On October 3-5 2015, over one thousand Canadians – from all walks of life, and all regions of Canada – met at Toronto’s former Maple Leaf Gardens to hold an important dialogue about the future of work in Canada’s economy.
This was the Good Jobs Summit: hosted by a diverse coalition of sponsors (including Unifor, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Centre for Labour Management Relations, and the CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice at Ryerson University).
The audience included leaders and activists from a wide range of community organizations, labour and student unions, and equality and social justice movements. But the audience also included many “unusual suspects”: business and post-secondary education leaders, elected officials, training and employment experts, even the CEOs of major corporations and the Premier of Ontario.
The mission of the Summit: bring together representatives from a diverse cross-section of economic stakeholders, to show that Canadians have a shared interest in building a stronger, more inclusive, and more secure labour market. And to demonstrate that we have a lot of great ideas on how to do exactly that.
The challenges facing Canada’s labour market are hardly news. Everyone knows that unemployment is far too high – all the more so those who are traditionally the last hired, and first fired (like young workers and students, women, people with disabilities, and racialized and aboriginal workers). And the official unemployment statistics are just the tip of the iceberg. They don’t count people who’ve given up looking for non-existent jobs, who are underemployed in marginal positions (that don’t use their skills and true potential), or who piece together a living from multiple part-time or irregular contracts.
Similarly, everyone knows that inequality has been growing in Canada. The gap between rich and poor has widened so much that it threatens both social cohesion and economic progress. And again, this problem is not experienced evenly: the burden is heaviest on Canadians from harder-hit communities (women, new Canadians, racialized workers, aboriginals, young workers, workers with disabilities).
So these problems are not new, and they are not surprising. But too much public discourse regarding Canada’s jobs crisis focuses on finger-pointing and division. Blaming taxes for the problem. Blaming unions. Blaming regulations. Blaming immigrants. Blaming government. Blaming the unemployed – for their supposed lack of motivation. Or blaming some other imagined scapegoat.
Our vision, in contrast, is one where stakeholders and constituencies can come together: to explore our shared interest in a labour market that works better, for all Canadians.
We need more jobs. We need better jobs. And we need to ensure that all Canadians have a fair shot at those jobs – especially those from traditionally excluded or underrepresented communities.
We need a labour market that taps the knowledge, skills, and productive potential of Canadians. Our workforce is the most educated in the world. Our young people in particular are more skilled and innovative than any previous generation. There’s no shortage of potential among Canadian workers. Just a shortage of outlets for that potential.
And we need an economy that marshalls the incredible human, natural, and cultural wealth of this country – and puts it to work to improve our economic, social, and environmental well-being. An economy that connects the dots between things we have, and things we need.
After all, the most successful economies in the world today are those countries which have built effective and lasting partnerships among all economic stakeholders – rather than pointing fingers, or beating each other down.
The goal of the Good Jobs Summit was to assemble all the “ingredients” for a successful economy – business, government, labour, students, communities – and begin to imagine a more effective, inclusive economic recipe. And we welcomed and nurtured the theme of “unusual suspects” or “strange bedfellows.” The Summit’s concluding panel on Sunday morning was especially big and diverse: CEOs, union presidents, community organizers, students, a former mayor, environmentalists. They found many areas of agreement, and generated energy around a shared vision of a productive, prosperous, inclusive labour market.
If they can do it, so can Canada.
By bringing together these diverse stakeholders, the sponsors of the Summit also hoped to demonstrate to our political leaders that a better economic future lies through collaboration and partnerships. Indeed, perhaps our governments should host gatherings and discussions just like this one in the future. Perhaps governments should take up the Summit’s vision of partnership and collaboration.
The benefits of a good jobs economy are enormous, and widespread. Improving the quantity of jobs, the quality and security of jobs, and enhancing access to good job opportunities for all Canadians, will lay the economic foundation for a society that is:
More equal and inclusive.
Can pay taxes to support the provision of quality public services.
Can make necessary investments in sustainability and protecting the environment.
Can make the most of our shared capacities to learn, innovate, and produce.
The Good Jobs Summit provided a venue for truly collaborative discussion: the careful, patient work necessary to find solutions and build trust among multiple stakeholders. The event included several keynote speakers and expert panels, generating ideas and perspectives for the Summit-goers to consider and debate.
The Summit also featured an innovative and participatory process of small-group workshops – not an easy feat for a gathering with over 1000 participants! Participants held literally hundreds of conversations with each other, discussing possible actions and solutions within eight broad issue areas. All of these workshop conversations were recorded in detail and distilled (summarized in the detailed appendices which accompany the on-line version of this report).
The core goal of the Summit was not to develop a detailed policy agenda. It was to show that diverse stakeholders can come together, have productive and respectful dialogue, and identify key areas of shared concern and consensus.
Nevertheless, through the unique process that unfolded that weekend, several themes were identified that seemed to reflect the shared convictions of most participants. The following ten themes were reviewed with attendees during the concluding session on Sunday morning. In our view, they constitute a “good start:” an initial to-do list of policies and practices that have the potential to build a better labour market for the future. Of course, it will take more discussion, collaboration, and experimentation to move all of these ideas forward, and supplement them with other proposals.
Extend legislated employment standards to all workers, with better enforcement and more widespread knowledge (among both workers and employers) of workers’ legal rights.
Provide accessible training and post-secondary education, combined with more effective opportunities to connect that training with good jobs.
Establish decent wage benchmarks that reflect the real costs of raising families and participating fully in society.
Ensure public services and programs create and support good jobs, and that the public sector is a leader in employment quality.
Actively manage market forces, and carefully structure fiscal incentives, to meet good jobs goals and maximize net economic benefits.
Strike a proper balance between national and regional good jobs strategies.
Add value to our natural resources, in order to maximize the economic benefits arising from resource industries and better support regional economies.
Support the growing green economy, and the creation of good “green” jobs, to protect our planet and stimulate good jobs at the same time.
Develop better ways of organizing and collectively representing marginalized workers and workers in precarious jobs.
Build collaborative partnerships between communities, business, educational institutions, labour, and government to attain a more successful, secure, and inclusive labour market.
Each of these themes is discussed in more detail below, with additional supporting material provided in the on-line appendices (which document the written and verbal output from all of the small group sessions at the Summit). The following sections of this report also summarize the main points raised by the Summit’s keynote speakers and expert panels.
None of the thousand participants in the Good Jobs Summit wanted the process to start and end with that single weekend. Our shared goal is to spark ongoing dialogue, debate, research, and – ultimately – action.
So how can we move this process forward in the future? The Summit made four broad commitments for follow-up work:
To fully document the proceedings of the Summit. This report, and other associated output (including the detailed on-line appendices, a documentary film currently in production by the Good Jobs for All coalition, and excellent feature-length coverage of the Summit by Guylaine Spencer writing for Our Times magazine), aims to fulfill this commitment.
To support follow-up local and regional Good Jobs Summits in other communities and regions of Canada. Regional Good Jobs Summits have already been held in several communities: including Thunder Bay, Vancouver, Kingston, and Oshawa. The sponsors of the Good Jobs Summit stand ready to assist any other local organizers who wish to organize a regional Summit.
To convene a Good Jobs Round Table, composed of leaders from all economic stakeholders in Canada. The Round Table consists of approximately a dozen leaders from all the major economic constituencies represented at the Summit: including business, labour, students and post-secondary education, community and faith organizations, and aboriginal peoples. It will meet at regular intervals to discuss challenges and opportunities related to good jobs in Canada, and consider ways to advance the action ideas identified at the Summit.
To continue the conversation about good jobs in Canada. The Goods Jobs website will continue to post news, research, and updates about good jobs and the state of Canada’s labour market. Your ideas, input, and suggestions are always welcome; send them to email@example.com.
Many observers have concluded that a chronically underperforming labour market, growing polarization, and hopelessness among young workers are just “inevitable” features of a grim new economic “reality.” We reject that pessimistic view. To the contrary, Canada simply has too much potential – resources, skills, ambition, social capital – to settle for anything less than a fully-utilized, high-performing, inclusive labour market. Creating more jobs, lifting their quality, and ensuring that all communities in Canada can share in the resulting opportunity, is our shared mission.
In short, the future of good jobs in Canada is in our collective hands. Please join us in finding ways to make that future better.
Canada’s labour market isn’t working well for far too many of us. Workers of all ages, in all regions, from all backgrounds, experience the painful reality of joblessness and insecurity. But the hardships of unemployment, underemployment, and precarious work are not shared evenly across society. To the contrary, the challenge of finding and keeping a good job, and supporting one’s family, is far more acute for many groups of traditionally marginalized and exploited Canadians:
Racialized groups include those who experience differential and unfair treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, language, or religion. Racialized Canadians earn, on average, around 20% less than non-racialized Canadians. They are also more likely to be in jobs that are insecure, temporary and low-wage. New immigrants and migrant workers also face especially insecure and exploitative employment conditions.
First Nations, Inuit, and Metis workers face particularly acute barriers attaining education and decent employment. They experience a catastrophic lack of employment opportunities in their home communities, sub-standard education and training opportunities, and intense inequality and exploitation in the broader labour market (including those who live in urban centre.
The youth unemployment rate is typically twice as high as the overall rate, and currently hovers in the mid-teens. Spending years without obtaining decent work degrades the value of their education and training, reduces their lifetime earnings path, and imposes terrible damage on their self-esteem and their families. Even many of those who find work are not remotely using the skills they invested so much to acquire.
Young workers have always been the last hired and first fired. But they are now experiencing the new reality of precarious work immediately and painfully.
International research confirms that the ability of children to attain secure career paths is closely correlated with family income; this class disadvantage becomes more acute as the gap between rich and poor grows. If you grow up poor, the chances of remaining poor (and precarious) as you go through life are greater than ever. Poverty is increasingly concentrated in hard-hit neighbourhoods and regions; this erects further barriers to the personal and economic life prospects of poor children.
Women are over-represented in part-time and temporary jobs, and still earn significantly less than their male counterparts even when performing work of equivalent value. Women’s career paths are disrupted by family responsibilities, especially given the absence of adequate and affordable child care in most parts of Canada. Few provinces have comprehensive pay equity rules, and those that exist are not adequately enforced.
Workers with disabilities
Many Canadians with disabilities, workplace injuries, and chronic illness can still work, and make a valuable contribution to Canada’s prosperity. But this requires targeted efforts to accommodate their needs, provide training and employment counselling, and challenge employers to hire more workers with disabilities. These supports are largely absent today, leaving workers with disabilities to fend for themselves.
It is essential that any discussion about the jobs crisis in Canada start by recognizing that the burden is not fairly shared, and that key groups of Canadians face extra hardship because of their gender, their age, their racialized or linguistic status, and their ability. Moreover, successfully developing and implementing strategies to solve the problem will require broad support and unity across all of these communities and constituencies. We are all stronger, when we work together to create, sustain, and share more good jobs. When aboriginal and racialized workers, women, young workers, and workers with disabilities finally win a chance at full and fair participation in a productive and prosperous labour market, then all Canadians will enjoy a more secure, inclusive, and productive future.
A recognition of the special injustices faced by these groups, and a commitment to policies and practices that respond adequately to inequality and exclusion, was prominent across all the Good Jobs Summit’s workshops and panels. We collectively commit to place top priority on ensuring that our future dialogue, research, and activism recognizes the acute hardship faced by these hard-hit communities and constituencies, and to emphasize inclusion and equity in all our recommendations and strategies.
The Good Jobs Summit opened Friday night with a welcome from Joanne Dallaire, a First Nations elder with the Aboriginal Education Council. Participants were then welcomed by the Summit co-chairs (Angelo DiCaro and Roxanne Dubois), and with remarks from leaders of several of the key co-sponsors of the event: including Rejean Hoillett and Jessica McCormick (Canadian Federation of Students), Sheldon Levy (President of Ryerson University), and Jerry Dias (President of Unifor).
The first major event on the agenda was a debate among a panel of prominent economic experts about the causes of the jobs crisis, and possible solutions. Despite their different backgrounds, the four panelists shared many common views, starting with their definition of a good job. Jim Stanford, Economist for Unifor, put it simply: “a good job is one where they treat you as a human being rather than just a productive input.” Kaylie Tiessen, Economist for Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, added that decent pay is “right at the top” of her list of criteria, along with stability and meaningful work. Todd Hirsch, Chief Economist for ATB Financial, agreed that good work must be meaningful, providing “opportunity for continuous growth.” Preet Banerjee, personal finance Columnist for the Globe and Mail, thought a combination of stability and potential for growth was an essential attribute of a good job: workers “want some kind of stability in what they choose to do as their careers.” The panel was chaired by Trish Hennessy, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s Ontario office.
According to the panel, market cycles, lagging innovation, and lack of targeted investments in training have all contributed to the shortage of good jobs in Canada. Stanford said chronically weak economic conditions in recent years have created a perpetual excess supply of workers, allowing employers to reduce the quality of jobs yet still recruit desperate workers to fill them. Policies like the federal government’s temporary foreign worker program disrupt the normal working of market forces, and undermine any pressure for improvements in job quality. “When [an employer] can’t find someone to fill a job, you don’t find a way to get someone else from outside the country to do it cheaper, you should raise the wage”, Banerjee explained.
In regards to economic innovation, Hirsh suggested that Canada is still in economic transition: “we haven’t caught up to the new economy.” He emphasized the need for more economic diversification. “The more diverse we are, the better off we will be,” he stressed. Instead of pigeon-holing ourselves solely as exporters of raw resources, he suggested, “we have to think of ourselves [and] where we fit in the global value-added chain”. He called for more training that focuses on adaptable skills, to give workers more options in a rapidly changing labour market.
While these broad economic factors affect all workers, the panel took time to focus on particular vulnerable groups. “The deck really is stacked against young Canadians,” said Banerjee, adding that younger workers also receive less support through public programs. He cited a recent study estimating that public support for the average senior (through income transfers and public services) totals $45,000 per year – compared to $12,000 for those 45 years old and younger. Fostering an environment of research, development, and innovation, where businesses create jobs that can’t be “outsourced” to lower-cost foreign suppliers, should be a top priority, according to Banerje.
Stanford noted that racialized, indigenous, and new Canadians face greater barriers to accessing the few good jobs that are available. He proposed that policy solutions must target the elimination of these barriers, by making good jobs an issue of equity, fairness and inclusion. “When workers of colour win, we all win,” he concluded.
The panel cautioned that responsibility for creating and maintaining jobs must be shared among all stakeholders. The challenges are clear. Employers, for example, have raised the bar for what they expect in education and experience from workers, yet they invest less in skills and on-the-job training themselves. Tiessen noted that “Canadian employers have reduced the amount they spend on on-the-job training by 40% over the last 20 years.”
Following the panel, speakers from the floor raised several issues ranging from better opportunities for disabled workers to more support for entrepreneurs. Among the speakers was Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau, who spoke to the need for increased investment in public infrastructure, and NDP Deputy Leader Libby Davies, who challenged the summit to focus on tools to address income inequality in Canada.
Saturday’s proceedings began with presentations from speakers representing three of the key economic constituencies engaged in the Summit: post-secondary education, business, and labour. This panel thus symbolized the Summit’s effort to build a multi-stakeholder consensus around a good jobs strategy for Canada.
Jessica McCormick, National Chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students, delivered an impassioned plea to the business community, and the federal and provincial governments, to invest more in young people, so they can help build a stronger and more equitable economy. Elyse Allan, President and CEO of GE Canada, underlined the critical role business must play in developing a good jobs economy, based especially on more investments in skills and technology. Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, rounded out the stakeholder contributions by offering a labour perspective: challenging government and business alike to work in partnership with labour to enhance economic security and lift labour standards.
“All that we are looking for is the same standard that our parents enjoyed, that the last generation enjoyed. We’re not entitled, we’re not lazy, we’re not looking for a free ride, we just want that same basic standard of living.”
- Jessica McCormick
"The only way we can stay competitive and get good jobs is to make sure that everyone is trained in the best way possible. Quite honestly, it’s the only way our Canadian firms are going to continue to win and stay competitive – because the fact is training is happening everywhere, education standards around the world are going up. If we are not doing that in every sector, then those sectors won’t be in Canada.”
- Elyse Allan
“There’s a fundamental question of equity in training: Who gets to train? And who pays for it? We have had the largest tax cut for business that’s happened under this federal government, and yet we are seeing most of the companies that benefited from that failing to reinvest in training. In terms of OECD standards, we’ve got some of the lowest investment in training in this country and we have to do better.”
The three stakeholder speakers were invited to stay on stage, to interact with the next keynote presentation: an inspiring and energetic presentation by Van Jones (CNN commentator, green jobs advocate, and former advisor to US President Barack Obama).
Jones spoke of our collective responsibility to work together to resolve common struggles, advancing pragmatic and realistic initiatives that generate good jobs and provide opportunity to hard-hit communities. “We can’t be all opposition and no proposition,” he urged.
Jones described three positive examples of initiatives that are helping to address the simultaneous challenges of job-creation, inclusion, and environmental protection:
The project Yes We Code brings together non-profit, private, and corporate sponsors from across the U.S. to train African-American youth in urban neighbourhoods in programming skills.
Cut 50 is a program built on the premise that you can send two young Americans to Yale for the price of sending one to jail. It strives to cut the prison population in half, and reallocate the resulting savings to community development and job-creation.
California passed a Cap-And-Trade bill in the face of U.S. federal government opposition. Yet energy bills have stayed flat, and a quarter of the proceeds from the new measure are directed to poor households and communities.
Jones acknowledged that Canada will continue to rely on investment and innovation arising from our private sector, and policy should support those outcomes. At the same time, it is not unreasonable to businesses to pay something back to their country: by respecting labour and environmental standards. To conclude, Jones provided his description of our common goal:
“Labour, the good businesses, indigenous folk, the disabled – we are all pursuing the same objective: to live in a Canada that is respected everywhere in the world because we respect everybody at home. To live in a Canada that is as concerned about free people as free markets. To live in a Canada that works for everyone, and where everyone can work. That is the objective.”
Mr. Jones received initial feedback from the three stakeholder speakers (Ms. McCormick, Ms. Allen, and Mr. Yussuff), followed by questions from the floor. There was a strong symmetry between his appeal for technology training targeted at young people in poor communities, and Elyse Allan’s suggestion that her company (and other major employers) would require tens of thousands of new computer specialists in the years ahead. This highlighted the potential for “connecting the dots” between the needs of communities, and the needs of businesses, through targeted and inclusive training and employment policies.
Premier Wynne’s keynote speech Saturday afternoon resonated with the Summit’s central theme of collaboration:
“We are seeing an evolution in industrial relations thinking on both sides. Labour and employers I think are beginning to look with some interest at models that are more collaborative, more solution oriented, more practical, and ultimately more beneficial for everyone”
Wynne pointed to public infrastructure investment as a key area where collaboration can lead to good jobs and benefits for communities. To an enthusiastic response, she discussed a precedent-setting Community Benefits Agreement between community groups and Metrolinx, which ensures that local training, apprenticeships, and employment opportunities have become legally binding provisions of the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit project. This enormous investment runs through five lower-income neighbourhoods, which experience an acute need for better access to good jobs. “That [approach] represents a turning point in the way we invest public money,” she concluded. “We have the public money invested in the infrastructure, but it’s working for the people.”
Manufacturing has always been a key source of good jobs in Canada, and Wynne welcomed the gradual recovery in this sector. Sales have recovered to pre-recession levels, factories are running close to full tilt, and Ontario’s manufactured exports are growing, Wynne noted. While acknowledging that Ontario is not competing for low-wage manufacturing jobs, Wynne committed to investing in the talents and skills needed to attract new high-value manufacturing jobs.
“We are currently working with our colleges and universities, students, business and labour groups to align the mandates of each institution with good job opportunities,” she promised.
Wynne explained that her government’s commitment includes ensuring young people have accurate information about the labour market as they make decisions about their future. She also stressed the importance of a broad education (not just narrow job skills) to a workforce that demands critical thinkers, artists, theorists – and everything in between. The challenge, as Premier Wynne depicted it, is to foster a well-rounded education system that provides young people with skills that can be matched with job opportunities in a marketplace that makes the best use of them.
“What we’re saying is people don’t just work in the service of the economy; the economy has to work in service of people.”
Fueled by these initial thoughts from the first panels and keynote speakers, on Saturday afternoon participants broke into eight workshops to discuss specific aspects of Canada’s good jobs crisis in more detail. The workshops (in two consecutive sessions) relied on an innovative “bottom up” process – designed and implemented with the expert assistance of Public Interest, a Toronto-based partnership specializing in community engagement. The goal was to compile and distill the ideas and opinions of Summit participants, and generate a composite report from the event.
Each workshop started with brief “food for thought” presentations from activists and issue leaders in the fields under discussion. After those initial presentations, participants divided into table groups (with about six people at each). They discussed each topic in more detail, and recorded their impressions and opinions. Each table group then provided written feedback on a list of “Possible Actions and Principles,” drawn from previous research and expert opinion regarding each respective issue. Of course, participants were also invited to add their own ideas and original proposals (in their own words); all these suggestions were recorded and input.
Feedback from all the workshops and table groups was gathered, recorded and input to computer files. Then, using an innovative “coding” and “distilling” process, Summit volunteers worked late through Saturday night to identify areas of alignment and consensus emerging from across the 80 table groups in the eight different workshops.
From this coding and distillation process, a list of top 10 themes was compiled, reflecting strong and widespread views of Summit-goers across those different workshops and table groups. What follows is a summary of the topics and presentations in each of the eight workshops. Then we catalogue and briefly describe the top 10 key themes that reflected widespread support from participants, across many of the different workshops. Detailed reports from the table groups and the coding/distillation work are also provided in the on-line appendices which accompany this report; those appendices list all of the data received from the table groups, and also rank the specific “Actions and Principles” that received most support in the table group reports.
Getting Started in the Workforce: Tackling financial barriers to education and training for young people, and enhancing their chances of landing a good job that utilizes their skills once they finish school.
The reports from 80 table groups and eight workshops provided a rich and authentic source of data, which Summit volunteers coded and analyzed through Saturday night (while most participants were out enjoying Toronto’s Nuit Blanche events – including a special film display and reception at the Good Jobs Summit itself). On the basis of repeated mentions and consistent support, the Summit’s “distillers” identified a ten top actions and policies, reflecting the widespread conviction among Summit-goers that they should be priorities for further research, dialogue, and action. These top ten themes are listed and discussed below. Within those themes, boxes indicate specific items drawn from the “Possible Actions and Principles” lists considered by the table groups, that received especially wide buy-in from participants.
At every workshop, and within each of these top ten themes, Summit participants energetically emphasized the need for pro-active measures to address equity and inclusion in our good jobs proposals. It’s not sufficient that governments, business, labour, and other constituencies place renewed emphasis on sustaining and creating goods jobs. It is just as important that all Canadians – including those from traditionally marginalized and exploited communities (including racialized and aboriginal workers, young workers, women, and workers with disabilities) – be given fair and meaningful access to those resulting opportunities. So all of the following themes should be interpreted through this equity and inclusion “lens,” if we are to nurture the unity and mutual respect that will be required to successfully achieve any of these goals.
Theme 1: Extend legislated employment standards to all workers, with better enforcement and more widespread knowledge (among both workers and employers) of workers’ legal rights.
There was a resounding call across multiple workshops to expand employment standards legislation to provide those in precarious jobs with similar rights as full-time, permanent employees. Many saw this as the most effective mechanism for improving the working lives of some of the most vulnerable groups – trapped in insecure jobs or facing unfair employment practices. However, many participants pointed out that expanding standards is only effective if they are enforced, and too often enforcement is weak.
Educating both workers and employers about employment standards and labour rights is also critical, especially since some marginalized groups (such as new Canadians) may be unaware of their rights. Workers who know their rights, it was reasoned, will be more confident in demanding that standards be upheld. Many suggested the labour movement should play a key role in both educating Canadians about their rights, and helping them enforce those rights.
Action – Expand Employment Standards
“Expand coverage of employment standards legislation to provide temporary, part‐time, migrant, and ‘self‐employed’ workers with rights, protections, and benefits similar to full‐time permanent employees.”
Theme 2: Provide accessible training and post-secondary education, combined with more effective opportunities to connect that training with good jobs.
Improvements in training and education were viewed as a critical precondition for better employment opportunities – particularly for marginalized and vulnerable groups. Much focus was placed on developing stronger connections between universities, colleges, and trade schools on one hand, and the jobs their graduates are seeking on the other. Participants in the Getting Started in the Workplace workshop discussed the use of co-op job placements, incentives for hiring and training apprentices, and expansion of mentorship programs as methods to achieve that connection. Participants expressed their strong opposition to the abuse of unpaid internships by employers who take advantage of the desperation of young graduates – recruiting them to dubious positions that pay nothing at all. Other workshops, such as Green Jobs, also considered how to build more ‘direct links’ between post-secondary education programs and job opportunities.
On the other hand, participants also felt that while educational institutions should be responsive to the labour market and support their graduates in finding relevant work, colleges and universities should not have their priorities dictated by labour market conditions. After all, there are broader social and democratic benefits to accessible, independent higher education; education is about much more than just “getting a job.”
Overall, participants focused on initiatives that would increase collaboration and shared responsibility (between educational institutions, governments and employers), investments that link training to job creation, and incentives for employers to hire those who have completed programs, certificates or degrees.
Action: Canada-wide Youth Employment Strategy
“Establish a Canada-wide youth employment strategy, led by the federal government, to support and counsel young job-seekers, distribute better information on job openings and skill requirements, and work with employers to hire more youth.”
Action: More access to government funded training and upgrading.
“Broaden access to government funding for re‐training and academic upgrading, including equity measures and targeted training supports that optimize employment outcomes for older workers.”
Action: Strengthen adjustment supports and other initiatives to help workers recover from lay-offs
“Strengthen adjustment supports at both the provincial/territorial and federal levels including rules to require employer participation in adjustment, especially for mass layoffs.”
“Large layoffs require special initiatives for re‐training, and income supports for older workers to help them bridge to retirement.”
“There’s no use training people for an economy that does not exist.” - Green Jobs participant
Skills retooling, re-training, and professional development are especially important for older and marginalized workers who fall victim to swift changes in the labour market. Workshop participants, especially those in Unemployed at Both Ends, called for greater investment and support in for transition training and adjustment programs by both governments and employers – such as shared responsibility between government and employees to provide income support and re-training in the event of mass lay-offs.
Action: Improve and Extend Employment Insurance
“Improve the EI system to expand access and provide better benefits, and to ensure benefits are available for workers while they retrain or upgrade their skills.”
Theme 3: Establish decent wage benchmarks that reflect the real costs of raising families and participating fully in society.
Whether it was in opposition to unpaid internships or a push for a higher minimum or ‘living wage’, the topic of fair compensation came up repeatedly in many workshops. Participants challenged traditional assumption that higher wages are necessarily bad for business, or for the broader economy. To the contrary, decent wages underpin family stability, good health, strong communities, and other broadly shared benefits. They support healthy tax revenues for governments, and strengthen demand for the goods and services produced by private businesses. Consumers, after all, are the primary source of spending power in the broader economy, and hence better-paid consumers can boost total demand and job-creation. Both laws and culture must change to foster a different mentality: one which recognizes that communities, businesses, and the government can all benefit when workers make a decent wage.
Participants across multiple workshops agreed that the minimum wage should keep pace with the cost of living, but also that governments should do more to ensure the cost of living is reasonable. Indeed, the more extensive is the set of basic services available to all Canadians through public programs (such as public transit, affordable housing, pharmacare, and universal childcare), the less pressure is placed on private paycheques to cover the cost of those necessities.
Action – Raise minimum wages
“Provincial and federal minimum wages should be raised to reflect the actual cost of running a household and supporting a family.”
Theme 4: Ensure public services and programs create and support good jobs, and that the public sector is a leader in employment quality.
Participants in several workshops felt government has a responsibility to use public programs and fiscal power to lead by example, championing good jobs with fair wages and benefits, both as employers and purchasers of goods and services. Participants of both the Green Jobs and the Innovative Models workshops highlighted public infrastructure projects like transit expansion as a powerful tool through which public spending can be used to leverage good job creation and resulting social benefits. Strong support was expressed for negotiating community benefit agreements with contractors hired to build public infrastructure. These types of agreements can create high-quality training and job opportunities at the local level; they can also play a role in maximizing regional and community benefits from major investment projects in the private sector (such as large resource developments).
Action: More investment in sustainable infrastructure to leverage jobs
“Communities should make major investments in public transportation and other sustainable infrastructure. Those projects should leverage local jobs and training through procurement policies and community benefit agreements.”
Other examples of using government spending power as a lever for good jobs include procurement policies which require private contractors to meet benchmarks for employment and environmental standards, and to target recruitment among racialized or other target communities.
Theme 5: Actively manage market forces, and carefully structure fiscal incentives, to meet good jobs goals and maximize net economic benefits.
Market forces play an important role in any economic strategy. Participants recognized that market-based interventions can be useful in aligning private cost-benefit decision-making with social and environmental goals. For example, tax or market incentives can be used to encourage private employers to invest in training, reduce pollution, hire workers from targeted groups, and invest in new facilities in Canada.
Equally clear, however, was the sentiment of many that unrestricted market forces can create unintended and negative consequences. Without limits, markets can unleash a “race to the bottom” dynamic in which job quality and compensation standards suffer. Fiscal incentives should be accompanied, many suggested, by transparent and enforceable performance standards to ensure that recipients of incentives indeed make measurable progress on employment, environmental, and social indicators.
Modern free trade agreements may also create additional barriers to good jobs in Canada – for example, by restricting the pro-active use of domestic procurement policies to nurture domestic value-added activities. The need to preserve continuing national, regional, and local policy flexibility in government procurement (and other policy levers to boost domestic content and investment in targeted sectors) was highlighted by many participants.
Theme 6: Strike a proper balance between national and regional good jobs strategies.
Every workshop identified a range of broad, national policy interventions to address a wide range of issues: from post-secondary education to sustainable energy, from transition assistance for unemployed workers to value-added projects to make the most of Canada’s natural resources. But participants were sensitive to the tension between national strategies on one hand, and a strong belief in local control and the need for regional approaches to regional problems on the other.
Action: Nurture industries in less developed regions
“We need to enhance the regional and sectoral diversity of Canada’s economy by developing industries that utilize the skill, capacity and creativity of people living in less developed regions.”
For example, when contemplating the role of education in preparing young workers for the work force, participants in Getting Started in the Workplace identified the tension between national and regional tools. They concluded that some of the resources for training and education must come from the federal level, but provincial governments and regional institutions must retain independence to apply them in ways best suited to local conditions. Similarly, in the Green Jobs workshop, participants called for balance between national strategies to support green job-creation and the importance of customized provincial and regional approaches that reflect the best implementation opportunities.
The Rural and Regional Economies workshop directly addressed the need for region-specific initiatives to support improved employment opportunities in Canada’s more remote, less developed regions. The goal of a strong, diverse, and stable national economy will not be well-served by economic strategies which compel Canadians to simply pack up and move, endlessly following the next regional boom. Less developed regions need support and encouragement to make the most of the skills, ambition, and loyalty of their own residents.
Theme 7: Add value to our natural resources, in order to maximize the economic benefits arising from resource industries and better support regional economies.
Canada’s economy has always been strongly rooted in natural resource industries, and this will continue to be the case for generations to come. But we could do a much better job of leveraging our resource wealth into a more developed and lasting prosperity – rather than being unduly dependent on the simple extraction and export of unprocessed bulk resources. Developing industries which add value and enhance Canadian content in the resource supply chain (both “upstream,” by enhancing Canadian-made supplies and inputs to resource projects, and “downstream,” by upgrading and processing natural resources instead of exporting them in raw form) was identified by participants in many different workshops as a promising part of an overall good jobs strategy.
The idea of adding value to our resource industries was especially prominent in the Rural and Regional Economies and Innovative Models workshops. Value-added production also helps regions to control and develop their own resources: whether it’s refineries for petroleum, processing plants for fisheries, or wood products manufacturing for forestry. Managing the entire production chain from extraction to consumption is empowering, and offers regions a greater level of economic self-determination.
Participants in both workshops also emphasized the potential of “buy Canada” procurement strategies in resource developments, and a generalized effort to ensure that “money created in the community is spent in the community” – thus enhancing the local economic spin-offs from resource projects.
Action: Focus strategies on adding value before marketing our resources.
“Economic and business strategies should concentrate on opportunities to add value to Canadian resources, thereby creating more good jobs in the regions where resources are produced.”
Theme 8: Support the growing green economy, and the creation of good “green” jobs, to protect our planet and stimulate good jobs at the same time.
The Summit’s Green Jobs workshop drew a large and diverse group of participants intent on finding concrete solutions to environmental degradation, that also help Canada make the most of the coming green economy. There was general agreement about the need to adjust market incentives to take into consideration the environmental impacts of economic activity: both by making it more attractive to behave responsibly (with tax incentives for public transit, energy conservation, and green energy investments) and by penalizing environmental destruction (such as taxing polluters to reflect the true costs of their actions).
Action: More training programs in green industries
“Governments and businesses should work with secondary and post-secondary institutions to develop more skills and training programs in green industries like alternative energy and energy conservation).”
However, market incentives alone cannot do the job of boosting Canada’s green economy. And many participants worried about the constraints imposed by free trade agreements on environmental legislation and policies that stimulate the green economy (such as the recent WTO challenge against Ontario’s Green Energy Act). Achieving environmental progress through investments in public transit, energy conservation, and alternative energy sources were repeatedly raised as promising arenas for action. The more that we address environmental challenges through more investment (and more work), the better we will be able to defeat the false claim that protecting the environment necessarily means less employment and less economic opportunity. Some participants stressed the need for both regional and national approaches to environmental protection and stimulating green jobs, and also a recognition that urban and rural policy solutions will be quite different.
Action: Limit greenhouse gas emissions and invest in sustainable energy
“Canada needs a clear, forward-looking policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions, including from the energy sector, and to stimulate more investments in energy conservation and sustainable energy.”
Theme 9: Develop better ways of organizing and collectively representing marginalized workers and workers in precarious jobs.
There was a deep appreciation among Summit participants of the many challenges (economic, legislative, and political) faced by the labour movement today. At the same time, the labour movement’s responsibility has never been greater – given the hardship experienced by so many workers in Canada, particularly those in precarious jobs, and those from marginalized and exploited communities. The employment landscape has shifted dramatically: more workers are employed in very small businesses, in part-time or temporary positions, or even are nominally “self-employed” in sub-contractor roles and other precarious situations. Traditional collective bargaining structures are not well-suited to providing collective voice and bargaining power to these groups of workers.
Action: Modernize labour legislation to broaden access to collective bargaining
“Update labour legislation to provide workers in non‐traditional employment relationships with real access to unionization and collective bargaining.”
Action: Cooperative efforts to organize workers in precarious jobs.
“Strengthen collaboration among unions in Canada and elsewhere to share best practices and successful models for organizing those most affected by precarious work (including racialized workers and immigrants, youth, and migrant workers).”
Legislative actions are required to level the playing field in the modern labour market, and address these challenging trends in the world of work. The growing share of Canadians who find work in precarious or part-time situations still need collective representation and the protection of a union. Labour laws should be modernized to address the specific challenges of these workers and workplaces.
Participants were also careful to point out that traditional models of union organization have to shift, as well. The traditional “majoritarian” system of certified bargaining agents representing defined groups of workers in particular workplaces, is not able to adequately provide representation to groups of mobile, precarious, and transient workers. New models of community unionism, sector-wide collective bargaining, collective representation for freelancers and independent contractors, and other innovative practices must be pursued by unions and their allies.
Summit-goers wanted to see the labour movement reaching out pro-actively to marginalized workers in unfair employment situations, to inform them of their rights and help them enforce those rights. Community labour resource centres, unconventional organizing drives in the service sector, and “community chapters” for workers who can’t form a traditional union, were all discussed as examples of innovative labour strategies that could help to address the challenges of precarious work.
Theme 10: Build collaborative partnerships between communities, business, educational institutions, labour, and government to attain a more successful, secure, and inclusive labour market.
On almost every issue, every challenge, and every potential policy response discussed at the Good Jobs Summit, participants agreed that success can only come through collaboration and alliances between stakeholders. Participants in the Organizing for Change workshop concluded that organizing marginalized workers can only be attained via collaboration across unions, and between labour and community organizations. In numerous workshops, the view was clear that government, educational institutions, business, and labour must all share the responsibility of linking good jobs to education and training. In Rural and Regional Economies, governments were implored to work with First Nations and Aboriginal peoples to create programs that adequately support their communities. In the Minimum and Living Wage workshop, participants saw great potential in highlighting for businesses the benefits of paying wages that allow families to survive, workers to be healthy and productive, and consumers to spend. In the Green Jobs session, workers from the forestry and mining sectors sat alongside environmentalists to devise strategies that both could support – symbolizing the power of collaboration on display throughout the Summit.
Perhaps the overarching takeaway from all the workshops was this endorsement of the power of collaboration. Summit participants repeatedly noted that Canadian governments should do a better job of drawing together Canada’s various economic stakeholders, to develop and support our shared interest in more stable, more productive, and more rewarding jobs. Failing that leadership from government, Summit participants urged the event’s co-sponsors to carry on building our own venues for continued dialogue and collaboration.
The final morning of the Good Jobs Summit provided an opportunity to synthesize the findings of the previous day’s workshops and table groups, and then to hear from key stakeholders about potential next steps in making our shared visions of a stronger labour market a reality.
The morning began with a presentation from Sean Meagher and Katrina Miller, principals with the Public Interest consulting group which coordinated the previous day’s workshops and “distilling” process. They presented the initial results from an analysis of coded data from the 80 different table groups, and preliminary identification of predominant and cross-cutting themes arising from those discussions.
The Summit then concluded with a unique and hopeful “Town Hall” panel, featuring ten leaders from the various stakeholders and constituencies which supported the Summit. The panel was diverse, to say the least: it included union leaders, CEOs, community activists, students, environmentalists, and the former mayor of Canada’s largest city. Yet their shared desire to keep building the dialogue and spirit of collaboration from the Good Jobs Summit was both crystal clear, and unanimous.
The panel was facilitated by broadcaster Kathleen Monk, who asked each leader to reflect on the most important outcomes of the Summit, relating them to the activities and priorities of their own organizations.
Jim Irving, co-CEO of J.D. Irving, highlighted that companies and other stakeholders must reach beyond their own specific private interests to consider their broader importance to the whole community. As a company “you have to take a long-term view,” he said. “You have to care.” Irving discussed recent initiatives by his firm, in cooperation with educational institutions in Nova Scotia, to recruit and train workers for new positions in Irving’s shipbuilding operations – with special emphasis on recruitment among First Nations and women.
David Miller, former Mayor of Toronto and CEO of World Wildlife Fund, thought it was essential to consider the social and community impacts of our economic actions, especially when it comes to spending public money. Citing Toronto’s sole sourcing of Transit vehicle procurement to a Canadian-based manufacturer, he said “if you’re spending a billion dollars of public money you should be using it to create jobs right here at home, not jobs overseas.” Miller echoed the emphasis that several workshops put on adding value to Canadian resources, as a strategy for good job creation. We need a “proper progressive industrial policy,” Miller said, and a federal government that thinks of us as more than “hewers of wood and drawers of water.”
Deborah Littman, Lead Organizer for the Metro-Vancouver Alliance (a broad coalition of community, faith, and anti-poverty groups), emphasized the importance of connecting different issues to draw in a wider set of stakeholders. We can broaden the coalition pushing for higher minimum wages, for example, Littman explained, by focusing on how “low pay hurts the whole community.” Littman’s organization builds relationships between employers, public agencies, and community organizations at the level of individual neighbourhoods. Building a stronger infrastructure for that type of multi-stakeholder collaboration can facilitate more productive and mutually beneficial outcomes. She pointed to the living wage campaign in England as an example of this model of collaboration: many large private companies in the U.K. have voluntarily adopted the living wage standard (well above the statutory minimum wage) as a result of community dialogue and education efforts over many years.
Mario Tremblay is Vice President of Public and Corporate Affairs for the Quebec Solidarity Fund. He expanded on the idea of cross-sectoral partnerships as applied to the financial realm. He gave several examples of how collaborative approaches to investment (engaging private capital, public capital, and social investment vehicles like the Solidarity Fund) can leverage progress in key industries like manufacturing. These collaborative investment strategies can reinforce the “loyalty” of capital to projects and investments here in Canada, instead of seeking alternative outlets abroad. For example, the Solidarity Fund has leveraged over $2 billion in new capital spending over the last decade in manufacturing in Quebec.
Peter Edwards, Vice President of Human Resources and Labour Relations for CP Rail, provided an encouraging case study of his company’s effort to sustain good jobs by reinvesting in facilities and in-sourcing work that was formerly provided by outside contractors (and their more precarious jobs). A new investment by the company to re-open shuttered maintenance and repair facilities in Winnipeg – a city suffering badly from economic and social polarization – is a concrete example of how the traditional logic of “cost minimization” does not produce the best outcomes. “Bringing these jobs back in-house can get you better quality and more control,” he said. He believes there are other examples where companies can enhance the social benefits of their operations, by re-examining some of the traditional assumptions embedded in their business models – always in collaboration with other stakeholders.
“It really is all about dialogue,” agreed Jerry Dias, President of Unifor. Using as examples the positive work the union has been able to do with employers like Irving and CP, Dias illustrated how creating and maintaining good jobs, with well-trained workers, can benefit businesses and the community alike. Irving and Dias both spoke to the need to collaborate and share information about the projected labour force needs of industrial sectors, liaising with educational institutions to better coordinate efforts to train young people for good jobs. “That’s a large part of what we have been doing all this weekend: getting all of the stakeholders together to identify where those good jobs are, and then start to train people to fill them,” said Dias.
Jessica McCormick, Co-Chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, pointed out that while the concluding panel of ten leaders was diverse – it wasn’t diverse enough! She stressed the need for the good jobs movement to energetically ensure it reflects the voices of all workers, including those traditionally excluded and marginalized – such as racialized, indigenous, and young workers. “Those are people who are not necessarily represented a lot of the time on the stage, but they have strong opinions and needs,” she reflected.
Robyn Benson is National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. She stressed the critical role unions play, and must continue to play, in protecting job quality. She reported on current contract negotiations with the federal government, including her union’s effort to resist a two-tiered employment system for younger workers. “We need to provide services to Canadians and you can’t do that… without providing job security for new workers.” She reinforced the theme (arising from several of Saturday’s table groups) that the public sector must be a leader in lifting job quality and employment standards.
The theme of cross-stakeholder collaboration was re-emphasized during the subsequent floor discussion by Andrew Cardozo, President of the Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy and former Executive Director of the Alliance of Sector Councils. He highlighted the need to build a formal infrastructure to facilitate ongoing dialogue, collaboration, and joint action among stakeholders. Canada’s sector council system (which has, unfortunately, been largely disbanded by the federal government) was a previous example of such an institutional structure. In its absence, finding other ways to make cross-sector collaboration more systematic, stable, and productive will be a crucial priority.
Other questions from the floor emphasized the potential for more active efforts by municipal governments to foster local investment and job-creation (leveraging public investments in infrastructure and facilities), and the potential for greater engagement of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities in resource projects and transportation developments.
Unifor’s President Dias mused, as the panel concluded: “Do we want to be a nation of good full-time jobs?” If so, he reasoned, “there are a lot of things we need to do better, and a lot of it will hopefully come as a result of this weekend.”
Before the God Jobs Summit officially opened in the former Maple Leaf Gardens arena (now known as the Mattamy Athletic Centre of Ryerson University), a smaller group of academics and researchers gathered at Ryerson University. They spent a half-day reviewing the current state of research regarding the extent, causes, and consequences of precarious work in Canada, and outlining potential solutions. The Good Jobs Research Symposium was hosted by the Centre for Labour Management Relations at Ryerson University – one of the co-sponsors of the overall Summit.
Presentations to the seminar were organized into two broad categories. One featured more formal academic presentations on current research into the declining quality of work, and what can be done about it. The other featured presentations based on the lived experience of workers in precarious jobs, activists, and union organizers – experiences shared in a more informal, accessible manner. The speakers included:
What Research Tells Us About Good Jobs
Dr. Pnina Alon-Shenker: Should Cost Considerations Constitute a Legitimate Justification for Age Discrimination Against Older Workers?
Dr. Rupa Banerjee: The Role of Volunteering in Facilitating the School-to-Work Transitions of Youth in Canada
The Good Jobs Summit was a first step. Bringing together voices from business and labour, from students and community, from mainstream organizations and marginalized communities, the Summit offered a holistic picture of the challenges of work in Canada. The conversations and connections that occurred have laid the groundwork for more dialogue, research, organizing – and action.
The sponsors of the Summit have committed to carry on the spirit of collaboration and action, with four key undertakings:
Fully document the proceedings of the Summit. This report provides an overview of the main highlights of the Summit, and describes its unique process for facilitating conversation, documenting the outcomes, and “distilling” a coherent summary of key themes and possible actions. On-line appendices provide a full cataloguing of written reports from each of the workshops and table groups, and a listing of the level of support given by the workshops to the various “Possible Actions and Principles” that were highlighted in the Summit’s discussion guide and discussed in each workshop. A documentary film based on interviews conducted with participants at the Summit, describing the full diversity of Canadians’ experiences with unemployment and precarious work, is in production, thanks to the leadership of the Good Jobs for All coalition.
Support follow-up local and regional Good Jobs Summits in other communities and regions of Canada. Regional Good Jobs Summits have already been held in several communities: including Thunder Bay, Vancouver, Kingston, and Oshawa. The sponsors of the Good Jobs Summit stand ready to assist any other local organizers who wish to organize a regional Summit.
Convene a Good Jobs Round Table, composed of leaders from all economic stakeholders in Canada. The Round Table consists of a dozen leaders from all the major economic constituencies represented at the Summit: including business, labour, students and post-secondary education, community and faith organizations, and aboriginal peoples. It will meet at regular intervals to discuss challenges and opportunities related to good jobs in Canada, and consider ways to advance the action ideas identified at the Summit. It also aims to develop an “inventory” of concrete initiatives undertaken by Round Table members and partner organizations to create or sustain good jobs, and ensure greater access to those opportunities for Canadians from traditionally excluded communities,. This focus on tangible, incremental “success stories” is part of the Summit’s general effort to show that collaboration and partnership offers the best path to progress for Canada’s labour market.
Continue the conversation about good jobs in Canada. This site will continue to post news, research, and updates about good jobs and the state of Canada’s labour market. Your ideas, input, and suggestions are always welcome; send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Across all their diversity, and at the scores of different table groups, participants in the Good Jobs Summit forged a clear, core consensus:
Good jobs are essential to our economic, social, and environmental well-being.
Canada can do a much better job at creating and sustaining good jobs, and ensuring that Canadians from all communities and backgrounds have fair opportunity to find one.
Canada needs a strategy to create more good jobs, and match those jobs with the Canadians who desperately need them. Merely having all economic stakeholders jointly acknowledge the problem, confirm that Canada can do better, and then commit to work together to build a pragmatic good jobs strategy, is an important first step.
Participants at the Good Jobs Summit were in agreement that the dialogue must continue. It must draw in more collaborators and build more partnerships. It must become more inclusive and reflective of the experience of the many excluded and exploited communities in Canada. And it must ultimately lead to action, in addition to conversation.
The Summit has identified many promising policy avenues to explore, many new ideas to develop, many new relationships to nurture. The four specific commitments listed above will start us down the road of building a better economic future for all Canadians. The co-sponsors of the Summit thank all the participants for their energy, their ideas, and their hope.
As described in the report above, the Good Jobs Summit featured an innovative bottom-up process through which potential actions and principles were discussed by participants in some 80 different small table groups. Data and opinions from those groups were collected, input, coded, and distilled.
The main themes arising from the analysis of the workshop reports (with a focus on ideas that generated strong and consistent support across different workshops and table groups) were reviewed with the whole audience on Sunday morning. With some final fine-tuning, the analysis identified a “top ten” listing themes (summarized above).
APPENDIX 1: LEVEL OF SUPPORT OF PROPOSED ACTIONS AND PRINCIPLES BY WORKSHOP BREAKOUT GROUPS
This appendix lists the level of support expressed for each proposed action or principle that was discussed in the workshops. Some received unanimous or very strong support from the small table groups in each workshop; and some suggestions were considered in more than one workshop. (For that reason, the specific proposals cannot really be “ranked” according to how many table groups indicated support for them, since some proposals were presented to multiple workshops, while others to just one.)