Lack of skilled labour threatens Canadian economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says
OTTAWA—Producing more skilled workers, scientists and engineers is the key to Canada’s future prosperity, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
His analysis may have surprised a Canada-United States business group in Ottawa to talk about cross-border irritants, international trade negotiations, stalled pipelines and the rise of China as an economic power.
“This is in fact in my judgment the biggest challenge our country faces,” Harper said of skills shortages when asked about future growth in the economy.
Even as the country bounces back from the recession, the shortage of trained employees continues flare up as a problem, particularly in western Canada, he said.
Part of the problem arises from having an aging population, Harper observed. But he added, “For whatever reason, we know that peoples’ choices, in terms of the education system, tend to lead us to what appears to be a chronic shortage of certain skills. They are skilled trades, scientists and engineers.”
He said the federal Conservatives are trying to address the shortages by adjusting the immigration system. The government plans to admit between 53,00 to 55,000 new Canadians in 2013 through an overhauled federal skilled worker program, which is being redesigned to bring in more young people.
The government wants to tailor immigration to meet economic aims under a process where “we start to identify the needs we have and we go out and we find those needs in the world,” Harper noted. He said this was necessary because Canada is increasingly in competition with other countries for skilled immigrants.
He also said Ottawa wants to work with the provinces and business to address the skills shortage issue.