I wonder whether this motion would actually have the desired effect. There are several reasons for this.
First, as the Honourable Member well knows, the minimum wage in this motion as it is worded applies only to those people who work in federally regulated industries, a small percentage of Canada’s workforce.
And, of these workers, only a small fraction earn the minimum hourly wage.
According to a survey of federally regulated businesses which was conducted in 2008, only twentieth of a percentage point – or all of 416 employees – were actually earning the minimum wage.
That works out to approximately 0.05%
My second point is that if the Government of Canada was to unilaterally raise the minimum wage of workers that fall under its jurisdiction, it creates a two-standard system for workers.
If the Honourable Member opposite were to have read the Labour code, they would find that the federal minimum wage is pegged to the minimum wage of the province or territory in which the work is carried out, as voted on by their respective legislatures.
Provinces and territories are best able to assess and respond to the requirements of their local labour markets and establish appropriate minimum wage rates.
Unless, of course, the Opposition parties are proposing to wholly repeal the section of the Labour code that gives provinces this ability.
So I ask the Opposition: which is it? Are
Are they proposing to strip the provinces of their ability to respond to their local labour market, or are they proposing to create a two-tier standard for workers?
Mr. Speaker, we see no need to carry out wholesale changes to a system that is working perfectly well.
For nearly 20 years, federal minimum wages have automatically been pegged to match the minimum wage of the province or territory in which the work is being done.
And this has worked out pretty well.
Over the past several years, the provinces and territories have all increased their minimum wage, based on existing labour market conditions in each jurisdiction.
In fact, several provinces have indexed their minimum wage, so that it automatically increases every year.
Others have mechanisms in place to ensure that the minimum wage rate in their jurisdiction is reviewed on a regular basis.
It would seem a bit pretentious if we were to deny that the provinces and territories are fully aware of their labour market needs, and should not be trusted in the analysis of the needs of their citizens and workers.
Our Government believes that these jurisdictions know how to assess and respond to local labour market conditions. They are best positioned to establish appropriate minimum wage rates that reflect these realities.
But the best way to support low-income Canadians, Mr. Speaker, is not by increasing the minimum wage, or grand-standing the illusion of creating a minimum wage that, in reality, only applies to a small fraction of the labour force, but by measures that support a strong economy and creating well-paying jobs – which is our Government’s priority.
Now, as Members in this House know, there are skills shortages in certain regions and sectors of the economy.
Mr. Speaker, our Government has taken unprecedented action to train Canadians for new and better jobs, in demand by the economy.
To date, our actions have resulted in over 6 million young Canadians – yes, over 6 million – getting skills training and support for quality jobs.
I’m sure that many of my colleagues – even those on the other side of the House that support this ambigous motion – have heard from their constituents who own businesses that there’s an abundance of people out there who are looking for work, but they just don’t have the skills that they need.
But when it comes to this, training Canadians for jobs that are actually in demand by the economy, the NDP has vividly opposed virtually all measures.
Where was the Opposition on the Canada Job Grant all last year? We have signed agreements with all of the provinces, negotiated in good faith. The NDP opposed it, cheerleading the expiring Labour Market Agreements instead.
Cutting the GST to the benefit of all Canadians? The NDP opposed it.
The Working Income Tax Benefit? The NDP opposed it.
Supporting older workers and their families through the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers and expanding it to include workers in small cities? The NDP opposed it.
Overhauling the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, during which the Minister of Employment and Social Development directly called upon employers to increase their wages and hire Canadians? The NDP just dismissed it as meaningless.
We’ve heard about the lack of skilled labour in key sectors from people who are actually on the ground: many sectors will urgently need new workers within the next decade.
It is particularly true in construction and in the mining and petroleum industries.
Skills Canada has told us that we’re going to need one million skilled trade workers by 2020.
For example, five years after getting a journeyman’s ticket, a plumber in Canada can earn about $68,000 and an electrician about $66,000.
These are well-paying jobs that are very rewarding.
If you are a minimum wage worker and wish to become an apprentice, the Government of Canada supports you in several ways to get training for jobs in demand by the economy.
Let`s be honest about what the NDP motion before us today actually is: a symbolic stunt.
Our Government is focused on actually improving job prospects for Canadians and their families.
In addition to the apprenticeship grants, Economic Action Plan 2014 introduced the Canada Apprentice Loan.
This loan provides apprentices with interest-free loans of up to $4,000 to complete their training in a Red Seal trade.
The Government is also taking other steps to support and protect Canadian families, and to directly benefit people in the workforce.
For example, the Minister of Finance recently provided small businesses with a tax break, so they would pay less money in EI premiums, and create more jobs.
What is more, the Minister also confirmed that EI premiums for workers will go down in 2017. It will reduce premiums from the current $1.88 per $100.00 of earnings to to $1.47 per $100.00 of earnings.
How does this help minimum wage earners across Canada, not just those handpicked by the NDP for their symbolic motion?
Lower premiums, of course, means more money in their pockets.
For those workers who have lost their jobs due to their employer’s bankruptcy or receivership, we have the Wage Earner Protection Program.
It ensures that employees are paid wages, vacation pay, severance or termination pay which is owed to them, up to an amount which is equal to four weeks’ maximum insurable earnings under the EI Act.
Since WEPP’s inception in July 2008, over 74,000 Canadians have received $174.8 million in WEPP payments as of July 31, 2014.
In addition to that, our Government’s Helping Families in Need Act provides federally regulated employees with the right to take unpaid leave.
For example, it provides
- up to 37 weeks of leave for employees who must care for a critically-ill child;
- 104 weeks for children who are deceased due to a probable criminal code offence; and
- up to 52 weeks for missing children, who are victims of probable criminal actions.
And thanks to Economic Action Plan 2014, federally regulated employees who fall ill while receiving compassionate care and other leave, can now interrupt and postpone their leave, to avail themselves of EI sickness benefits.
So, as you can see, Mr. Speaker, this Government has, and continues to take, many steps to support and protect Canadian families, and to ensure Canadian workers enjoy fair, healthy and safe workplaces.
This includes minimum wage protection under the Canada Labour Code.
The current system to set federal minimum wage rates works perfectly well, and for this reason, I urge my fellow Members to join with us and say “no” to this toothless motion and, instead support our Government`s efforts to train Canadians for in-demand jobs by the economy and actually improve their quality of life?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.