Canadian Construction Association (CCA) members who took part in Hill Day in Ottawa brought with them an important message for MPs: changes are needed to the immigration system to address workforce shortages.
CCA president Mary Van Buren pointed out the construction industry is currently struggling to fill over 81,000 jobs nationwide.
“All of our efforts to recruit and attract women, Indigenous people, people from underrepresented segments, that work needs to continue but it’s not enough. We’re falling short and so we really need a change to immigration and we need a change to our temporary foreign workers program,” said Van Buren.
“We’re happy there has been a commitment to increase immigration but it’s not just bodies we need, we need skilled people. We need people who either have experience in construction or who are willing to work in construction.”
CCA’s Hill Day was held Nov. 14 at Parliament Hill. About 70 CCA members took part, meeting with 60 MPs.
“They represent all aspects of the industry, so general contractors, trade contractors, civil, institutional and manufacturers and suppliers from every part of Canada. You can imagine how much of an impact it is when they unite on a key message,” said Van Buren.
“We initiated this several years ago as an intentional strategy to really broaden and deepen our industry’s engagement with the federal government.”
Having members from across Canada was key because different regions have different needs.
“The feds and provinces need to be in alignment because there is that relationship between the two,” said Van Buren “There is work to be done with the provinces and the feds to align on the specific needs of their regions because there is no one-size-fits-all. Somebody might need more carpenters, somebody might need more project managers.”
A reception was held that day where CCA members had an opportunity to meet and mingle with MPs. In attendance was Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser and the Minister of Public Services and Procurement Helena Jaczek. The ministers talked about their support for immigration and the recent announcement Canada would seek to welcome up to 500,000 new immigrants annually by 2025.
Overall, the day went well and members were pleased with their engagements with the MPs, Van Buren said.
“They found that the MPs were quite receptive,” said Van Buren. “For some people it was their first time and it was a great experience for them to see democracy in action, meeting with MPs and bringing the message.”
It was also an opportunity to educate the government on the importance of the sector, she added.
“There’s a lot of talk around ‘we need to bring more health care workers,’ ‘we need more housing’ and that’s true, but you don’t just build housing, you build a community,” explained Van Buren.
“You have to bring in clean water, sewage systems, you have roads and bridges and overpasses. Then, as the community expands, you might need fire stations, hospitals, grocery stores. It’s important when the members go they explain it’s not just housing, it’s everything it takes to create that housing. That paints a picture that it’s not just one or the other, it’s not health care workers or construction workers, we need both.”
Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.