According to popular perception, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, currently under intense Parliamentary scrutiny following a series of program abuse allegations by the Royal Bank of Canada, three McDonald’s franchises in Victoria, British Columbia and a pizza restaurant in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, was a program that had merit on paper initially, before it spiralled out of control.
Currently, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has become a major issue affecting not only unemployed Canadians but also those individuals coming to Canada from abroad, for short-term jobs.
Canada launched the program in 1973, aiming to bringing in highly specialised workers like academics and engineers for meeting skills gaps in the country. In 2002, the Liberals under Jean Chretian, included low-skilled workers under the ambit of the program.
Successive Liberal and Conservative governments continued to tweak the program further so that it expedited the process of bringing in foreign workers into several sectors of the industry, including food and construction, once pilot projects commenced in Alberta and British Columbia. This resulted in the accelerated entry of temporary foreign workers into Canada – moving from 101,000 in 2002 to 338,000 in 2012, with low-skill workers forming the fastest growing denomination of workers.
Under the current program, Canadians lose out on jobs as do several foreign workers. Locals also miss out on employment opportunities and employers keep wages at artificially low levels. In addition, the government also does not have the bandwidth to keep monitoring a program of this size for any possible program abuses.
Researches also back the impact of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. A CD Howe Institute reported that a pilot project that accelerated the approval process for companies to hire low-skill temporary foreign workers, raised unemployment levels.
The Alberta Federation of Labour revealed recently that some companies were paying temporary foreign workers up to $5 less than the prevailing local market wage for the job, with the tacit approval of the federal government. This also means that the program can reduce wages for foreign workers as well.
According to Jason Foster, the coordinator for Athabasca University’s industrial relations program, “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program moved from being a small, nimble program to a large-scale one that the Government could not manage successfully.” While Employment Minister Jason Kenney promised to implement new reforms for the program, experts believe that only a complete revamp of the program could help salvage the situation.
Source: CBC News