Notes for remarks by the Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, at the Canadian Building and Trades Unions’ Annual Conference
May 8, 2018
Hilton Lac Leamy, Gatineau, Québec
It’s great to be here.
First, let me begin by recognizing the Algonquin Nation, on whose traditional territory we are gathered.
Let me also thank the organizers for this opportunity to engage with you regarding our government’s partnership with the labour movement, a partnership aimed at creating shared prosperity through respect, diversity, inclusiveness and openness.
These are priorities for our government and for your membership of over half a million construction workers and tradespeople.
At a time when nationalism, populism and division are threatening economic and political stability elsewhere, Canada’s recipe for diversity, inclusiveness and shared prosperity is working.
Globalization has been a source of good, a great engine of wealth creation, and it’s also been disruptive, widening the delta between the winners and those left behind.
And that is why it is so important to make sure that economic prosperity is shared, and I would like to talk to you about what our government is doing differently to put in place the fundamentals for sustainable growth and shared prosperity.
Because economic growth is not a zero sum game, where if someone is winning then someone else must be losing.
The goal of growth should be to improve the quality of life of all our citizens.
We might have growth, but if workers are poorly treated, working in low-paying and unsafe jobs, what’s the point?
Which is why our government has great respect for unions and the people they represent.
Throughout our history, Canada’s labour unions have been a force for positive change.
Unions have fought to secure many of the benefits that Canadian workers now take for granted.
We believe that unions are vital to protecting the rights of workers and helping Canada’s middle class grow and prosper.
That’s why unions and employers must be on an equal footing when it comes to negotiating wages and tackling the many other issues that make up the modern workplace.
We must never roll back fundamental labour rights that unions have worked so hard to secure.
Instead, we need to make sure that workers can organize freely, bargain collectively in good faith, and work in safe environments.
That’s been our government’s approach to labour relations.
After a decade during which organized labour was viewed as an adversary, or worse, by the government of the day, we have restored fair and balanced labour laws that acknowledge the important role of unions.
Our government scrapped a law that made it harder for unions to be certified, and easier for them to be de-certified.
We fixed the Income Tax Act to remove heavy-handed and redundant rules.
Unions are already financially transparent and accountable to their members.
We are also in the process of restoring fairness to our public service labour relations regime.
We have introduced legislation to remove what would have been a unilateral implementation of a new sick leave and short-term disability program by the government without the agreement of the unions that represent public service employees.
This same legislation will also repeal laws that stacked the deck in favour of the government as employer by giving it the exclusive right to determine which services are essential and changing the dispute resolution process.
Our legislation, which is going through Parliament right now, restores the right of unions to select either arbitration or conciliation with the right to strike in the event of a bargaining impasse.
Our commitment to fair and respectful dealings with our federal employees and their unions has paid dividends.
When we took office in November 2015, all 27 bargaining units were without collective agreements, some of them for years.
I can now say that we’ve concluded 23 agreements representing 97% of unionized public servants in the core public administration.
Diversity and Inclusion
These men and women are part of a public service that last year was ranked the best in the world.
And every day as I work alongside them, I am struck by the perspectives we get when we have a diverse group of people around the table.
Let me assure you: diversity and inclusion is an economic imperative.
It’s why the Prime Minister appointed the most diverse Cabinet in Canadian history and created a new Cabinet Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.
It’s why a key priority for our government is to help ensure that women, Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership, through the appointments we make.
It’s why the Canada Child Benefit is so important, already having lifted 300,000 Canadian kids out of poverty so they have a better shot at a brighter future.
And it’s why we’re making historic investments in Indigenous communities and education for Indigenous children, so they can all have a chance to build a better future.
Our government is creating opportunities that draw strength from our diversity, to build a country where every Canadian has a real and fair chance to work, to contribute to our economy, and to succeed.
Which is why our last Budget took action to promote gender equality.
By working to support women and girls, reduce the gender wage gap, and increase the participation of women in the labour force, we are helping to boost economic growth for all Canadians.
Our last budget announced some very important programs to promote diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
We are investing $46 million over 5 years, with $10 million per year ongoing, for a new program to develop and enhance pre apprenticeship training.
This will help Canadians, particularly underrepresented groups, including women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and newcomers, to explore the trades, gain work experience, make informed career choices and develop the skills needed to succeed.
And, we will be working in partnership with unions, employers, provinces, territories, post-secondary institutions and training providers to make this happen.
Today, many industries that rely on skilled trades are facing a shortage of qualified workers.
One way we can help meet that demand is by supporting interested women in getting the training they need for a career in the trades.
That’s why we’ve introduced a new Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women, a 5 year pilot project to encourage women’s increased representation in those skilled trades where they currently have little presence.
Under this program, women in Red Seal trades would receive a new grant of $3,000 for each of their first 2 years of training.
This, in combination with the existing Apprenticeship Completion Grant, valued at $2,000, will result in a combined $8,000 in financial support over the course of their training.
Another program, the Women in Construction Fund, will be launched this fiscal year and will build on existing models that have proven to be effective in attracting women to the trades.
These include mentoring, coaching and tailored supports that enable women to progress through their training and find and retain jobs in the trades.
We’ve also successfully launched the new Union Training and Innovation Program.
Projects are now starting to roll out and most are aimed specifically at increasing the participation and success of women in the trades.
Canada was just recently named co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, and we are leveraging this international leadership position to promote inclusion in democratic institutions around the world.
As co-chairs, our 3 priorities are inclusion, participation and impact.
By opening up to our citizens, the private sector, the scientific community, thinkers and innovators across the country, open government lets us harness Canada’s greatest strength: our diversity.
We’re on the right track.
Today, you can find vast amounts of data produced by federal organizations on the Open Government Portal, in areas such as health, environment, agriculture and natural resources.
There are currently more than 80,000 datasets on open.canada.ca, from more than 60 federal departments, including some datasets that would be of interest to your sector, such as data on building permits.
And by making this data openly available to Canadians, without restrictions on reuse, we’re generating opportunities for people to improve businesses and lives, and contribute to the country’s economic growth.
The prosperity of all Canadians depends on policies that promote openness, inclusiveness, diversity and respect.
Our government is committed to building an economy where the benefits of growth are shared in a fair and equitable manner.
And that means an economy with strong labour laws, a diverse and inclusive workforce and an open government ecosystem that promotes innovation.
Making sure every Canadian has a real and fair chance at success is not just the right thing to do.
It is the smart thing to do.
And it’s how we will ensure long-term prosperity for every Canadian.