The good news is Canada is experiencing its lowest unemployment rate in 34 years. The bad news is our nation faces a serious shortage of skilled labour that threatens to impede our economy. This shortage is very evident in Prince George-Peace River.
Our flourishing natural resources sector has created a surge in demand for skilled tradespeople and that need is only going to become greater. To ensure economic opportunities are not wasted simply due to a manpower shortage, Canada must step up efforts to train a skilled workforce.
Locally, I was pleased to participate this June in announcing a federal investment of $800,000 in the Oil and Gas Training centre of Excellence at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John. By 2008, this program will train an additional 200 highly-skilled workers for the oil and gas industry and create 43 full-time positions.
Our Conservative government has also acted immediately to put in place programs that will encourage and expand Canada?s skilled workforce.
Already effective May 2nd, the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit provides eligible employers with a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in the first two years of their contract to a maximum credit of $2,000 per apprentice per year.
Effective January 1, 2007, the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant will provide a cash grant of $1,000 per year to apprentices in the first two years of an apprenticeship program in the Red Seal Trades and other economically strategic apprenticeship programs. We are working with the provinces and territories, employers and unions to best determine which other apprenticeship programs will be included in this initiative.
A complete list of Red Seal Trades can be found at www.red-seal.ca. It includes roughly 45 trades from mechanics to carpenters to machinists to electricians. I encourage you to consult the website to see if your trade is listed.
While the number of job opportunities for young Canadians may indeed be the largest in three decades, many of these jobs are low-paying with limited opportunities for advancement. The Apprenticeship Incentive Grant, along with the proposed tax credit for employers will provide a strong incentive for more young Canadians to pursue apprenticeships. It?s a win for young Canadians looking for a brighter career and it?s a win for local businesses and our economy as it will help to address the skilled labour shortage.
To further support our skilled trades, the Conservative budget established a Tools Deduction which will allow a tax deduction of up to $500 to tradespeople for the cost of tools in excess of $1,000 that they purchase at their own expense as a condition of employment. We also increased the limit on the cost of tools eligible for the 100-percent capital deduction from $200 to $500. This measure will provide tax relief and reduce red tape for self-employed tradespersons and small businesses.
If you would like more information on any of these programs which deliver on our government?s commitment to support the skilled trades and our business community, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact my office at 1-800-661-1183.