Recently, the CEO of McDonald’s Canada addressed anxious franchisees about the CBC’s investigation into the company for the chain’s possible abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. During the call, Betts said, “Jason Kenney really knows his stuff. And I’ll say he knows his stuff from a businessperson’s perspective”.
The Conservative Government has claimed to understand the private sector better than other federal parties did. However, the Conservatives have shown themselves to be remarkably naïve when it comes to understanding the factors that motivate corporate businesses.
Kenney spoke on CBC Radio’s The House, shortly after suspending restaurants from using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. He said, “If it’s true that we have a very tight labour market, we should be seeing more inflation in terms of wages, employers should be responding to tightness in the labour market”.
On the face of it, this would sound logical. A tight labour market would lead to wage inflation and ensure that companies make themselves more attractive to workers. Yet, his words say nothing about governments intervening with a program that enables companies to circumvent the labour market dynamics.
Nor do they raise questions about a government that tweaks a program repeatedly to expedite the process of recruiting temporary workers from outside the country and allows certain employers to set abysmally low wages for these foreign workers.
On all counts, Kenney and the Conservative Government could have foreseen the scenario where no businessperson would pass over the opportunity of capitalising on an environment that boosts productivity and minimizes costs. This is especially so since Kenney “understands a businessperson’s perspective” and the Conservatives understand the private sector.
Kenney’s comments to CBC Radio began with “If it’s true…” They clearly betrayed the fact that he – or his colleagues in the government – have no clue about the job market currently – even if they have been vociferous while talking about acute labour shortages.
Despite the Canadian economy being on the rise, domestic workers are not willing to relocate to where the jobs are. Canada’s Employment Insurance system gives no incentives for workers to relocate either – even in areas suffering from chronic unemployment.
A recent CD Howe report criticised the current version of the TFW program, declaring that the government’s policies actually accelerated the rise in unemployment rates in Alberta and British Columbia. It mentioned that Canada would need to develop better data about the state of the local labour markets, before permitting temporary foreign workers to enter Canada.