TORONTO - Business and labour groups are urging the new federal cabinet to get to work on priority economic issues like the skilled labour shortage, supply chain issues, fixing employment insurance and ensuring an equitable recovery.
The challenges will be taken on by a cabinet that includes consistency in key economic roles such as Chrystia Freeland as finance minister and François-Philippe Champagne on innovation and industry, as well as new appointments including Seamus O’Regan as minster of labour, Dominic LeBlanc taking on infrastructure, and economic development being added to Mary Ng's portfolio.
The economy, however, didn't seem to be front and centre as the new cabinet was rolled out, said Robert Asselin, senior vice-president of policy at the Business Council of Canada.
“Given all the short-term challenges on the economy, rising inflation, lot of pressure points on the supply side, it didn’t come through as something that was top of mind.”
He said that labour shortages are a key area of concern for Canadian executives and that it will require co-ordination across numerous ministries to ensure there's enough skilled people in the right industries.
“That requires a private-public partnership. You need to reskill a lot of people, you need to upskill a lot of people, you need to transfer people from certain sectors to others very fast, otherwise it’s going to choke the growth of a lot of companies.”
Perrin Beatty, chief executive of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said it was good to see the consistency in the finance and industry roles, noting that Champagne has a strong understanding of business.
He said that one of the most notable appointments was Mélanie Joly as minister of foreign affairs, which comes as Canada works through issues with the U.S. on the auto sector and pipelines and with China on issues like Huawei and trade.
“It is a very hot portfolio to be taking over at the present time, when we have difficult relationships with our two major trading partners...these are very important files with very significant economic implications, quite apart from the political relationships.”
Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said that the government must prioritize an equitable recovery as women have been disproportionally impacted by the economic crisis that came with the pandemic.
She said the most immediate priority though is extending employment insurance support for the 800,000 workers who are the COVID-19 support program that the government didn't extend last week.
“We know those workers are still struggling, because even though jobs have come back, not all the jobs have come back."
She said many who have gone back to work face precarious and part-time work, and she looks forward to working with O’Regan as labour minister to improve conditions.
“We really have a big agenda for this new government to tackle right off the hop, and so we really want to get that work started as quickly as possible.”