Published on September 11, 2013
Dr. Kellie Leitch, the federal Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women (centre) stands with Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback and MLA Victoria Jurgens at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club on Wednesday.
Herald photo by Jodi Schellenberg
Published on September 11, 2013
Dr. Kellie Leitch, the federal Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, talks with Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club on Wednesday.
Herald photo by Jodi Schellenberg
Dr. Kellie Leitch, the federal Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, spoke at a Prince Albert Chamber luncheon on Wednesday on both her areas of focus in Parliament.
Although she was elected for a riding in Ontario, Leitch understands Saskatchewan concerns as she has roots in the Prairies. She is originally from Fort McMurray, her grandparents were from Shaunavon and some of her family has a farm outside of Brandon, Man.
“I’m delighted to have taken on this role and it is because it is so vital to the national economy,” Leitch said. “You know that better here than anywhere else in Saskatchewan. We are growing the economy in leaps and bounds and you are part of the new engine of making sure Canada’s economy is growing.”
According to the Conference Board of Canada, Leitch said, Saskatchewan is predicted to grow 3.4 per cent in 2013 -- the highest of all the provinces in the country.
“Our government is really focused on exactly what you are doing -- creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians to benefit from. As a minister, my responsibility is to help support these initiatives.”
When Leitch was first elected to Parliament, she took a tour across Canada to learn about Canadians’ concerns,
“What individuals have told me across the entire country is that there is only really one thing they are focused on -- they want a job,” Leitch said. “They want a meaningful job, one where they can have a good quality of life where their families can be well supported. They want our economy to stay on track.”
The federal government is committed to job creation to make sure Canadians maintain the quality of life they currently have, Leitch said.
“It is things like the Building Canada Fund, our initiatives for apprenticeships, and our Canada Job Grant that are things we really have to focus on,” Leitch said. “We are making sure we you have the labour you need to grow your firms but also have the infrastructure you need in order to make sure those people are employed and have opportunities in the global marketplace.”
Two of the main focuses in Saskatchewan have been the agriculture and biofuels industries, she said.
Another main focus in the Economic Action Plan 2013 has been lowering taxes, she said.
“That has contributed to us being able to allow businesses to net over a million new jobs since the downturn of the recession,” Leitch said.
One thing the budget did not address but Leitch has heard as a concern across the country is the skills gap.
“There are a lot of people with certain skills who aren’t necessarily where we want them to be,” Leitch said. “We also have a number of people who don’t have the skills that we need them to have. Where better to focus than the province of Saskatchewan where you have a large and very interested, vibrant young Canadian population?”
Since she has dual roles in Parliament -- labour and the status of women -- she mentioned women are a great untapped resource of labour in the country.
“We may talk about how many Aboriginal Canadians are available to be employed, the same with newcomers to Canada,” Leitch said. “Probably the largest number of people available who are relatively well educated are women. Young women don’t enter into the skilled professional roles, they don’t take on technical roles. “
Currently, only 19 per cent of skilled trade professionals are women.
“If we are going to start to increase the quality of life for young Canadian women but at the same time move that gap, that labour shortage issue, that’s the population we should be targeting,” Leitch said. “These are young people that are looking to have a great quality of life, they just don’t know the opportunity that is available to them. “
She said Canada needs to be focused on making sure young people know the opportunities available to them, providing them with training and internships.
“We all have a responsibility of making sure there are opportunities for them when they decide what direction they are going,” Leitch said.
Since October is Women’s History Month, instead of focusing on women in the past who have been great role models, this year they will be showcasing women who are currently making history.
“Every day we will be highlighting a woman who has created recent history, someone young women can emulate, every day of the month,” Leitch said. “We want to make sure young women and men know there are great Canadians out there they can emulate and learn from. We need to make sure people are aware of the roles they can take on, whether it be in the national resources industry, construction or skilled trades, but we also need to make sure they have a mentor and opportunities.”
Leitch encouraged everyone to tell her about women young people should be looking up to in the country, from a manager at the local lumber mart and beyond.
Not only does she want to be an advocate for women, but also other minorities in the workforce.
“We want to make sure that all of these individuals are supported so in the most recent budget we have a forum for persons with disabilities focused on making sure that those 800,000 Canadians that have a post-secondary education degree with a disability can enter into the workforce,” Leitch said. “My focus is to make sure young women know about the opportunities available to them, that they know they can apply and take on a skilled professional trade ad a great quality of life because of it.”
Another way the government is helping with the labour issues is through the Canada Job Grant, Leitch said.
“This is a very unique way of approaching job training in the country,” Leitch said. “As opposed to those of us in government deciding where training should take place, we are actually putting in the hands of employers the opportunity to chose. You know where jobs are and who you need to train for the role. We are providing you the opportunity to participate in a very meaningful way with us to identify people who put them in the jobs they have today.”
Many people have expressed interest in the new venture already, Leitch said.
“They are looking forward to it being implemented so they can use it right here in Prince Albert,” Leitch said.
Another focus is making sure workplaces are safe for all Canadians, Leitch said.
“We all have a responsibility to make sure work places are safe, productive and happy and healthy, that everyone feel comfortable there,” Leitch said. “I would encourage employers to make sure they have a safe, effective workplace. Women will want to work there and will contribute to your bottom line, making sure you have a productive firm.”
She encouraged the people of Prince Albert to contact her with their concerns about labour and the status of women.
“I’m also here to listen to you for what to do to create jobs and sustain that prosperity across the country so we stay on the right track so those of you who are here for your businesses in Prince Albert and hopefully beyond your borders,” Leitch said. “As your MP is doing, making sure we are opening up those opportunities for Canadians but particularly for people here in Prince Albert.”
Although she said people can feel free to contact her directly, Leitch asked people to reach out to their MP Randy Hoback as well.
“He is doing an outstanding job and I am happy to be here to support him and the things he wants to achieve for this riding,” Leitch said. “I’m delighted that he invited me well before I became a minister and I am happy to be here to make sure the local businesses here and Randy are supported. We need members of Parliament like Randy in Parliament. People who communicate exactly what is required by their constituents and deliver for them.”
After her presentation at the luncheon, the group went into round table discussions to discuss concerns with the minister.
“With the round table discussion there will be a chance to talk about some concerns they have expressed to me,” Hoback said. “We are looking forward to having the round table and listening to what they have to tell us.”
During his visits with constituents, Hoback has heard a lot of concerns about labour within the riding.
“Here’s an opportunity for the business community to tell the minister the type of the jobs they are short of and the challenges they are facing in the riding of Prince Albert,” Hoback said. “I want to thank the minister for coming to Prince Albert … It is nice to know we have an ally in the cabinet that is fighting for the needs of the people of the riding of Prince Albert.”