Last Updated on January 24, 2019
Complaints that three McDonald’s franchises in Victoria were favouring foreign workers over domestic aired by the CBC in early April and quickly led to sweeping changes to the work in Canada program, affecting every sector in the country. Rapid response to problems by government is usually worthy of applause, but for a complex program that’s been part of Canada’s economic mosaic for four decades, it’s now clear that the politically driven haste has left serious unintended consequences.
One example is the skiing industry, which employs hundreds of temporary foreign workers, including instructors, which are in short supply in this country. The changes are seriously jeopardizing the coming season, as well as the longer-term economic viability of ski resort operators.
One of the government enforced changes will decrease the percentage of low-skilled temporary foreign workers from 30 per cent to just 10 per cent by mid-2016. The definition of “low skilled,” which has traditionally been tied to national occupation codes, will now be defined as workers earning less than a province’s median hourly wage.
Surprisingly, in Atlantic Canada provinces with unemployment rates above 6 per cent are seeing a complete phase out of temporary foreign workers. Nova Scotia Labour Minister Kelly Regan said, “There may be some fish plants that have great difficulty in getting in the harvest if they are not able to have temporary foreign workers.” Prince Edward Island is equally alarmed that the changes would prevent processing of its all-important lobster harvest. Some seafood plants are in rural communities with aging populations as younger people having no interest in working in a fish plant move to the cities.
Making matters worse, the 360-per-cent fee increase to $1,000 for bringing in a temporary foreign worker falls most heavily on employers whose jobs are actually temporary. The agricultural industry is exempt from the new rules because planting and harvesting requires large numbers of workers for short periods.
Still to come are new rules for so-called “live-in” caregivers, which mainly refers to nannies. Hopefully, these will receive more careful consideration including the fact that very few Canadians are interested in being nannies and restricting the availability of nannies would very seriously affect the ability of mothers to do skilled jobs.
Provinces with the highest unemployment rates share concerns with the province with the lowest unemployment rate serves to illustrate the hazards of precipitous, broad-brush policy changes that don’t consider our country’s complex employment mosaic. It’s important for Mr. Kenney to publicly recognize that rather than stealing jobs, the majority of temporary foreign workers recruited to work in Canada perform important jobs that otherwise just wouldn’t get done.
Source: The Globe And Mail