Ottawa and the provinces are promising to create a new labour statistics body, but frustration is mounting over the fact that no money has yet been announced and no date has been set as to when it will launch.
Federal and provincial labour ministers announced at a meeting this week in Quebec City that they will create a Labour Market Information Council, but few details were provided other than to say that governments were still working on a final plan.
"The local market needs is one of the most important issues," Sam Hamad, Quebec's Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, said in a brief interview this week.
The idea of such a body has been discussed as far back as 2009 when the federal government commissioned a detailed report on how to improve labour market information. Business and labour groups have been calling for better data in recent years in response to the heated debate over policies such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and whether such measures are truly needed to fill Canadian job vacancies.
Additional information on the proposed council provided to The Globe and Mail said the body will be run jointly by Ottawa and the provinces under the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM) and will operate under a "consensus-based decision-making" process led by a committee of deputy ministers.
Federal Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre said ministers made "significant progress" this week.
"Rather than a new bureaucracy, ministers have agreed to work together through the [Labour Market Information] Council to improve labour market information for Canadians," he said in a statement. A spokesperson for Mr. Poilievre said the council will be funded by the federal and provincial governments, but did not provide an amount.
The 2009 report commissioned by the FLMM and led by economist Don Drummond had estimated that such a council would cost about $49.4-million a year, with $41-million going to Statistics Canada.
Polytechnics Canada chief executive officer Nobina Robinson, who has advocated for the creation of such a council, says it is taking too long to get going and she's frustrated that Ottawa has not announced any money for the project.
"If we say that the No. 1 priority for any political party is jobs, then surely the No. 1 action has to be a way of connecting those people who are being trained to those people who need those workers," she said. As a result, employers may be bringing in workers from abroad without knowing about recent Canadian graduates who could fill the position.
"Instead, we get really dangerous policy decisions such as 'do this on temporary foreign workers,' or 'don't do this on immigration' and we don't know what's happening in our domestic [labour] supply," she said.
Ms. Robinson said there is huge potential in merging the information currently being gathered by postsecondary institutions in order to provide governments, employers, parents, high school students and Canadians looking for new jobs with valuable information about what skills are in demand and what areas of the country are most in need of workers.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce issued a report card earlier this year that gave C grades to most aspects of Canada's labour market system.
Sarah Anson-Cartwright, the chamber's director of skills policy, said Friday that the announcement of the council is positive but she shares the frustration of others that no money has been announced to fund the project.
"We do see that this is a useful step but it needs to be completed by proper investment," she said. "I don't think it's a big-ticket item."
Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff said the lack of action is frustrating.
"I think they're just repeating the same rhetoric that they've done before," he said. "There's no new money here."