Editorial — June 23, 2014

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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This isn’t an easy country to govern.

It’s rural and it’s urban. It’s English and it’s French. It’s affluent and it’s poor. It’s multiethnic.

As a result, one size fits all approaches to any problem seldom work.

And that brings us to the controversial temporary foreign worker program, a federal program that creates the rules for immigrants when they come to Canada.

It’s has been nothing but trouble for the Conservatives since it was introduced.

Let’s take a peek at some of the reaction to the latest changes on Friday to illustrate the point.

• Labour -- Paul Meinema of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada

“Today’s announcement does nothing to change a system that still allows irresponsible employers to exploit workers with impunity. The Harper Conservatives are only now acknowledging problems with this file because of a number of irresponsible employers.”

• Immigrants -- Chris Ramsaroop of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

“Migrant workers are still employed under an indentured system where they work without voice, without rights and without protections.”

Here are the latest changes, as reported by the Canadian Press.

• Employers in places with high unemployment rates can’t apply for temporary foreign workers in the lowest wage and skill groups in the accommodation, food service and retail sectors.

• The number of low-wage temporary foreign workers an employer can hire at each worksite has been restricted to 30 per cent of a worksite’s employees starting immediately, dropping to 10 per cent by July 2016.

• Companies must re-apply each year to hire low-wage temporary foreign workers.

• The cost of applying will rise from $275 to $1,000.

• Wages will be based on provincial wage levels instead of the government’s national occupational classifications.

• The freeze on hiring temporary foreign workers in the food-services sector, imposed in April, has been lifted.

• The time that a low-wage temporary foreign worker can work in Canada is being cut to a cumulative total of two years from four years.

A number of factors are at play. In areas with high unemployment, foreign workers have become easy scapegoats, even when filling jobs that Canadians are looking down their nose at.

In a couple of cases, Canadian staff said they were being laid off so that cheaper foreign staff could take their place.

There have also been some high profile stories of immigrant workers being treated badly by employers, which may have created the impression of widespread abuse.

The feds have promised to inspect workplaces to check how the foreign workers are doing.

The temporary foreign worker program has helped staff some stores in Prince Albert, primarily in the food sector but also in other areas.

It’s hard to fault an employer who can’t fill a job and finds an endless market of people willing to come and work for them.

In Prince Albert, the saskjobs.ca website had no fewer than 854 jobs available on Friday evening.

The mind reels trying to figure out a way those positions would ever be filled by relying solely on Canadian workers.

And we’re not alone.

While there are areas of high unemployment in this great country, there are also many areas like ours where the exact opposite is true.

We’ve heard a secondhand story about a popular food franchise operator choosing to sell their busy store because they simply couldn’t staff it in a small town.

This might be a case where the misuse of the program by a few employers is causing massive issues. With 386,000 temporary foreign workers now in Canada, which amounts to two per cent of the labour force, the federal government has to take a long, hard look at who is getting workers and why.

That means it has risen nearly 400 per cent in 12 years.

This program ultimately has to be based on real need rather than real greed.


Prince Albert Daily Herald

Organizations: Harper Conservatives, United Food, Prince Albert Alliance for Change Canadian Press Daily Herald

Geographic location: Canada

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