STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN
RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT AND THE STATUS OF PERSONS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DU
DÉVELOPPEMENT DES RESSOURCES
HUMAINES ET DE LA CONDITION DES PERSONNES HANDICAPÉES
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, May 4, 1999
The Chairman (Ms. Albina Guarnieri
(Mississauga East, Lib.)): May I have everyone's
Seeing a quorum, I'd like to welcome Trish
Stovel, executive director, and Beverly Brown,
co-ordinator of the labour adjustment program, from
the Metro Labour
Ms. Trish Stovel (Executive Director, Metro Labour
Education Centre): Thank you. I'm still trying to get
my technology straight, being a typical older worker.
I can't get my earphone in, but I'll get it
together when you have questions.
The Chairman: By your opening comments I can tell
we're in for a treat.
Ms. Trish Stovel: First of all, I'd like to thank
you all for inviting us here. This is a tremendous
opportunity for us. As many of you may know, labour
councils, federations of labour, and the Canadian
Labour Congress have long been concerned with the lack
of services to our members who have lost their jobs.
We really appreciate the opportunity to meet
with you and to share our experiences and suggestions, to
hopefully work together and mutually improve the lives
of older displaced workers.
Unaccustomed as we are to coming speak to people in
Ottawa, we brought materials but they are unfortunately
only available in English. I understand the clerk will
get them translated for you. So if I miss a beat, it's
because I'm making references to things you don't have.
Please bear with me.
I'm the executive director of the Metro Labour
Education Centre, MLEC, and we are a special
project of the Labour Council of Metropolitan Toronto
and York Region. We are incorporated as a non-profit
organization, an integrated worker education centre
that provides education and training services to
employed and unemployed workers.
With me today is my colleague, Bev Brown. Bev will
be able to talk to you about the personal experience of
going into plants. Bev is a displaced older worker
herself. She was vice-president of the local at the
Inglis plant that closed
in 1987. Much of our programming has developed from
We're here today to talk about our
experiences. What we are particularly interested in
is a holistic adjustment model for displaced workers.
We're going to talk about barriers to training faced by
older workers in the current system, about the impact on the
non-profit training infrastructure, and, of course,
proposals for your consideration for the task at hand.
Our centre has been funded since 1987 by HRDC to serve
workers who have lost their jobs due to plant closures,
downsizing, and bankruptcies. Until our funding was
cancelled by the province, we were also the largest
workplace basic skills program in Ontario, in that, in
addition to ESL and upgrading, we pioneered to meet the
technological change needs of workers' programs in
technological literacy—computers and blueprint
We have been funded by the province to do research in
labour adjustment. One of our first reports was the
impact of labour adjustment on immigrant women in plant
closures. We've had a checkered past with HRDC because
many of our programs are no longer funded. The early
intervention model is no longer funded, despite the
fact that in 1995 Ernst and Young was commissioned
to do a report on our
early intervention program and, according to them, the
result was better and faster re-employment. They
said that workers had better choices and greater confidence
through access to information and guidance, that
earnings were 65% higher than expected, and that the
MLEC model proved to be a more effective service
and a more
efficient use of public and private sector resources,
with reduced cost and cycle time.
This is the program that we will be describing to you.
We are the country's lead organization for labour
in terms of labour adjustment and have done much work
with unions and community groups in the municipality.
We helped the United Food and Commercial Workers
Union set up
their national adjustment program. We assisted the
Canadian Auto Workers in developing their own
adjustment program. We have also worked with the
municipality and have done a community
demonstration project showing the positive results of
an early warning system that would prevent plant
closures—we would like to get out of the funeral
We were a Transitions broker. Transitions was a
provincial program for tuition for workers over 45. We
were the largest in Ontario. We were also an action
link for the health sector training and adjustment
program in Ontario, HSTAP, and we have active
partnerships with things like CSTEC, the Canadian Steel
Trades Employment Congress.
We have worked in over 220
plant closures, not just in metro Toronto, but all
across Ontario, and Bev has been there—Elliot Lake,
Red Lake... Also, we have often been asked... we went in
train the Volvo committee in Halifax and we did the
Coca-Cola closure in Halifax, so while we are
have worked all over the country and, in some cases, in
Our organization is also fully involved in all of the
kinds of organizations, practitioners, and policy-makers
in the field of employment and training. I have
staff on the local training boards, both in Toronto and
York Region. I have worked with the city for six years
in economic development and currently sit on the
mayor's steering committee on economic development with
my natural colleagues, the president of the Board of
Trade and the president of the Canadian Federation
of Independent Business. Actually, business and
labour are always colleagues
on the issues of job retention and job loss.
I was also a member of the metro Toronto task force on
skills training and sit on every labour committee that
deals with it. I'm also on the national advisory
committee on older workers with the organization One
Voice, who will be addressing you next. I'm also the
co-chair of the umbrella organization for community-based
trainers in Toronto, and I represent labour on the
Ontario Literacy Coalition.
Our roots are based in the manufacturing industry of
Toronto. Much of our current work continues to be in
this sector. Here, older workers have been hard hit.
I understand you're looking for the age: at what age
should we be considering people older workers? From
our experience, workers aged 45 and up—
Mrs. Brenda Chamberlain (Guelph—Wellington, Lib.):
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mrs. Brenda Chamberlain: I want off this
Ms. Trish Stovel: —and I understand we are all
Mrs. Brenda Chamberlain: This sucks.
Ms. Trish Stovel: Not all over 45, but some. The
Ontario program, the Transitions program that I
mentioned earlier, recognized that and targeted its
retraining for those workers.
When older workers lose their jobs, they tend to remain
unemployed longer. We understand that your committee
had a presentation from Statistics Canada and left you with
the impression that older workers were finding
employment. This is not borne out by our experience.
We think that perhaps they have left out the issue of
discouraged workers, who will answer that they've just given
Of all displaced workers who failed to find new
jobs, more than 75% were aged 45 and over.
Among all workers who left employment between 1991 and
1996, fully one-quarter left as a result of layoff or
plant closure. In 1994, 67% of all unemployed workers
over age 45 indicated that they had been forced out of
Serving older displaced workers in the Toronto area is
a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the size of the
job market and the relative breadth of services tend
to help workers find new jobs. On the other hand,
this positive picture is superficial and masks the
widespread difficulties facing older displaced workers.
I'm sure that would be true of Montreal and
Vancouver as well.
When a major industry shuts down in a one-industry
town—and Bev has been there—much publicity and
political attention focuses on the impact and the need for
assistance and services. Certainly there are unique
problems, such as the lack of alternative jobs and
resistance on the part of displaced older workers to
move from their lifelong homes.
The special needs of these situations do not, however,
negate the equally severe problem faced when a
long-standing industry in a major urban centre closes.
It's very common that workers in such workplaces have
over 20 years' seniority; the job may have been the
only job the worker had since leaving school or coming
to Canada. The wave of closures, major downsizings, and
bankruptcies has not stopped. It has just become
largely invisible. We emphasize, therefore, that the
problem of older worker adjustment is indeed a major
problem in the Greater Toronto Area.
Older job losers have special characteristics.
They have more than likely not finished high
school. Of Canadians aged 55-64, 46% have less than a
high school education. They also lack technological
skills, and technological skills are an employability
skill. We've developed programs to meet this need.
Ninety-three per cent of our clients have taken our
two-week computer foundation program that bridges them
to college programs and private trainers, but builds them
up to succeed in those programs.
Literacy and English as a second language are
particular issues facing older workers. Twenty-two per
cent of Canadian adults cannot read well enough to deal
with everyday reading requirements. The percentage of
56- to 65-year-olds testing at the lowest level of literacy
skills is 44%.
For older workers, unemployment means shattered
an insecure financial future, and the threat of poverty.
Most were looking forward to retirement and income
security in their older years. Unemployment in the
twilight of their careers causes asset depletion and the
loss of pension income and security, and many are
forced into early retirement.
We understand that Statistics Canada's presentation to your
committee cited “personal choice” as the answer
displaced workers gave when they retired. One wonders
if those interviewed were given the option of answering
“no choice”. In a 1990-92 StatsCan survey of persons
not in the labour force, 211,000 retirees said they had
retired earlier than planned. Forty-two per cent cited
economic reasons, half of whom specified job loss.
There is no doubt
that the unemployment rate is distorted by the high
number of “discouraged” workers, who come to be counted
as early retirees rather than the unemployed.
Older unemployed workers extract a heavy cost from the
public purse. Aside from the billions of dollars paid
out in EI benefits and social assistance, in 1994 over
$14 billion in earnings were foregone to the Canadian
economy and $4 billion in tax revenue was lost. Combined
with older workers' depletion of savings, Canada will
have an even bigger problem in the near future with
elder poverty. After decades of thrift and hard work,
older workers are rewarded by their savings being taken
away at a point in their lives when it's impossible to
In our experience, older workers clearly benefit from
a holistic model of adjustment. In August 1998,
Toronto HRDC did a consultation on older workers, and
this was the major recommendation: under one roof,
older workers can access assessment, case management,
employment-related workshops, upgrading and
technological literacy programs, career planning,
counselling, and assistance on training, job
placement, and follow-up. This is exactly the model we
have at MLEC.
The current silo system of adjustment services is
fragmented and poorly serves workers. For example,
training purchase is divorced from case management.
Older workers need counselling to ensure training
choices meet their needs. It takes time to build
confidence with a counsellor, a process that is
impossible when workers are required to go to several
different places for different related services.
Pre-closure adjustment is also highly effective. We
worked with the GM van plant for two and a
half years before it closed, delivering upgrading
and computer courses—all while people were employed.
Therefore, those services were not required when they
hit EI. Another effective approach—and I would hope
that the committee would invite some people from these
areas—is the sectoral model used by the Canadian Steel
Trades Employment Congress, CSTEC, and MITEC. MITEC is
a recently established sector council for the mining
industry. They are doing some very interesting work
and, I think, would have something to say.
In the area of training, older workers are
disadvantaged before layoff. Workers aged 55 and
over are only half
as likely as workers under 45 to receive
employer-supported job-related training. When we
adjustment program in the late 1980s, according to HRDC
locally, workers did not want retraining. They said
of workers who had lost their
jobs did not want retraining. We found that
when we went in and spoke to
workers about the labour market, about the skills
needed, and about retraining information and programs to
support, 80% asked for retraining. We gave our own
adjustment staff the title of “training advocates” to
reflect workers' interests.
Older workers face a number of barriers to training.
In the past, workers from declining industries were
encouraged to train in a new career. However, when HRIF
came in, workers were told that training must be
consistent with past work experience—ha ha—even if
no secure jobs in those fields. Recent policy now
allows a career change. However, practice does not
always match policy, and it remains difficult to get
approval for training in a new field.
workers could extend their benefits for up to one year
for upgrading and up to 64 weeks for skills training.
Even before HRIF came into place, language upgrading
was undermined. First, only workers with grade 8 and
above could get upgrading, and second-language speakers
who had been in Canada for a long time were not eligible
for the LINC program. With HRIF, upgrading
became almost completely inaccessible.
The limits on training make it impossible to meet
workers' needs. In Toronto, the limit
is 26 weeks. What
has happened is that private trainers in particular have
taken the courses that used to be 64 weeks long
or 52 weeks
long and have compressed them to 26 weeks. For older
workers, especially those who need upgrading, like
literacy, or whatever, to compress that, it's... they will
The cancellation of the Ontario Transitions program
has also made training much more inaccessible, because
EI clients could access Transitions. Workers over 45
benefited from the $4,500 tuition grant
combined with counselling. It was an excellent program,
one I think the committee should look at.
Since 1997, unemployed workers have been required to
undergo a means test before training funds are granted.
Total family income and expenses are reviewed. Workers
are expected to use their savings. There are no
consistent and transparent guidelines used in the means
test. Thus, one worker may be granted $1,000 while
another worker in the same situation will be granted
$2,000. This inconsistency is tied to the current
training brokering system. It is up to the training
broker whether training is provided and how much money
is granted. They're a different group from ours; we
are dealing with the worker.
We've seen a very big
difference in the patterns of decisions, and the system
can only be described as arbitrary and inconsistent.
Soon, the only option will be to go into debt to
purchase your training, particularly if this is based
income. Older workers, who are trying to pay for
their children's post-secondary tuition, will not be in
a position to take on their own loans. It's important
to note that dependent children are present in 57% of
families with an unemployed household head between the
ages of 45 and 54 and in one-third of families with an
unemployed head between the ages of 55 and 64.
I talked about the loss of direct purchase of
training. HRD used to do that. Now others do it.
This has had a very negative impact on the training
infrastructure. For instance, colleges are now unable
to offer ESL in literacy upgrading programs and, in
Ontario, with the provincial downloading to the
municipalities, school boards can now no longer offer
The current approach to how programs are judged to be
effective is a great concern to us. In the field, they
are looking at only the short term: savings to the UI fund
within a year. Organizations are judged by their
success in job placement. We've heard that some
provinces are thinking of paying their payment as a
placement fee as opposed to a service fee. The current
short-term evaluation and that kind of proposal leads
to what we call “creaming”: encouraging organizations to
avoid the hard-to-place workers in favour of
easy-to-place, well-educated, high-skilled candidates.
This approach is disastrous for older workers, who
require a broad range of interventions. The long-term
impact of adjustment—employment assistance services,
placement, training, and getting them into secure,
well-paid jobs—will not be seen for several years.
Briefly, decentralization and siloing are at such a
ridiculous level in the field that Toronto is seen as
seven different labour markets. Seven! There is some
co-ordination, but not enough. It's such a point of
frustration for business and labour in Toronto, and as
a member of the City of Toronto's economic development
committee, I can tell you that the city is very
concerned about how we
maintain our skilled labour force. Looking at the
system currently, we do not see how we can address it
with the seven different labour markets when we've
The situation is so bad that our centre
had to go to the population health fund of Health
Canada rather than to HRDC to seek funding for a holistic
adjustment model for older workers. We do not feel we
should have to search from ministry to ministry to
fund holistic adjustment programs. Human Resources
Development Canada should themselves champion this
model and seek opportunities to transfer the successful
experience of holistic adjustment for displaced
On June 30, the transitional skills grants
will be coming in. Workers will get money and
will have to purchase their training from an institute
that can grant a tax receipt. This will completely
freeze out all the non-profit community-based trainers.
We are unable by law to grant tax receipts. That
means that workers will not be able to come and take
the employment preparation and life skills training that
the community-based community has been offering for
years. We have lobbied about this at a local level.
I'd really appreciate it if someone could help us out.
In Ontario, there's the devolution issue. The
development agreement has not been signed. We would
love to see it not signed. Devolution in Ontario is
going to be disastrous. Harris will use this to play
out his privatization agenda as well as other things.
Right now in Toronto, 87% of the people
served by HRDC are provincial social assistance
Okay. What can we do... Of
is a thing called earning
supplements in the part II measures.
I don't know if people are aware of it.
I have an HRDC report here somewhere, done by applied
research. We have asked repeatedly for this measure to
be looked at for older workers—not the targeted wage
supplement. In that older worker consultation last year it
was unanimous; people said not to use the targeted
wage for older workers. We do not have to bribe
employers to take valuable, skilled, loyal employees.
What we do have to deal with is helping those who are
coming down from very highly paid jobs or more highly paid
jobs who will not look at lower-paying jobs because
it's too much of a drop.
The earning supplement will broaden older workers' job
search choice, and that, coupled with comfort in
learning, retraining, and the income supplement, with their
work skills and whatever, we think they will get their
employment up naturally in that new place—but they
need the assistance of the earning supplement.
I know that you've looked at the POWA program,
and I've read some of the things. Yes, it had a lot of
glitches, but POWA was useful. The main glitch we had
with it was that it was determined by workplace and not by
individual. It should be an individually based
possibility. However, having said that, there is the issue
of older workers
being forced out by employers—in unions, we have our own
education to do—and we don't want POWA to be used for
those people who would like to be re-employed.
I also understand that you've been looking at the
self-employment initiative. In 1995, we got a grant
from Ontario's Community Economic Development
Secretariat, and we used that as an opportunity for
labour to come to grips with what local economic
development was. We came up with a definition for
us, which says that local economic development should be,
in order of priority, job retention strategies, job
conversion strategies—assisting organizations to
convert into the new economy, the export market—and
thirdly, job creation.
We looked at the self-employment assistance
initiative. We find it inappropriate for our
are primarily older workers.
However, there are community economic development
options that could work—things like worker co-ops or
community-held businesses. We think those would
be viable, but
the current SEA program does not give adequate time for
development and training to support that. But it's
something you could look at, particularly in your rural
areas where you're looking at the one-industry towns.
With regard to research and development, we are
very concerned with the demise of the CLFDB. They did
some very good work in terms of monitoring and
evaluating the impacts of programs. They are gone now,
so we are very concerned about what's going to happen.
Research is vital for the ongoing development of new
methods and approaches. So we're suggesting that
organizations with a direct
interest in older workers—things like One Voice, the
Canadian Labour Congress, literacy coalitions,
community-based groups, and municipalities—should
have some role here.
The other thing we would very much like to see is
that consideration be given to the creation of a new office
or unit in Human Resources Development Canada whose
mandate would be to oversee and co-ordinate all
specialized older worker services as well as to
funds for research and development.
In conclusion, we would like to reiterate the
importance of public policy and programming that allows
medium- to long-term programs for older displaced
workers. Early intervention, pre-closure services and
comprehensive one-stop, post-layoff adjustment services
have not been funded in practice, but we believe they are
possible within the current legislation.
That, coupled with the right to retraining, with
guaranteed access, adequate time, full income support,
funding for ESL, literacy, upgrading, and technological
training, in addition to the current employment
assistance services and things like POWA and earning
supplements, increased assistance with job placement... Older
workers have great difficulty mining the hidden
job market. They really need that service.
Again, we'd like to thank you for the opportunity to
meet with you today. We're delighted that the committee is
taking up this extremely important issue, and we will
certainly do everything we can to provide you with further
information or to point you in the direction of people who
know more than we do.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Ms. Brown, do you have comments or should we proceed
Ms. Beverly Brown (Co-ordinator, Labour Adjustment
Program, Metro Labour Education Centre): I don't
really have any comments, but I would like to just talk
about some statistics in a particular plant that we're
working with now, just to give the committee some idea
of the kinds of clients that we get throughout the year.
This plant is located right in downtown
Toronto. We assessed 161 workers there two weeks ago.
Ninety-nine of them are 45 years or older; that's a
very high number of workers in that plant. Sixty-seven
of those 99 had worked at the company for 20 years or
more, some up to 33 years. Fifty-one of the 99 are
sole income earners with no other financial support.
Eighty-eight of them earn over $16 an hour. For 60 out
of 99, English is their second language.
There's a very high number in this plant who have
below a grade 12 education. Just to give you a number,
37 have grade 8 or less; these would be people who
have grades 3, 4, or 5, who came to Canada from
Portugal. I think the three main language groups
were Portuguese, Italian, and Greek.
you think of those figures and look at the kind of
earning power that these workers had—$16 an hour with
a grade 5 education—given the current situation, where
are these workers going to get any kinds of jobs that
that would pay even half of
what they were making there? Let's be realistic. For
earners, that's a pretty tough situation to be in.
Seventy-two have no computer skills. When asked about
their need to find a job, 23 of the 99 in that
age group—in these statistics, I'm just talking
about the ones who are 45
or older, but we have a more detailed
report which you'll get later that shows this—said
their need to find a job was urgent.
We're talking about older workers who are anywhere
from... I said 45 or older, but some of those workers
were 55. As we were doing the data entry, one of the
support staff said, “This guy is 64 years old
and his need to find a job
is urgent.” He's one year away from retirement, but
there's a very low pension in terms of their ability to
have any kind of income support or even to retire early.
When you look at those kinds of statistics
and you hear that 23 out of 99 need to find
a job... Given that, we know that their age is going to
be a major barrier for them in getting alternative
We asked them what they considered to be the most severe
challenges in finding a new job.
I'm just going to read the numbers and tell you what
they said: 77 said unknown job market,
42 said lack of education and training, 35 said poor
reading and writing skills, and 34 said lack of marketable
skills. These are things that they've self-identified.
Out of 99, 75 indicated that they wanted
some sort of information, not necessarily retraining,
but information in regard to an interest in retraining.
of 99, 49 of them wanted to improve their reading and
writing, 36 wanted to improve their math, and 35 wanted to
improve their speaking skills.
So they already know what the barriers are. All they have
to do is read the newspaper and talk to their friends
and neighbours. When going through the assessment
process, a number of them stated that they were relying
heavily on their employer—who is now their past
employer, as they were all laid of as of April 30—and
the union to find them jobs. That's
just because they know what's out there. The interest
When most of these guys
were hired at this company—and
this is fairly across the board for all of the workplace
closures that we deal with where there is an older
workforce—they didn't need to have grade 12, they
never had to have a resume, and they never went
interviews. Most of them were hired without even
filling out an application because their mother,
brother, father, uncle, or aunt—somebody—directed them
to that employer. They didn't need to have special
training. If an employer went into production, they'd
front door and grab the first body walking by;
if you were walking and breathing, you got the job.
There was none of this grade 12 education and interview
skills where you had to go through what workers have
to experience now. Is it any wonder older
workers have so many barriers facing them when they're
faced with unemployment?
In regard to programs like the POWA program, I
happen to know about it personally because I
came out of the
Inglis plant in Toronto that was POWA-designated. One
hundred and thirty of our workers qualified for the
program for older worker adjustment, and some of them
are now just finishing. As you, 1999 is 10 years since
that plant closed, so some of them are in the tail
end of that. Those workers had a lot of
advantages that a lot of
other workers did not have, nor
will any workers subsequently
have them unless there is some sort of a program like
POWA, which is a safety net that catches them. Those
had advantages that a lot of other workers don't ever
have. That safety net was there to catch them
and bridge them to age 65.
It really becomes a case of the haves and have-nots.
In 1991, when our plant was designated,
out of all the closures and downsizings, with older
who at that time were experiencing job loss, only 595
Ontario qualified for the POWA
program. Really restrictive and strict criteria did
not allow a lot of workers in there.
There's one more thing I just want to say about
in particular and about other workplaces where there are
older workers. Here we found
a number of workers—not a large majority—who, because
it was heavy work and
hard lifting, had been injured on the
job and subsequently were still working but not
in the same jobs. The
employer found them light work, modified work, other
types of work, so that they did not have to do that heavy
lifting. Some of them are on small WCB pensions that
will continue and have continued.
But for this workforce in particular, a
number of workers there have that additional
barrier of being not being physically fit. They would
probably not pass a medical test if they were to be put
through a medical for another employer. That raises
a whole number of other issues that older workers face,
particularly if they are injured and hurt on the job.
As you know, an employer is required to provide some
sort of work for them. Then, when that employment is
lost, those workers are in even more jeopardy than
workers in the same age group because
they don't have the ability to go and just get another
The Chairman: Madam Brown, we have such a long list
Ms. Beverly Brown: Sorry.
The Chairman: —and obviously your insights
a lot of
thought. Perhaps we could proceed to
Mr. Johnston, I understand you're sharing
your time with Diane Ablonczy.
Mr. Dale Johnston (Wetaskiwin, Ref.): Thank you,
Thank you for your presentation,
ladies. I noted that you spoke about one particular
plant that had a very high incidence of illiteracy. It
makes me wonder just how widespread the
literacy problem is in unemployed older workers. When
you refer to illiteracy, are you talking about the
ability to read and communicate or are you talking
about technological literacy as well? Can you give
me some figures on that? You did talk about a 22%
illiteracy rate in your presentation, Ms. Stovel, but
I didn't quite grasp what...
Ms. Trish Stovel: The statistics I had were that
22%—these are from AILS, and the national
literacy secretariat in HRD will probably be able to
give you even better ones—of Canadian adults cannot
read well enough to deal with everyday reading
requirements. They cannot use written material to
acquire new skills. A further 26% can only read
materials that are written and designed clearly. For
those workers who were aged 56 to 64, 44% came in
at the lowest level of literacy.
You talk about technological literacy. Our
experience is that 93%
of our clients take our technological literacy program,
and that has been consistent across the board. You
could almost go 100% on technological literacy.
Coupled with that, as you know, is the way the new system
has been set up with the stand-alone resource centres;
people are expected to know how to use a computer in
order to be able to even go in and access a kiosk.
Mr. Dale Johnston: Yes.
Ms. Trish Stovel: That's why centres like
ourselves... They don't fare well there.
Mr. Dale Johnston: Of course, in the kiosk, it
is sort of self-instructed; it's just a touch on the
screen. It just
says “touch this for English or French” and then
basically it's instructions... Even I can run
one of those things.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
Ms. Trish Stovel: Yes, but you'd be surprised—
Mr. John O'Reilly (Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, Lib.):
But you'd never find a job—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Ms. Trish Stovel: But you couple that with—
Mr. Dale Johnston: We're told that ex-politicians
can't find a job anywhere—
Ms. Trish Stovel: Well, yes, but—
Mr. Dale Johnston: —and most of us are older
Ms. Trish Stovel: Then you throw in the
language issue with English and French... The reason
the largest workplace program in Ontario is that in
Toronto 60% of the workforce was second-language
speakers or older workers, older Canadians,
particularly from the maritime influx to Toronto, when they
came with their grade 5 or grade 6 educations. That's how we
started our English-in-the-workplace programs.
Mr. Dale Johnston: Maybe this is a very
broad question. It will be my last question and then
I'll defer to Ms. Ablonczy. What do you think would be
the one thing that could be done right away to improve
the lot of the lower-skilled, older, displaced worker?
What is the first step we should take? What kinds of
cost implications do you see attached to that?
Ms. Trish Stovel: Well, there's—and this
isn't just ourselves, this
came out of the older worker consultation in
Toronto—the issue of a holistic adjustment service.
“Holistic” means that from the time they lose their job
to the time they get re-employed, they get served
by a third-party deliverer that specializes in older
workers. Those services are currently funded within
existing funding. They just aren't specified for older
workers, and unless you are as tenacious as we are, you
can't do it all under one roof.
Mr. Dale Johnston: So it is a one-stop shop.
Ms. Trish Stovel: The money is just a question
of... Whether it's MLEC or Jewish
Vocational Services or the YWCA or Woodgreen
Community Centre, we are all capable of and always did
in the past have holistic services. It's this
siloing, which is an interpretation in the
how things have to be done; it is not the mandate of
the legislation. I would say that is probably your
critical piece to do.
What would you say, Beverly?
Ms. Beverly Brown: That... and unless you have a way of
encouraging employers to hire mature, experienced
Ms. Trish Stovel: We know they're not supposed
in regard to age, but we also know that choices... that
they're going to take the younger, more agile... We know
that's the reality that is faced, so targeted job
placement is one of the things we've been
talking about. It's one of the first things we
recommended to this particular plant: that the committee
actually look at targeted job placement, encouraging
employers to... If you go to an employer right
up front and say you have a mature, experienced
workforce, there's no doubt in the employer's mind
about the age of the workers. That's opposed to
just trying to
do job placement and then have the worker show up for
an interview when
it isn't reflected in his resumé that he has
30 years of experience or when his age isn't on his
resumé. He shows up for an interview and
then all of a sudden is just not allowed.
Ms. Trish Stovel: In fact, I'd just like to add
that we have tried to set ourselves up as older
workers despite what the field does. In that, I
tripled the number of staff devoted to job placement.
It was tremendously successful, not just for ourselves
but for all the community-based organizations, because
we would share and co-operate. When I went back to the
local HRDC and said I wanted to continue it, they
said no. But it's possible. What Bev is saying is
absolutely true, and I think One Voice will give you a lot
around employer bias.
But again, on things like employer bias, I've worked
with the president
of the Board of Trade in other
capacities and told him what we were up to around
older workers. I asked him if he, along with the City of
Toronto, would be willing to hold a forum where we
can do an awareness number that will deal with the
educating, because it's an attitudinal thing. He said
sure, that he'd be happy to.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Ref.): I'm
just conscious of the time.
The Chairman: Yes, I've been watching the clock.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I think maybe because of the
The Chairman: You still have three minutes.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I'm sure my able
colleague has covered this.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Thank you for
coming. I think your description is quite realistic. You set the
record straight regarding the categories and you told us about the
impact of the situation on older workers.
I would like to go a little further, because once we identify
our problem, the idea is to try to solve it. At the moment, older
people who want to get back into the labour market face two
obstacles. Some companies do not want to hire them, and some SMEs
are interested in hiring young people only; 57% of SMEs have very
restrictive policies about hiring older people.
As you know, these older people have work experience. You have
presented your ideas in a number of areas. Do you think governments
should establish knowledge transfer programs, whereby older people
can pass on the benefits of their experience to younger people?
Have you also looked into work transition, rather than
retirement? Have you made a choice in this regard? Have you studied
traditional retirement as compared to a new type of retirement? You
were also saying in your brief, that there was a targeted wage gain
supplement. You have some experience with that. I would like to
hear what you think about these matters. Thank you.
The Chairman: Could I ask you to give concise
answers? As Diane has been good enough to point out,
we're running behind and we want to try to
accommodate everybody's questions.
Ms. Trish Stovel: Okay. On your issue around employers
and who they want to hire, I think I'll defer to
One Voice, because they have superb stuff on that.
With respect to the issue of whether there
is something we can do
about mixing and utilizing the skills and the maturity of
older workers with younger workers, absolutely.
I would see that in a workplace training situation, in
mentoring, in that sort of thing. In fact, it is one
of the things that we can convince employers of: that they
can be the informal internal training coach to
It also plays a role in what I talked
about in regard to community-held businesses or
worker co-ops. When
we had the Transitions program there were older
workers who wanted to help the younger workers set up
a business. They were willing to work with them
because they knew those younger workers wanted
to continue to work for a
long time. They themselves didn't want to, but
they were willing
to share their skills and stick with those people in a
new food enterprise. With Transitions—we used
to call it the “silk and suits”—we could
pick managers and
marketing folks from that and stir, and you would have a
little instant company.
I think there are two ways, one in the current
workforce with employers encouraged to do so, and the
other in the development of spinoff businesses, where
older workers' maturity would really be an asset.
The Chair: Do you have any other questions?
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: No, I prefer to wait.
The Chair: Thank you, that is kind of you.
Mr. Jean Dubé (Madawaska—Restigouche, PC): I have
very quick question. In regard to these older
saying that in Ontario there was a program that
was able to
catch them. What was the name of that program?
Ms. Beverly Brown: It was called Program for
Adjustment. It wasn't just in Ontario. I believe
it was funded
federally 70% and provincially 30%. It
was a national program—POWA.
Mr. Jean Dubé: So how was it rated? Was it a good
program? How was it seen by the users of this program?
Ms. Beverly Brown: In terms of...
Mr. Jean Dubé: Was it successful? Was it a good
Ms. Beverly Brown: Oh, I think it was a very good
program, because it allowed them to work temporarily,
part-time; the money that they would get monthly would
be reduced if they were working that month. But
in regard to most of the people I know through the
I've had, a lot of them were not able to make that
transition from 55 to 65 and get any kind of full-time
employment, so it did carry them through to age 65.
But the criteria were extremely restrictive. Just
to give you a quick example, in the
peninsula, on one side of the street,
you could have a plant with 400
workers who were
designated POWA-eligible and, on the other side of the
street, another plant with 400 workers, with roughly
demographics, which wasn't designated. The
designation was based on the industry. One was a
foundry and one was an electrical plant. The
foundry was designated and the electrical plant wasn't.
You could have husbands and wives working in one
plant or the other, or your next-door neighbour... The
criteria were so strict in terms of people who
were able to get it.
Mr. Jean Dubé: That program is not in force
Ms. Beverly Brown: It's not.
Mr. Jean Dubé: So that would probably be a
recommendation from you.
Ms. Trish Stovel: Yes.
Mr. Jean Dubé: In New Brunswick, we had the
New Brunswick Job Corps. That is probably the same
Andy, is it probably close to the same thing?
Mr. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.): Close.
Mr. Jean Dubé: It was very successful in New
Brunswick, to be honest with you. The response from
the older people in the private sector was very good.
Let's say, then, that this is one of your
Ms. Beverly Brown: Yes, only as Trish indicated
earlier, it would not be designated by the plant or by
the location but more by the individual.
Ms. Trish Stovel: Yes.
Mr. Jean Dubé: By the individual.
Ms. Beverly Brown: Because certainly workers who
were between 55 and 65—the ones I talked about who had
injuries or had other more severe barriers to
employment—would be considered for that program,
as opposed to someone who was, say, 55 and wanted to
remain employed and didn't necessarily want to... There's
a whole range of workers that I think it would
fit very well.
The Chairman: May I ask for a quick point of
informed by our researcher that the program you refer
to wasn't accepted by every province—
Ms. Beverly Brown: Alberta.
The Chairman: —and that it was subject to provincial
Ms. Beverly Brown: Yes, it was. Alberta,
I believe, was the only province that didn't
The Chairman: And P.E.I.
Ms. Beverly Brown: P.E.I.?
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Jean Dubé: So I can count on your support when
I encourage the government to...
Ms. Beverly Brown: Oh, definitely.
Ms. Trish Stovel: Yes.
The Chairman: New Brunswick is the third
province, I'm informed.
Any other questions, Monsieur Dubé?
Mr. Jean Dubé: No, I'm finished. Thank you very
The Chairman: Andy Scott, please.
Mr. Andy Scott: We had Job Corps instead of POWA,
and it is quite different. I wouldn't want the record
not to make the point. It's more public service; it's
an activist measure that will allow people to work in
the public service for a certain percentage of the
pay and so on and so forth. It's one of the menu of
things that are available, but it's quite
precise in this case.
I'm curious about whether you would observe that there is
an urban-rural split here. If we accept that there's a
broad menu of remedies to deal with this... So
consequently, in some instances, it's retraining in a
community where the unemployment rate is less than 7%
or 8%. If the unemployment rate is 40% and the people
aren't going to leave—they have their house paid for
and so on and so forth—the remedy might be
I don't want to write people off and I
don't want to pension people off or take any of those
actions prematurely or without cause, but the reality
is... Would you not agree that in the range of
is a very activist measure, whereby you could turn someone's
employment situation around quite quickly with training
and so on, and there are other situations where
that's not likely? Would you accept that? Are we
being too quick to write people off?
Ms. Trish Stovel: Who do you want to write off?
Mr. Andy Scott: Nobody. I don't want to write
Ms. Trish Stovel: Yes. I think there is a
Mr. Andy Scott: I'm asking the question because
ultimately you'll get that response in an urban-rural
split. If you're living in a community with 40%
unemployment, the likelihood of retraining at the ages
of 50 or
45... They're not going to leave because
they own their
house. There is a whole bunch of reasons.
Ms. Trish Stovel: The difference in
the urban-rural... First of all, on the urban, while
there are a lot of jobs, without the interventions we
Mr. Andy Scott: Agreed.
Ms. Trish Stovel: —the older workers won't get them.
Mr. Andy Scott: Agreed.
Ms. Trish Stovel: Again it gets back to that
thing of only training for jobs. To me, in the rural
situation, the emphasis is going to have to be much more
on a local economic development approach like the Elliott
Lakes have; Newfoundland has had various experiences with
it, as has Montreal, but that's urban. I really think
that your emphasis has to be on that job creation
side and then the other interventions fall out—
Mr. Andy Scott: Okay.
Ms. Trish Stovel: —whereas
we can find the jobs, and that's why I mention the
development of spinoff businesses. The other part
is the issue of looking at how to prevent those
one-industry towns. That's where I think you need to talk
to the sector folks, to MITAC, which is mining, to the
resource-based folks, like the B.C. forestry group,
their challenge, and I think you might see something
there. Worker buyouts is another issue.
Mr. Andy Scott: Could I just put on the record
the fact the disability group—we're working on another
subcommittee—has also mentioned the problem and the
labour market agreements with regard to “creaming”?
Ms. Trish Stovel: Yes.
Mr. Andy Scott: People with disabilities
are also victims of the stringent measures that
Ms. Trish Stovel: Oh, absolutely.
Mr. Andy Scott: I think it's important that we're
hearing that from more than one place. I think it's
important for the government to know that.
Ms. Trish Stovel: Yes.
The Chairman: I just have one very quick question.
Earlier you cited an example about a group of
individuals that did not want retraining. Can
you recollect the example you cited?
Ms. Trish Stovel: If I remember correctly, I think
what I was referring was the start of our program
back in the late 1980s. The local CEC officers would
tell us that workers did not want retraining. They
used to say that MLEC was giving them too
much information. They would say that 80% didn't want
retraining. Our experience, when you told them,
when they were given full information, was that
80% said, “Oh, okay, then, I do want retraining.”
The Chairman: What was their understanding of
retraining that would have led them to initially say
that they didn't want to be retrained?
Ms. Trish Stovel: Primarily financial, because they
weren't told that they would get EI, they weren't told
types of supports, they weren't told about what was out
and they weren't given full information about the
labour market. We used to see it. We would deal
with people who went through a closure. Workers want
to work, so if they can get another job, boom, they go to
the other job. Then that plant would close. Often
we would find people at the second closure, when they came
back to us; that's when they realized they had to get
The Chairman: Ms. Brown, the last
Ms. Beverly Brown: I can just give you a really
brief example. In Toronto, we saw the
deindustrialization of downtown Toronto. We saw
places like Goodyear, which closed six years before
Inglis closed. At that time, a lot of the workers at
Goodyear wanted just another job. That was their main
thing: “just get me another job”. They were like
the walking wounded; they'd go
from plant closure to plant closure. The issue of
training did not become a reality until they had been
in that cycle. All of a sudden, they said to us, when
they ended up at Inglis, “I can't go through this
again. I can't go to another job, work for a year or
two, and then be unemployed again. I need to really
look at and focus on what my options are for the
and I need some sort of retraining because I do not
want to be in this situation again.”
I had that, again, from personal experience and from
people who came from those plants, then from Inglis.
Subsequently we ended up trying to put them into
retraining programs, and a lot of them did get
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
Dale Johnston has already highlighted our vested
interest in this study, as we're aging politicians.
Thank you for coming and sharing with us some
of the challenges
facing older workers.
Ms. Beverly Brown: Thank you.
The Chairman: We'll suspend for two minutes.
The Chairman: Thank you. We'll begin proceedings.
Before we begin, I guess I should correct the record.
I broke the cardinal rule. I speak only for myself
as an aging politician: all my colleagues here are very
young in spirit.
I would like to welcome Mr. Ivan Hale, national
secretary, and Tony Palmer, director of business
development, from One Voice—the Canadian Seniors
I don't want to subtract from your valuable
time, so please begin.
Mr. Palmer, are you beginning or is Mr. Hale?
Mr. Tony Palmer (Director, Business Development,
One Voice—the Canadian Seniors Network): Mr. Hale.
The Chairman: Mr. Hale, please.
Mr. Ivan Hale (National Secretary, One Voice—the
Canadian Seniors Network): Thank you very much.
It's a pleasure to be with you today.
It's interesting how much we want to resist aging, and
it's an important notion: no matter what our age,
think of ourselves as “old”. I can tell you that
meet with a group of seniors—and the directors
on our board are all seniors—the joke is that a
definition of a senior is somebody who's five years
older than you are, no matter what your age.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Ivan Hale: It is my pleasure—as one
of the younger among us but one who is
still categorized as an older worker—to be with you
today and to have with me Tony Palmer, who is managing
the older worker initiatives at our organization. In
preparing to come here today, I happened to just
dig back into
the file and I noted that it was November 1997
when I appeared before this very same committee and
used that opportunity to talk about older worker
issues. I remember talking afterwards with the
chairman at that time, who said you might be doing
this kind of study, and I'm just delighted. The need
is very much there, and I know that it's now
coming to your attention.
The big problem is that we tend to say that the need's
too great and there's no solution. I would hope that
we don't therefore abandon the problem, because our work
in this area, which has gone on now for about seven
years, suggests that there indeed are some very
appropriate solutions. All we have to do is identify
then and encourage them.
We are here today representing an organization that is
concerned about aging issues in Canada. This happens
to be the international year of older persons, and our
organization is One Voice—the Canadian Seniors
Network, La Voix—le Réseau canadien des aîné(e)s.
Really, in a nutshell, our mission is to address issues
that are of national concern to our aging population,
and when I say it that way, it means that we're
not just a lobby
group for today's old. It means that we're looking at
range, into the future. We strive to enable full
and active participation in Canadian society by older
adults. We do so in partnership with others and we
operate in a non-partisan way.
Our involvement with older workers goes back, as I
said, to about 1991, at which time we convened a meeting
of what were emerging as community-based responses to
older workers' needs. For well over a decade now,
agencies have existed in Canada to assist older workers
to regain employment, but the
experience has been sporadic and certainly uneven across
the country, and all of them have been plagued with
insecurity around funding. Their mandates have had
to shift and evolve according to the whims, usually, of
Originally most of them were
constituted to look at older workers. They defined
older workers as those aged 55 and up, but because
invariably comes from the federal government, they've
had to lower their age of clientele to as low as 45.
In so doing, they've come to appreciate that the
47-year-old who finds himself unemployed today has many of
the same challenges and needs as somebody who's 62 and
unemployed today. So while it was done somewhat
reluctantly, there have
been some benefits in doing it.
But we're in a situation
where there is a lot of confusion. As a country, we've
not yet decided what the role of federal government is
going to be in terms of assisting Canadians to regain
employment—or find it, in the first instance—as compared
to the role of the provinces as compared to the role of
either private sector or voluntary agencies. I would
just put that forward as an issue that needs to be
further focused on. We don't know if we want all or
some and whether the mix of those deliverers of
is going to indeed be different in various parts of the
country. This is an issue that we very much feel
needs to be addressed.
We have come to believe that there's a whole set of
underlying principles that should be encompassed,
embraced, in establishing a vision for Canada that
relates to older workers. We believe that all
Canadians, no matter what their age, should have
employment, as a
basic right. It's an entitlement throughout the work
span and is directly linked to gaining access to the
benefits that any individual is entitled to. We believe
that it's a requirement for effective participation in
the Canadian democratic process and that nobody should
be discriminated against on the basis of age, and for
those with skills that are not up to date, support
should be available to compensate and accommodate for
We believe that Canadians have a collective
responsibility to recognize and respect the demographic
diversity of our nation as well as the demographic
shifts that we're experiencing. We are an aging
society that is soon going to have a seniors boom,
with all the
inherent and dramatic implications the
baby boom had on our society. We're fortunate in that
we have time to prepare, but it's going to hit us in a
very short period.
We believe that a person's dignity and self-worth are
very much linked to being able to continue to be a
contributing member of our society, and employment is an
essential part of that. We see employment as
central to maintaining social cohesion in this country
and, indeed, to keeping the country together.
If we look at older workers and some of the
suggestions that we would have to make today... I
mentioned that there's currently a lot of redefining of
the relationship of government in our society. The
devolution of government may be the devolution of
programs for Canadians—sad reality—and we have
people from becoming casualties along the way.
But what is happening in the area of employment with
the change in this labour force that we have? We're
seeing a shift now, a move away from the federal
government taking primary responsibility for employment
support, a move into a signing of federal-provinical
agreements across the country, and I
would suggest to you that we have not been led to
believe that there are adequate provisions in there to
safeguard older workers' needs.
Certainly, as these new arrangements are implemented,
somebody should be working as a watchdog. Somebody
should be evaluating them, and we would suggest that
as a very appropriate role for a federal
government to be taking.
The local offices of Human Resources Canada, what
used to be Canada Manpower offices, are now required to
develop work plans or business plans. Is anybody
looking at those business plans to see if they actually
include older workers or disabled workers or other
subpopulations? We've not been reassured on that
when we've put the question forward.
When we posited the theory that perhaps older
workers are going to be disadvantaged under these new
federal-provincial agreements, the reply from very
senior officials within Human Resources Development
Canada was, “Don't worry. If it's not working out in
three years, we can cancel them.” Well, what happens in
the meantime? We would say that theirs is not
the appropriate attitude or
In short, we would say that there is a place for and,
a strong need for strong, central, national leadership,
and that points to the federal presence. We believe
that national standards of service and delivery should
be in place. Initiatives such as
public awareness initiatives, employer awareness
initiatives, applied research, innovative workplace
programs, research, policy development, and exploration of
new trends and options in moving towards retirement are
all issues that somehow need to be
co-ordinated. We need to make sure that the
appropriate studies are undertaken and that the lessons
are learned and applied. That's not to suggest that
the government itself should be doing all of that work;
it's just saying that it should be ensuring that
those things happen.
We also would like to recommend that the federal
government, probably through Human Resources
Development Canada, establish ongoing, stable
relationships with partners. It is time to get away
from the short-term project grants and contributions,
which have absolutely no security for those who receive
the money and which permit no long-range planning to
There are national associations that you could look
at, like the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work
Canadian Council on Social Development, and you could look
to engaging seniors' organizations. There are others.
I'm just saying that of course it's unrealistic to
expect government to do it alone. There are social
policy and service organizations that are ready and
committed with respect to taking on part of this job.
Instead of perpetuating what too often is the silo
or stovepipe approach of giving out grants and
contributions to a myriad of organizations and then
trusting that each will do its own thing without ever
communicating with one another, could the government
not think about possibly encouraging communication and
sharing of experiences among those
groups and, indeed, facilitate it and
put a priority on making it happen?
We also think there should be long-term financial
support measures put in place to acknowledge the fact
that older workers need more time and more skills
in order to regain entry into the workforce. The story
told by the
previous witnesses was absolutely right.
Everything they told you was correct.
some national studies that fully support that, and I
will cite just one of them.
We surveyed the Human
Resources Canada centres, the manpower offices, all
across Canada, with the exception of Quebec because it
opted out of the study. It was a written survey, and we
questioned both the managers, through one survey, and the
front-line staff, through another survey, and asked them
what they perceived to be the biggest problems or
barriers facing older workers in their attempts to get
back into the workforce. They said it is not that the
older worker has the wrong expectations. In other words,
they were saying that the older worker has already, in
his or her own
mind, made the
adjustment to the fact that their
skills are outdated, that they'll probably have to
accept a job at less pay or with less responsibilities,
or that they might have to relocate. They've come to that
reality check. They've completed that before they hit the
pavement and start looking for jobs, so that's not the
When we asked what the problem was, then,
those who were most experienced—the staff working with the
older workers—invariably said that the problem was
attitudes on the part
of employers, that they were not giving a chance to the older
worker. Well, how do we change attitudes? There are
jobs out there, but how do we change attitudes? That's
a mammoth task. There is some experience in having
addressed such issues at a national level, but I venture to
say that unless somebody takes it on and tackles it,
we're going to be at the same point, lamenting the same
condition, five or ten years from now.
But that's no
excuse for inaction. We believe that all levels of
government should be encouraging, fostering,
supporting, and rewarding innovative workplace
strategies that embrace older worker employment,
training, development, and promotion issues, in both the
private and public sectors. The public sector is not in
a better position; we cannot claim that it's doing a
better job of this than the private sector. But there
are some isolated incidences of good news stories that
are worth telling and sharing with others.
In closing, I'd like to make a few points. When we
hear about the problems of youth, we're told that their
biggest handicap to gaining access to jobs is that they
lack experience. Lo and behold, today we're
talking about experienced workers, and the experience
shows that experience isn't enough. What does that
mean? We have to think that through.
I just want to
underscore the fact that “there but for the grace of God
go I”. This could hit any one of us at any point in
and when it does, it's like getting hit with a ton of
bricks. The vast majority of older workers
are not ready to retire; they are unable to, financially or
emotionally, and the trauma and the turmoil not only
affects you until the age of “normal” retirement but
for the remainder of your life. So let's get at it.
Lastly, I want to put a positive spin on this. Older
workers are a terrific resource. You now go into
Reno-Depot and you're greeted by an older worker, and
you go into your Wal-Mart and it's the same idea. You
have companies like McDonald's trying to hire older
workers. Why? Obviously because they're starting to
clue in that these people are more loyal than younger
people, that they have a sense of commitment and
bring a quality
and a stability to the workplace.
While Canada is
experiencing an aging workforce, so is every other
country in the world, and I just want to suggest to you
that this is a challenge faced by most societies. If
we can look at it, address it head-on,
and find some of the solutions, I would suggest
to you that we will indeed—potentially—gain an important
competitive advantage. That in itself should justify
an investment of money in this area.
Older workers continue to contribute by paying taxes,
and of course the money goes round, so the investment
is returned many times over.
There's just one last point. Look at who has
withdrawn money from RRSPs.
Unfortunately, a lot of the money taken out of
them is taken out by older workers who have to
sort of build the
bridge until the time that they qualify for pensions.
That's not a pretty picture: digging into your
retirement savings when you probably still have a
mortgage and when you likely still have dependents at
home, because children are staying at home longer or
are returning home.
So without wanting to paint any gloomy picture, I
would say that there are some important initiatives
underway. We have been undertaking some studies and do
have a variety of reports that we'd happily make
available to anyone at any time. Today we did bring
with us copies of awareness kits that relate to older
you'd like to take them, I believe they're on the back
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
Mr. Palmer, do you have any quick comments?
Mr. Tony Palmer: Very quickly, thank you, Madam Chair,
I will just point out that we entirely support the
previous presenter's statistics. I think the
committee should be aware that in the first instance
it is estimated that the number of older workers will
increase from its current level of about six million to
about eight million by the year 2008-09. The
impact, therefore, is going to increase exponentially
as time goes by.
The other statistic to reinforce is the fact that
once an older worker becomes unemployed, it takes him
or her about twice as long as their younger
counterparts to reach a level of employment again.
Being an older worker and having been unemployed, I can
tell you that it is a long and hard road to get back into
the employment picture.
That's all I have to say. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you, sir.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Thank you for your
presentations. As has been said before, most of us
can relate to this issue, particularly as politicians.
We know that sooner or later we'll be out of a job—or
at least this job.
The Chairman: I'm glad she said it this time.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: We know that we have to look
I was interested in your comments about retirement. I
understood from surveys that I have seen that the
majority of Canadians hope to retire somewhere around
55. That seems to be a little bit at odds with what
you've said: that people want to keep working.
However, I don't think that's the particular issue. I
think the issue is, for those who want
to keep working
or have to keep working, how can we make sure they have
You talked about “innovative workplace
not sure what you mean by that, so I'd like you to
expand on that—to
ensure opportunities for older workers.
like to ask you this: what is the worker responsibility?
Obviously this thing isn't coming as a bolt out
of the blue. We know that not only is our population
aging but our workplace is changing rapidly;
you don't carry your lunch bucket to dear old Widget
Works for 45 years and retire with a gold watch and a
handshake from the president. That just does not
happen any more. Every older worker knows
that their job security
is probably diminished considerably if not
non-existent, that they're going to have to be
adaptable, that they're going to have to change.
there responsibilities that we can assist older workers
to carry out? For example, should we not have training
funds available to put away, like we put away RRSPs?
Education funds so that we can upgrade our
skills... As my colleague said, I think a lot of us
would be pretty much behind the times in the use of new
technologies and information highways. Is there
something that we need to be doing in having private
funds, personal funds, allocated to that so that we
don't come up against the wall at the age of 55
or 60 without
adequate retirement and say, gee, I wish somebody
would hire me, having done absolutely nothing to make
Mr. Ivan Hale: You've made many good points.
I'll try to respond to them quickly.
We're now trying to identify some of those innovations
in workplaces where people have come up against a
crisis and found a solution. One that we're aware of
on Vancouver Island is a small company that
manufactures forestry equipment. It's actually an
aging workforce in there. Many of the men have been
there for 20 or 30 years. They were finding that
with the slump in the forestry industry the company
was actually on the verge of bankruptcy. The employees
bought the company and have now instituted many of
the kinds of things that you're talking about in terms
of retraining—and of cross-training of skills as well.
When those things work, we need to feature them and
get a little bit of press for them, because, sadly, the
media capture all the closures and not much of the good
news stories. The good news stories tend to take time
too, and they're not often very dramatic—and some of
them fail along the way, so we have to acknowledge that.
Retirement planning is an important notion. When
you ask most Canadians at what age they would hope to
retire, they say they hope to retire at 50 or 55,
but when you
probe and ask them at what age they think they'll be
able to retire, then they say, well, now it's most
likely that I'll have
to work until I'm 72 or whatever. So yes, that shift
has happened, and people realize now that no longer can
they depend for the bulk of their income in later life
from pensions or from old age security, that
type of source. They realize that they themselves are
to have to take
responsibility for ensuring that they have an
adequate quality of life in later years.
But that is small comfort to the person who has already
embarked on a particular path with rules that were
different. With regard to the flexibility to
change your life plan,
when you're already 55 you don't have many years to
change, even if you intellectually acknowledge that it's
necessary. You can't make a whole lot of shifts at
What it does speak to is the importance
of doing not just retirement planning, which tends to
be done in the last few years while you're still in the
workplace, but career planning, so that you
begin at the time when you enter the workforce to
think about what kind of a relationship you want to have
in terms of
stepping in and out of work and in and out of learning
opportunities. The good news is that more and
more Canadians of all
ages are adopting a belief that there's much to
be gained by lifelong learning. We are changing
attitudes as we go.
You asked a question around access to training. I
would just point out that in many workplaces today,
access to employer-paid training opportunities is
frequently denied to older workers. It is offered
to younger workers and not to older workers. So while the
worker may say yes, that's a responsibility, he or she
may be denied the opportunity.
The Chair: I will now give the floor to the young Ms. Girard-Bujold.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: You're very kind, Madam Chair.
Many questions came to mind while I was listening to your
presentation. I will start with your final comment. You say that
young people should be thinking now about the age at which they
will retire, 55 or 60. The situation we find ourselves in at the
moment is very real. These young people will be able to expect
quite a different situation, given that close to 6 million people,
as Mr. Palmer was saying, are currently considered older workers.
In this category, there are many older people who have lost their
job or who will be losing it soon, and that is the group I am
interested in. We will be able to educate young people. I hope we
will find a way of ensuring that they plan their retirement and
lifelong learning well.
I want to come back to these people who are facing massive job
losses at the moment. They often find themselves in dramatic
situations, because most of them did physical work in factories.
Their health is deteriorating and they cannot retrain, because they
don't have an appropriate education.
What do you see for these people on the basis of your studies
and surveys? Could governments do something immediately that would
provide a way out or a breath of fresh air for these people?
Mr. Ivan Hale: I apologize for answering in English.
It's important to acknowledge too that while
the retirement age in Canada
has been dropping, there are many who
question whether it will go down any further. Some
are even predicting that it might start to go up
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Yes, that's right.
Mr. Ivan Hale: Involuntarily,
people cannot perhaps retire when
they thought they were ready—because they won't be any
What is absolutely needed are ways to phase out of
employment, ways to reduce the work week from
perhaps 40 hours to maybe 20 hours, gradually, over
time. It would be in the interest of the employee as well
as the employer to permit that kind of
flexibility within the workplace, acknowledging that in
certain categories of jobs, people may be physically
old while chronologically young.
I cite the
example from the media just a week ago, when you had
in Ottawa representatives from DEVCO in Cape
Breton, who were talking about the miners
who were losing their
jobs through the DEVCO closure. What did they say?
They said people who work in physically demanding jobs
are often worn out well before they're ready to retire.
The same was true of the Maple Leaf plants, the
meat-packing industry, where your back gives out on you,
so that you can't even perhaps continue in that.
Flexibility to perhaps reduce the amount of time spent
working is important, but also important is the
flexibility to be
re-categorized or perhaps moved from a physically
demanding job into a less physically demanding job,
potentially within the same workplace. Those kinds of
options are important. But it has to have a commitment
to the employee, a commitment to provide them with the
necessary training for the new job expectations.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: There are big factories in my
region: Alcan, Abitibi-Consolidated, and so on. As you know,
technological change is a fact of life in all these big companies,
and that is what caused the layoffs. It is difficult for these
individuals to adapt to the new technology, and they have not
worked long enough to retire. As you know as well, the cost of
living is high these days. People cannot retire on a pension of
$15,000 or $16,000—that is the poverty line. These people were
used to earning big salaries.
A program was established involving both levels of government
at companies such as Alcan and Arvida. People worked 40 hours but
were paid for only 38 hours; they were short two hours. They did
that for three years. Anyone who wanted could be part of the
program, and 1,800 out of 2,000 employees chose to participate in
it. The two unpaid hours allowed people to accumulate leave, and
older workers could work to build up the number of weeks or months
they needed in order to retire.
The two levels of government did not want to repeat this
program. It created 125 new jobs for young people and kept between
100 and 200 people working. As you can see, it was an active
measure. Do you think this is the type of thing we should be doing,
or would you suggest a different approach?
Mr. Ivan Hale: That should be an option.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Do you have any other suggestions?
Mr. Ivan Hale: Yes, but I don't have them here today.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I see. Could you send them to us?
Mr. Ivan Hale: Yes, certainly.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Palmer, do you have a comment?
Mr. Tony Palmer: Not at the moment, thank you.
The Chairman: Madam Brown.
Ms. Bonnie Brown (Oakville, Lib.): Thank you,
There are so many things we could talk to you about.
Essentially, with the demise of the POWA program, which
was our only program for older workers, we have nothing
special for them now. So if we were to recommend at
the end of this that we get a program going, it seems
to me that first of all we'd have to secure the resources
to fund it and then we'd have to target it to get, as
they say, the best bang for the buck.
I'm reminded of
an election campaign, in the sense that when you're
a candidate or a campaign manager, you have to make the
same kinds of choices with few resources. You can go
to a neighbourhood and go door-to-door and drop
pamphlets in a neighbourhood where, say, they have a
voting rate of 85% in terms of going to the polls,
or you can
go to another place where it's 30%. They're equally
nice people, but obviously you go to the place where
they turn out at 85%, because for every door you knock on,
you only have to convince them to do one thing, and that
is, to vote for you. In the other place, you first have to
convince them to vote, to be committed to voting,
and then to choose you. It's much easier to make the
one step than the two steps with the other group.
This morning, for the first time, we saw a
better picture of the
urban manufacturing situation, through the Toronto and
district labour council.
Prior to this, most of
the examples that come to mind are what I call
one-industry towns, like the DEVCO example, where
the workers are, as you put it, worn out, where
maybe isn't as good as it was a few years before, where
there were often
physical tasks and safety issues that they faced.
They own their own homes in that community, their
skills are very low, and their motivation is weak in
regard to moving somewhere else where there might be a
job. Therefore, we'd have to put in twice as much money.
We have to put in money to retrain them, but before we
retrain them we have to create local economic
development, to build the kind of business that might
employ them—and then we have to train them. It's a
In an urban area, however, where
there seem to be a
jobs but the workers who have been laid off don't have
the training, all we have to do is train them. So it
seems to me that it's only a one-step thing.
With a massive transit system, you can get from
almost any place in
the GTA to any other place where there
might be a job. The only thing you might be missing is
the ability to do that job, which you might be able to
be trained to do.
Do you see what I'm saying? We get these two
pictures: DEVCO and B.C. mines in Thetford Mines, and the
Mr. Ivan Hale: Yes.
Ms. Bonnie Brown: It seems to me that the better
bang for the buck is in the urban situation, because all
we have to do is train the people. We don't have to
create the jobs.
Mr. Ivan Hale: I'm afraid that if you apply that
logic... It's the same logic that has been given to those
who manage the Human Resources Canada centres,
namely, we have limited resources—
Ms. Bonnie Brown: Yes.
Mr. Ivan Hale: —so when a
client comes in, assess which clients can get jobs
most quickly at the lowest cost and invest
in those clients.
That's what's happening.
And who is put at a
disadvantage? Older workers.
Ms. Bonnie Brown: Yes.
Mr. Ivan Hale: So that it's slightly
different... Whereas in your scenario, if I follow it,
by investing in the urban areas, you're writing
off the rural communities. I'm sure that's not your
Ms. Bonnie Brown: No, I'm trying to figure out
what we should do first. I think Mr. Johnston asked
somebody earlier—I don't know if he asked you or the
previous people—what they would do first. The two
scenarios I've described are so different. Also, in
my view, in the country there's a history of efforts to
create businesses in places that need businesses
created and it's like pouring money down a black hole.
One can think of cucumber factories in Newfoundland and
things like that. You hear these stories. I'm sure
there are good stories as well, but it's the double
cost of creating the work and then training a set of
workers to do it.
But I see what you mean: the
logic itself is dangerous.
Mr. Ivan Hale: It could lead you where you don't
want to go.
Ms. Bonnie Brown: Okay.
I have one more question,
Madam Chair, if I may...
There was some passion in your voice
when you talked about the idea that HRDC should have
stable relationships with its partners and that the
giving of grants and contributions to these partners
should require that communication and exchange of
information take place among these partners. I don't
know who these partners are.
Mr. Ivan Hale: If I just take an example,
there is a fund called the opportunities fund, which is,
I think, something like $30 million a year, of which $27
is administered through the regional offices and $3
million through their national headquarters. Its
specific focus is on assisting disabled workers to gain
access to jobs. Who are the partners? There are groups
like the Canadian Paraplegic Association, the Canadian
Council on Rehabilitation and Work, our organization,
and about 15 or 18 others, I think.
But there are very few opportunities for
cross-fertilizing and for sharing of experiences and ideas.
Unfortunately, I guess everybody is just overloaded
these days and we're trying to just do our piece.
But when you slice everything up so often and you're only
doing your piece, who's looking at the whole? That
becomes the issue.
Ms. Bonnie Brown: Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert (Oak Ridges, Lib.): I'm sorry,
Madam Chairman, that I missed the first presentation,
had another committee to attend.
One of the difficulties, which I'm now experiencing
almost first-hand, is a
mindset issue with regard to the value of older
workers—value in two ways. Of course for
years we have put tremendous value and emphasis on young
people, on youth. Obviously the shift is now moving
towards the aging population; you talk about six million,
to eight million by 2008. But with respect to employers'
clearly there's a problem when they look at older
In my own family, my wife, after 25 years of teaching,
is no longer employed, not necessarily due to choice.
She is now expensive—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: She is expensive in many ways,
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: She's expensive because of the
she's at the top of her category.
Ms. Bonnie Brown: Yes.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: I wouldn't call her
an older worker, although I did hear somebody say
The Chairman: This sounds like true confessions.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: The fact is, let's say she has
probably 12 more employable years. She could have 15
more or 10 more, it depends on... We all like to
retire early, and obviously none of us won the lottery
on the weekend, or otherwise, I presume, we wouldn't be
So we have a lot of hopefuls here and no winners, and
we have a lot of older workers but not that many
jobs. The problem is that when you're at the top of your
category in teaching, as an example, or in anything,
you're not marketable because the attitude of many
employers—and this is unfortunately what seems to have
befallen her—is that they bring in some hotshot
accountant who says, well, you have all of these
older workers on your staff, and you could save a lot of
money, like the cost of two workers, maybe two and a half
for one older worker, so let's... I'm being very liberal
suggesting that older workers... I'm dropping it to 45
The attitude is that older workers are
not employable, so we have a mindset problem, with
people saying, well, yes,
how do we reintegrate these people into the workforce?
I don't know. We talk about job
creation projects and we talk about earnings,
supplementation, wage subsidies, and all of those things,
but the reality is that people don't have the value of
older workers even though they may have that
experience. People say they cost too much.
She would love to retire at 50, but the fact is that
you also have a certain lifestyle after a point, where
you say that there's going to be a significant economic or
social impact on that. I don't know what mechanism
we... Part of it, obviously, is education, but part
of it is
that when people are downsizing and rightsizing and saying
that they want to save a few dollars, the first target in
any organization are those who are expensive. The
expensive ones aren't the young people but the older
people, and therefore we don't, as a society, attach the
same kind of value that I think we should have. Maybe,
as we get an aging society, we will attach the value, in
15 or 20 years, but
that doesn't help the people right now who clearly
are... It's almost like a cheap $10 suit you discard
here; it's like, well, they're no longer... we
don't need them so we'll just get rid of them.
The question is, what are the long-term and certainly
the short-term impacts on our society?
You talk about
partnering. I guess what I would like to do is to see how
we can develop some kind of... I hate using the word
“program”, because it always sounds so
institutionalized. We certainly have
to try to educate people better, but we
also talked about flexibility in
terms of hours and maybe reducing some hours to keep
people on. But I think we have to fundamentally change
the mindset and the value and all of
that, and I don't know whether we've been going
down the right road with
wage subsidies and all of those other things. I don't
know whether that
really is very helpful.
Mr. Tony Palmer: I'd like to make a couple of
points, if I may address Ms. Brown's points as well, in a
general rambling, if you'll forgive me.
The Chairman: Please feel free.
Mr. Tony Palmer: In 1995, Watson Wyatt
produced a report
on downsizing, re-engineering, restructuring,
re-whatever-you-want-to-call-it, which basically said that
80% of the initiatives out there failed. They failed
because the first thing to get cut was people.
Companies would say on the one hand that “people are our
most valuable resource”, but on the other hand, when the
crunch came, they would get rid of them.
Wilfert pointed out, older workers went first because
they were more expensive. All of a sudden, companies
started losing the history and the continuity that had
made them successful. They had a bunch of younger
workers who were keen, gung ho, and saying, “let's
head towards the
objective”, but nobody could figure out where the
objective was because that mentoring process had gone.
This is one of the values that older workers bring to
the workplace: this mentoring process. Yes, it
generally costs more money on a
per diem basis to keep an older worker, but his or her
value to the
organization is absolutely immense in terms of
continuity, mentoring, and the development of protegés,
so that the younger worker can take up the cudgel when
the older worker leaves as part of his or her natural
Let us look at nurses in Ontario. Check the want ads
in Ottawa Citizen or The Toronto Star
and you will find that there is a huge cry for
nurses, because who got cut first when the medical
restructuring went on in the province of Ontario?
Nurses did. Who of the nurses got cut first? The
experienced, higher-paid, longer-in-the-tooth—I guess
I can say “long in the tooth” because I'm there—
The Chairman: And I am too.
Mr. Tony Palmer: That was a pure male remark.
So who of the nurses got cut first? Nurses
who had years and years of experience. What's
happening now is that hospitals are having to
find nurses to replace those who have been lost, and
it's very hard, because those who were cut in
past restructurings have found other employment and
are not willing to go back into the hospitals. So
while Mr. Harris has put in more money to hire nurses,
they're just not available. That resource has been lost
to Ontario's medical system. I would suspect that this
kind of example can be translated across the country.
What we need—Mr. Wilfert, you said you hesitated
to call it a program—I would say, is a
national strategy that starts but
doesn't have an end date, so that when the program is
over all the
lessons learned, all the lessons developed in that
program, aren't thrown out the window. We need
strategy that is longer than the mandate of any one
given political party in office, one that will carry the
nation through to, I would suggest, the year 2020, where
we start to see a flow-through of the youngest
workers starting to move through the system and
assuming positions of management.
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
Do you have any other questions?
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: No, I think he summarized things
The Chairman: If I might, I will just ask one quick
Mr. Hale, you asked who is looking at the
whole, and, Mr. Palmer, you highlighted the necessity for
a national strategy. If I can piggyback onto a point
that Ms. Ablonczy was making earlier, in health care,
for instance, we now have a strategy where the focus is
on preventive medicine. Do you see a necessity to sort
of highlight prevention rather than at the end of a
worker's life span... Instead of waiting till they're
laid off, should we be focused on a national strategy
to retrain people on the job?
For instance, maybe there could be a
workers' training fund, an equivalent
to an RRSP or something, whereby the worker can actually
access training programs while currently employed.
Have you conducted any studies or do you have any
initiatives to suggest to us with respect to retraining
the individual while on the job rather than when
they're laid off?
Mr. Ivan Hale: We have not done anything in that
area, but we've certainly come to the conclusion that
prevention is the right way to be going, whether
you're looking at it from the individual's perspective
or from a sector perspective, where you're helping
a sector go
through a transformation into the future. Restructuring
assistance for sectors or for employers would be
The Chairman: Mr. Palmer.
Mr. Tony Palmer: The medical model proves that
prevention is cheaper than cure, so any strategy that
recognizes the longer-term needs—i.e., preventing
rather than trying to cure something at the end of the
day—would certainly be supported by myself.
The Chairman: The U.S. Congress recently put
out a report
highlighting a training crisis in the United
States. Do you have any similar documents that indicate
similar trends here in Canada?
Mr. Ivan Hale: I'm not familiar with with
Mr. Tony Palmer: Nor am I. I can cite only one
local example, from a local medical facility, where
employees, regardless of seniority, are allowed one
day per working year for training upgrading. Any other
training that they do has to be taken either from
vacation time or from sick time or from whatever.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Wilfert, you have the
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: I have a quick question on this
national strategy. What do you see as some of the key
elements that would be part of that in order to obtain
employer acceptance or public acceptance of that
the fact that we as a society are so far behind? We
have aging parents, and yet, if you were to
ask for a few weeks or a month or two off in order to
take care of someone who is not institutionalized,
you'd be one of those older workers in a hurry—you'd
be out on the street.
So we have not moved at all as far as some
jurisdictions like Sweden, for example, are concerned.
I'm just wondering what kinds of elements you
might see in there—very quickly—particularly
if you're envisioning a
program that may carry you for the next 20-odd years.
Mr. Ivan Hale: Because it's been in place
for a number of years, it might be fruitful to look at the
youth employment strategy to see what components of it have
either worked or not worked. It could be instructive.
We would certainly argue that some strategies should
give policy direction, to both employers and
and, I would suggest, to labour, and ultimately to
We would argue that it should ensure that up-to-date,
meaningful research is being done and that
the results are being
disseminated. We would like to
think that it would foster some innovative programs,
some experimentation, and some evaluation; it's essential
The Chairman: Your comments have inspired one final
question from Madam Girard-Bujold.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Hale, some older people—or
wise people, because they prefer this name—who are on a committee
came to meet with me. Nowadays, we don't know whether people are
wise at age 20 or 90. These individuals told me that governments
should be taking into account the significant volunteer work they
do and consider giving them a tax credit in recognition of the many
hours of volunteer work they do. What do you think about their
Mr. Ivan Hale: It's a whole other set of issues.
As a member of a national voluntary organization
and the whole voluntary sector, we have grappled with
that and have indeed met with the finance minister around
of course, is what value you place on the time of
a person who is volunteering. If you start to
give it credit, then do you have to credit everybody
who's doing it?
I will just give an example. I came out of meetings we had
this weekend, when we were talking about informal
caregivers for elderly people. A great amount of the
informal care is being given by family members. If you
give a tax credit for that to some of them, aren't they
all going to want it? There's not an easy solution.
It seems desirable. We already know that older adults
are among the most generous not only in
terms of their personal
philanthropy but also in terms of their time. But they do it
not wanting money or return; at the moment, it's done
out of a commitment to share their goodwill, good
fortune, with those who follow. What happens when you
institutionalize it? I'm not sure Canadians want to
see it institutionalized.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: In some cases, such a tax credit
would allow them to increase their income. I don't think all
volunteers would be interested in such a program, but we could
target some of them whose jobs did not give them a full pension on
retirement. I know we could not apply the tax credit to all older
Mr. Ivan Hale: We could certainly study this proposal.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I'm passing on the proposal the
group made to me.
The Chairman: Thank you very much for giving us,
earlier, a new definition of what constitutes a
“senior”. We're all better people for it. Thank
you for a very thoughtful presentation.