Thank you, Mr. Blaikie.
I have always been a bit cautious about accepting the idea that there is a labour shortage in Canada, even in high-skill occupations in particular. You mentioned skilled trades in the construction sector and elsewhere. I think that this focus on so-called labour shortages has been somewhat misplaced.
To be sure, the unemployment rate is relatively low by historical standards—it's 5.5% today—but that's still 1.2 million officially unemployed Canadians. That doesn't tell the whole story about underutilization in our labour market. If you include other groups of people who aren't working or aren't working to the fullest of their capacity but who would like to be, including involuntary part-time work, discouraged workers, marginally attached folks and so on, then underutilization is much higher than that.
To be sure, in some particular occupations and industries, companies have a hard time locating precisely the right skilled people at the exact time that they want. I will point out that the most severe labour shortages are actually reported in very low-wage, low-skill industries like the hospitality and retail trades, where employers complain they can't find workers, yet continue to offer well below-par wages, benefits and schedules.
In some specialized occupations, some construction trades and some health care-related fields, I would say more genuine skill shortages are an issue. This is where companies need to be pushed and encouraged with both a carrot and a stick, perhaps, to invest with more foresight and long-term commitment to a pipeline of trained and experienced workers who can fill the roles as they become available.
Your basic point on a steady flow of work in construction, including public infrastructure and, I would say, affordable non-market housing projects, would establish a baseline of work that would make that labour force planning dimension of construction more reasonable. It would also support Canada's economy through the next year or two when we expect Canada to experience at least a shallow recession.
Having an inflow of public capital spending would have important macroeconomic benefits as well.