Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue 14 - Evidence - May 15, 2014
OTTAWA, Thursday, May 15, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology
met this day, at 10:28 a.m., to study 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 (topic: Divisions 17 and 30 of Part 6).
Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Social
Affairs, Science and Technology.
I'm Kelvin Ogilvie, senator from Nova Scotia and chair of the committee,
and I'm going to invite my colleagues to introduce themselves, starting on
Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman from Montreal, Quebec.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen, New Brunswick.
Senator Eaton: Nicky Eaton, Ontario.
Senator Enverga: Tobias Enverga, Ontario.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Nancy Ruth, Ontario.
Senator Chaput: Senator Maria Chaput from Manitoba.
Senator Cordy: Jane Cordy from Nova Scotia.
The Chair: I will remind colleagues that we have two sessions this
morning, each session lasting one hour. We begin this session dealing with
the subject matter of Part 6 of Bill C-31, and specifically, today, we will
be looking at Divisions 11, 17, 20, 27 and 30. That's what we have left to
consider. If we're very efficient, maybe we could do them all today.
The committee this morning in this session will be examining Divisions 17
and 30. Division 17, the first one that we will look at, is unpaid leave
under the Canada Labour Code and sick benefits under the Employment
In that regard, we have two panels. First, from Employment and Social
Development Canada, Annette Ryan, Director General, Employment Insurance
Policy; Jean-François Roussy, Director, Employment Insurance Policy; and
Laurent Quintal, Assistant Director, Strategic Policy. From Federally
Regulated Employers - Transportation and Communications, we have John
Farrell, who is Executive Director.
By agreement, I will invite Ms. Ryan to present first.
Annette Ryan, Director General, Employment Insurance Policy,
Employment and Social Development Canada: Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and
distinguished members of this committee. I am pleased to appear here today
to speak to you about Division 17 of Bill C-31, which provides enhanced
flexibility for Canadians taking care of ill family members to access
employment insurance sickness benefits.
For providing you context on the amendments in the proposed Bill C-31, I
will briefly review the Helping Families in Need Act tabled in September
2012, which did three important things to improve the suite of special
benefits under the Employment Insurance program in terms of supporting
First, that act established a new benefit for parents of critically ill
children, whom I will refer to as PCIC. That benefit provided up to 35 weeks
to support parents who take time away from work to provide care or support
to a critically ill child less than 18 years of age.
Second, that bill provided a new flexibility for Canadians receiving
parental benefits to suspend parental benefits and access sickness benefits
if they become ill or injured while on parental benefits and subsequently
return to parental benefits as applicable.
Third, that act amended the Canada Labour Code to protect the jobs of
parents who take a leave of absence to care for a critically ill child,
injured child, and the jobs of parents who are murdered or missing as the
result of a suspected Criminal Code offence.
With the coming into force of the provisions of the Helping Families in
Need Act on March 24, 2013, the government essentially changed the rules for
Canadians receiving EI parental benefits so that they can now access
sickness benefits. The objective behind this amendment was essentially to
bring greater flexibility and responsiveness to the EI program for Canadians
caring for these young children.
What the new measures before you today in Division 17 of Bill C-31 intend
to do is further extend this flexibility for parental benefits to other
types of special benefits we offer under the Employment Insurance program,
in particular to allow parents who receive PCIC benefits or compassionate
care benefits to similarly suspend their benefits, access sickness for the
time they need it and subsequently return to their original benefit. The
objective for this is to allow temporary income support to take care of
vulnerable family members, essentially.
I will add again that the sickness benefits have an applicability of up
to 15 weeks.
Based on our estimates, this change is expected to benefit approximately
300 claimants per year, with estimated program costs of up to $1.2 million
annually. There are moderate administrative costs that would be absorbed
within existing reference levels to the order of $109,000 per year on an
Essentially, the proposed legislative amendments would not cost a lot of
money but are intended to provide additional income support and flexibility
during very difficult periods in family life.
I will also note that for women receiving EI maternity benefits, they are
not eligible to suspend their benefits in a similar way, and I will pause on
that for a moment.
Maternity benefits provide income support for a 15-week period
surrounding child birth to allow recovery from the physical or emotional
effects of pregnancy and child birth. Because sickness and maternity
benefits both share this element of supporting physical and emotional
recovery with income support, the logic isn't the same as providing sickness
benefits for parental claimants.
That said, what was done with the Helping Families in Need Act was
structure benefits so that in a case where a new mother has an illness that
continues beyond the 15 weeks of her maternity benefits, she can now, with
the new legislation, switch to sickness benefits once she would otherwise be
in receipt of parental benefits, which results in the possibility that she
may collect up to a maximum of 65 weeks of special benefits. That amounts to
15 weeks of her maternity benefits, plus 15 weeks of sickness benefits, plus
the maximum of 35 weeks of parental benefits. The ability to combine these
benefits in this way was not available prior to March 2013.
I'll also add — and my colleague is here from Labour Canada — that we are
bringing changes to Part 3 of the Canada Labour Code in order to fully align
existing leave provisions, particularly those regarding compassionate care
leave and leave related to critical illness with the associated EI special
More specifically, these amendments would clarify that compassionate care
leave and leave related to the critical illness of a child can be
interrupted in order to allow employees to take sick leave, work-related
illness and injury leave or return to work.
I will also mention that if these legislative amendments are approved,
changes to the Employment Insurance Regulations and Employment Insurance
(Fishing) Regulations will be required to ensure equal treatment among
claimants. All legislative and regulatory amendments would come into force
on the same day, which we are targeting for the fall of 2014.
Finally, I'll flag that a very limited technical amendment is also
proposed to the Employment Insurance Act in Division 17. This amendment adds
a reference to the PCIC benefit in one instance, which was inadvertently
overlooked when the EI legislation was amended to introduce this benefit.
I will conclude by thanking you for the opportunity to contribute to your
study this morning and close with the assessment that this enhanced
flexibility to access EI sickness is intended to enhance fairness in the way
that the EI program supports Canadians who are away from work to care for a
gravely or critically ill family member.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Ryan. I will now turn to Mr.
John Farrell, Executive Director, Federally Regulated Employers —
Transportation and Communications: FETCO has reviewed the changes to the
Employment Insurance Act and the Canada Labour Code. We do not have any
concerns and are supportive of the changes.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I will now open the floor up for
questions from my colleagues.
Senator Cordy: Thank you for coming in this morning and explaining
I think we're all pleased when families in need are being helped. I
gather that after this was brought in, there were some changes you noted
should be made to the legislation, and it's always good when the response is
I would like you to clarify something regarding the first 15 weeks of
maternity, which are just for the mother. Within those first 15 weeks, she
would be unable to claim the illness, because the 15 weeks is for her body
to recover, which is what you explained. However, parental leave, which
could be taken by the mother or the mother's partner, would be eligible for
Ms. Ryan: That's essentially the core of what we've brought
forward. You've touched on the core defining difference between the two
benefits in terms of how we see the policy intent. Inasmuch as the maternity
benefits already provide for a recovery period for any range of illness,
suspending those to allow specific types of recovery is what you would be
doing by allowing sickness benefits there.
The difference with parental benefits is that the policy intent for the
parental benefit is to provide care for the new child. Like regular
benefits, that's your job. If you're unable to provide care for the infant
because you have become ill or injured, then the intent is to allow you to
access sickness benefit. Your partner could, in the interim, take those
parental benefits; they are shareable.
Senator Cordy: That was my question: The partner could take the
parental leave to care for not only the child but possibly the mother, as
Ms. Ryan: That's the structure.
Senator Seth: For Division 17, would you propose Canada Labour
Code amendments to increase the employment responsibilities for managing
leave without pay?
Laurent Quintal, Assistant Director, Strategic Policy, Employment and
Social Development Canada: Could you repeat the question?
Senator Seth: Would the proposed labour code amendments increase
the employer's responsibility for managing leave without pay?
Mr. Quintal: The Canada Labour Code provides for leave without pay
to protect the employment of workers who must be absent.
I am not sure I understood your question.
The Chair: I'm afraid I didn't understand the question, either.
Senator Seth: Would the proposed Canada Labour Code amendments,
which you are already doing, increase the employer's responsibility for
managing leave without pay? Like, what happens later on?
Mr. Quintal: Now I understand. The employer is responsible for
granting the employee leave without pay.
The Chair: This is a benefit, senator, not an imposition on
employers. I'm not sure where we go with this.
Senator Seth: That's fine. If you don't know, that's fine.
Ms. Ryan: It might be helpful to say that it extends the job
protection for the employee that parallels the income support we would be
allowing the person under the Employment Insurance program.
In a sense, the core aspect of managing income to that person on leave
rests with us in the EI program rather than the employer who has an onus
with this measure to protect that job until that person is ready to come
back to work. So the employer may be faced with a longer period of the
employee being away from work because of this new flexibility, but
essentially the core responsibility for managing that case, as it were, is
with the government and not the employer.
Senator Seth: This very commonly happens. That's the reason I ask
The Chair: Is that it, senator?
Senator Seth: Yes. I didn't get it, but that's fine.
Senator Chaput: I have a quick question. Do these amendments that
provide new benefits also apply to independent workers?
Ms. Ryan: Yes, as long as these independent workers are registered
for employment insurance. There are new rules that affect the registration
process. However, if they are receiving special benefits, that flexibility
is offered to them.
Senator Enverga: According to your notes, it says:
It established the new benefit for parents of critically ill
children, of up to 35 weeks to support parents who take time away from
work to provide care or support to a critically ill child of less than
18 years of age.
When you mention parents, does it include caregivers?
Jean-François Roussy, Director, Employment Policy, Employment and
Social Development Canada: No. When we made the change through the
Parents in Need Act, the definition of ``parents'' in the regulations is the
parent, the person responsible legally for the child.
Senator Enverga: Is this a biological parent?
Mr. Roussy: It depends if the child was adopted. It depends on
each province, because they have their own rules. But legally, it is the
person responsible for the child. It would not be a caregiver.
Senator Enverga: So someone legally responsible — not necessarily
the caregiver; it has to be parents.
Mr. Roussy: Yes.
Senator Enverga: It says ``child of less than 18 years of age.''
What if the child is a disabled child and is over 18 years old? Is there any
coverage for that, or will this be a different story altogether?
Mr. Roussy: The parents would have to look for something else. The
way the ``parents of critically ill children'' was designed is for parents
of children under 18. Also, the child has to be critically ill, which means
at risk of dying if there is no care, support or treatments. If it's a
chronic or permanent disability, they wouldn't be able to get this benefit,
even if the child is under 18 years of age.
Senator Enverga: If he is critically ill, he would not be allowed.
Ms. Ryan: I would flag that there is a separate benefit, the
Compassionate Care Benefit. It is available for a much wider range of family
circumstances, including for the spouse, adult child and siblings. It is
available for the shorter period of time of six weeks, but there is that
benefit available to family members above the age of 18.
Senator Enverga: With a disabled child or something like that.
Ms. Ryan: In the case of compassionate care, it has to have that
element of ``gravely ill.''
Senator Enverga: If there is that option, that's great. Hopefully
there is. You're sure about that, right?
Ms. Ryan: Yes.
Senator Nancy Ruth: I wanted to follow up on Senator Seth's
questions about the employer's responsibility. Does the employer have to
hold the job open beyond the 35 weeks, the 65 weeks or whatever terms of
benefits the person is on if they don't come back at the end of that time?
Mr. Quintal: The purpose of the Canada Labour Code is to protect
workers who are absent on leave. The job is absolutely protected; the
employer cannot dismiss someone because he or she takes leave to care for a
sick child or for other reasons.
Therefore, the purpose of the Canada Labour Code is to protect the jobs
of workers who are absent for a certain number of days.
The employer is responsible for respecting the legislation. In other
words, the employer must ensure that when employees return from leave, they
return to their positions with all the employment conditions that applied
before the leave.
The only circumstances where an employer might not offer the individual a
position at the same level, as in this case, would be when an employee is
absent for health reasons and, upon return, cannot carry out his or her
former duties. The employer is then required to offer the employee a
position that does not necessary have the same employment conditions.
That is the only case where an employer may question the employment
conditions of a worker protected under the Canada Labour Code.
In all other situations, the job is completely protected and, when the
leave ends, the employee returns to his or her position, if the position
still exists, obviously.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Let me clarify. Using the example of the
pregnant woman, if the person is away 65 weeks and she does not return by
the sixty-sixth or seventieth week, the employer must still keep the job
open for her?
Mr. Quintal: No. If the leave has ended and the person decides not
to return, the position is not protected.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Thank you. What obligations does the employer
have for wages or benefits during this absence period?
Mr. Quintal: During the absence, the employee and the employer
must continue to contribute to the benefits. The salary is not paid,
obviously, because the leave is unpaid, but all the employment conditions
and all the benefits are maintained.
Senator Seth: I have a supplementary.
The Chair: No. You can ask another question at the end, after
Senator Seth: Thank you. It's always no.
The Chair: You can always ask a question, senator, but we don't do
supplementary questions to get into debate. If the question is worth asking
I will put you on the list and you can ask next.
Senator Seth: It's not debate.
Senator Seidman: Mr. Roussy, you brought up the issue of
provincial jurisdiction in reference to definition of parents. Could you
please elaborate a bit on what the jurisdictional issues are, if different
provinces will carry this out in a different fashion? That's the essence of
Mr. Roussy: I would say that's mostly in a case with adoption. The
adoption rules can be different from province to province. That would be the
main difference. From province to province, it will be mostly the same
If I take the example of Quebec, it is larger than the rest of Canada as
to what is considered a ``parent.''
Senator Seidman: Excuse me, if we could get beyond that, I used
that as an example because you brought that issue up. I'd like to know about
the jurisdictional issues as applied to this piece of legislation, or the
changes in this piece of legislation, beyond the definition.
Ms. Ryan: If I may, the core of the measure is to allow us to
provide benefits to people in these combinations of difficult situations.
That's the core of it.
The changes to the Canada Labour Code are for federally regulated
industries essentially to harmonize the job protection federally regulated
industries with our suite of benefits. For our set of benefits, generally
there is provincial variation in terms of how and the degree that provincial
labour codes, which do cover a far larger number of employees, protect the
jobs of people in these situations where we do extend benefits. I don't know
if Laurent wants to elaborate on that.
Senator Seidman: I'm still trying to understand. I understand that
it's federally regulated employment or industries that are covered by this.
I would like to know if the provinces tend to harmonize so they are in line
with federally regulated industries.
Mr. Quintal: Recently, when leave for caregivers and leave for
critically ill children was adopted, the majority of provinces aligned and
amended their own labour legislation as a result. As you can imagine, there
is no requirement for the provinces to amend their legislation; it is up to
them to decide, if they have full jurisdiction. However, based on the recent
benefits programs, the provinces followed the federal government and amended
their labour laws.
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much.
The Chair: Senator Seth, have you formulated a question?
Senator Seth: My question was asked by you, so that was okay.
The Chair: You have helped clarify the situation for us on this
bill. I think these are generally well-received improvements and are
additional benefits to employees, and bring a number of issues into a kind
of harmony with regard to the overall situations here. We thank you very
much for appearing before us this morning. I thank my colleagues for their
Colleagues, for the next session, we are dealing with Division 30, the
Apprentice Loans Act.
In this panel, we have Employment and Social Development Canada,
represented by Atiq Rahman, Director, Operational Policy and Research; and
we have the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum with Sarah Watts-Rynard, Executive
By agreement, I will invite Mr. Rahman to present first.
Atiq Rahman, Director, Operational Policy and Research, Employment and
Social Development Canada: Good morning, Mr. Chair and honourable
senators. It is a pleasure to be here today to discuss the work that is
under way with respect to the Canada Apprentice Loan.
In the 2013 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada committed to
ensuring that Canadians are aware of the opportunities offered by the
skilled trades and to assist apprentices with the cost of their training.
As part of this commitment, Economic Action Plan 2014 proposed the
creation of the Canada Apprentice Loan as an expansion of the Canada Student
Loans Program to provide apprentices registered in Red Seal trades with
interest- free loans of up to $4,000 per period of technical training. These
loans will remain interest-free until an apprentice completes or terminates
their apprenticeship training, at which point interest will start accruing
on their loans and the loan will go into repayment.
The Apprentice Loans Act establishes the legal framework for Canada
Apprentice Loans. Specifically, it authorizes the making of regulations for
the administration of the act; it provides authority for the Minister of
Employment and Social Development to enter into loan agreements with
eligible apprentices; and it provides for the establishment of a contract
with a third-party service provider for the administration of Canada
The new act also provides for the making of regulations pertaining to
certain benefits similar to those available to Canada Student Loan
In addition to these loans being interest-free, while apprentices
continue their apprenticeship training, these benefits include assistance
for borrowers who experience financial difficulty during repayment.
Furthermore, Canada Apprentice Loans will be forgiven in their entirety if
the borrower becomes severely and permanently disabled or in the case of a
In addition to the introduction of the Apprentice Loans Act,
consequential amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the
Department of Employment and Social Development Act are also being
introduced. The amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act will ensure
that apprentice loan borrowers are treated the same way as other student
loan borrowers, while the amendments to the Department of Employment and
Social Development Act will allow for electronic administration of the
apprentice loan measure.
The new Canada Apprentice Loan will complement other Government of Canada
initiatives, such as the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant and the
Apprenticeship Completion Grant, which were introduced to encourage
apprentices in Red Seal trades to complete their training.
Under the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant, apprentices can receive $1,000
after the successful completion of their first and second level of an
apprenticeship program; while under the Apprenticeship Completion Grant,
apprentices can receive $2,000 once they have obtained their journeyperson's
As some of you may know, the Red Seal program is an interprovincial
standard of excellence for the skilled trades, which aims to encourage
harmonization of apprenticeship training and certification programs and to
foster mobility across Canada and more rapidly connect skilled trade workers
with available jobs in high-demand regions.
Today, Red Seal trades account for approximately 80 per cent of all
registered apprentices in Canada.
Despite existing measures to support apprentices in the Red Seal trades,
completion rates have been rather low, with only half of all apprentices
completing their training. This represents a potential loss to the economy
and individuals alike, as apprentices who obtain certification have greater
job stability, are more likely to work in their trade, and earn on average
25 per cent more per hour.
A key factor that has been reported as contributing to low apprenticeship
completion is the financial cost of attending block technical training.
During these blocks, which typically last four to 12 weeks, apprentices face
significant costs, including forgone wages, educational fees, tools,
equipment and sometimes relocation and living expenses if they are required
to attend an institution located far from their home. For some apprentices,
particularly those with families, these costs could be quite onerous.
Furthermore, unlike other post-secondary students, apprentices are not
eligible for student loans, as their training doesn't fall within existing
parameters of student loan programs. Student loan programs usually require
that the study program lead to a degree, diploma or certificate, and that
the duration of the program be at least 12 weeks.
Over the past few months, the Canada Student Loans Program has held
discussions with national apprenticeship stakeholders as well as provincial
and territorial apprenticeship authorities to discuss program design and
delivery issues. These discussions will serve as the basis for new
regulations. Following the approval of new regulations, Canada Apprentice
Loans will be available to apprentices in January 2015.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Ms. Watts-Rynard, please go ahead.
Sarah Watts-Rynard, Executive Director, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum:
Thank you for your invitation to appear today to discuss elements of Bill
C-31 related to enacting the Apprentice Loans Act. The Canadian
Apprenticeship Forum has prepared and submitted a brief summarizing the
financial barriers related to apprenticeship training and speaking to key
challenges we anticipate will be associated with administering the loan
The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum is a national non-profit that looks at
apprenticeship through a pan-Canadian lens. Though regulated by the
jurisdictions, apprenticeship stakeholders assign value to connecting the
dots across trades, sectors and Canada. Our organization provides a national
voice, influencing apprenticeship strategies through research and
collaboration. In addition to research insights, we connect stakeholders in
order to share promising practices and promote apprenticeship as a valued
At a national level, the levers associated with apprenticeship training
are limited. However, I believe there is a significant role to play
federally when it comes to supporting and encouraging apprenticeship
training. More needs to be done to equalize the value associated with
apprenticeship as a post-secondary pathway, particularly given the
importance that tradespeople have to the Canadian economy. This means
recognizing apprentices as learners and providing the institutional supports
long associated with other forms of post-secondary training.
In terms of your inquiry, I will concentrate my remarks on supports
currently available to apprentices in training, financial barriers
associated with apprenticeship — and why these inhibit certification — and
challenges that may be associated with administering student loans for
Over the last decade or so, we have seen access to shop classes in high
schools curtailed and equipment neglected, making hands-on occupations less
accessible and, frankly, less attractive options. Meanwhile, the requirement
to build, operate and maintain Canada's infrastructure continues to require
people with hands-on problem-solving skills. As a country, we extract
resources; rely on cars; and require roads, bridges and buildings. While
university-educated people add value to the economy, so too do people with
technical and mechanical skills which have, in my opinion, been undervalued.
It would be simplistic to say that the Canada Apprentice Loan solves this
problem. However, it does send a strong message that apprentices are worthy
of interest-free support similar to other forms of post-secondary education.
The Canada Apprentice Loan reflects a rather profound change in policy,
which has long treated apprentices as employees rather than learners. While
student loans haven't been available, apprentices have benefited from
Employment Insurance during periods of technical training. There are also
taxable grants that Mr. Rahman mentioned available to apprentices in Red
Seal trades. In many cases, provinces and territories also provide a variety
According to our research, these supports are critical. While apprentices
are paid employees, they only make a percentage of a journeyperson's wage.
In most cases, employers do not pay wages during technical training. While
Employment Insurance provides income replacement at 55 per cent, many
apprentices report significant delays in receiving their benefits. The
service standard is generally 28 days, but the initial two-week waiting
period and processing delays often mean that an apprentice has received no
benefits until well into their training and, in some cases, only after
returning to work.
Given that apprentices are, on average, in their mid-20s at the time of
registration, they often have family and financial obligations beyond those
of a new high-school graduate.
My brief goes into more detail about financial need, but I will say that
apprentices tell us that financial hardship is among the key reasons that
they delay returning to technical training. This keeps apprentices in the
system longer and impedes certification.
I would be remiss if I didn't express some concern that the realities of
apprenticeship training are likely to pose challenges to loan
administration. Regulations have to consider the nonlinear nature of
apprenticeship. As employees, apprentices are subject to employment gaps due
to seasonal layoff and economic cycles. Depending on training volume,
there's no guarantee that technical training blocks will be offered annually
and, even when they are, apprentices may be otherwise prevented from
attending by employment demands.
CAF would like to see a streamlined application process and timely
delivery of funds. The degree to which the loan can offset disruption in
wages, and delays receiving EI benefits, will be key. To the extent
possible, apprentices should be encouraged to borrow only the amount
necessary to cover costs, keeping student debt low. At the same time, the
program must recognize that financial need varies considerably based on
individual circumstances, trade, training location, number of periods of
training and duration of block release. These are among the factors that
call for a flexible loan program uniquely aligned with the realities of
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you both. I will now open up the meeting to
Senator Stewart Olsen: This has been a very interesting
presentation. It is extremely important to the country.
Do you have any statistics on how many apprenticeship programs there
would be in the country?
Ms. Watts-Rynard: There are about 300 trades, and the vast
majority of them would include apprenticeship programs.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Is that regulated by the province? Also, do
they work in conjunction with community colleges?
Ms. Watts-Rynard: It is regulated by the provinces and
territories, and in many cases, the technical training does occur at
community colleges. But there are also union training centres and private
institutions, as well, that can provide technical training.
Generally, the province or territory would designate who was an
authorized training provider in one of its trades.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Are the monies for these loans separate
entities or is it in a pot that's provided to the province for educational
Mr. Rahman: It is outside of the pot provided to the provinces.
Senator Cordy: Thank you both for being here. Our committee did a
study on post-secondary education and, in reading it, you would discover
that we certainly place high value on the need for post-secondary, not just
in what one would have thought years ago as being university, but also
recognizing community colleges and trades training. I think your point was
very well made.
You said you would be remiss, Miss Watts-Rynard, if you didn't express
concern about the realities and the challenges that are going to be there
for loan administration. Could you just expand on that for us?
Ms. Watts-Rynard: In thinking about the Canada Student Loan and
the way that a student would normally enter into one of those post-secondary
programs, you start it right after Labour Day and finish sometime in June
several years later. The expectation is that you would actually be in school
for eight months of the year and you would have a summer break. Some of the
difficulty in thinking about how to follow an apprentice is that they are an
employee first and they are subject to gaps in employment. Sometimes there's
the end of a contract or we see that there are seasonal layoffs. They're not
necessarily employed on a consistent basis, although given the demands and
skill shortages we're seeing, apprentices do generally have employment.
There are economic factors in play as well. If they're not in technical
training and not actively working toward their apprenticeship, the question
becomes: Are they ready to go into repayment? That doesn't necessarily tell
us they're not continuing apprentices. It might mean they're dealing with a
delay or gaps, which are just realities of apprenticeship training.
Senator Cordy: This is quasi-related, if I could stretch this just
a little bit because she's here.
You spoke earlier on the issue of federal-provincial jurisdiction. I know
the new government in Nova Scotia is working to fix this because so many of
our young people are actually working in Alberta but would like to have
recognition of it in Nova Scotia. So the new premier has said, yes, indeed
that will happen. Is this a problem across the country — a lot of people
from Atlantic Canada are moving to Alberta — with the challenges of
provincial-federal jurisdiction in terms of tradespeople?
Ms. Watts-Rynard: It is absolutely a challenge. The truth is that
if you are unable to find your employment hours in one part of the country,
there is a desire to go and get them where there is demand. The provincial
and territorial systems don't always recognize each other's technical
training or hours that are done outside of the province.
I know a number of the provinces right now are talking about
harmonization and trying to make it easier to be able to go and take either
the block release training in another part of the country where it is being
offered, if it's not being offered within their jurisdiction, and also going
and getting work hours in other provinces.
We see that Alberta is fairly liberal with this because they do want
people to come in and be doing the work. Some of the other provinces do have
regulations that haven't caught up yet with this concept of moving people
around to fill shortages even while they're still apprentices. We see a lot
of the agreement on internal trade, and the Red Seal Program allows for a
lot of mobility once someone is certified. It is just the gap between
registration and certification and trying to make sure somebody is in a
position to be certified.
Senator Cordy: Mr. Rahman, you talked about the payback. You
referred to the Bankruptcy Act aspect of it and said that it will follow the
same rules as the student loans for university students. Could you refresh
my memory on that? What is it currently for university students?
Mr. Rahman: The current rule around bankruptcy for student loans
is that if a bankruptcy is declared within seven years of leaving school, of
getting into repayment, then that loan survives. That's the rule that will
also apply to apprentice loans.
Senator Cordy: I know there have been a number of private member
bills brought in to reduce seven years to five years or three years. I am
also wondering about the payback. Ms. Watts-Rynard spoke about university
students, and it is so many months after you graduate from university, or
immediately after you graduate. But the challenges with working can
sometimes be seasonal when we're looking at the tradespeople. How is that
going to work? I know you said it will be in regulations, but you must have
a sense of where it will be.
Mr. Rahman: The intent is to replicate as many features of student
loans as possible on apprentice loans. For example, for university and
college students who get student loans, after they leave school and complete
their degree, six months later they go into repayment. They tend to be the
same here, too. After they complete their internship they will have a
six-month period before they have to start repaying the loans.
During those six months, interest does accrue on student loans and the
intent is the same here as well.
Senator Cordy: Six months later?
Mr. Rahman: Yes.
Senator Cordy: After they finish?
Mr. Rahman: Yes.
Senator Seidman: As Senator Cordy said, we have the benefit of a
previous study, which helped us to understand the importance of the
apprenticeship training programs and the skilled trades.
You may have heard that we all kind of gasped when you said that only
half of all apprentices complete their training. Both Mr. Rahman and Ms.
Watts-Rynard referred to a way to incorporate the specific financial
problems involved, because you identified the financial problems as the main
reason for apprentice students not completing or going forward with the
You both referred to upcoming regulations to be developed. I would like
to know if you see any opportunity to build in some kind of awareness of
this particular issue so that we can somehow alleviate it.
Ms. Watts-Rynard: I would start by saying that while financial
issues are one factor in non-completion, they are not the only factor.
Completion is actually a complex topic, and you really have to start looking
at whether it is about continuous employment, whether there are essential
skills gaps. There are so many other factors that come into play around
completion, but financial issues are one of the factors.
It is a matter of ensuring that apprentices do have another way, if the
obstacle to returning to technical training is financial. It may be that in
some cases it is not a financial issue, it is just a matter of my employer
being busy and I don't have time to go back to technical training. It could
be that I don't want to go back on EI and go back to technical training, I'm
fully employed exactly where I am now and I don't need to progress.
All of those factors come into play around completion. However, we do
know that financial barriers exist. What we would be looking for is an
opportunity to help those apprentices that do face the financial barrier and
say that's the reason that they're not going back.
In many cases, fixing EI and making that available more quickly is an
alternate solution, because we find that those delays are representing a
In terms of being able to provide the loan and the regulations, we would
be looking for an opportunity to tell apprentices that if it's a financial
issue stopping you from going back into technical training, let's address
that issue and give you another source of income. The truth is I have heard
from employers who are saying they're giving their apprentices loans and
trying to help them financially. People say, ``I can't live like this; I
need to come back to work.'' Not being able to complete that next level
means they're not getting closer to certification, and quite frankly they're
not getting to a point where they can make more money because apprentices
make an increasing percentage of a journeyperson's wage as they progress
through the system. Those block release training periods have a fundamental
impact on their employment income as well.
Those are some of the reasons that we think it's important to provide the
financial supports. It's a question of whether a student loan system can
easily be applied to a very non-linear way of work-integrated learning.
Senator Seidman: Mr. Rahman, you said specifically a key factor
that has been reported as contributing to low apprenticeship completion is
the financial cost. If you could perhaps supplement what Ms. Watts-Rynard
just told us, I would appreciate it.
Mr. Rahman: Yes, and I think we are referring to the same studies
here where financial issues were found to be one of the main reasons why
they don't complete. There are other ones, as Sarah has already elaborated
What I would like to add to what Sarah has already said is that raising
awareness is going to definitely be very important. We have been in
discussions with stakeholders, including Sarah — she has been very helpful
on this initiative — as well as other stakeholders, such as the employer
associations, for example. We have been very pleased with the feedback we
have received so far.
Yes, for those of us who work in the student loans program, this is new
territory, but we feel quite comfortable with the feedback and reaction we
have received that we can work together in raising awareness about this new
initiative among apprentices or potential apprentices.
Senator Seidman: Is there something that you see as important to
be put into regulation that would help with this particular problem? The
regulations have yet to be written.
Mr. Rahman: That is right. The regulations are intended to set
parameters, the design of the program itself. I am not sure I can comment on
whether or not raising awareness can be part of the regulations. I don't
have that knowledge.
Ms. Watts-Rynard: I will mention that my brief, although I
understand it hasn't been distributed yet, does have research. It refers to
two or three different research studies around financial barriers, which I
think will answer some of your questions about why we consider that to be a
Senator Enverga: Thank you for the presentations. You mentioned
that there is $4,000 for a period of technical training, which is a loan,
and then later on you will provide $1,000 or $2,000 as soon as they complete
the program. Is the $1,000 and $2,000 a loan or is it free money?
Mr. Rahman: Those are grants. They are free money. Those are
already in place, actually. This new loan will be introduced in January, but
the Apprentice Incentive Grants — $1,000 for first and second level — and
the Apprentice Completion Grant of $2,000 have been in place for a few years
now; apprentices currently receive those.
Senator Enverga: So it's separate and additional?
Mr. Rahman: That's right.
Senator Enverga: You must be talking to the provinces and other
businesses that say we need this kind of apprenticeship program. Is there a
limitation on how many people can apply to this kind of program? Is there a
control on that? Sometimes there are too many jobs in a particular area and
one must wait. Do you then say, ``We cannot give any further loan to you?''
Do you have any of those controls?
Mr. Rahman: With respect to the apprentice loan, any apprentice
registered in a Red Seal trade can apply for it. As long as they meet the
eligibility criteria, they will get it. There will be no limit on how many
of them can get it.
Whether or not provincial apprenticeship authorities put a restriction on
the number of apprentices are beyond the parameters of this loan program,
but any apprentice who meets the eligibility criteria for this loan will be
able to get it.
Senator Enverga: My fear is if we have an oversupply in a certain
job description, it will not work. The overall apprenticeship work will
backfire on us, so I want to make sure whether you think there should be a
control for how many people can apply for these jobs.
Ms. Watts-Rynard: One of the important things about the
apprenticeship system is that it is uniquely responsive to industry demand
because to be an apprentice you need to have a job, which means somebody has
decided that it is important for somebody to be doing that job for them.
Because it is industry-responsive, it's highly unlikely you would get
into a situation where somebody was eligible for the loan but was going to
be made redundant within that trade. It is possible that economic
circumstances would change and the person would discontinue their
apprenticeship or they would be laid off from their job, but because of the
industry-responsive nature, there are generally very few limits on how many
people can be hired within a particular trade at the provincial level.
There are sometimes difficulties with the educational infrastructure and
whether or not it can support the number of apprentices. We see there are
some parts of Canada — I know in Saskatchewan at the moment, the key
technical training provider is providing technical training 24 hours a day
because there is so much demand for the training, but they don't have the
infrastructure in place to support doing that within regular work hours.
I think you would be hard-pressed to say that somebody who was pursuing
their apprenticeship and being able to pull down on the loan was in a
position where we have too many people in that trade because it is uniquely
responsive to what employers are hiring.
Senator Enverga: Is there a limitation that the $4,000 has to go
towards tuition? Do you have any limitations like that?
Mr. Rahman: No, there is no limitation on the grant of $4,000. It
is to cover their costs and the costs would include tuition, living expenses
and other things as well.
Senator Enverga: Do you plan on providing this information to high
schools all over Canada?
Mr. Rahman: We will work on raising awareness of this program,
Senator Chaput: Ms. Watts-Rynard, by your presentation, I gather
you believe this is a good thing, but there needs to be a streamlined
application process and timely delivery of funds such that it needs to be
defined and regulated. Is that what you're saying?
Ms. Watts-Rynard: That is what I'm saying. Even the fact that the
loan has been introduced I think is a positive thing. It tells apprentices
that their post-secondary pathway is not less valuable than any other. That
is an important message.
In terms of actually administering the loan program, they are not
students the way we understand post-secondary students, and so I recognize
that the loan is sending an important positive message. I think it's
providing financial supports that are required.
By the same token, they just don't fit the mould the same way that you
would expect other post-secondary students to. I'm suggesting that the loan
program really needs to be uniquely aligned with their requirements and
Senator Chaput: Have you been part of the discussions that have
taken place in regard to this?
Ms. Watts-Rynard: I have been part of the discussions with Atiq's
group in thinking about how we are going to make it work. That's something
that I'm providing ongoing support for.
I wasn't part of any discussion about whether or not the loan program was
the solution to the financial barriers or if there were perhaps other
solutions. Once the loan was announced, I was approached for some advice
about how to align that appropriately with apprenticeship.
Senator Chaput: Thank you. Mr. Rahman, in the discussions that
took place, you mentioned provinces and territories. How far did those
discussions go with the provinces and territories? How did they react to
this new program? Was there any negative reaction?
Mr. Rahman: Thank you. They have all reacted quite positively to
this initiative. We have been having ongoing discussions with them on a
bilateral basis to make sure that we can deliver it properly. We cannot
deliver this because of some of the issues that Sarah has already mentioned,
that it's not a typical student-university relationship.
There are a number of parties involved. They go to institutions for a few
weeks, and then they're with the employers and they're registered with the
provinces. We need to work with almost all the parties to make sure that
this initiative can be delivered properly.
We have been talking to the provinces and territories with respect to how
to ensure that an apprentice is still an apprentice. These loans are going
to be interest-free for a period of time. How do we ensure that the
apprentice is still an apprentice and should continue on interest-free
status? We need the help of provinces and territories to do that. Those are
the discussions we have been having. So far no province has raised any
concerns about this.
Senator Chaput: How about the apprentice, the person, the man or
the young woman? Did you discuss that with a group of them?
Mr. Rahman: We have not engaged with apprentices directly. Sarah,
who represents apprentices, it's the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, so those
are the stakeholder associations we have engaged with, but not directly with
Senator Chaput: This idea doesn't necessarily come from them, it
comes from the government, and now we're trying to see how we can make it
Mr. Rahman: The idea had been proposed by stakeholders before it
was announced this year. Stakeholders usually do their pre-budget
submissions to the government, and the idea of loans for apprentices has
been part of those submissions for a couple of years; so it was coming from
The Chair: Thank you both very much. I want to repeat what some of
my colleagues have said.
I can tell you I have personally considered, for much of my career, that
we have substantially undervalued technical and trade training in this
country to our great disadvantage. That has been a problem with regard to
many aspects of our economy. Contrary to the very good basis of Senator
Enverga's question, the reality is that we suffer from a dearth of people
available for apprenticeship programs, or in some cases we don't have
employers in a position to provide apprenticeship programs. It's been
difficult to build the expertise.
I was delighted to hear you both say that you believe this will give
recognition to the recognized value of these programs. That's enormously
important. I am delighted to hear from those of you who work in that area
because I think enhancing recognition of the value in society of these
programs is absolutely critical for us.
I certainly agree with you that once a loan is approved a program for
this area will indeed give recognition, and in the same sense of loans to
students in the traditional PSE routes. I was very pleased to hear what you
were saying on those issues today, and to support and acknowledge what my
colleagues have already said with regard to recognizing the value in these
I thank my colleagues. I want to remind them that I'm only going to
suspend the meeting because we have to give instructions following this.
(The committee continued in camera.)