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Barriers to labour mobility in Canada remain a problem, even though Canadian governments have taken steps to reduce them, according to a study released today by the C.D. Howe Institute. In “Who Can Work Where: Reducing Barriers to Labour Mobility in Canada,” author Robert Knox says Canada’s regulated professions and skilled trades, which represent about 11 percent of the workforce, face barriers to mobility that have negative implications for the country’s productivity, labour supply and future economic prospects.                    

“Like the rest of the world, Canada will face a labour crunch in the next 10 years. Unless Canada ensures that its professionals and skilled workers can work anywhere in the country, it could limit our ability to attract the people our economy needs,” said Robert Knox. 

While Canadian governments have made progress in addressing the issue through revising the relevant chapter in the Agreement on Internal trade (AIT), problems remain. Diverse certification and occupational standards are still an obstacle to mobility across provincial borders. For instance, registered psychiatric nurses are not recognized east of Manitoba; foot specialists, podiatrists and chiropodists are recognized in some provinces but not others; and certified general accountants and certified management accountants who practice public accounting outside Ontario cannot be licensed as public accountants in Ontario. These are just three examples of professions that are recognized in some provinces but not others. Provinces can, and have, sought exceptions to the qualifications that they otherwise mutually recognize, and these exceptions are difficult to change. And professionals and workers in skilled trades who are certified in one province, but not another, have no low-cost, timely method of appealing the rejection of their qualifications in the second province.

The author makes several recommendations to broaden the AIT’s labour mobility chapter and make it more effective. He says governments should establish a national administrative appeal tribunal to resolve disputes between applicants and regulators. The tribunal should be accessible, transparent, low cost and quick, he says. 

For the study go to: http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/backgrounder_131.pdf 

For more information contact: 

Robert Knox, principal, R.H. Knox & Associates; 519-922-3459
Finn Poschmann, Vice President Research, C.D. Howe Institute;
 416-865-1904.