While nearly one in three Canadian businesses is reporting labour shortages, Alberta is taking steps to make it easier for professionals certified in over 100 occupations to move to the province. Currently, these professionals wait between six and 12 months for their credentials from other provinces to be recognized. Thus, highly proficient Canadian-trained professionals like doctors and nurses are forced to wait in limbo before they are able to put their skills to work.
The government of Alberta has decided that this delay imposes too large a cost.
Introduced in the legislature on Oct. 25, Bill 49, the Labour Mobility Act , calls for regulatory authorities to take a maximum of 40 days to process the credentials of workers already certified elsewhere in Canada. The bill is expected to attract skilled workers by streamlining and standardizing these processes.
Back in 2019, Jason Kenney pledged to “Work with other provinces and territories to better harmonize provincial mobility for apprentices and skilled tradespeople.” This move is a step in that direction and is expected to draw nurses, doctors and other in-demand professionals to the province at a time when they are sorely needed.
People move between provinces for a whole range of reasons, but in deciding whether to do so, they consider the associated costs. Lengthy processing times resulting from administrative and regulatory hurdles are an added cost to migration, and waiting half a year or more before being able to work in your profession is a major disincentive to move. These costs, incurred by Canadian-trained professionals, ultimately serve as barriers to interprovincial trade. These processing times and other administrative and regulatory barriers hamper labour mobility within Canada, to the detriment of all Canadians.
Bill 49 addresses the barrier to interprovincial trade that arises with delayed processing and recognition of credentials earned in other provinces, and is part of a broader strategy to reduce barriers to trade within Canada. While there are no internal tariffs between provinces, over time, each province and territory has introduced laws and regulations that hobble the movement of goods and services across borders.
The Canadian Free Trade Agreement, signed in 2017, was intended to reduce and eliminate these barriers to the free movement of goods and services within Canada. However, in general, the progress of the signatories has been disappointing, with only Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario having since progressed in the spirit of the agreement and reduced the number of barriers they maintain.
Ontario recently announced proposed legislation to help attract skilled workers from abroad, which was surely welcome news to internationally trained professionals who face layers of occupational and regulatory requirements that act as barriers to beginning their careers in Canada. However, this will do little to address inter provincial trade barriers, the elimination of which would be equivalent to an estimated 3.8 per cent increase in Canada’s GDP per capita.
Alberta is currently the only province that will legislate timelines for these regulatory decisions and reduce this administrative barrier to labour mobility. Considering that every thousand additional workers that move into Alberta in response to lower migration costs can grow the economy by $141 million, this move is an advantageous one.
Alberta has been a leader in eliminating barriers to interprovincial free trade in the context of the CFTA. Other provinces should follow Alberta’s lead in this matter. With the need for a post-COVID economic rebound, eliminating trade barriers is low-hanging fruit that every province should pick.
Krystle Wittevrongel is a Public Policy Analyst at the MEI. The views reflected in this opinion piece are her own.