The following is a guest post by the Alberta Federation of Labourâ€™s Tony Clark:
A labour shortage occurs when the demand for labour exceeds the supply of labour, right? Well, apparently not in Alberta.
The Alberta Federation of Labour took a long hard lookÂ at the Government of Albertaâ€™s projections showing an astronomical labour shortage of 114,000 workers by 2021 and found them to be based on misleading methods.
Instead of a straightforward calculation of demand for labour minus supply of labour, with a shortage occurring when total demand exceeds total supply, Alberta used a strange formula that subtracts the annual change in demand from the annual change in supply.
The result: even though the Alberta governmentâ€™s projections show the supply of labour exceeding demand (a labour surplus, one would think) for every year through 2021, their strange method shows a labour shortage.
Whatâ€™s more, the government accumulated these phony yearly labour shortages up to 2021 to show a â€œcumulative shortageâ€ of 114,000 workers even though this supposed shortfall would be captured in the following yearâ€™s demand. Put another way: one vacant job over ten years is still one vacant job, not 10 as the Alberta government would have us believe.
The same day the AFL released its report, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada released its own report with similar findings. Their findings include â€œLabour shortages are difficult to observe and measure directlyâ€ and â€œWhere sufficient data exists, an assessment shows that labour shortages occurred rather sporadically and did not persist for more than one year at a time over the past ten years.â€
These bad numbers lead to bad public-policy decisions.
On July 16, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney used Albertaâ€™s â€œacute labour shortagesâ€ to justify an expansion of a Temporary Foreign Worker pilot program whereby employers wonâ€™t have to consider hiring Canadians in certain occupations first before turning to offshore labour.
Originally, the pilot program allowed some Alberta employers to bring in Temporary Foreign Workers for steamfitter/pipefitter jobs without going through the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process. The LMO process forces employers to show efforts to â€œrecruit and/or train willing and available Canadian citizens/permanent residents.â€ The expanded pilot process to include six more occupations, including welders, heavy duty equipment mechanics, ironworkers, millwrights and industrial mechanics, carpenters, and estimators.
Of course, the AFL acknowledges that there is a â€œtight labour market situations in select trades and skillsâ€Â in the province, but those specific shortages in certain occupations are related to the provincial governmentâ€™s ineptitude for planning and pacing development in the oil sands.
Nevertheless, that fact hasnâ€™t stopped anti-union interests in the province from using the governmentâ€™s faulty labour shortage figures to call for radical changes to labour markets with the end goal of depressing wages in the oil sands.
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