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Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Mandate Letter

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December 16, 2021

Office of the Prime Minister

Dear Minister Qualtrough:

Thank you for continuing to serve Canadians as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.

From the beginning of this pandemic, Canadians have faced a once-in-a-century challenge. And through it all, from coast to coast to coast, people have met the moment. When it mattered most, Canadians adapted, helped one another, and stayed true to our values of compassion, courage and determination. That is what has defined our path through this pandemic so far. And that is what will pave our way forward.

During a difficult time, Canadians made a democratic choice. They entrusted us to finish the fight against COVID-19 and support the recovery of a strong middle class. At the same time, they also gave us clear direction: to take bold, concrete action to build a healthier, more resilient future. That is what Canadians have asked us to do and it is exactly what our Government is ready to deliver. We will work to build that brighter future through continued collaboration, engagement, and the use of science and evidence-based decision-making. With an unwavering focus on delivering results, we will work constructively with Parliamentarians and maintain our strong partnerships with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and Indigenous partners. This decade has had an incredibly difficult start, but this is the moment to rebuild a more resilient, inclusive and stronger country for everyone.

The science is clear. Canadians have been clear. We must not only continue taking real climate action, we must also move faster and go further. As Canadians are increasingly experiencing across the country, climate change is an existential threat. Building a cleaner, greener future will require a sustained and collaborative effort from all of us. As Minister, I expect you to seek opportunities within your portfolio to support our whole-of-government effort to reduce emissions, create clean jobs and address the climate-related challenges communities are already facing.

This year, Canadians were horrified by the discovery of unmarked graves and burial sites near former residential schools. These discoveries underscore that we must move faster on the path of reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. We know that reconciliation cannot come without truth and our Government will continue to invest in that truth. As Ministers, each of us has a duty to further this work, both collectively and as individuals. Consequently, I am directing every Minister to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to advance their rights.

We must continue to address the profound systemic inequities and disparities that remain present in the core fabric of our society, including our core institutions. To this effect, it is essential that Canadians in every region of the country see themselves reflected in our Government’s priorities and our work. As Minister, I expect you to include and collaborate with various communities, and actively seek out and incorporate in your work, the diverse views of Canadians. This includes women, Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized Canadians, newcomers, faith-based communities, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2 Canadians, and, in both official languages.

Across our work, we remain committed to ensuring that public policies are informed and developed through an intersectional lens, including applying frameworks such as Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) and the quality of life indicators in decision-making.

Canadians continue to rely on journalists and journalism for accurate and timely news. I expect you to maintain professional and respectful relationships with journalists to ensure that Canadians are well informed and have the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Canadians and their governments have adapted to new realities. Governments must draw on lessons learned from the pandemic to further adapt and develop more agile and effective ways to serve Canadians. To this end, I expect all Ministers to evaluate ways we can update our practices to ensure our Government continues to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

The success of this Parliament will require Parliamentarians, both in the House of Commons and the Senate, to work together across all parties to get big things done for Canadians. I expect you to maintain constructive relationships with your Opposition Critics and coordinate any legislation with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. As Minister, you are accountable to Parliament both individually, for your style of leadership and the performance of your responsibilities, and collectively, in support of our Ministry and decisions taken by Cabinet. Open and Accountable Government sets out these core principles and the standards of conduct expected of you and your office. I expect you to familiarize yourself with this document, which outlines my expectations for each member of the Ministry.

Our platform lays out an ambitious agenda. While finishing the fight against the pandemic must remain our central focus, we must continue building a strong middle class and work toward a better future where everyone has a real and fair chance at success and no one is left behind.

As Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, your immediate priority is to support workers whose work has been interrupted by public health measures. I also expect you to build a better, more inclusive employment insurance system, complete and advance early and significant actions under Canada’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan, and help workers and communities prosper as we move to net-zero, including through the launch of a Clean Jobs Training Centre.

To realize these objectives, I ask that you achieve results for Canadians by delivering the following commitments.

  • Secure passage and ensure implementation of a new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit to support workers whose work is interrupted due to public health measures.
  • Work with the Minister of Health and provinces and territories to train up to 50,000 new personal support workers.
  • Move forward with the design, introduction and implementation of a Canada Disability Benefit Act and Canada Disability Benefit for low-income working age persons with disabilities.
  • Taking into account input received through consultations on the future of Employment Insurance (EI), by Summer 2022, bring forward and begin implementing a plan to modernize the EI system for the 21st century, building a stronger and more inclusive system that covers all workers, including workers in seasonal employment and persons employed by digital platforms, ensuring the system is simpler and more responsive for workers and employers. In addition to moving forward with extending EI sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks, the plan will include:
    • A new EI benefit for self-employed Canadians that would provide unemployment assistance comparable to EI and lasting for as many as 26 weeks;
    • A new 15-week benefit for adoptive parents;
    • A new EI Career Insurance Benefit to provide long-tenured workers who have lost their job with additional income support while they reintegrate into the labour market; and
    • Consideration of the realities of artists and cultural workers.
  • Finalize and release Canada’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan, in consultation with the disability community, with early actions in key areas of financial security and employment, creating disability-inclusive spaces and adopting a modern approach to and common definition of disability across the Government of Canada. In addition to measures to be implemented by other ministers, actions will include:
    • Launching an employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities;
    • Undertaking a comprehensive review of access to federal disability programs, including for Canadians with mental health challenges;
    • Supporting national disability organizations to build capacity and partner in efforts to eliminate systemic barriers;
    • Advancing our commitment to permanently fund support services that ensure equitable access to reading and other published works for Canadians with print disabilities; and
    • Proceeding with the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act and the harmonization of accessibility standards across Canada.
  • Permanently eliminate federal interest on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans, increase the repayment assistance threshold to $50,000 for Canada Student Loan borrowers who are single and make appropriate adjustments to the thresholds for other family sizes, and allow new parents to pause repayment of their federal student loans until their youngest child reaches the age of five.
  • Increase by 50 per cent the maximum debt forgiveness for which family doctors, residents in family medicine, nurse practitioners and nurses who work in rural or remote areas are eligible under the Canada Student Loans Forgiveness program, expand the current list of eligible professionals and undertake a review to ensure that rural communities are fully eligible in order to improve access to health care and social services in rural communities.
  • To support the future and livelihood of workers and their communities in the transition to a low carbon economy:
    • Support the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Labour in moving forward with legislation and comprehensive action to achieve a Just Transition, guided by consultations with workers, unions, Indigenous Peoples, employers, communities, and provinces and territories;
    • Launch a Clean Jobs Training Centre to help workers across sectors upgrade or gain new skills so as to be on the leading edge of the zero carbon industry;
    • Redesign and implement the Canada Training Benefit; and
    • Address gaps in training and upskilling to ensure that all Canadian workers can take advantage of sustainable battery industry opportunities.
  • Double the Union Training and Innovation Program to support more apprenticeship training opportunities and partnerships in the Red Seal trades across Canada, and target greater participation from more diverse populations, including women, Indigenous people, newcomers, persons with disabilities, and Black and racialized Canadians. Continue to advance the Canadian Apprenticeship Service in partnership with provinces, territories, employers and unions so that Red Seal apprentices have sufficient work experience opportunities, including with small and medium-sized employers, to finish their training on time and find well-paying jobs.
  • Continue to support the work of the national campaign to promote the skilled trades as first choice careers for young people and diverse populations.
  • With the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, establish a Trusted Employer system for Canadian companies hiring temporary foreign workers and, as part of improving the Global Talent Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, simplify permit renewals, uphold the two-week processing time and establish an employer hotline. Continue to work with provinces, territories and regulatory bodies to improve foreign credential recognition.
  • With the support of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, implement sector-based work permits and strengthen the inspection regime to ensure the health and safety of temporary foreign workers.
  • Support the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in developing a sector-specific Agricultural Labour Strategy to address persistent and chronic labour shortages in farming and food processing in the short and long term.
  • Make it easier for women and vulnerable groups to access training by requiring businesses supported through the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program to include wrap-around supports.
  • Support the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth in the evaluation process of GBA Plus with the goal of enhancing the framing and parameters of this analytical tool, and with particular attention to the intersectional analysis of race, indigeneity, rurality, disability and sexual identity, among other characteristics.

As Minister, you are also responsible for actively engaging with your Cabinet and Caucus colleagues. As we deliver on our platform commitments, it will be important that members of the Ministry continue to collaborate and work constructively to support rigorous and productive Cabinet decision-making. I expect you to support your colleagues in delivering their commitments, leveraging the expertise of your department and your own lived experiences.

To best achieve results for Canadians, Ministers must be rigorous and coordinated in our approach to implementation. I would therefore ask that you return to me with a proposed approach for the delivery of your mandate commitments, including priorities for early implementation. Furthermore, to ensure we are accountable for our work, I will be asking you to publicly report to me, and all Canadians, on your progress toward these commitments on a regular basis.

As we have been reminded throughout the pandemic, adapting to change is not only something government should do, it is something government must do. As you work to fulfil our commitments, I expect you to actively consider new ideas and issues as they emerge, whether through public engagement, your work with Parliamentarians or advice from the public service. I also expect you to work with your Deputy Minister to assess priorities on a continual basis as we build a better future for all Canadians. In addition to achieving results, you are responsible for overseeing the work of your department and ensuring the effective operation of your portfolio.

As you staff your office and implement outreach and recruitment strategies for federally appointed leadership positions and boards, I ask that you uphold the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion. This helps ensure that federal workplaces are dynamic and reflective of the Canadians we serve. You will also ensure your Minister’s office and portfolio are reflective of our commitment to healthy and safe workplaces.

Canadians expect us to work hard, speak truthfully and be committed to advancing their interests and aspirations. When we make mistakes – as we all will – Canadians expect us to acknowledge them, and most importantly, to learn from them.

I know I can count on you to fulfill the important responsibilities entrusted in you, and to turn to me, and the Deputy Prime Minister, early and often to support you in your role as Minister.


Prime Minister of Canada signature

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada