The consultation will take a wide-ranging look at the problem.
Ottawa—Agriculture Canada has launched a three month long online cross-country consultation looking for ideas for creating a National Agriculture Labour Strategy (NALS) to fix the agrifood sector’s chronic labour shortages.
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in Blainville, Que. co-announced the start of the consultation with Francois Drouin, the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture who was at an event in Cambridge.
Bibeau said the sector is part of the country’s critical infrastructure and essential to the health and well-being of all Canadians. It faces obstacles “that distinguish it from other economic sectors currently facing labour shortages.”
The consultation will seek input on recommendations for short- and long-term solutions that will attract a skilled workforce. “Provinces and territories, as well as employers, unions, underrepresented groups, workers, and other key groups will be engaged to develop the strategy and ensure it reflects the unique needs of the sector.”
The use of automation and technology, targeted skills development and training, employment incentives and best practices, improved working conditions and benefits; and programs to recruit and retain workers have been identified as key areas, she and Drouin said.
The National Workforce Strategic Plan for Agriculture and Food and Beverage Manufacturing developed by the Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council (CAHRC) will help guide the development of the NALS and lead to concrete action to position the sector for future growth, they said.
“As everyone is looking to Canada to increase its contribution to global food security, our agriculture and agri-food sector is facing a severe labour shortage that prevents it from reaching its full potential. I encourage all stakeholders to take part in these consultations, through which our government wishes to foster the significant engagement of the industry and ensure that together we put in place effective and sustainable solutions.”
Drouin said, “A skilled and reliable labour force is an important part of our resilience as a sector. We have already seen, and will continue to build off, the strong leadership in this space. The strategy will help to ensure that Canada continues to deliver the high quality of food needed in our country and around the world.”
Mary Robinson, President of Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said the work of the CAHRC and the labour consultations “will create pragmatic solutions for short and long-term labour issues in the food supply chain.”
CAHRC Chair Paul Glenn said his organization looked forward to working with Agriculture Canada and other groups on finding long-term solutions for a robust, skilled workforce.
Kathleen Sullivan, CEO of Food and Beverage Canada said the consultations, said the consultations “will help develop a roadmap to address persistent labour shortages in the agri-food sector.”
In April, the government announced further changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to address labour shortages across Canada. Temporary foreign workers represent around one-quarter of all agriculture workers in 2021. In the food and beverage manufacturing sector, temporary foreign workers represented about one-tenth of the total number of employees.