Trudeau Weighs in on Temporary Foreign Worker Program
OTTAWA –This summer Justin Trudeau added his voice to critics of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The Liberal Party leader says the federal government must work more closely with the provinces on immigration matters, especially when it comes to the importation of foreign labour.
“The federal government needs to work much more closely with the provinces on a whole range of issues, including immigration, to make sure that provinces are able to develop the labour force growth that they need.”
Trudeau has spoken particularly of the problems faced by Alberta, the province with the highest number of temporary foreign workers per-capita. While campaigning in Fort McMurray in June, Trudeau described the current program as “one of the most anti-Alberta federal policies we’ve seen in decades.”
“The mismanagement by the Conservative government of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has got us into a situation that is untenable for far too many Alberta businesses and communities,” Trudeau contends.
Under the new reforms, large and medium-sized businesses will be forced to limit low-wage labour to 10% of their workforce by 2016, which will dramatically affect Alberta’s restaurant and hospitality industries.
In Trudeau’s words, the government is “now putting in caps that are going to hurt people in Fort McMurray.”
Government continues to defend changes
However, the federal government has rebuffed Trudeau’s claims, defending its reforms to the TFWP. According to Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s spokeswoman Alexandra Fortier, food service wages in Alberta are not at par with wages for other industries, which have risen 31% since 2006.
Fortier reports that, “in the food services sector, a leading user of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, wages have only increased by eight per cent since 2006.”
Fortier interprets these statistics as proof of abuses of the program. “These numbers clearly show that the temporary foreign worker program is no longer being used as it was intended to be used — as a last and limited resort to allow employers to bring foreign workers to Canada on a temporary basis to fill jobs for which qualified Canadians are not available.”
In an opinion piece he wrote in May of this year, Trudeau outlined his own solutions to the issue of temporary foreign labour in five points:
- To scale back the TFWP and redirect it toward its purpose of filling jobs temporarily when no Canadian workers are available.
- For the federal government to strengthen its commitment to bringing permanent immigrants on the path to citizenship.
- To make the TFWP transparent and accountable, with full disclosure of applications and approvals, and full public knowledge of the positions offered to temporary foreign workers.
- Employ stricter guidelines regarding employer attempt at hiring Canadian workers before applying to the TFWP.
- For a tighter Labour Market Opinion approval process to guarantee that only businesses with legitimate needs can access the program.
Objections from Alberta Conservatives
Trudeau isn’t the only politician displeased with the overhaul of the TFWP. Conservatives in Alberta have also voiced concerns with this summer’s reforms, including new Premier Jim Prentice, who was recently elected leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party.
As well, Prentice’s fellow Conservative Brian Storseth, the MP for the Westlock-St. Paul riding, has attested to northern Alberta’s need for temporary foreign labour due to a lack of unemployed Canadians to fill the necessary positions.
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