I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting No. 37 of the 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 as witnesses via video conference in the first hour, from the national supply chain task force, Monsieur Jean Gattuso, task force co-chair, as well as Louise Yako, task force co-chair.
In the second half, from 5:30 to 6:30, from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration we have Jean-Marc Gionet, director general, immigration program guidance, and Ian Gillespie, director, temporary resident policy and programs.
From the Department of Employment and Social Development we have Mr. Andrew Brown, senior assistant deputy minister, skills and employment branch; Mr. Michael MacPhee, assistant deputy minister, temporary foreign workers program; and Mr. Brian Hickey, director general, temporary foreign workers program.
Finally, from the Department of Transport we have Ms. Melanie Vanstone, director general, multimodal and road safety programs.
Before I begin, I'd like to take this opportunity to inform members that all of today's video conference witness participants have completed the necessary audiovisual checks.
We will now begin the opening remarks with the national supply chain task force for five minutes.
The floor is yours.
Good afternoon, everyone. It's a pleasure to be speaking to you today.
Monsieur Gattuso and I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak about the national supply chain task force's report. We are proud of the work the task force did over its 100-day mandate. Our objective was to provide independent advice through recommendations on actions aimed to increase competition, access, reliability, resiliency, redundancy, efficiency and investment in the national transportation supply chain, while also promoting continued international transportation services to and from Canada.
The recommendations developed are based on the perspectives shared by industry through consultation and written submissions. We were also guided by the principle of creating a transportation supply chain that would be governed and operated in the best interests of the country, given Canada's reliance on international trade for our prosperity.
With respect to the objective of the TRAN committee, today we will share what we heard from industry about the labour shortage impacting the national transportation supply chain and the recommendations related to addressing these challenges that we provided to the in our final report.
One of the key structural issues identified through our consultations with industry is that the transportation sector is facing acute labour shortages. While they are an issue for all transportation modes, they are particularly problematic for the rail and trucking sectors. To give some perspective on the scale of this issue, as noted by the Conference Board of Canada, the transportation sector is more reliant on older workers compared to the total economy, and more than 260,000 of its workers will be retiring in the next 20 years. Moreover, from 2021 to 2030, the number of workers joining the transportation workforce will be insufficient to offset the losses from retirees.
The transportation sector relies inordinately on immigrants, and its current workforce is predominantly male. We heard that the labour issues facing our supply chain system are complex and cannot be tied to a single broken cog in the system. A mismatch between available and required skills, lack of appropriate training programs and insufficient training funding were consistently raised as significant concerns by various supply chain representatives. They also mentioned lack of awareness of certain occupations as being particularly problematic.
Labour shortages are a pressing issue across all sectors. We have seen that when the transportation sector is not functioning properly, products do not make their way to consumers, materials do not make their way to producers, and notably the follow-on impacts affect all Canadians.
A key example of this dysfunction is that 50% of our trade is dependent on trucking, and we are missing more than 25,000 drivers. Further, there is not a collective view that trucking is a skilled trade, which dissuades potential candidates and impacts training funding. Trucking is just one example of the system not being set up to effectively attract and retain talent.
A reliable and efficient supply chain is critical to the economic well-being of our country. I repeat: it must be reliable and efficient.
The transport sector is responsible for facilitating trade, which comprised 61% of Canada’s GDP in 2021, a year in which the supply chain suffered significant reductions in service due to human-caused mischief and natural disasters.
Regardless of the advancements being made through automation and artificial intelligence, stakeholders believe labour will continue to be a limiting factor for a reliable and efficient supply chain unless drastic measures are taken.
To respond to these issues we have consistently heard that collaboration among all levels of government and the private sector should be prioritized to better understand labour market needs across the country and to meet current and future workforce requirements.
Collaboration between the public and private sectors was seen as an opportunity to advance and promote education and skills training in supply chain-related occupations. This collaboration would also have to involve provinces and territories as education and training fall under their jurisdiction.
Taking into account the struggles and suggestions from industry, our final report contains both immediate actions and long-term recommendations that reflect what we heard.
In the short term, within two years, we have recommended that the government develop a transportation supply chain labour strategy to identify current issues and develop long-term and lasting solutions.
Additionally, we have brought forward other immediate actions that the government could pursue to provide some immediate relief. These include that the federal government seek to expand existing labour programs and examine a way to attract under-represented groups; continue to support and, if possible, expand the temporary foreign worker program on an urgent basis as it applies to workers in the transportation supply chain; expedite refugee and immigration processing for those eligible to work in supply chain-related businesses; and finally, support organizations and businesses to help acclimatize new Canadians to Canadian work and social environments.
Looking to the long term, we recommend that the government finalize the transportation supply chain labour strategy and, at a minimum, include direction related to immigration, domestic labour participation, refugee training and education, productivity and automation.
The strategy should reinforce the government's willingness to adapt policies, remove barriers, provide adequate training, embrace collaboration, promote the continuous growth and upscaling of our workforce, and invest in our businesses to take advantage of technology.
Our final report provides further details on each recommendation and the nuances of the problems faced by the supply chain system.
While labour is only a single component of our final report, we would like to thank you for giving us the time to share our findings on the matter. We look forward to any questions you may have.
I'm here, Louise. I'll take over this question.
First, going back to government, you saw governments in the last few days taking a position on immigration. That's one thing we were pushing in our report when we were talking about labour. We heard from the stakeholders that we need more immigration.
Going back to your question on the supply chain office, when you look at what we lost in the last 10 years in terms of shared trade in the world, especially with the U.S.—three share points—you could easily pay the supply chain office and get results. When you start losing shares, you need immediate action.
Remember that the objective of the supply chain office is making sure that within different departments of the government there are KPIs that are oriented to supply chains. One of the basic things in this report is that trade is important. It's 61% of GDP.
If we start losing shares, Canadians will be affected by it.
First of all, I probably should start with commending you guys on the report. A lot of hard work and a lot of time have been put into this report.
The one stickler that I keep hearing about is the supply chain office. I spoke with somebody today who said they're unsure how more government bureaucracy will continue to help the problem. They looked further down the road and saw that this would be an additional burden. That's the concern, at least, that I'm hearing.
I'm going to move on to my next question, but if there's more to add to that, Mr. Gattuso, I'd welcome you to chime in.
Obviously, the railways and ports are owned and operated by the private sector. An outcome that's seen from your report is that there seems to be more incentivization from the government for the creation of additional rail lines and ports.
Is that a fair comment?
Maybe we'll start with you, Ms. Yako. Is that your interpretation of what you heard?
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses appearing today. It's good to have you here.
First of all, I should commend you on some great work in your report on the long- and short-term recommendations as we try to resolve the supply chain issues.
We've heard from many different witnesses over the last number of meetings. They're from all sectors of the transportation corridors, the airline industry, marine industry and trucking, and all the people who are involved in moving goods and services for our country.
I want to ask you this question. Either one of you can feel free to comment on the questions I ask.
In your view, after all the work you've done, is the shortage of truck drivers the biggest problem in the transportation sector, or do you see other shortages as equally problematic? If so, which ones are they?
Thank you, Ms. Yako and Mr. Gattuso.
I would like to congratulate you on the work you have done. It is important to make sure the supply chain is efficient. A lot of people in our ridings are talking to us about this, and we are all feeling the consequences. I wanted to point out that you have done an important piece of work. I hope your recommendations will make it possible to achieve better results.
With that said, you referred in your opening remarks to the subject of workforce training and the fact that education falls under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories. You also talked about the question of professional organizations, which also fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces. At other times, you raised the issue of immigration. In Quebec, economic immigration is under provincial jurisdiction.
How did you manage to reconcile each of their prerogatives in framing your recommendations and the vision you have presented to us?
First, we met with industry actors in several provinces. We did not meet with each of the provinces, since only some of them had made submissions. However, we talked about a national problem, which will mean we are able to look outside for workers.
If we want to stay in business, it takes people and it takes programs to support them. We are well aware that some powers are federal and others are provincial. We did not try to put ourselves between two jurisdictions. We identified the problem, and we stated that training had to be offered and we had to invest together to do that. The entire country will win as a result. I think that has to be your starting point.
As I said, work as a truck driver is not recognized as a skilled trade, so there are no subsidies for this type of work. The training required by transportation companies has to be paid for by the drivers themselves. That is so important. We do $774 billion in trade with the Americans and the roads are important. It takes drivers and they have to be trained.
We determined that in order to achieve this, collaborative work had to be encouraged. In fact, our report is entitled “Action. Collaboration. Transformation.” What collaboration means is working hand in hand for the future of the country.
Thank you, Mr. Gattuso.
Essentially, your task force heard from people who described their challenges, and then you made recommendations based on the testimony heard and your findings, and on your judgment.
I just wanted to clarify that ultimately, you carried out your mandate by describing potential solutions to the current problems, without necessarily checking which jurisdiction was involved. You are a federal task force. I am not criticizing, I'm making an observation, in telling you that the federal government may not be able to implement some of your recommendations. That doesn't mean they are not useful or worth considering, of course. I just wanted to point this out.
At page 18 of the report, you actually refer to the need to collaborate with the provinces and territories on the subject of retaining truck drivers. The drivers we have heard at the committee said that the aging of truck drivers was the key element in their view.
In the Bloc Québécois, we think that of all the proposals heard, one of the avenues worth considering would be to provide tax credits or other measures to encourage older workers to stay in the labour market, so it would be more attractive for them to remain instead of leaving.
I would like to know how you see that kind of recommendation, or at least that kind of program.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I appreciate the presentations. I also wanted to thank Ms. Yako for the briefing she gave me on the report the task force put together. Unfortunately, we had some very poor northern B.C. cell service at the time, so it was a bit fragmented on my end, but I appreciated the overview.
I wanted to ask a few questions based on the report. There were a few areas I found particularly interesting. One is around labour dispute delays. I note in the list of stakeholders consulted that a number of labour organizations were part of the conversation. The report states:
The Minister of Labour should urgently convene a council of experts to develop a new collaborative labour relations paradigm that would reduce the likelihood of strikes, threat of strikes, or lockouts that risk the operation or fluidity of the national transportation supply chain.
We would all want that and I think if it was possible, we should have done it a lot of years ago.
What's envisioned here? This description is fairly vague. I'm wondering what sorts of ideas you heard, especially from the labour folks you consulted as part of this work.
By the way, it's nice to see you again, Mr. Bachrach.
One of the things we heard very consistently from many of the stakeholders was a need for certainty, and certainty in some cases actually trumped efficiency. Certainty they equated with reliability, and reliability is now almost more important than competitiveness or cost. One of the main reasons for the lack of reliability that was identified was related to the fact that there are significant disruptions that can take place as a consequence of lockouts or the risk of strikes.
What we tried to do with that recommendation was essentially to say that if as a country we want to continue to be known as a reliable trading partner, we have to do everything we can to try to control man-made or controllable disruptions. One of those is obviously through the elimination of labour disruptions. We didn't have a particular solution in mind because none of us is an expert in labour relations.
What we wanted to bring to the forefront was the fact that this is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently, and the experts on this are the , union leaders and employers, and they're the ones who are going to have to figure out how to do that, because of how important having a reliable supply chain is to the future of our country.
Sure, and we've heard that in our study from the airline sector in particular, about the instability and reliability having an outsized impact on their operations, so it certainly follows with what we've heard.
I guess I should start as well by congratulating you on the comprehensive nature of your report. I've noted that Transport Canada has no shortage of excellent reports. The question becomes, does the government action flow from that? I hope we will hear from you as time goes on. I know you don't have a mandate, particularly, to follow it through, but I hope we will hear from you on what you're seeing both from the private sector and from government.
I wanted to talk a bit about rail. I wanted to focus in on rail. The CTA holds railroads accountable for providing adequate service. I've talked to shippers and have heard that the standard is difficult to enforce because it's so poorly defined.
Did you have any recommendations? Did you find that this was a problem in trying to determine how...? I know you talked very extensively about the relationship between shippers and the railways, but how do you think we can better define what providing adequate service is, so that there can be the reliability, predictability and stability that are needed for a smooth supply chain?
The conversation we just heard was interesting. If I may, I am going to make a few comments, although I only have two and a half minutes.
First, I want to say that my wife is from an immigrant background and one of my children belongs to a visible minority. I completely recognize the contribution that immigration makes. However, Quebec must have control of its policies in order to ensure the survival of French. That is very important to the ability to transmit our culture. It is why I stand up for our public policies in Quebec and for our distinctiveness.
With that said, there is something the federal government could improve: the processing of immigration applications.
Did people tell you that the long processing times for immigration applications were a problem? I am talking about both temporary worker applications and other categories of workers. An employer can hire a worker and follow the process, but processing times may be so long that it discourages people. Employers are losing workers because of that.
Should the federal government be more efficient in how it processes immigration applications?
I am going to continue along the same line.
In the 1980s, people often said that immigrants were going to steal our jobs. Today, we tend to say the opposite, that we need immigrants to meet workforce needs.
A question arises, however. In the 1980s, the reply was that immigrants were not stealing anyone's job since they created their own jobs. Today, immigrants are still creating their own jobs, or at least additional demand.
What are we going to do, to solve the problem arising from our growing need to rely on immigration?
It didn't come up in the transcript, but I note, for those that are following along the transcripts, that you both shook your head vehemently “no” to the nationalization of the supply chain.
You talk about empowering the CTA to beef up its mandate and resources, but then you also talk about the supply chain office. Again, I have to highlight that the supply chain office has been, at least in my meetings, the point of contention from a number of stakeholders. Some think they like it, but I'd say quite a few are nervous about it.
You just have to look at other government agencies. CMHC comes to mind. It's kind of hit or miss if it's been successful or not, depending on what side of the table you're on at any given moment.
If that's the case, if you're beefing this up and then you're also creating this, just try to square with me how that helps to make things more streamlined and seamless.
Mr. Chairman, this is from the Emerson report from 2015. It says:
By 2060, an expected 350 percent increase in world trade will tilt in favour of the emerging economies, and their exports will become more specialized, entailing higher value-added activities. It will be important to anticipate the demands on our transportation sector and develop policies and infrastructure to support these trends.
With that, as part of the Emerson report, and taking into consideration the many reports we've completed that were identified earlier on, I have a question for the supply chain task force members. Do you feel we should be moving forward with a multimodal transportation labour strategy, including all methods of transportation, with a goal of strengthening our international trade performance? This would take into consideration the recommendations contained within the following studies: the Canadian Transportation Act review; the Emerson report; the “Interim Report on Establishing a Canadian Transportation and Logistics Strategy”, which this committee completed in the past; the ports modernization review; the St. Lawrence Seaway review; the blue economy strategy; the supply chain study most recently completed by this committee; and the most recent final report of the national supply chain task force, 2022.
To get a bit more granular, I will give you an example. In Niagara we're embarking on a capital project—a Great Lakes innovation and training facility. The focus of this facility is going to be a campus that will be preparing and training the next generation of transportation specialists; integrating distribution and logistics and working hand in hand with the up-to-date movement of goods along strategic trade corridors, such as that on the Great Lakes; integrating with road, rail and air; and aligning with up-to-date data analysis leading to integrated management.
Therefore, is it fair to state that yesterday's drivers, engineers, captains and pilots, while moving goods, are tomorrow's transportation specialists— operators and data and logistics managers—trained to offer additional corporate and customer value through fluidity, and recognized as a skilled trade?
I pose that question to the two individuals specifically because it's 2022. With that said, and all of what I just mentioned, we're looking at the movement of goods, and those who are moving our goods, as being more than just drivers. They are, in fact, transportation specialists. They should be trained in that manner and recognized through a skilled trade. Would you agree?
Jean or Louise, go ahead.
Thanks so much, Mr. Chair and committee members. My name is Ian Gillespie, and I'm director of temporary worker policy at IRCC.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am joining you from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
As you know, Canada is facing labour shortages across the country and across sectors, including transportation. Immigration complements efforts to build domestic labour capacity and is an increasingly important contributor to Canada's prosperity and economic growth. Both temporary and permanent residents bring skills that our economy needs and help fill gaps in our labour force.
Economic immigration programs support a strong Canadian economy by attracting talent from around the world. Typically, economic immigrants are educated, able to integrate into the Canadian labour market with ease, and contribute to workplace diversity.
A range of programs ensure that all regions across Canada can realise the benefits of economic immigration. Selecting new permanent residents is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial and territorial governments.
Through the provincial nominee program in particular, jurisdictions are able to prioritize the attraction and retention of newcomers with the skills most needed in each region.
A number of recent immigration measures are helping to meet Canada's labour market needs.
Last year IRCC introduced a time-limited temporary resident to permanent resident pathway to help retain the talent of over 90,000 essential workers and international graduates already living and working in Canada. They included workers in a range of transportation occupations, such as courier drivers, longshore workers and ramp attendants.
Changes to the national occupational classification that are coming into effect on November 16 will also enable foreign nationals working as truck drivers to now qualify for permanent residence through the skilled economic programs managed through IRCC's express entry system.
Canada welcomed over 405,000 permanent residents in 2021, a record number. The target for 2022 is just under 432,000, but as announced the other day, it will rise to 465,000 in 2023. In this way, permanent immigration helps address demographic and economic challenges over the long term.
Over the shorter term, Canada's temporary worker and international student programs play a significant role. They are demand-driven, with no caps or limits, so they can be flexible and responsive to the changing labour market landscape. They address the immediate workforce needs of diverse employers, provide a wide range of skill levels and educational attainment, and facilitate business productivity, growth and innovation.
For example, a new measure starting on November 15 will allow the more than 500,000 international students already in Canada to work more hours off campus, which will help to address labour shortages and allow them to earn more income to support their studies. IRCC also recently announced that international graduates with expiring post-graduation work permits will have the opportunity to work in Canada for an additional 18 months.
Last year, over 5,000 temporary foreign workers received work permits to fill specific job vacancies in transportation.
Almost two thirds came through the temporary foreign worker program, which is led by Employment and Social Development Canada.
Meanwhile, transportation jobs can also be filled through the international mobility program, which exempts employers from the requirements of the temporary foreign worker program when hiring foreign nationals whose work will create broader economic benefits for Canadians. This program facilitates access, for example, to foreign airline personnel and to railway maintenance workers. It also enables faster hiring of international technicians and professionals from countries with which Canada has trade agreements, including for occupations such as engineers, pilots and highly skilled mariners.
The IRCC processes work permits for foreign workers applying through both temporary worker programs. Since the beginning of the pandemic and to support the recovery of global supply chains, the IRCC has been prioritizing work permit applications for foreign truck drivers to fill critical needs in Canada's trucking industry.
While the initiatives I have mentioned will help over the longer term, employers face immediate needs for skilled foreign labour, which can be solved only by its timely entry.
As you're likely aware, demand for work permits has been rising, and this has contributed to a growing backlog and lengthening processing times. The IRCC is introducing a number of measures to address this issue, including hiring additional processing staff and exploring technology-based solutions, which are expected to move IRCC closer to meeting its service standards by the spring of 2023.
At the end of the day, immigration is only part of the solution, and a complement to domestic measures that my colleagues have mentioned to alleviate labour shortages in the transportation sector and elsewhere in Canada's economy.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members.
My name is Andrew Brown, and I am the senior assistant deputy minister for the skills and development branch at Employment and Social Development Canada.
I would like to note that I am joining you today from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
I am pleased to be here to discuss labour shortages.
Labour market pressures are affecting practically all sectors of the economy in most regions of the country. As of July 2022 there were nearly a million job vacancies across Canada, which means twice as many occupations are now showing strong labour shortages compared to back in 2019.
For example, the trucking industry is a significant contributor to the national economy, with a GDP of $20 billion in 2021, or about one-third of that for the entire transportation sector. The industry employs roughly 278,000 employees and has a vacancy rate of 9.4%, which is significantly higher than that of the labour market as a whole, at roughly 5.9%.
For truck drivers, this means roughly 28,000 unfilled positions, and this figure is in line with what we're hearing from the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which forecasts that the trucking industry will have a shortage of 55,000 workers at the end of 2023.
Demographic shifts that are rooted in aging populations and retirement are adding pressures by limiting available workers. As of August, occupations related to transportation had, on average, some of the highest-aged workers in the economy.
As the government looks to address labour shortages in Canada, we recognize that there are four potential avenues for increasing labour supply. One is supporting the transition of new entrants into the labour market, principally youth. The second is welcoming talent from around the world, more specifically immigrants and temporary foreign workers. The third is increasing the participation of groups that are under-represented in the labour market, and fourth is helping individuals already working who need some upskilling or re-skilling to adapt and stay in the labour force for longer, though to address labour shortages in the Canadian economy, it's going to be necessary to maximize all sources of labour in the short and longer term.
Youth are Canada's largest source of new entrants to labour markets. About 4.9 million young jobseekers are expected to enter the labour force between 2019 and 2028. To help youth and students build job skills and connect with employers, budget 2021 offered over $720 million in additional funding for the youth employment and skills strategy, the student work placement program, and the Canada summer jobs program.
As you would have heard from my colleague, immigration is a source of new labour supply, and as a complement to permanent immigration, approximately 100,000 temporary foreign workers enter Canada every year. Recent changes allow employers to hire up to 30% of their workforce through the temporary foreign worker program for low-wage positions, for one year, in sectors that are experiencing significant shortages. Other employers are allowed to hire up to 20% of their workforce for low-wage positions until further notice, an increase from the former 10% cap for many employers.
Another source of labour supply is under-represented groups. Increasing the participation rate of women, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and Black and racialized Canadians in the workplace would significantly help to boost labour supply.
Equally as important to our labour market initiatives, the government's recent and ambitious investments in childcare, affordable housing, transportation, and broadband create the systems and supports needed to help increase Canadians' participation in the labour market.
Reducing skills mismatches and a better utilization of available talent will be critical to meet employment needs and shortages. To this end, the Government of Canada has taken concrete measures to help reduce shortages across the economy.
The sectoral workforce solutions program is one noteworthy example of recent investments through Budget 2021. That program, which provides $960 million over three years, assists key sectors by funding industry-driven activities. That will assist workers through training and reskilling, and help employers attract and retain a skilled workforce.
Budget 2021 also made significant investments to...
Good evening, Mr. Chair and committee members.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that I'm joining you today from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
I'm Melanie Vanstone, director general of multimodal and road safety programs at Transport Canada. Thank you for having me here today to share Transport Canada's perspectives on the acute labour and skills shortages facing the transportation sector, including in occupations such as truckers, mariners, pilots and rail workers.
A robust, diverse and future skilled transportation workforce is an enabler of Canada's economic recovery and an efficient supply chain, while also supporting the safety and security of our transportation system. The transportation labour force supports the movement of goods and people for transportation-reliant sectors, including manufacturing, natural resources and agriculture across the country.
As other witnesses have expressed to this committee, there are a number of structural pressures that are contributing to labour and skill shortages in transportation. These include the high cost of education and training for some professions. It can cost up to $90,000 to become a commercial pilot and more than $15,000 to become a truck driver, coupled with low initial pay. Also, there is some lack of awareness of jobs and careers in the industry. As well, changing demographics and a lack of diversity in the industry are barriers. For example, transportation ranks below other regulated sectors in terms of diversity. Finally, in some cases, there's a poor image of the work culture across the industry due to work-life balance challenges, inadequate infrastructure and concerns about the sector's working culture.
Automation and other technologies will continue to change the industry going forward, meaning the nature of jobs in the industry will continue to evolve, emphasizing the need for increasingly advanced skills.
Recognizing the importance of labour to the functioning of the system, Transport Canada has developed a strategy to contribute to addressing labour and skills shortages. The strategy has four pillars, with an emphasis on the recruitment and retention of under-represented groups.
These pillars are, first, developing targeted research data and analysis; second, promoting awareness and outreach; third, addressing the high cost of training and other barriers by leveraging programs across government; and finally, modernizing approaches to regulations so these do not create unnecessary barriers.
The department continues to work closely with other federal departments and agencies, including those represented with me today, industry representatives and other levels of government.
Transport Canada has also been taking some direct actions in many areas.
For example, the marine training program was recently renewed in budget 2022 as part of the government's oceans protection plan to reduce barriers to marine training to under-represented groups in the marine labour force, such as women, northerners, Inuit and indigenous peoples.
The department has negotiated a number of reciprocal agreements to recognized certain foreign-issued certificates for seafarers in Canada. Currently, we have five agreements in place, with an additional three in ongoing negotiation.
TC is leveraging technology to modernize our certification processes and digitize our aviation pilot licensing system to better support the need for the industry to recruit and retain talent.
TC has engaged the Conference Board of Canada to produce a two-phased report to examine the economic impacts of transportation labour shortages on the Canadian economy.
We've also engaged Employment and Social Development Canada in several key programming areas. In particular, the sectoral workforce solutions program will invest $960 million over three years to advance skills and training in seven different key economic sectors, including transportation.
Finally, I would note that in collaboration with the ESDC job bank, Transport Canada launched the transportation job and career pathway website to help promote careers in this sector.
Transport Canada and other departments are reviewing the specific recommendations in the national supply chain task force's final report. This includes those relating to labour and skill shortages. The task force's report will help inform the national supply chain strategy currently under development.
We recognize that continued collaboration is required with our federal partners, provinces and territories and industry to address labour and skill shortages in the transportation sector, including looking at the relevant recommendations from the task force.
Thank you for the time you have allowed us today.
I'd be happy to address any questions you may have relating to Transport Canada's role with labour and skill shortages in the sector.
I'm happy to intervene on behalf of IRCC. I'll provide a bit of context here in terms of all the measures we are taking. You're right, there is quite an inventory and backlog that we need to work through.
In addition to what Mr. Gillespie mentioned in the opening remarks, it's important to note the progress that is being made since we've doubled down on efforts to work through that inventory and those backlogs.
I have a few statistics to share with the committee. We finalized about 560,000 study permit applications in 2021, which was much higher than the prepandemic figures in 2019. So far in 2022, we've outpaced—
I would also like to thank the witnesses for being with us this evening to provide guidance on how to solve the questions around the labour shortage.
Ms. Vanstone, the transportation sector has been hard hit by labour shortages, particularly in the rail and trucking industries.
As the Conference Board of Canada has noted, older workers are going to have to be relied on more in the transportation sector in order to address the situation.
Tell us what the main challenges are that must be met in order to encourage young people to consider a career in the transportation sector.
What do you think are the possible solutions?
I agree, and I appreciate the question.
We have been looking at Transport Canada, working with, of course, our colleagues at the federal level to look at ways to try to draw the attention of the transportation sector to young Canadians. It is fair to say that there is a lack of awareness of careers in the transportation sector or perhaps a misunderstanding of the skills and the range of transportation careers that are available.
We at Transport Canada have, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, created a website dedicated to helping people explore various careers in the transportation industry and to helping them identify where they would go for training for those careers. Over time, it is an area where we also may have opportunities to work with our colleagues from the industry to look at strategies to, in particular, try to appeal to young people to start off their careers in the transportation sector.
I'm not sure if my colleagues from Employment and Social Development Canada would like to speak in more detail about some of the youth programs that are run from that department.
I'm Andrew Brown with Employment and Social Development Canada.
I would add that we have a number of different sorts of training programs and supports. First, it starts with working with provinces and territories through supports that we provide them in the form of, very broadly, supports to train and upskill workers. It's really for provinces and territories to then determine what some of the priority areas are for investments within their own jurisdictions.
Second, we take a look at what sorts of programming the federal government can bring, as well, to support various sectors. I know my colleague from Transport Canada already mentioned it, but this new sectoral program that was introduced last year is one of the examples of where we're able to bring a focus to the transport sector and work to identify projects to support skills and employment programming that is targeted to workers and employers in the transportation sector.
For the next questions, I will refer to the report of the supply chain task force and the recommendations that were made.
According to one of the recommendations made, expanding the temporary foreign worker program, as it applies to workers in the transportation supply chain, and expediting refugee and immigration processing for individuals who would be eligible to work for transportation supply chain-related businesses, are urgently needed.
How possible is it to pursue that route, given the current backlogs in processing immigration applications?
What should be done to achieve those objectives, Ms. Vanstone?
My next question is for Mr. Brown.
Still referring to the report, it recommends supporting businesses, community agencies, settlement agencies, and other organizations that can help temporary foreign workers, like refugees and immigrants, acclimate to Canadian work and social environments.
What programs currently exist to support this type of work?
If there are none, how possible is it to put such programs in place?
I would first like to welcome you, Mr. Gionet and Mr. Gillespie. I am very pleased to see you here. I do not have the good fortune to sit on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, but I hear about concerns relating to your work on a daily basis at my constituency office.
I can tell you that one of my staff works almost full-time handling immigration cases. I find that situation to be odd, since we work in an MP's office and not an immigration office. However, there are people calling us constantly, people who are crying and discouraged. Their cases have not been processed for years and they no longer know what to do. We try to help them, but we can't do immigration employees' job.
Do you acknowledge the problem you have on your hands, that cases are not being processed fast enough?
Thank you for the question, Mr. Chair.
We do acknowledge that there are backlogs. An action plan has been adopted to try to reduce the backlogs and get back to the service standards provided.
As we said earlier, a bundle of measures have been put in place, including recruiting new employees to support us in processing files. We anticipate that by the end of the fall, 1,250 new employees will have been hired to help us reduce the backlogs. We are seeing progress in processing applications for student permits, work permits, visas, and permanent residence. The backlogs are starting to shrink.
I think it is worth pointing out to committee members that since the beginning of the year, 552,000 work permits have been issued.
Perhaps we can have Ms. Seger table a brief with the committee that could be considered as part of this report, because I think it would be very relevant.
My next question is for Ms. Vanstone. You mentioned marine training. I was in Prince Rupert this past weekend. Prince Rupert has seen a real expansion of employment in the marine sector, largely due to the expansion of the port of Prince Rupert, but due to other activities surrounding that as well.
One thing I heard about from people in the community, from unions and from other groups, was the need for a local marine training facility. Currently, people who want to access these jobs have to travel all the way to the Lower Mainland for training at their own expense, which takes them away from their family and home.
I wonder whether your department has thought about the addition of regional marine training centres, and whether the B.C. north coast would be on the list as a candidate for one of those.
No, it's not portable, but they would love Niagara. They can come down and enjoy the falls, enjoy the wineries—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Vance Badawey: —the beaches and all that, and, of course, they can go right next door to Leslyn's area in Haldimand, which is a beautiful area.
Anyway, now that I've wasted 10 or 15 seconds, I want to expand on my earlier questions to these individuals who we have on the screen.
I'll say this. The preface to my question is the fact that yesterday's drivers and operators are today's transportation specialists. No longer is someone just driving a truck or captaining and piloting a marine vessel and so on and so forth. They look after, through efficiencies and effectiveness, real-time decision-making. Whether it's the product, the cargo they're carrying or the data they're managing en route, they give companies and customers more effectiveness, more fairness and, with that, more efficiencies.
Is it fair to say that yesterday's drivers—and I'm going to repeat the question I put earlier—engineers, captains and pilots, while moving goods, are tomorrow's transportation specialists? They are operators, yes, but equally important are their data and logistics managers, who are trained to offer additional corporate and customer value, as I mentioned earlier.
Do you feel that, with the trade agreements our nation has ratified within the last three to four years...? Yes, our population is 38 million people, and some would think that's small, but frankly, our economic population is over 1.8 billion, which places us within the top two economic populations in the world. Therefore, do we integrate?
Someone mentioned it earlier; I think it was Mr. Gillespie. Do we integrate, within this group of trading partners, distribution logistics and data analysis, leading to integrated transportation management and therefore up-to-date transportation specialists, not just drivers but transportation specialists who are therefore trained in that manner?
I'll throw that question out to all of you.
I'll start off, and I'll invite my colleagues to join.
From the perspective of Transport Canada, we see that there is constant introduction of new technologies and change in the transportation sector, which drive changes in the skill requirements for many different occupations in that sector. I believe, to some extent, that the statement rings true. There's an ongoing evolution of skills and requirements for people to participate in these careers.
Also, I would mention that Transport Canada has made some investments already through budget 2022, with $163.3 million being invested over five years to develop a modern, digital, analytics-driven approach to support supply chain optimization, improve asset and traffic management, foster resiliency and improve coordination across the modes of transportation. We are, I think, recognizing these issues and taking steps in that broader context.
I welcome any others who would like to add to that response.