Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to address the question from the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. In fact, I am glad this question has been raised.
Our government is keenly focused on creating jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity for Canadians. In fact, since the depth of the global recession in 2009, the Canadian economy has posted one of the strongest job-creation records in the G7 over the recovery, with nearly 1.2 million net new jobs created. These are overwhelmingly full-time, private sector jobs in high-wage industries.
However, the recent report released by CIBC highlights a problem our government has been feverishly working to solve over the past few years. The report clearly states that workers need the right skills to meet the demands of the labour force. The problem is not the decline in well-paying jobs; the problem is that there are not enough Canadians with the right skills to fill the jobs that are available. In other words, we have too many people without jobs and too many jobs without people.
How do we deal with this challenge? First, we must take action now to help Canadians get the skills and training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow. That brings me to one of our government's top priorities: helping Canadians get the skills they need for the available jobs.
We understand the need for accurate and robust labour market information to help Canadians make the best possible decisions when it comes to training and education. We are also collaborating with the provinces to share labour market information. Better labour market information is a good start, but we also need to change some attitudes.
While Canada has the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates of people aged 25 to 64 among OECD countries and the G7, 53% to be exact, a degree does not guarantee a job. Where are the jobs, one might ask? Many of them are in the trades.
Let me give hon. members of the House an idea of the demand for trade workers. BuildForce Canada says we will need more than 250,000 construction workers in the next 10 years. The mining industry says we will need more than 125,000 workers by 2020, and the petroleum industry says we will need more than 125,000 workers by the year 2022.
The Conference Board of Canada, last summer, found that Ontario is losing out on over $24 billion in economic activity and $3.7 billion in provincial tax revenues annually because employers cannot find people with the skills they need. Why is it so difficult to find people to fill these jobs? The answer is simple. Not enough young people are choosing to enter the skilled trades.
In a study completed by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum in 2013, fewer than half of high school students said they would consider a career in the skilled trades. That is a big problem. Right now, in some Red Seal trades, nearly half the workforce is over the age of 45. We need to work together to inform young people about the opportunities in the skilled trades, opportunities to do fulfilling work and to earn a good living.
Our government is also working to support apprentices. For example, we have introduced apprenticeship grants. To date we have issued over 500,000 grants. There are two types of grants available to apprentices in a Red Seal trade. The apprenticeship incentive grant provides $1,000 to apprentices who complete their first and/or second year or level, up to $2,000. The apprenticeship completion grant provides $2,000 to apprentices who have completed their training and have obtained their journeyman certification. In total, an apprentice can get $4,000 from our government with these two grants.
Additionally, we have introduced the apprenticeship job creation tax credit, the tradesperson's tools deduction credit, flexibility and innovation in apprenticeship technical training, and the new Canada apprentice loan. This new measure provides apprentices in designated Red Seal trades with up to $4,000 in interest-free loans per period of technical training. These interest-free loans will help apprentices with the cost of training, which can be particularly difficult while they are supporting their families. These loans remain interest free until apprentices leave or complete their training programs, for up to a maximum of six years. They will also encourage more Canadians to consider careers in the skilled trades.
We need to work with other stakeholders in both the private and public sectors to find a long-lasting solution to our labour issues. By working more closely with employers we can ensure that training is better aligned with the job opportunities in different regions in different sectors.
At the same time, businesses also need to have a stake in the outcome. If employers want their concerns about skills shortages to be taken seriously, they have to show that they are contributing to a solution. One way this can be done is through the Canada job grant. Through this grant, the government provides up to $10,000 per person toward the direct cost of training, with the employer contributing, on average, an additional one-third of these costs.
The Canada job grant is part of the new Canada job fund, an agreement through which the government provides $500 million annually to the provinces and territories for investments in skills training. We are working very hard to give Canadians the support they need to prepare for the job market.
Another way to help fix the problem is to start by acknowledging that our education and training systems urgently need reform. Provincial governments need to realize that the choices they made in the 1970s and 1980s, and in my home province in the 1990s, to gradually downgrade vocational education were very shortsighted. Forty years ago, most high schools offered vocational training, but now the number of technology courses taken by secondary school students has dropped dramatically. We need to change this. That is why today I want to call on all families, and society's leaders in general, to lend their voices by telling younger Canadians that choosing a career in the trades is not about settling for second best. These are well-paying, honourable, and rewarding careers. They help build self-worth, pride, and ultimately, strong and healthy families.
Our government believes strongly in the need to change hearts and minds when it comes to jobs in the trades. When it comes to the skills-gap issue, we cannot address it in isolation. We have to attack it from all angles. I want to assure members that we are definitely doing that.
We also cannot forget about a key segment of our population, a very educated segment: new immigrants. In fact, they hold a disproportionate number of graduate degrees. They account for nearly half of all Ph.D. holders and 40% of master's recipients. Unfortunately, despite their qualifications, skilled immigrants are chronically underemployed. According to the 2014 labour force survey, the unemployment rate for recent immigrants last year was 12.9%. That is nearly double the unemployment rate of the general population.
Over 70% of economic immigrants to Canada are unable to work in the fields for which they are trained, and that is really unfortunate. Why should foreign-trained doctors and other professionals be driving taxis and waiting tables because of the lengthy and expensive processes they have to go through to have their credentials recognized in Canada? Not only is this a terrible waste of human potential, it is also a serious loss to our own economy.
Our government is committed to improving the foreign-credential process in Canada, and we have taken important action in this regard. We have invested $50 million to develop a national framework to streamline foreign-credential recognition for key occupations. We have been meeting with regulatory authorities representing engineers, nurses, dentists, physicians, engineering technicians, and other occupations to learn the best ways to streamline their credential recognition.
Our government's work on foreign-credential recognition began years ago. In 2011, we made a commitment to provide loans for recent immigrants to help pay for skills training and accreditation. In 2012, we kept that promise when we introduced the foreign credential recognition loans pilot project. For many new immigrants, getting traditional loans can be very difficult. This partnership between the federal government, financial institutions, and community organizations gives internationally trained workers modest loans to help cover the costs of having their credentials recognized so that they can find jobs in their fields more quickly.
Just recently, our government also launched a new panel on the employment challenges for new Canadians as part of the action plan to improve foreign-credential recognition for internationally trained professionals. We are also continuing to provide financial support to improve credential recognition in 24 target occupations that represent over 80% of newcomers.
Our government recognizes the financial challenges many Canadians are facing today. That is why we are keeping taxes low for families. For parents, this means that they will have more to invest in their children's futures. This in turn will help the next generation of Canadians who will grow up to participate in the workforce and the economy.
It is clear to me that supporting strong families and preparing Canadians for jobs go hand in hand. Canadians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. The low-income rate has been declining and now sits at an all-time low, using the most recent comparable data.
Canadian families in all income groups have seen increases of about 10% or more in their real after-tax and after-transfer incomes since 2006. We want to keep this momentum going, and investing in the well-being of all families is the best way to do it. That is why our government is proposing new measures to help make life more affordable for families.
Let me explain to the hon. members of the House how we are keeping taxes low for families.
I am proud to say that we have proposed enhancing the universal child care benefit by providing almost $2,000 per year for each child under the age of six and by introducing a new benefit of up to $720 per year for each child aged six through 17. More than two million new families will now benefit from the universal child care benefit, for a total of about four million families nationwide.
This direct financial support provided by the Government of Canada helps parents while allowing them to choose the child care option that best suits their family's needs. Whether people work in the paid labour force or stay at home with their children and live in a small town, rural community, or large urban centre, these benefits are having a real and measurable impact.
That is not all we are doing. Our government is also introducing a new family tax cut. The family tax cut is a federal non-refundable tax credit that would allow a spouse to transfer up to $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse in a lower-income tax bracket. More than 1.7 million families in Canada would have more money in their pockets, something our government is very proud of.
Furthermore, we are introducing a $1,000 increase in the maximum dollar amount that can be claimed for the child care expense deduction, effective in the 2015 taxation year. The government also proposes to double the children's fitness tax credit from its current limit to $1,000 for the 2014 and subsequent tax years and to make the credit refundable for 2015 and subsequent tax years.
As children grow up, families need better access to post-secondary education. That is why, through the Canada education savings program, the government encourages families to start saving early for their children's education. Modest-income families benefit from the Canada learning bond. The Canada learning bond is $500 the federal government deposits into a registered education savings plan, better known as an RESP. A child may be eligible for another $100 per year, up to a maximum of $2,000. Most importantly, parents or primary caregivers do not have to contribute any of their own money to receive the Canada learning bond.
When they open an RESP, parents can also receive the Canada education savings grant. The federal government adds between 20% and 40% of contributions to the RESP, depending on income, with a lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child.
On this side of the House, we are proud of the range of support we provide for Canadians throughout their entire lives. From education and training to immigration and lowering the tax burden, we are helping Canadians create a better economic future for themselves and for our country as a whole.