Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion - 2021

Dear Minister Qualtrough:

We would like to take this opportunity to welcome you back to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Please accept our congratulations on your appointment as the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. We look forward to working with you to serve Canadians, support them through recovery and advance government priorities.

You are joining the Department during a period of uncertainty for the country as we look to emerge from the pandemic and accelerate efforts on economic growth, all while continuing to support Canadians. As Deputy Ministers of ESDC, we are at your disposal as your primary source of non partisan advice and professional expertise on issues that fall under your responsibility. We are your principal point of contact, providing a gateway into the Department and supporting you at every step of the policy development cycle. We will also be responsible for implementing the ambitious agenda set out in your platform.

You have responsibilities for 1 of the largest departments within the Government of Canada. ESDC covers 3 portfolios: Employment and Social Development, Service Canada, and the Labour Program. With over 35,000 public servants, 74% of whom work outside of the National Capital Region, and the vast majority currently working remotely, the Department’s operations touch the lives of Canadians at every stage of life, across the entire country.

In 2019 to 2020, the Department delivered $135.2 billion in direct benefits to Canadians, including $1.7 billion in grants and contributions funding across more than 30 programs. This represented 6.15% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2020 to 2021, departmental spending increased dramatically to support Canadians through the COVID 19 pandemic. ESDC provided $92.1 billion in emergency funding alone through a series of measures, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, the Canada recovery benefits, and the 1 time payment for seniors, among others.

We look forward to providing you with in depth briefings on files requiring your attention in the short and medium term. These briefings, which will be tailored to support your specific interests and priorities, will help inform the decisions you will need to make to implement your platform commitments, previous priorities, as well as priorities that are a part of normal departmental business.

To prepare you for these discussions, this letter provides you with our preliminary analysis of your platform commitments and initial advice on how we can implement your agenda. We have also set out below an overview of the operational context, your key responsibilities as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, some early decisions we will be seeking from you, as well as other items you may wish to considerFootnote 1.

Your role and responsibilities

As Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, you are responsible for programs and initiatives that support Canadians looking to join the labour market for the first time, to re enter the workforce or to upgrade their skills. These include programs focused on helping Canadians, particularly those facing barriers to employment, make a successful transition into the labour market, support skills development and employment training to Indigenous peoples.

As Federal and Provincial/Territorial governments share responsibility for skills training and employment supports, 1 of your roles, working in collaboration with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, is to lead the policy framework for the labour market funding transfers to Provinces and Territories. Provinces and Territories use this funding to design and deliver programs tailored to regional and local labour market conditions. Helping students from low and middle income families pay for the cost of post secondary education through student financial assistance initiatives is another of your key responsibilities.

You are also responsible for programs that provide grants and contributions. Specifically, the Social Development Partnerships Program Disability Component supports projects aimed at fostering the participation and integration of persons with disabilities in Canadian society, and the Enabling Accessibility Fund provides funding for capital projects that increase accessibility for people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces. Other programs, such as the Opportunities Fund, assist persons with disabilities to prepare for, obtain and maintain employment. You will also administer the Canada Disability Savings Program, which helps persons with severe and prolonged disabilities and their families to save for the future.

One of your key responsibilities as Minister responsible for persons with disabilities will be to oversee the effective implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, which takes a proactive and systemic approach to the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility within federal jurisdiction. The objective of this ambitious legislation is to achieve a barrier free Canada by 2040. You are also responsible for moving forward an employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities and a better process to determine eligibility for government disability programs and benefits. Other areas of responsibility and support to other Ministers’ mandates are included in your mandate letter.

A. ESDC at a glance

Your briefing package highlights the breadth of our mandate, from setting up an education savings plan for a newborn to receiving a pension from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

The Department is either directly responsible for delivering these programs or works with key partners, such as the provinces and territories, other Government of Canada departments and the voluntary and non profit sector, to ensure Canadians have the social and economic supports they need. Some of ESDC’s programs focus on systemically disadvantaged populations to address inequalities and reduce participation gaps in the economy and in society. Given the nature of its mandate, ESDC is 1 of the few government departments at the crossroads of most social and economic policies.

ESDC is also a pillar of the Government’s service and benefit delivery infrastructure. Service Canada provides services and information to communities across the country and plays an essential role in reaching all Canadians regardless of where they live. The Department also delivers benefits to communities more broadly, through funding programs for community organizations that provide local solutions to Canada’s social challenges.

Finally, the Labour Program promotes a fair, safe, healthy and productive work environment through workplace legislation and regulations. The Labour Program is under the responsibility of the Minister of Labour.

Your briefing package includes infographics that depict the context you will be working in and the major issues relevant to our Department, including a number of those touched on below.

B. Canada’s economic and social landscape

Economic recovery

Prior to COVID 19, the Canadian labour market was performing well. Although Canada and other developed countries were experiencing slow economic growth (annual GDP growth at 2%, lower than historic trends), the labour market was creating new jobs at an impressive pace and the unemployment rate was near an all time low. At the same time, many employers were reporting shortages of skilled workers.

In less than 8 weeks, COVID 19 shifted Canada’s economy and labour market dramatically from a position of strength to weakness. By April 2020, 3 million Canadians had lost their jobs and another 2.5 million saw their work hours significantly reduced. Canada’s GDP saw its largest contraction in recent history, leaving few industries unscathed. Small businesses were hit particularly hard with over 40% of them reporting losing more than 20% of their revenue compared to the previous year.

Close contact businesses, such as retail, restaurants, and performing arts, witnessed even more severe revenue losses. These industries employ women, young people and racialized persons in greater proportion than the rest of the economy. As a result, those Canadians who faced labour market barriers before the pandemic have been more severely impacted.

Despite this major contraction, the Canadian economy has shown resilience and economic forecasts for continued growth are promising. As of September 2021, employment was back to pre pandemic levels (19.1 million). However, there were still 1.4 million Canadians who were unemployed, an increase of 276,000 relative to pre pandemic levels. Economic uncertainty is still a concern as Canada is facing many potential challenges, including a new wave of COVID 19 currently driven by the Delta variant, supply chain disruptions to production and consumption of goods in Canada and shifting consumer demand, for instance increased use of e commerce, which requires enterprises to revise their business models.

The unusual nature of this current economic slowdown, driven by public health restrictions on economic activity rather than broader macroeconomic forces, means that a full recovery in many sectors will likely occur more quickly than would be typical. Canada could quickly pivot in the short term from elevated unemployment levels to low unemployment and labour shortages in many sectors and industries.

In fact, the labour market is already rapidly tightening in some sectors, and employers are finding it challenging to hire workers. Some of these challenges can be attributed to the fact that the economy is still in a period of adjustment, as a number of sectors reopened during the summer, and the process of matching available jobs with qualified workers is not an immediate one. Furthermore, recovery is likely to occur in an uneven manner across regions, and also across sectors. For example, hospitality, tourism and the arts continue to be constrained by public health measures. Finally, Canadians facing pre pandemic barriers and in precarious or impacted sectors risk falling further behind during the recovery period.

Changing nature of work and skills

Many of the trends that were putting pressure on the labour market prior to the pandemic (for example, technology, globalization and climate change) are likely to either continue or accelerate. The pandemic has hastened the trend towards automation, as many employers found themselves with reduced and unpredictable access to workers. The risk of automation related job transformation in Canada is higher for several groups of the population, including low skilled workers (individuals without post secondary credentials) and older workers, who are over represented in roles that are routine in nature and vulnerable to automation.

Certain populations, such as Indigenous peoples, are at greater risk of being left further behind in the future labour market. Nearly two thirds of jobs held by Indigenous workers are facing a skills overhaul, as data, robotics and advanced technologies drive transformational change in sectors that many Indigenous peoples depend on for work (for example, construction, retail and agriculture). The global shift towards low carbon economies will also mean that certain roles are either eliminated, changed, or created as new opportunities in clean energy emerge.

The trend towards jobs requiring higher skills is projected to continue in the future. From 2019 to 2028, about 75% of employment growth is expected to be in high skill occupations. Growth in high skilled employment has outpaced growth in low skilled employment in the industrialized world over the past 30 years. Moreover, 45% of Canadians do not have the literacy and numeracy skill levels required to perform well in the majority of jobs.

New approaches to skills development and adult upskilling or reskilling could facilitate employee retention and are often better linked to the demands of the workplace. A broad range of advanced skills will be needed to foster a dynamic economic recovery and ensure a more resilient and globally competitive economy over the longer term.

There is strong evidence that investments in training improve work attachment and earnings outcomes, and reduce dependence on government income support, such as Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and social assistance. Canada has 1 of the most educated workforces in the world and is above the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average with respect to participation in adult education and training. However, Canada does not invest as much as peer jurisdictions in training as a share of GDP.

The cost of training or lack of time because of work and family responsibilities impede some Canadians from pursuing learning and training activities and adapting to the changing skill needs of the labour market. Moreover, those who receive the least amount of training tend to be those who face the greatest employment challenges (for example, low paid or low skilled).

Canada’s labour force

In recent decades, a relatively youthful demographic distribution and increased labour force participation (principally driven by more women entering the workforce) have been significant drivers of economic growth. However, Canada, along with many industrialized countries, has an aging population. An increasing number of older Canadians have remained in, or have returned to, the labour force in recent decades. The share of workers aged 55 and over among all workers has doubled over the last 20 years (22.1% of all workers in 2020 compared to 10.4% in 2000). For seniors over 65 years, there has been a rise in labour force participation from 6% in 2000 to 13.8% in 2020. Nevertheless, Canada’s aging population will put downward pressure on labour force participation.

The coming decades will see labour force shortages and skills mismatches combine to act as a drag on productivity and economic growth. Upskilling and reskilling workers, increasing skilled immigration intake, growing the number of new graduates and increasing labour market inclusion of under represented groups, such as persons with disabilities, youth, visible minorities and Indigenous peoples, will be essential to addressing labour shortages and driving growth across the country. Fostering greater labour market inclusion of women continues to represent an opportunity to generate economic growth. In 2019, the labour force participation rate of women (61.3%) was 8.8% less than men (70.1%). This represents 1.4 million women (aged 15 or over) who could potentially join the labour force if their participation rate matched that of men.

Women with young children in the labour force were among those hardest hit by COVID 19. When schools and child care centres closed during the first wave of the pandemic, the employment of women with young children dropped. While employment among these mothers initially showed some recovery towards the end of 2020 with the gradual re opening of the economy, schools and child care centres, employment levels fell again as strict public health measures were re imposed to fight subsequent waves of the pandemic.

As of August 2021, employment recovery of women with young children is still lagging. Employment among women with toddlers or school aged children fell 7% between February and May 2020 compared to a decline of 4% among fathers of children of the same age. Single mothers were even more significantly impacted, with employment among this cohort down 12% from February to June 2020 compared to a 7% decline among single fathers. Despite absorbing 51% of job losses in March and April of 2020, women accounted for just 45% of job gains in May and June as economic activity restarted. The pandemic has pushed women’s participation in the labour force down to its lowest level in 3 decades.

Women’s participation in the labour force seems to be highly influenced by access to affordable, high quality child care. In 2020, the employment rate was the highest in Quebec (77%), which has a low fee, high quality early learning and child care system, but was lower in Alberta (66%), Ontario and British Columbia (67%) and Saskatchewan (68%), where access to high quality and affordable child care is more limited.

The pandemic has also underscored gaps in public income support for many Canadians, including uneven coverage across the country for many part time workers, as well as no coverage for job loss for self employed workers, including gig workers. The EI program was not designed to account for the realities of today’s labour market and workforce, where a significant proportion of Canadians are engaged in non traditional forms of employment and work arrangements.

In 2019, approximately 37% of the Canadian workforce was in non standard forms of employment (for example, temporary, part time or self employed with no employees). Temporary emergency measures such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit were introduced to support these workers during the pandemic.

Economic and social inclusion

It is likely that recovery from COVID 19 will continue to accentuate gaps and inequalities in employment and education for many Canadians (for example, people from low income communities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and Black and racialized persons). These barriers act as a drag on economic growth, as well as increase spending on social services and lost tax revenue.

Aging population

There are just under 7 million people over the age of 65 in Canada, representing 18% of the population. By the end of the 2030s, close to one quarter of Canadians will be 65 years of age or older. The share of Canadians aged 75 and older is expected to rise even faster, from 7.6% of the population in 2020 to 12.5% by 2036. Canada’s aging population is expected to not only limit the size of the labour force growth, but also highlight additional factors related to economic and social inclusion.

Compared to previous generations, Canada’s seniors are living longer and healthier, working and volunteering at higher rates. However, the pandemic has had significant impacts on seniors. While seniors already faced major social and health risks, such as physical injuries, dementia, social isolation and elder abuse, they have also had the highest rates of hospitalization and deaths due to COVID 19. Quarantine measures have also adversely affected seniors by causing further social isolation. The impacts are particularly severe for seniors in long term care facilities.

The proportion of seniors living below the poverty line declined from 7% in 2015 to 5.4% in 2019. This was the lowest rate among socio economic groups in Canada and is 1 of the lowest levels of poverty for seniors among all Organisation for Economic Co operation and Development countries. Federal programs, such as the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the CPP (in Quebec, the Quebec Pension Plan), provincial and territorial income supplements, along with workplace pension plans and personal savings, have provided seniors with the financial supports to meet their basic needs and reduce their risk of living in poverty. The Department is working with Indigenous Services Canada and others to improve our understanding of the income situation of Indigenous seniors.

While seniors are working longer, living longer also means that individuals will require more savings to fund a longer retirement period, increasing the risk of outliving their financial resources. The Government has strengthened the Retirement Income System through different measures. Seniors’ financial situation is also heavily influenced by ownership of assets.

Persons with disabilities

In 2017, persons with disabilities made up 22% of the Canadian population. This proportion is only expected to increase with an aging population and changing attitudes towards self identification of disabilities. Persons with disabilities report similar levels of apprenticeship and trade education compared to the general population and are more likely to have a college, CEGEP or other non university certificate or diploma.

Nevertheless, before the pandemic, working age persons with disabilities were twice as likely to be living in poverty as the general population. Persons with disabilities have the lowest employment rate among under represented groups (21% lower than the general population) and significantly lower median employment income than other Canadians. At the same time, the situation of most poor working age Canadians with disabilities tends to improve significantly once they reach 65 years and transfer onto federal benefits (from 21% for working age with disabilities to 9% for persons with disabilities 65 years and older).

Health, social and economic outcomes worsened for persons with disabilities during the pandemic. The pandemic has affected employment and creates additional financial pressures for persons with disabilities, with a third reporting a temporary or permanent job loss or loss of income. Almost half of persons with disabilities report worse overall health compared to before COVID 19, which is even higher for visible minorities with a disability. This may be due to factors such as requiring close human interaction for support, having underlying health conditions, or being more likely to be hospitalized.


Overall, young Canadians are increasingly educated, connected and diverse. The employment rate for youth (15 to 24 year olds) in 2019 was among the highest in the world, while post secondary education enrolment remains robust (1.5 million students) and has increased by 3.8% from (2019 to 2020) to (2020 to 2021). While the cost of post secondary education is rising, student debt has remained stable for over a decade, in fact, in real dollars, the average Canada Student Loan debt has declined by 11% since 2009.

Nevertheless, many young people face challenges making successful transitions from school to work and gaps remain in educational outcomes. Youth from under represented groups, including Indigenous youth, immigrants, racialized youth and young persons with disabilities, have relatively higher unemployment rates. Under represented youth also have disproportionately higher high school dropout rates and lower post secondary education attainment rates.

There is uncertainty regarding the impact of the pandemic on the educational and employment outcomes for youth, who might be faced with long term economic exclusion and scarring that reduces their earnings potential and career opportunities. Impacts of past recessions have had lasting effects on the economic prosperity of youth. Impacts are likely to be more severe and longer term for those young people who were already struggling before the pandemic. For example, youth with disabilities were impacted earlier, more severely and for longer than those without disabilities in the recessions of the 1990s and of the 2000s.

Indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples face economic and social exclusion in a number of different facets of life. The median before tax income of Indigenous peoples in 2016 was $25,526 compared to $34,604 for the non Indigenous population. Indigenous peoples are also less likely to attend post secondary education than other Canadians and 23% report overt experiences of discrimination. Indigenous mothers are more likely to engage in unpaid work, such as caring for children or relatives, than non Indigenous mothers. Indigenous peoples are the youngest demographic group in Canada—about 44% were under age 25 in 2016 (compared to 28% of the non Indigenous population).

Over a third of Indigenous peoples, a group already facing an elevated poverty rate, reported that the pandemic caused them financial instability (compared to a quarter of non Indigenous peoples). Establishing clearer pathways to education and employment for Indigenous peoples, as well as more integrated supports in areas such as child care, could be a driver of broader economic growth and also mitigate some of the complex socio economic challenges that they continue to face.

Charitable and non profit sector

The community based charitable and non profit sector plays a vital role contributing to the fabric of Canadian society, providing essential community based services and social programming, employing over 580,000 people (80% of whom are women, while a significant amount are seniors), and contributing $30.3 billion (1.26%) to Canada’s GDP. The COVID 19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the sector, leading to increased demand for the essential services it provides, amidst, in many cases, decreases in revenues, as well as in volunteer and staff resources.

The sector was supported by COVID 19 benefits, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and funding to deliver the Emergency Community Support Fund to the most vulnerable. Additional strategic investments are needed to help ensure the long term sustainability of the sector and allow it to adapt. It is vital that these organizations be able to address shifting community level needs and develop innovative and modern approaches in the wake of the pandemic.

C. Your platform commitments

To help deliver on your platform commitments, the Department has undertaken an initial analysis and we are putting forward our strategic advice on key priority themes. [Three sentences redacted]

Below is our early assessment of the major electoral commitments for which you are responsible.

Employment Insurance (EI) Reform

Move forward with a stronger and more inclusive EI system that addresses gaps made obvious during COVID 19. Based on the input received from consultations on the future of EI that are currently underway, bring forward a vision for a new and modern EI system that covers all workers, including workers in seasonal employment, and which is simpler and more responsive for both workers and employers.

Move forward on providing adoptive parents an additional 15 weeks of leave.

Establish an EI Career Insurance Benefit, which will be available to people who have worked continuously for the same employer for 5 or more years and are laid off when the business closes.

[Three paragraphs redacted]

In this regard, Budget 2021 committed to permanently extending the maximum duration of EI sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks, and the commitment was reiterated in the platform. [Three sentences redacted]

[Three paragraphs redacted]

[Two sentences redacted] As well, while Finance Canada is leading the platform commitment to introduce a new benefit for self employed Canadians, delivered through the tax system, ESDC is contributing related policy work to this initiative.

Matching workers with jobs

Double the Union Training and Innovation program to $50 million a year to support more apprenticeship training opportunities and additional partnerships in the Red Seal trades across Canada, and target more participation from women, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, persons with disabilities, and Black and racialized Canadians.

The Department is already working towards the realization of some of these commitments. A call for proposals under the Apprenticeship Service was launched in August 2021, with projects expected to begin in winter/spring 2022. The Apprenticeship Service is a key initiative under the new Canadian Apprenticeship Strategy (CAS), which aims to harmonize existing ESDC grants and contributions apprenticeship programs under this new streamlined approach.

[Two paragraphs redacted]

Establish a new Apprenticeship Service, which will connect 55,000 first year apprentices in Red Seal trades with opportunities at small and medium sized employers.

The Apprenticeship Service is a key initiative under the new CAS. A call for proposals under the Apprenticeship Service was launched in August 2021, with projects expected to begin in winter/spring 2022. Implementation of this measure is on track and is expected to create new work opportunities for 55,000 first year apprentices over the next 3 years.

Continue working with the provinces and territories to raise wages for personal support workers, including a guaranteed minimum wage of at least $25 per hour, and train up to 50,000 new personal support workers (PSW).

The shortage of PSWs has been a growing issue for several years, particularly in the context of an aging population. The COVID 19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges.

[One paragraph redacted]

ESDC is currently funding a pilot project to test a new recruitment and training model for up to 2,600 PSWs (online training and work placements), and to create national occupation standards for the profession. [One sentence redacted]

[Two paragraphs redacted]

Make it easier for women and vulnerable groups to access training by requiring businesses supported through the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program (SWSP) to include wrap around supports. This could include transportation to and from the training program, computers, food, referral to counselling, housing, and legal support, support in finding child care, and mentoring or coaching.

The SWSP has a flexible design that allows for project expenses for wrap around services, such as accommodation costs, child care costs, transportation costs, and expenses related to specialized services, arrangements or equipment, that support the participation of vulnerable groups. The SWSP supports both workers (for example, training) and employers (for example, employer solutions to attract and retain a diverse workforce) through a wide range of activities.

[One paragraph redacted]

Launch a Clean Jobs Training Centre to help workers upgrade or gain new skills to succeed in the net zero future.

[Three paragraphs redacted]

Invest $2 billion in a Futures Fund for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador to partner with local workers and communities to create jobs.

[Three paragraphs redacted]

Supporting students

Permanently eliminate the federal interest on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans to support young Canadians who choose to invest in post secondary education.

Increase the repayment assistance threshold to $50,000 for Canada Student Loan borrowers who are single.

Expand the number of family doctors and primary health teams in rural communities by increasing by 50% (from $40,000 up to $60,000 over 5 years) the maximum debt relief that family doctors, residents in family medicine, nurse practitioners, or nurses are eligible for under the Canada Student Loans forgiveness program.

Expand the Canada Student Loan Program’s current narrow list of eligible professionals to include the full workforce a community needs to succeed, including adding dentists, pharmacists, dental hygienists, midwives, social workers, psychologists, teachers, and early childhood educators to the Program.

Undertake a review to ensure that communities that are indeed rural are fully eligible under the Canada Student Loans forgiveness program.

Let new parents pause repayment of their federal student loans until their youngest child reaches the age of 5. This would also include new parents who have graduated but still have not finished paying off their loans.

[Five paragraphs redacted]

Support for Canadians with disabilities

As part of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, reintroduce and implement the Canada Disability Benefit Act, which will create a direct monthly payment, the Canada Disability Benefit for low income Canadians with disabilities ages 18 64.

Bill C 35 (the Canada Disability Benefit Act) was introduced in Parliament on June 22, 2021. Significant work is underway to develop the parameters of the Benefit and to engage with the provinces and territories on interactions with social assistance and disability income support measures.

[One paragraph redacted]

Engagement with the disability community, the public and stakeholders is important to determine the key design parameters of the Benefit. [One sentence redacted]

Undertake a comprehensive review of access to the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), CPP Disability (CPPD) and other federal benefits and programs to ensure they are available to people experiencing mental health challenges.

[One paragraph redacted]

The CPP statutory definition of disability and related adjudication policy are broad and not based on diagnosis. The combination of medical condition (physical or mental, or both), associated functional limitations, and personal characteristics, such as age, education and transferable skills, is used to determine eligibility and whether an individual is incapable of regularly pursuing any substantially gainful occupation.

Over the past 5 years, the CPPD has undertaken extensive work to facilitate program access for all applicants, including those with mental illness. Accomplishments include the launch of simplified application forms, an online application process leveraging My Service Canada Account, enhanced client engagement to explain eligibility decisions, and the development of evidence based guidance to support eligibility determination involving complex health conditions lacking corroborating objective medical evidence.

[One paragraph redacted]

Build on previous investments through the implementation of the first ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan, in consultation with the disability community.

Engagement on the development of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan has already begun, including roundtables with stakeholders and an online survey that was completed by over 8,000 Canadians. Continued engagement with academics, disability organizations, service providers, Indigenous peoples with disabilities and racialized persons with disabilities can provide insight on building back better and creating an inclusive society. [One sentence redacted]

[One paragraph redacted]

Make permanent funding to support services that ensure equitable access to reading and other published works for Canadians with print disabilities so that more Canadians are able to fully participate in these activities.

The 2020 Fall Economic Statement provided $10 million over 3 years to support the Centre for Equitable Library Access and the National Network for Equitable Library Service in the production of accessible format reading material. 3 year agreements are in place, however, the declining profile of funding and no ongoing source of funds has been criticized by the disability community. [One sentence redacted]

Proceed with the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act.

The Accessible Canada Act, which establishes a framework for the proactive identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility within entities subject to federal regulation, came into force on July 11, 2019.

Regulations are needed to operationalize the requirements in the Act and the first set of draft regulations, which deal with planning and reporting requirements and administrative monetary penalties, were published in February 2021. [One sentence redacted]

In addition, new positions created under the Accessible Canada Act are required to be filled in order to enforce various provisions of the Act and related regulations, or to monitor outcomes achieved. Selection processes to fill the positions of Accessibility Commissioner and Chief Accessibility Officer were launched in May 2021 and undertaken over the summer.

[One sentence redacted]

Harmonization of accessibility standards across Canada

[One paragraph redacted]

Accessibility Standards Canada, a departmental corporation established under the Accessible Canada Act in 2019, is developing a strategy to engage the provinces and territories in the development of federal accessibility standards. [One sentence redacted]

Skills and immigrant workers

Establish a Trusted Employer system to streamline the application process for Canadian companies hiring temporary foreign workers to fill labour shortages that cannot be filled by Canadian workers.

A Trusted Employer System would recognize employers who have committed to hiring as many Canadians as possible before turning to temporary foreign workers, while meeting program requirements that protect temporary foreign workers from abuse. [Two sentences redacted]

[One paragraph redacted]

Grow and improve the Global Talent Stream program by simplifying permit renewals, upholding the 2 week processing time, and establishing an employer hotline, to allow Canadian companies to attract and hire highly skilled workers.

Since its inception in 2017, the Global Talent Stream has supported nearly 3,500 employers in accessing over 12,800 in demand highly skilled positions to expand their workforce. The program includes a global talent list of in demand technical occupations determined to be in shortage in Canada. Through this program, the Department provides employers with access to a dedicated service delivery team to help them through the application process within 10 business days.

[One paragraph redacted]

Currently, employers looking for general information on the Stream or on the broader Temporary Foreign Worker Program can contact Service Canada’s Employer Contact Centre. [One sentence redacted]

D. Moving forward with items from the previous mandate

Although the Department has made substantial progress on the Government’s agenda over the last 2 years, there are still policies and programs from the previous mandate at various stages of implementation. Some of these initiatives are reiterated in the Government’s new platform and have been touched upon above, while others will require early decisions to advance. We will seek your direction on what new initiatives to prioritize in the near future given the ambitious scope of the agenda that is already underway.

We will brief you on the status of key files in the coming days and weeks, but below are some examples of ongoing work that will require your direction:

Budget 2021 committed to further investments to protect temporary foreign workers, including increased inspections and the creation of the Migrant Worker Support Program to fund community based organizations in providing migrant worker centric programs and services. [One sentence redacted].

[One paragraph redacted]

E. Partners you may wish to work with to advance your priorities

In your role as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, you will need to work with other federal colleagues, including those who are also responsible for elements of ESDC’s portfolio, to help advance the Government’s agenda. This includes working not only with them at the Cabinet table and in Cabinet committees, but also bilaterally on key commitments and programs.

ESDC has traditionally played a role in key initiatives led by other departments, such as the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Workers Benefit, and the Canada Child Benefit, in close collaboration with the Department of Finance and the Canada Revenue Agency. The Department also plays a key role in the development and implementation of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, in close collaboration with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Further details on platform commitments that other departments are anticipated to lead but that ESDC will play an important role in developing are outlined in Annex A.

You may also choose to engage with international colleagues through broader fora, such as the G20, the G7, the OECD, and the United Nations. These relationships are important for sharing knowledge, showcasing and advancing Canada’s labour market, social policy and learning priorities, as well as protecting and promoting Canada’s interests internationally.

Collaborating with Indigenous peoples, as well as the not for profit and community based sector will also be 1 of the main avenues for reaching target populations and ensuring Canadians have access to the supports and services they need.

Provincial and Territorial Fora

As the federal co chair of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Forum of Labour Market Ministers, your provincial and territorial counterparts will look forward to engaging with you to advance key files, such as reforming the EI system, as well as aligning skills and training with the labour market needs to ensure that Canada has a skilled, adaptable and inclusive workforce that supports the competitiveness of the economy.

In addition, as Minister Responsible for Disability Inclusion, your provincial and territorial counterparts will look forward to engaging with you on issues, such as supports to persons with disabilities and accessibility, which are discussed under the Forum of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services, co chaired by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. These files are areas of shared mandate. This is an opportunity to strengthen our relationship and work in close collaboration with our key partners, as well as help shape and influence the agenda going forward.

F. Challenges you may encounter in advancing your priorities

We would not be serving you well as your deputies if we did not bring to your attention the challenges that we will face as we work together towards implementing your priorities. We will need to have an early discussion on how to address these issues, while also moving forward on implementing your agenda.

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ESDC’s information technology (IT) underpins the delivery of financial support to millions of Canadians through programs such as Old Age Security (OAS), Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI). [Three sentences redacted].

The shift to online services during COVID 19 and the experiences with the commercial sector are driving client expectations for digital services. [Three sentences redacted]

[Two paragraphs redacted]

Canada Recovery Benefits

An important part of the Government of Canada’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic is the suite of Recovery Benefits, including the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB), and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). These benefits were introduced in recognition that many workers whose jobs were lost due to the pandemic were not eligible for regular Employment Insurance benefits, especially part time workers and the self employed, including gig workers, while others could not work due to extraordinary caregiving responsibilities not covered by EI, or because they were sick or required to self isolate.

The CRB is available for a maximum of 54 weeks, the CRCB for a maximum of 42 weeks, and the CRSB for a maximum of 4 weeks. It should be noted that workers who have exhausted the maximum 50 weeks of EI regular benefits could apply for up to 4 additional weeks of CRB, if they meet the eligibility criteria. The benefits are statutory in nature and are delivered under the authority of the Canada Recovery Benefits Act. You have the overall responsibility for the Canada Recovery Benefits, with the Canada Revenue Agency delivering the benefits.

The Recovery Benefits were scheduled to expire on October 23, 2021. On October 21st, the Government announced the intention to extend the CRSB and CRCB until May 7th, 2022. The proposed extension recognizes that Canada is still in the fourth wave of the pandemic and that the public health requirements to isolate or the need to stay at home to care for children whose school is closed could be in place for the foreseeable future. The Government used existing regulatory authorities under the CRB Act to extend these 2 benefits until November 20, 2021, but legislative amendments will be required to extend them further until May 7th 2022.

By contrast, the CRB was allowed to expire as scheduled. [Three sentences redacted]

[One sentence redacted] The announcement therefore included the Government’s intent to introduce a new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) to provide temporary income support to Canadians who lose their employment or face significant income reduction due to any future public health lockdowns to control COVID 19.

The new benefit will provide $300 per week to eligible affected workers for the entire duration of a lockdown, and would be effective October 24th, 2021. [Two sentences redacted]

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G. Expiring funding authorities and other key decisions

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EI Seasonal Claimant Initiative

Seasonal workers are an important part of Canada’s growing economy. To better support them, the Government of Canada has implemented a time limited initiative to provide up to 5 additional weeks of EI regular benefits to eligible seasonal workers in 13 targeted EI economic regions, which is scheduled to expire in fall 2022. [One sentence redacted]

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Your Welcome Package

You will find additional context and information on the range of issues under ESDC’s portfolio, specifically, you will find the following:

  • ESDC Departmental overview: an overview of the Department outlining in greater detail the information contained in this letter about who we are, what we do and who we serve
  • Infographics: a series of infographic placemats that provide a visual depiction of the environment in which ESDC operates and the issues we work to address
  • Early decisions: an overview of key priorities requiring your attention or decision in the following weeks and months, and
  • Dear Minister: A Letter to an Old Friend on Being a Successful Minister - this timeless letter by the former Clerk of the Privy Council, Mr. Gordon Osbaldeston, to his friend (a newly appointed minister) offers candid thoughts on what makes a successful minister.

Your Welcome Package also includes program and service delivery modules, for your information.

In closing, we would like to reiterate that you can count on our full support, as well as that of the entire Department, in implementing your priorities, meeting the challenges of your mandate, and navigating the uncertain times the Department is going through. Detailed program briefings will be organized for you in the coming days. We look forward to working with you.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer of Service Canada

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annex A: Platform commitments led by other departments that may involve ESDC

Expand the Canada Workers Benefit
Lead: Finance Canada

Introduce a new EI benefit for self employed Canadians through the tax system
Lead: Finance Canada

Establish an EI Career Insurance Benefit
Lead: Finance Canada

Introduce a new Labour Mobility Tax Credit
Lead: Finance Canada

Double the Home Accessibility Tax Credit
Lead: Finance Canada

Strengthen rights for workers employed by digital platforms so that they are entitled to job protections under the Canada Labour Code and establish new provisions in the Income Tax Act to ensure this work counts towards EI and CPP while also making these platforms pay associated contributions as any employer would.
Lead: Finance Canada

Undertake a comprehensive review of access to the DTC, CPPD and other federal benefits and programs to ensure they are available to people experiencing mental health challenges
Lead: Finance Canada

Support safer conditions for seniors and improved wages and working conditions for personal support workers
Lead: Health Canada/ Canada Revenue Agency

Establish a new federal transfer to provinces and territories—the Canada Mental Health Transfer—to assist jurisdictions to expand the delivery of high quality, accessible, and free mental health services
Lead: Health Canada

Reform economic immigration programs to expand pathways to Permanent Residence for temporary foreign workers and former international students through the Express Entry points system
Lead: Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada

End Gender Based Violence
Lead: Women and Gender Equality Canada

Improving Diversity in the Public Service
Lead: Public Service Commission of Canada

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