REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to table its

NINTH REPORT


Your committee, which was authorized to examine the subject-matter of those elements contained in Divisions 11, 17, 20, 27 and 30 of Part 6 of Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Wednesday, April 9, 2014, examined the said subject-matter and now reports as follows:

Introduction

Your committee heard testimony on Divisions 11, 17, 20, 27, and 30 of Part 6 of Bill C-31, the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, over the course of five meetings. These divisions relate to the Museums Act, the Canada Labour Code, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Old Age Security Act, and the Apprentice Loans Act, respectively.

Division 11 – Museums Act

Your committee supports the changes proposed in Division 11; however it wishes to append the following observation.

Members of the committee encourage the expansion of those funding programs administered by the Museum of History in order to include minority groups and women in the new Virtual Museum.

Division 17 – Sickness Benefits

Your committee supports the changes proposed in Division 17 and does not have any observations to offer.

Division 20 – Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

Division 20 would introduce the possibility of imposing administrative monetary penalties on employers of temporary foreign workers who are non-compliant with program requirements; would terminate pending entrepreneur and investor immigration applications; and would amend the anticipated expression of interest system for managing economic class immigration applications.

Your committee generally supports the changes proposed in Division 20, however it wishes to append the following observations.

With respect to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, your committee emphasizes the importance of the program balancing the interests of Canadians and immigrants looking for work with the interests of employers looking to hire in order to maintain or expand their business. Specifically, committee members believe that the labour market opinion process should be revamped to ensure that temporary foreign workers are complements to the existing Canadian workforce as opposed to replacements for that workforce. Pointed questions should be asked about employer wages, working conditions, and measures taken by employers to make their jobs more attractive to people in Canada. Employers should also provide details on the people that have applied and why they are not qualified. Further, to help achieve the desired balance of interests, your committee suggests enhanced enforcement and monitoring measures for employers that abuse the Temporary Foreign Worker program. 

In the interest of transparency, your committee would welcome more frequent and detailed public reporting on labour market opinions, and the sectors and regions where temporary foreign workers are employed, including analysis of possible effects on the local labour market.  Further, your committee suggests that the government make public detailed information on the use of temporary foreign workers by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, the Department of National Defense, and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, as well as any other government departments and agencies that have made use of the Temporary Foreign Worker program. 

Your committee supports the development of the expression of interest application system for economic class immigration, known as “Express Entry”. It believes this new two-step application process shows considerable promise as a way to avoid the application backlogs of the past and to better match immigrants with employment opportunities. However, as the implementation details of “Express Entry’’ are still being finalized, your committee awaits more information on how it will be put into practice.  As is the case with the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Fund pilot project announced in the Economic Action Plan 2014, the details of ‘’Express Entry’’ will be published in future regulations and/or Ministerial Instructions. Your committee recommends that once instruments related to these two initiatives are published, they be brought before both Houses of Parliament for review. 

Division 27 – Old Age Security Act

Your committee supports the changes proposed in Division 27, on division, and it wishes to append the following observation.           

Some members of the committee expressed concern for sponsored parents and grandparents who find themselves in difficulties due to abusive situations or their sponsors’ financial circumstances.  

Division 30 – Apprentice Loans Act

Your committee supports the changes proposed in Division 30 and appends the following observations.

The proposed Apprentice Loans Act is an important step forward in acknowledging the role of all trades in Canada and the importance of encouraging and facilitating participation in associated training programs. However your committee urges that the administration of the new loans program be flexible and responsive to the unique nature of apprenticeship programs. Further, it emphasizes the need for the application process to be streamlined such that the release of funds can be completed in a timely manner. Finally, your committee would like assurance that the Apprentice Loans Program will be subject to reporting requirements similar to those of the Canada Student Loans Program.

Respectfully submitted,

KELVIN K. OGILVIE

Chair