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Unifying licensing requirements across Canada to improve labour mobility

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Presently, licensing requirements for many occupations differ across provinces and territories, making inter-provincial labour mobility challenging for some Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents.  With the goal of creating a stronger and more united national work force, the Premiers of Canada’s provinces and territories have proposed a new labour mobility accord that will make it easier for workers to seek job opportunities outside of their home province/territory.

“There are serious mobility constraints in about 25% of jobs in Canada, so our task is to smooth away those last difficulties to create the most stimulating market,” stated Quebec Premier Jean Charest after the two-day annual Council of the Federation meeting.  Physicians, nurses, and welders are among the regulated occupations in which labour mobility is restricted.

The proposed new Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) between Canadian provinces and territories is especially good news for Canadian immigrants, many of whom have already had to go through a credential recognition process.  Before beginning to work in certain occupations, it is necessary to verify that internationally-obtained education and work experience credentials are compatible with occupational standards in the province/territory where immigrants intend to work.

The catch is that occupational standards and what qualifies as a regulated occupation differ across provinces/territories.  This means that although a person could be cleared to work in one province, if he/she wishes to move to another, it is possible that more training or a different accreditation process would be required.  This applies not only to workers trained abroad but to Canadian-born citizens alike.

The AIT seeks to remove this hurdle to cross-provincial/territorial mobility.

“No matter where a Canadian lives in this great country, they can move to a different province, take their skills with them, their profession, and be able to work within the country of Canada without any barriers,” stated Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.

The Premiers plan to amend the internal trade agreement by January 1, 2009 in order to have full labour mobility by April 1, 2009.  At that time they will also implement an agreement to accept credentials from other provinces/territories.  Certain professions, however, will be exempted at the discretion of provincial labour ministers.

Labour mobility was one of the top priorities of this year’s Council of the Federation meeting, along with combating climate change.  Immigration issues were also discussed as the Premiers called on the federal government to commit more resources to dealing with the backlog of immigration applicants who are waiting to get into Canada.

“It is unacceptable as it is right now,” Mr. Charest stated, noting that many of those waiting for a visa to come to Canada are workers who are badly needed in labour-tight industries.