Alberta aims to attract workers with fall session's first bill
The first bill introduced in the fall legislature sitting is meant to attract working professionals to Alberta.
The fall session began Monday with Premier and United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney introducing a bill intended to streamline the process of recognizing professional credentials from other Canadian provinces.
If passed, Bill 49, the Labour Mobility Act, would:
- mandate regulatory bodies recognize credentials issued by other provinces for professions with the same work scope;
- set a 40-day timeline for those agencies to approve and notify an applicant they can work in Alberta; and
- mandate regulatory authorities create a review and appeal process with reasonable timeframes.
Kenney said a government-commissioned study by C.D. Howe Institute suggested improving labour mobility could grow Alberta’s economy by $2.8 billion and the national economy by even more.
“If you can move between the nearly 30 countries of the European Union as a skilled worker without running into burdensome red tape, why can’t you do it within the 10 provinces of Canada?” he asked, mentioning he’d be writing other premiers to refresh a 2019 ask they make similar changes.
The proposed bill would affect more than 100 regulatory authorities in the health, finance, justice, education and municipal affairs sectors.
According to Kenney, the legislation was ready to go in 2020 but held by his government while Alberta’s unemployment rate was still in the double digits and the province was dealing with its third COVID-19 wave.
“Now, as we are moving into, I believe as moving into a probably strong and sustained cycle of economic growth, and we are hearing about labour shortages not just in Alberta but across the economy in North America, this is going to become an emerging challenge,” he said Monday.
“We need to skate to where the puck is going, and where the puck is going is dynamic economic growth and labour shortages. I think this is the right time to do it.”
When asked if Alberta easing labor mobility would hurt its local companies and workers, Kenney said Albertans weren’t afraid of competition and that the provincial government’s procurement search beyond provincial boundaries had only gotten taxpayers a better deal.
Kenney also promised the hastened timelines wouldn’t compromise the process, but standardize it.
“Here’s the point: When you’re an Albertan and if you get sick in B.C. or Saskatchewan, you don’t ask to see whether the doctor or the nurse is certified by their Alberta regulator. You just trust that other Canadian professionals are operating at effectively the same high and safe standard.
“So what we’re saying through this legislation is: Let’s stop second guessing each other in Canada.”
Government House Leader Jason Nixon said there are no COVID-19 specific bills expected to come in the sitting, but that the government will continue to fight the fourth wave and pass legislation if necessary.
The Opposition NDP said it plans to hold the government to account for failing to act in the summer and allowing a renewed surge of COVID-19 cases. NDP house leader Christina Gray said an all-party committee is needed to get to the bottom of what happened.
Nixon called the ask “completely inappropriate” and a way of making political gain.
He estimated between 18 and 20 bills would be passed before Christmas, as well as a motion to debate equalization after referendum results are announced Tuesday.
With files from The Canadian Press