The Harper government may have been the main responsible for the messy situation of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, but it is now overhauling the scheme. Employment Minister Jason Kenney introduced changes to the rules and promises to dramatically scale back parts of the program most open to abuse.
The program of temporary farm workers will remain as many in agriculture are dependent on it. The live-in caregiver program is under review. But there is going to be a cut in the stream that allows employers to bring in low-skill workers to perform low-wage jobs, usually in service industries.
Several countries rely on foreign workers to do the unpleasant work for them, Qatar being the most extreme example. In Qatar, the labour force made up of foreign workers can never become citizens and face abuse and exploitation. Qatar is therefore not a model to emulate.
The model for Canada should be … Canada. For decades this country has had the developed world’s near-highest levels of legal immigration. Those immigrants are able to become Canadians relatively quickly and enjoy all legal rights of citizens.
There are economic arguments both for and against a program that brings in cheap, temporary foreign labour. One case in favour has been made by the food service industry in Western Canada, where labour markets are tight and without cheap foreign labour, the restaurant wages will rise, causing your steak to cost more.
Mr. Kenney’s argument is that higher wages aren’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly in a growing economy, and especially for those who might be earning those wages.
The Temporary Foreign Worker program in Western Canada has had exactly that effect. Median wages in Alberta have grown at far above the rate of inflation since 2006, however over the same period, wages in the food service sector, which relies heavily on the TFW program, have barely changed.
Free markets are dynamic systems, sending out price signals that cause both workers and employers to make constant adjustments. So if there are more higher-paying jobs in Alberta, then Canadians outside Alberta will have an incentive to move there. Alberta, along with Saskatchewan, is pulling in high levels of both immigrants and interprovincial migrants. The two provinces have thus the country’s lowest levels of unemployment.
Mr. Kenney feels that Western Canadian employers in food service and accommodation, will respond by raising wages and by actively recruiting new workers from untapped pools.
Canada has prospered by being an immigration friendly country. Temporary foreign workers are tied to their employers like indentured servants, and constantly under threat of losing their right to work. Canadians in the work force, including immigrants, don’t suffer from those disabilities. Canada needs more citizens, fewer guests.
Source: The Globe and Mail