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Ottawa Moves On Skills Challenge

The measures announced in the March 21 budget are a significant step forward in the federal government’s attack on Canada’s skills challenge. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce welcomes a more activist approach by all of Canada’s governments to confront a growing problem. “The skills problem leads our Top Ten list of critical barriers to Canada’s competitiveness,” says Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “It’s showing up all across the country, in every industry. We are pleased to see the government is moving to confront it, and to include business directly in the solutions.”

Mr. Beatty said the Canadian Chamber has long believed training programs should be designed and run by those closest to the workforce. “We believe in the leadership role of the provinces and territories, which these measures respect, but we’re pleased to see business and educators will now have a central role as well. Of course, small and medium-sized businesses have specific challenges when it comes to training their employees and we are pleased the government recognizes that.”

“The 2012 Durham Economic Prosperity Conference identified that people and skills are the biggest pressing issue facing companies today,” stated Bob Malcolmson, CEO & General Manager of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce. “There is an urgent need to develop a workforce that has the right skills and this will require partnerships between industry, government and academia and it is encouraging to see that the government recognizes it.” 

“Mr. Flaherty reiterated the government’s commitment to erasing the federal deficit by 2015. We think that’s going to be tough, but it’s essential. Much of our recent economic success is tied to our reputation as a prudent country which follows through on its fiscal plans,” added Malcolmson.

The Chamber President, Dan Carter, also expressed strong support for new federal measures to improve training and education for Aboriginal peoples. “Although these measures are modest, they are a step in the right direction. Most Aboriginal peoples are young. They represent a huge potential workforce, but we have to support them more. Funding for Aboriginal education at all levels has lagged for many years, and education results have, too. It’s not hard to see the connection,” stated Mr. Carter.

Finally, Mr. Beatty expressed disappointment with the Budget’s plan for research and innovation funding. “Last year Ottawa made a $770 million reduction to the money available for research in Canada. We urged the government to have a dialogue with the leading research corporations in Canada, to make sure the replacement model met their needs. Reviewing today’s budget, many of Canada’s most important innovators will be disappointed. It will be hard for those companies to maintain their commitments to research in Canada when other jurisdictions are more supportive.”