Proposed new labour law could make it easier for professional Canadians to move to Alberta

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Canadian professionals like doctors, tradespeople and engineers looking to move to Alberta could soon have more certainty in how long it will take to get their credentials approved.

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If passed, Bill 49, the Labour Mobility Act, would require that the regulatory authorities for more than 100 professions take no more than 10 business days to acknowledge receipt of an application from someone who is already certified elsewhere in Canada, 20 business days to make a decision, and another 10 to let the person know the result of that decision.

It would make Alberta the first jurisdiction in Canada to legislate these types of decision timelines.

At a press conference Monday prior to the legislation being tabled on the first day of the fall sitting, Premier Jason Kenney said that the wait to be approved to work in Alberta currently can sometimes take as long as six to 12 months after an applicant has already completed all of the required paperwork.

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“When you’re an Albertan and 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,” Kenney said.

“And so what we’re saying through this legislation is let’s stop second guessing each other in Canada.”

Some professions where there are significant differences in the scope of practice around Canada will need their own set of regulations to go with the bill, Kenney said. Those regulations have not been written yet.

Kenney said the “single greatest engine of economic growth and diversification of Alberta’s economy in recent decades” has been population growth and that companies’ primary concern is whether they will have enough skilled workers to meet the demands of growth.

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“This will be a growth opportunity for job creators in sectors where there simply are not enough skilled Albertans. In turn, having the necessary skills and talent in our province will make Alberta a more attractive destination for not just workers, but for investment and businesses,” he said.

David MacLean, vice president of Alberta and Saskatchewan Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said his members’ top concern is the attraction and retention of skilled labour and that he applauds the government for making the change.

“Manufacturers quite simply need every tool at their disposal to meet the needs of growth to grow the sector in the future,” he said at the press conference.

As part of its 2019 election platform the UCP government promised to “Work with other provinces and territories to better harmonize provincial mobility for apprentices and skilled tradespeople.”

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According to a 2020 C.D. Howe Institute report, improving labour mobility could add approximately $2.8 billion per year to Alberta’s GDP if the province is able to reduce the cost of moving to Alberta by one-third of one per cent

“If one of those transaction costs is that you can’t get certified to work in your trade or profession, where it takes months, or worse years, to get that approval, then obviously, that’s a massive cost,” Kenney said.

“So if we can move from a uncertain, opaque regulatory process to more or less European-Union-style, automatic and reciprocal recognition of Canadian credentials, that will be a game changer.”

More to come

ajoannou@postmedia.com

twitter.com/ashleyjoannou

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