Insulators determined to advance agenda in turbulent times

summa-strategies-logo-colourCanada’s 2022 parliamentary calendar kicked off on Jan. 31 when the House of Commons reconvened for its winter/spring session.

Members of Parliament will sit until the middle of June, with a few break weeks sprinkled throughout. Given the way the year started in Ottawa, they will need those breaks!

A turbulent start

The session did not get off to a smooth start – far from it.

In the lead up to the first sitting day, the “Freedom Convoy” of trucks rolled into Ottawa, dominating social media feeds and political headlines from the moment they took over the Canadian capital’s downtown core. The convoy organizers and supporters were there to protest vaccine mandates, a direct reaction to the removal of the exemption for unvaccinated essential travelers to quarantine once they entered the country by Prime Minister Trudeau’s government.

The removal of the exemption on Jan. 15 was met with frustration from some truck drivers, who felt they
should continue to remain exempt from this policy, and many others who oppose vaccine mandates and other restrictions all together. It is worth noting about 90 percent of Canadian truck drivers are vaccinated, but those who are not, and their public supporters, have been vocal, organized and disruptive.

There is no doubt this movement is anti-Trudeau. Yet, it was Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole who was ousted by his fellow Conservative Members of Parliament in less than a week after of the convoy’s arrival. Dissent within the Conservative Caucus of elected MPs had been simmering since O’Toole failed to defeat Trudeau in the recent election. A Conservative Party leadership race ensued with convoy supporter and Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre the early favourite.

At the time of this writing, Prime Minister Trudeau had just invoked the Emergencies Act, giving the federal government extraordinary powers focused on stopping the flow of funding to demonstrators occupying much of downtown Ottawa and critical border crossings across the country, including the all-important Ambassador Bridge Windsor-Detroit crossing.

A busy legislative and policy agenda

Despite the occupying protestors’ incessant honking and chaos, the governing Liberals got right to work. The Liberals announced they had 10 pieces of legislation they would prioritize for the legislative session. A third of the legislation is targeted at what the government calls big tech and web giants, with the remaining pieces focused on COVID-19 recovery, the upcoming budget and the remaining items from the Liberals 100-day plan.

In addition to laying out their immediate legislative priorities, the government has been making a series of announcements, as well as re-announcing prior investments or promoting existing programs.

For instance, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, launched an advertising campaign to promote the skilled trades as a strong first-choice career path for youth and young adults. In addition to the launch of the ad campaign, Minister Qualtrough also highlighted the many investments her government has made into the skilled trades, including:

The Union Training and Innovation Program (UTIP) Since it launched the program in 2017, the Government of Canada says it has funded 217 projects for a total investment of approximately $127.4 million CAD. Fortunately, several Canadian Mechanical Insulator Training Centres have benefited from this program, including in British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick. Those training centres have been successful working with other provincial training centres to ensure knowledge sharing on best practices for a successful application.

Canadian Apprenticeship Strategy The Canadian Apprenticeship strategy aims to promote the skilled trades as a good career option by supporting the development of apprenticeship initiatives to help Canadians participate in and succeed in apprenticeships. It facilitates the participation of employers and unions in apprenticeships, while encouraging the development of innovative tools and approaches to better prepare pre-apprentices,
apprentices and journeymen for their careers.

Apprenticeship Service The government announced the Apprenticeship Service in last year’s budget, which will invest $470 million CAD over three years, beginning this year. The goal of the program is to help first-year apprentices in eligible Red Seal trades – including Mechanical Insulators – connect with employers at small and medium-sized enterprises (less than 500 employees), so they can gain the hands-on experience required in the skilled trades.

The Service will work with and award funds to organizations, through an application process, to provide employers up to $5,000 for every new, eligible first-year apprentice they hire. The goal is to assist with upfront costs, including salaries and training, and to boost diversity in the Red Seal trades by providing an additional $5,000 to employers who hire from equity-deserving groups including women, visible minorities and persons with disabilities. 

Apprenticeship Grants The Canadian government provides three types of apprenticeship grants: Apprenticeship Incentive Grant, Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women and Apprenticeship Completion Grant. Overall, the program has provided $1.28 billion through more than 978,200 grants.

Insulator advocacy

It was not just the federal government who hit the ground running in 2022.

Canada’s Mechanical Insulators have met with key decision makers to advance our priority issues, including the pursuit of an industrial energy audit pilot project. The International’s Eastern and Western Vice Presidents had a productive meeting with senior political staff to the Minister of Natural Resources in January.

Canadian Conference (Eastern) International Vice President Paul M. Faulkner was invited to meet with Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Labour, as part of a Canada Building Trades engagement. Planned meetings include the Centre for Greening Government, the Minister of Health’s office to renew efforts to establish a national patient registry for mesothelioma and with Infrastructure Canada.

Mechanical Insulators and the Canada Building Trades are optimistic the 2022 budget could introduce a Labour Mobility Tax Credit to help tradesmen and tradeswomen claim travel expenses when they must relocate to find work.

This was a key priority put forward by the Building Trades and Insulators in pre-budget consultation. The Prime Minister tasked the Ministers of Labour and Employment and Skills Development to work with the Minister of Finance to see this enacted.

The Minister of Natural Resources has also expressed interest in incentives and other means to encourage industrial and commercial building retrofits, but more advocacy and support is needed to see the federal government deliver on this priority.

Throughout the session, Canada’s Mechanical Insulators will continue to meet with ministers, their staff and other officials to serve as a leading voice on industrial and commercial audits and retrofits, enhanced support for training and equipment for the skilled trades, promoting Red Seal requirements for federal contracts and our continued advocacy for a national mesothelioma patient registry.

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