What can we expect from the Liberals?

Tom Bursey comments on the HR-related initiatives<br> we're likely to see in the wake of the federal election

Tom Bursey is the chair of the federal government affairs committee for the HRPAO (Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario). Now that the election results are in, we asked him for some predictions about what HR managers can expect from the government.

Since it is a majority Liberal government, I think we can predict with some certainty what path they will continue on. For the most part, it’s good news.

The latest Liberal red book reads almost like a strategic HR plan for Canada. If they do half of the things they say they’ll do in that book, we’ll all be happy. I would encourage HR people to get the book and track the government’s progress on its promises.

There are certain issues the government appears to be committed to and I hope to see them continue with those initiatives.

Dealing with the worker shortage

There are a number of different departments within the government that are fully aware that Canada is competing in a global world and for a global workforce. They are also aware that despite our best efforts to ramp up capacity at the various educational institutions across Canada, that ramp-up is not meeting the demands of employers for skilled workers.

While there are many programs in place where the government has strategically started to invest in research and development and to bring up the capacity (of people in universities), we’re certainly faced with a short-term if not a medium-term shortage of workers.

Starting with students

In the next five to 10 years about a third of professors in Canada are scheduled to retire. To attract new ones from around the world, or even keep the Canadian PhD students, is extremely difficult. This potential attrition of academics in turn produces a huge capacity issue for our post-secondary institutions and in the longer-term, the amount home-grown talent that will be available for our workforce.

The federal government has research money to invest in chairs of excellence for research. This will be important to attract professors from other countries to Canada. If they don’t spend this money, and execute this strategy properly, we will see a huge problem a few years down the road. It could sneak up on us and ten years out we’ll be wondering “what happened?”

Making Canada more attractive to immigrants

In order to be attracted to Canada as a place to live and work, international workers need to be shown that the right fundamentals exist here - a positive infrastructure that is attractive. There are some very innovative things the government is planning to do to make Canada a more attractive place.

For example, if you move to the United States, your spouse can’t work. In Canada, if you bring a highly skilled worker, the new immigration legislation would allow their spouse to work legally.

In the States, you can come in as a skilled worker but you can’t apply for U.S. citizenship while you’re there. Another innovation the Canadian government is looking at would allow skilled workers to be able to apply for citizenship status. These are very clever, very smart things that could make Canada more attractive to foreign nationals outside of Canada.

We are also working with the government to expand the agreements that would allow workers in certain industries to have fast-tracked immigration. It is an expedited “job families” process. This is potentially a very positive thing.

Creating a skilled workforce

There is a range of skills that are being attracted to Canada. The more skilled people you bring in, the more of a spin-off effect there will be. Skilled workers make for a skilled workforce, which in turn becomes more attractive to foreign workers.

Positive signs

I’ve seen some positive signs within the government - they know the issues and they want to make a difference. It all comes down to how fast they can deliver things and improve things. There’s a lot of work to be done.

There are lots of good signs on that front. We shall see.

Tom Bursey can be reached at (613) 224-9950 or [email protected]

Latest stories