The elimination of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for low-wage jobs will be seriously considered by the government in 2016, says Employment Minister Jason Kenney. From the Canadian Meat Council to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, business groups are speaking out against Ottawa’s latest plan to cap the number of low-wage foreign workers and impose higher fees.
Through a phase-in of new caps on low-wage foreign workers and the launch of more detailed labour market surveys, Mr. Kenney indicated that by 2016 the government will be in a position to assess whether it should take the next step.
The overhaul of the program has been called an “appalling overreaction” by business groups. All three men hoping to become the next Alberta premier, including front-runner Jim Prentice, say Ottawa is unfairly punishing the province and would demand more control over immigration policy to deal with labour shortages, as Quebec has now.
Mr. Kenney also confirmed that further changes to the Live-In Caregiver component of the TFW Program will be announced later this year. The government remains concerned with the caregiver stream even though that part of the TFW Program was left largely untouched Friday when he and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced major changes.
Canadian officials in the Philippines have been warning colleagues for years that the caregiver program was facing abuse and had largely become a “hidden” family reunification program. As far back as 2009 when he was immigration minister, Mr. Kenney said he recalls meeting in Manila with 70 women who were on their way to Canada via the program and every single one of them planned to work for a relative.
The list of invited speakers includes people, such as Canadian Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty, who have been critical of the government’s foreign worker changes.
The four main topics on the agenda include whether skills shortages exist in Canada, how labour market data could be improved, how to reform educational and vocational training and how to match underrepresented groups like aboriginals and people with disabilities to available jobs.
Source: The Globe And Mail
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