The need for workers in food production has not diminished and a recent plan suggesting that students could find work in Canada’s food supply chains makes sense.
It is incumbent for parliament to be hard at work these days. In whatever way they find to distance and yet meet, to brain-storm and pass bills, the country must have politicians in action.
With the pressure on the Liberal minority government to take responsibility and make decisions, it is the time for opposition to come up with some ideas to help and recently they have, whether it flies or not remains to be seen.
Dan Albas, Shadow Minister for Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, John Barlow, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Agri-Food, Mel Arnold, Shadow Minister for Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Cost Guard, and Raquel Dancho, Shadow Minister for Diversity, Inclusion, and Youth, called on the Trudeau government to put in place a temporary program to match students looking for work with jobs in
“Canada’s food supply chains are facing a critical shortage of workers, due to COVID-19,” said MP Barlow. “These vacancies have the potential to disrupt production and could translate into higher costs at the grocery store for Canadians. Farmers and ranchers have told me first hand how they need more support and could benefit from this type of program. For Canadian youth, they will be introduced to the incredible career opportunities in agriculture.”
Conservatives are proposing that the government create a new program to match students and youth employees with jobs in the agriculture and agri-food sector, including fish and seafood. Like the Canada Summer Jobs program, this program would cover the minimum wage of a new student or youth employee. This wage could then be supplemented by an additional stipend paid for by the employer. Businesses looking to augment their existing workforce this year would have an opportunity to apply immediately. Employers would also be required to ensure that proper workplace safety measures were in place to protect all employees.
“This new program is just one of the ways that the government could support essential service industries like fish and seafood,” said MP Arnold. “While workplace safety must be a top priority, I believe that together we can find innovative solutions to support communities, students, businesses and the Canadian economy as a whole.”
Many agriculture, fish and seafood businesses rely on the Temporary Foreign Workers or Seasonal Agricultural Workers programs. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year these vital sectors are facing significant labour shortages. While local labour can fill some of the gaps, without support Canadian producers and processors from coast to coast will struggle to maintain essential food supply chains.
“Many students and youth rely on summer jobs in order to pay for tuition and other expenses during the school year,” said MP Dancho. “This presents an opportunity for students to earn an income and contribute to the COVID-19 pandemic response effort.”
The government would need to act quickly to implement such a plan, and students would have to decide that low wages are better than no wages.