MP Report for Okanagan-Coquihalla: Progress, not status quo will serve our national interest on skills
As I shared in a recent report roughly one month ago, Canada Day is my favorite day of the year in large part because it is that one special day when we, as a Country, come together and celebrate all that we love about our great nation. Since being elected as a Member of Parliament it has also occurred to me how often I wish there were more days where we all stopped for a moment to think about the true meaning of Canada Day. I submit that for each of us, the meaning will be different, unique and special. Most importantly I believe we can recognize that collectively we are all part of a greater good that we know and love as Canada. That when we work together, as a nation, when we are united, we are so much stronger than when we are divided. What sets us apart from most other nations is that in spite of our vastness and great diversity we can stand together and support what makes Canada strong.
I mention these points out of concern that I am observing a trend from different jurisdictions including local governments, Provincial governments and increasingly, groups and organizations that have lost sight of the big picture and seem to disregard the greater good. Frequently these disputes and disagreements are centered around jurisdiction, decision making and finance, or put another way.... power. There are some issues that I believe affect all of us as Canadians to the extent that it is in our national interest to work together, find consensus and solutions. If you followed the recent Premiers' conference in Niagara on the Lake in Ontario you will know that some were critical of the proposed new Canada Jobs Skills Training Program provisions laid out in the economic action plan in this year’s budget. To be fair it is easy to criticize. The Job Skills Program has not evolved to the stage of reaching individual agreements with different Provinces at this point. The program also proposes significant changes to the status quo and depends on employers being actively involved in the skills development training. This last point enrages some critics who resent private sector employers being involved in publicly funded Government programs that to date have been largely delivered at the discretion of the Provinces.
However there is a larger more important point that critics routinely ignore and that is the fact that the current skills training system is largely not accomplishing its goals. How do I know this? I make a point of meeting with employers and touring local business operations on a weekly basis. The number of employers who are struggling to find the skilled workers they need is alarming. At the same time, I have also encountered and met with many graduating students who are deeply in debt after having borrowed to fund an education in a profession where there are few jobs available. Those graduates are now forced to look at re-training or taking lesser positions that do not reflect their educational investment. For many employers the short term solution has been to turn to the temporary foreign workers program– the increasing use of this program is a concern that I know all Canadians from all political spectrums share. I raised these same concerns in the House of Commons earlier this year and even in that heavily partisan environment, I heard loud consensus from all sides. In summary I believe it is within our national interest as a Country to take action on this problem. While I respect there will always be disagreement and debate on the decisions of Government, in this instance I believe we cannot stand by and support the status quo approach while we have unemployed young graduates and a growing use of temporary foreign workers. Many do not like change however we must not overlook that one of our great strength as a Country has long been our ability to come together for the greater good to keep Canada strong.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.