The Canadian Construction Association is lobbying the federal government to introduce meaningful immigration reform that would make it easier for construction workers to come to Canada on a permanent, temporary and seasonal basis.
The construction industry is facing unprecedented demand for labour. According to the Construction Sector Council, between 2005 and 2014, approximately 150,000 people will be needed to meet impending retirements. Between 2005 and 2010, another 41,000 workers will be needed to meet expected demand.
In the past, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has worked to increase the domestic supply of labour — including promoting the industry to youth, reaching out to underrepresented groups such as women and aboriginals, improving inter-provincial labour mobility and lobbying for tax incentives to support apprenticeship training.
However, in the face of unprecedented industry growth and long-term demand for labour, the CCA is calling on the federal government to introduce changes to the immigration system that will make it easier for construction workers to come to Canada on both a temporary and permanent basis.
"Although aggressive efforts by all industry players must continue in order to recruit Canadians to the construction industry, the fact remains that immigration policy must play a bigger role in meeting future labour demand," stated Michael Atkinson, president of the CCA.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Harper, the CCA made the following recommendations:
•Canada needs to adopt a proactive immigration policy that will target individuals with needed skills, and expedite their entry.
•The points system that is used to screen for permanent residents needs to be revised to put greater emphasis on experience and arranged employment in the skills required.
•Under the Temporary Worker Program, the list of allowable occupations must be expanded to include construction trades, and there must be quicker recognition of shortages that would qualify under the Temporary Worker Program.
•A program similar to the existing Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) should be created for the construction sector.
•A process should be developed to resolve the issue of undocumented workers that does not involve deportation, similar to a recent recommendation by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
•The federal government needs to work more closely with provinces to expand the Provincial Nominee Programs to include construction trades.