Why Ottawa is making it easier for tradespeople to move between provinces

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Ottawa wants to make it easier for skilled workers to move provinces in order to help fill labour shortages in key sectors.

In its fiscal update Tuesday, the federal government said that in the coming months, Canada would work toward cutting red tape and making it easier for workers to move and work freely within the country, particularly in the construction, health-care and child-care sectors.

“The federal government is taking action to both attract the talent our economy needs from abroad, as well as to train and retain Canadians and permanent residents who are ready to find well-paying and meaningful jobs in the construction sector,” the fall economic statement read.

Ottawa on Tuesday announced several measures to remove barriers to the internal mobility of workers, which include “leveraging federal transfers, and other funding, to encourage provinces and territories to cut the red tape that impedes the movement of workers, particularly in construction, health care and childcare, within Canada.”

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The federal government said it would work with provinces and territories to meet their labour market needs.

The statement said it would expand the Red Seal Program – a program that sets common standards for tradespeople in Canada – to improve the mobility of workers. It aims to reduce barriers, such as duplicative credential recognition. This means that a skilled professional in one province would not have to get recertified in another.

The fall economic statement also urged provinces and territories to leverage the $196-billion federal health-care funding deal, which was announced in February, to welcome health-care professionals from anywhere in Canada.

The fiscal update also reiterated the government’s commitment to align immigration policy with Canada’s labour needs.

“Since May, 1,500 workers with experience in the trades have been invited to call Canada home. Following extensive engagement with unions, the government has focused this year’s application process on candidates with work experience including in carpentry, electrical, welding, plumbing, contracting, and other trades that can help build more homes, faster,” it read.

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It added, however, that any jump in immigration levels must be balanced against housing supply.

“Bringing in skilled workers to fill labour market gaps in the construction sector is key to delivering on Canada’s ambitious residential construction targets, but these objectives must be balanced against pressures on housing, health care and infrastructure.”

Last month, Immigration Minister Marc Miller unveiled the Strategic Immigration Review report, which said Canada’s immigration strategy in the coming years will focus on aligning immigration policy with the country’s labour market needs.

The strategic review, which lays out a roadmap for Canada’s immigration strategy, said Canada needed to attract global talent across fields to fill its labour shortage. It outlined a need to “create the new role of a Chief International Talent Officer (CITO) to align Canada’s immigration policies with a long-term skills and labour strategy.”

The construction industry is short tens of thousands of workers, and experts say a coming wave of retirements could make the problem worse.

Meanwhile, Canada is millions of homes behind what’s needed to reach housing affordability this decade. A recent report from the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate (OFHA) said Canada’s estimates for the number of people in need of affordable housing are off by millions.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) says 1.4 million households in Canada don’t have access to quality housing.

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In contrast, a recent report from the OFHA, an independent watchdog, titled A Human Rights-Based Calculation of Canada’s Housing Shortages, estimates that Canada is short 4.4 million homes that are affordable to people in housing need.

The OFHA report, produced by housing policy expert Carolyn Whitzman, projects a deficit of three million homes for low- and very low-income households, and a further 1.4 million missing homes for moderate- and median-income households in housing need.

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