having me, Mr. Chair. It's good to be back here.
To our witnesses, actually, on the international trade committee we are studying the container issue and shortages too, so maybe we'll forward some information that might be helpful for the committee.
Mr. Badawey has done some really good work on the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group initiative. We're carving out a special spot for the Great Lakes, so we now focus on other political contacts, NGOs and businesses on the Great Lakes side. It was an initiative that he started. It has formalized and created another level of opportunity.
I'm wondering what you're hearing from American counterparts, and whether or not a similar strategy with labour might be a way to go if they're suffering the same kinds of pains we are, since many of our markets are integrated. In ridings like mine and Mr. Lewis's here, we have about 10,000 trucks per day that go through our communities. He probably actually gets more, because they go back and forth within his riding even more, even though I have the border.
Do you have any thoughts on reaching out to our American and perhaps even Mexican counterparts about some of the labour shortages that we have, as a unified approach to making sure that's in place?
Maybe we can start with Mr. Corey and go across the table.
Okay, that's interesting to follow.
Quickly, I'll go over to Mr. Corey.
You mentioned a really good point with regard to conditions of work. There was a great rail report that came out that talked about the culture of intimidation and fear from CN and CP upon workers when they moved to the safety management system.
What can we do for our trucking, especially for independent truckers? I have a lot in my community. Some of them don't have benefits. They don't have a number of different supports that way. They're also being leveraged to fund their own thing. Are there things that we can do, as more of a co-operative or some type of other system, to help link them somehow to offset some of their costs? Some of the financing is unbelievable. Then, they don't get the benefits, as an independent person.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and of course thank you to my colleague. I'll use up all 20 seconds and say thank you to Mr. Masse.
This is a really good study. Am I ever happy to be on this committee now.
I have just a few initial thoughts.
In my riding of Essex, I'm surrounded by Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and Lake Erie. We have ports. We have ferries. We have the HMCS Hunter, as Mr. Masse mentioned. We have barges. We have the Coast Guard sitting in our own backyard. We have police boats.
The first thing I would say is.... I already brought this up to St. Clair College. I floated this about two months ago and they're very much on board. I think it would be a great idea to start a training centre in the area. It's centralized to Canada. We can put people on the ferries. We can put them on the freighters. We have ADM, which ships grain across to the United States. They can learn to navigate. We have the military.
That's just a point of interest. I've already opened up those talks.
I guess my question would be for Mr. Morel-Laforce. Where are those two training centres, specifically?
Thank you very much, sir.
I'm fortunate enough to have a family cottage on Manitoulin Island. The Chi-Cheemaun ferry takes our family over there every year. Sometimes twice a year, if you're not in politics, I suppose.
I went over there right after the House rose. The cooks and the deckhands were all speaking English, but they sounded a lot like they were from Newfoundland, so I got inquisitive. I started asking questions and came to find out that nearly 75% of the folks on the Chi-Cheemaun actually came in from Newfoundland.
Of course, I went to and asked him if he realized I was stealing his people. He said he didn't know what I meant. His office apparently overlooks the port in St. John's. To make a long story short, my point is that we're stealing from Peter to pay Paul. If we're taking them from Newfoundland, that's fantastic. Folks love them to death, but that's not getting the job done.
I guess I'll take it one step further. Last week I was in Taiwan and got a chance to visit the Taipei port. This port is so incredibly digitalized. At the end of the day, it goes like this: You get a ship of 24,000 sea containers being off-loaded, one every 30 minutes, which is remarkable in and of itself. In speaking to the CEOs of the port, I know they took their labour force from somewhere around 41 people per shift down to 18. Wow. However, they also said that they hired more people because they're so modernized at their ports that they had to hire way more truck drivers. I'm going to suggest it's probably easier to get truck drivers than it is for folks to use booms and all those types of things.
Just with regard to the ports—and I'm saying this because of the labour side of things—do you have any idea with regard to our ports on the east coast or the west coast if that's something we're actively going after? Is there something the government can do to help that out?
First, colleagues, I'd like to welcome once again our new members on the transport committee. I know I can speak for all of us around the table and say that we very much look forward to working with you.
I also want to say thank you very much to our witnesses for appearing before us this afternoon.
I want to ask each one of you—briefly, if we can—what your thoughts are on the recently released report by the supply chain task force. More specifically, I'm looking for which recommendations you think are most important, which ones you think they got wrong, if any, and how we can do better.
I don't think they got any of them wrong. I think there are a lot of good ideas in there. The question is, can they all be implemented? Probably not.
One that I personally like, although it doesn't have much to do with the labour issue, is strengthening the Canada Transportation Act to give it more power, potentially similar to powers that the STB has in the United States, where they can make quick decisions that are very timely and get things rolling.
I also like the extended interswitching, because I'm a rail nerd. I think that will afford shippers more options to move their goods. It will also move inland ports and staging grounds away from those interchanges, further out, but still allow them to be able to take advantage of interswitching rates.
I think the idea of having a supply chain czar, someone who can coordinate, is a very good idea. How that will actually be done is still a bit of a mystery, but I think it's a good idea and it may be worth pursuing.
A little while ago, I asked Mr. Corey and Mr. Buy to talk about retaining experienced workers. Mr. Morel‑Laforce, perhaps you have something to say on the issue, but I would ask you to go even further.
For example, Mr. Buy spoke about the fact that there were workers who were 70 years old and that you couldn't keep them on forever. And yet people my age and some of my friends are starting to see our parents retire, when in fact most of them could probably work another five to 10 years. They often say that they have the impression that they are working to pay taxes and that they would also like to enjoy a better quality of life.
Wouldn't there be ways to incentivize them to stay in their jobs for a longer period?
Thanks to the committee for welcoming my colleague Mr. Masse for a round of questions.
It's great to hear from all the witnesses today.
It's good to see you again, Mr. Buy. Obviously, ferries are of great interest in northwest B.C., so perhaps I'll address my questions to you for a couple of minutes.
I'm curious about salaries in your sector. We heard from the trucking industry, at a previous meeting, that salaries in the trucking industry have gone up, if I recall, by 15% to 20% in the past two years—some pretty staggering numbers. Have salaries shown similar increases in the ferry industry?
Thank you to all the witnesses, and thank you for providing recommendations. I note that the brief the Canadian Ferry Association sent has not only recommendations but detailed recommendations. That will be helpful as we consider our report.
I want to go back to the whole immigration issue and sourcing workers from foreign places, because you mentioned here a shortage of 19,000 workers in the next decade in the marine sector. We've heard testimony already about a shortage of 28,000—and growing—truckers in Canada at the moment. So, we have these shortages, and we've heard repeatedly over the course of now the third meeting on this study that immigration is a potential solution or an important solution.
Of course, we agree with that. That has always been the case in Canada, but my concern is that there are no quick fixes. You've mentioned the fact that it's a two-year wait. There's a two-year delay. I'm sure you're hearing that from members of your organizations and from people you're dealing with.
You mentioned 2.6 million cases. I heard 2.7 million cases. We can split the difference; that's fine. However, we know that the system is broken. We know that with this government a lot of things are broken. We saw that with passports, with the airport mess, etc.
How much trouble are we in if we have to wait two years?
I'm going to go to a different line of questioning, and I want to hear from everybody. I'll tell you a bit about where this is coming from.
I represent a very diverse community in northeast Calgary, with rail, an airport and a lot of newcomers, a lot of them working in the trucking industry. They work in distribution and warehousing. Also, we have a very vibrant inland port, which is going to help with some of the supply chain challenges on the west coast, particularly as Prince Rupert grows.
I hear all the time from the industry that the government needs to do something with labour. I hear this all the time, but my question for you is, what is your organization doing to connect with labour, with diverse communities?
I will start with you, Mr. Buy.
Thank you for that question. It's a great question.
We've actually looked at a number of solutions in the past. We can talk about indigenous communities also. A number of our members have programs to attract indigenous people to the sector.
For newcomers as well, a lot of work has been done with newcomers in making sure that when they're coming—because a lot of our ferries operate in remote communities—we are welcoming them in those communities. It is a challenge, on occasion, for people to establish in something that is completely remote.
We are doing a lot of work. Can more be done? Absolutely, more can always be done, but I can assure you that there is a lot of work being done by our members.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to go directly to driver compensation and drill down into that area.
I grew up in a blue-collar town in Chilliwack and knew numerous people who raised families by driving long-haul trucks. Until a few years back, that is what they did to put food on the table. They lived a comfortable lifestyle.
I've heard stories since then about the rates for the routes that they used to cover, going back 20 years, and companies undercutting what had been the going rate for a number of years. They were clearly not paying the going rate or the previous prevailing wage to their drivers.
I want to talk a bit about mileage rates versus hourly rates, and what you're seeing. Are certain companies—some bad actors—taking advantage of vulnerable people and not paying a fair wage—or even minimum wage, it would seem—in some of these cases?
If we're going to ask companies to go to an hourly wage or if we believe that it would help address the driver shortage, what are we doing to alleviate the dwell times or the turnaround time problems at inland ports?
I talked to one of my colleagues, who said that he had a constituent reach out to him. He said he used to be able to turn a truck 1.8 times a day and now he's lucky if he can turn it once. It's easy to say he should pay an hourly wage, but if his driver is not moving product because things are jammed up at the inland ports or at the intermodal yards and so on, how is he going to do that?
I want to talk a bit about your concerns about the wide variance in wages. I'll go to Mr. Corey first. Are people cheating the system? Is there any policing happening for that? If so, what is it? Maybe some others can weigh in on the problems with port wait times, etc., that are going to make it more difficult to change the compensation model.
Thank you for that question.
One problem with this is that it's not simple. In trucking, we're talking about a multi-jurisdictional industry. Each province has its own regulations and rules, and it's very hard to coordinate them all at the same time to have an even industry across the country.
Speaking from what I know, my members are saying that hourly wages make the job much more appealing. However—and your point is well taken—if you're sitting at a truck, dwelling for seven hours, waiting to pick up a container, that's a lot of money wasted.
Again, this issue is not single-faceted. Multiple players will have to be affected by this. What causes that dwell time? It means that maybe it's not as efficient at the intermodal yard. Maybe it's the railway that's having issues, and the trucker will end up paying for it.
Again, that's why having someone coordinating the supply chain to make sure we don't waste money on additional infrastructure or additional things, when we can use the assets we currently have more effectively, is better for everyone.
I don't have a simple answer for you, but I think we have to look at all aspects of the situation, and there's a ripple effect right through the system.
Thanks to our guests, and welcome to the committee.
I live on an island, and that's why I'm going to focus on the marine sector side. Mr. Lewis talked about how Newfoundlanders and Labradorians work on lake boats. That's been happening in our province for generations. Of course, the transportation mode in Newfoundland 60 to 80 years ago was primarily boats.
When I was a high school teacher, we implemented a program in grade 10 to bring the curriculum of the Marine Institute at Memorial University into the classroom in grade 10 to create awareness among high school students. It has generated dozens and dozens of students who have gone through the Marine Institute and are now working in offshore supply boats and different kinds of boats, fishery boats and all the rest.
I want to ask you this question, Mr. Buy. On the awareness side, do young people know that there are jobs available in this sector? What data do you have on this? How is the industry communicating with them? We did the programming in the high school, in Harbour Breton where I taught school, to create that awareness. What has the industry done to create awareness of what types of jobs are available and how well-paying some of these jobs are?
Thank you, Mr. Rogers. I'll be quick.
Mr. Corey, I give you a lot of credit for looking forward and trying to modernize...“transportation specialists”, I'll call them. I want to go down that road, and I want to get a bit more granular on that.
We have people being trained to be truck drivers. Earlier I mentioned pilots, captains and train engineers. Do you see an opportunity to give more exposure or acceptance to those who don't simply want to be a truck driver or a captain or a pilot or an engineer? Do you see an opportunity to add more corporate value by introducing you, introducing the sector and introducing the rebranded “transportation specialist”, where they would not just drive a truck or fly a plane or captain a ship or be an engineer on a train, but in fact also be a data and logistics manager?
I think a perfect example of that is Dell computers. When they move their product around, they're eliminating warehousing. They're actually getting their product on the road before it even has a destination.
Do you see an opportunity there, once again, to add corporate value as well as attraction to those who may want to get into that business, more so than in what's available to each individual today?
Thank you very much, Mr. Badawey. That takes into consideration the time that Dr. Lewis had ceded to Mr. Rogers.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our witnesses for being here this afternoon and for contributing to this very important study.
This concludes the questioning for today. Please feel free to leave at your convenience.
Colleagues, we'll now turn to committee business. We have one item on the agenda. It's an item that I had a chance to speak to many of you about at the last meeting. It's a motion that we adopted in the previous session to approve committee travel for the visiting of various ports across the country.
Given that we didn't have an opportunity to plan that out for the time between now and December 31, the clerk has advised me that we need to adopt another motion to resubmit that funding request so that we have an opportunity, should we wish to do so, to visit these ports in the winter session.
I'm asking colleagues for unanimous consent. Is there any objection to us resubmitting the request?
Yes, Mr. Strahl.
To add a bit more meat to the bone on this one, with respect to all the studies we've been doing—vis-à-vis the transportation logistics study and the supply chain study, and with the expectation that ports modernization may come to us, as well as the study we're doing right now with respect to labour shortages—these trips across the country and visiting these areas will add to the knowledge of the committee by seeing first-hand what we're dealing with.
I think what's most important is not only what we're dealing with today, but how we're going to deal with it in the future because, to some extent, it's archaic. If you live in a community like mine, which has transportation attached to it as a strength, it's very disheartening to see how archaic it is in comparison to when it's strengthened and the capacity builds.
It was mentioned that the St. Lawrence Seaway is only working at 50% capacity. There's a reason for that. As a committee, we have to see it, so that when we're moving with those strategies, we can put the meat to the bone on it. It will be wonderful if we can get out there to see it first-hand.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.