The fresh emergence of abuse allegations over the Canadian Government’s troubled Temporary Foreign Worker Program has led to widespread criticism from all quarters over the manner in which Employment Minister Jason Kenney has handled the issue.
The criticism does not just come from Kenney’s peers in the House of Commons, but also from business groups, labour unions and the common citizens, who believe that the Conservative Government had made it easier for foreign workers to swipe their jobs.
Critics highlight the findings of the CD Howe Institute that showed that the influx of temporary foreign workers during the past decade – from 110,000 to 338,000 currently – had raised unemployment rates in British Columbia and Alberta.
According to NDP leader Tom Mulcair, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has publicly maligned companies who import workers with “the intention of never having them be permanent and moving the whole workforce back to another country at the end of a job. The Prime Minister has had this figured out for some time, but why, in the six years that the minister [Kenney] has been taking care of the program, has he never figured it out?”
In his defence, Kenney said that the government acted promptly when it came across any abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, citing the recent example of the temporary ban placed on restaurants from accessing the program. He stressed that the government was taking any abuse of the program seriously and was even planning for another phase of reforms.
These reforms would ensure that Canadians would get the first shot at available jobs always and everywhere. In addition, he mentioned, the reforms would ensure that employers only used the program as a limited and last resort. Some of the measures Kenney suggested included the implementation of a limited fast track for workers in high-demand professions in regions of the country that had low unemployment.
However, this clearly does not placate his critics. Last year, after the crackdown on the Royal Bank of Canada, Kenney had pledged another round of reforms. Those reforms had resulted in procedural red tape and lengthy delays, which led to complaints from trade associations and employers.
With a federal election looming, many believe that Kenney would need to do more to curb abuse of the TFW program. With little scope for easing restrictions and a focus on implementing tougher rules, Kenney clearly has more to salvage than merely his reputation.
Source: Ottawa Citizen