Broken Temporary Foreign Worker Program needs overhaul to protect Canadians and foreign workers
A rally to protest the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is held outside Canada Place, in downtown Edmonton Alta., on Saturday March 29, 2014. (QMI AGENCY)
Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on e-cigarettes was Brent with 53%.
This week’s topic:
Should the federal government temporarily suspend the entire Temporary Foreign Worker Program?
Earlier this spring, Brent and I debated whether or not temporary foreign workers should be allowed in B.C.’s liquefied natural gas industry. At that time, I made it clear I don’t support this program with so many British Columbians out of work. Little did either of us know at that time what a tempest this issue was to become.
The same weekend that our Duel went to press, news headlines broke with the story of some Vancouver Island McDonald’s allegedly abusing the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program, followed quickly by similar revelations across the country. Skip to today and the country is now hearing complaints from highly skilled helicopter pilots claiming they are unable to find work because of the same program.
I suspect what is now known may only be the tip of the iceberg. Flagrant abuses of the program have only become public because of company whistleblowers — the possibility exists that many more companies are abusing this program since the government hasn’t been applying the proper checks and balances this program desperately requires.
In response to the revelations of rampant abuse in the restaurant industry, the government instituted a moratorium for TFWs in the food sector — a move that has garnered criticism as some restaurants say they might have to close due to a lack of staff. The government has promised to crack down and tighten up the program. I think what needs to happen is a temporary suspension of the entire program so it can be revamped — or scrapped.
I empathize with the plight of temporary workers who are already here and caught in the middle of a mess not of their creation. Many are supporting families overseas, and many have been exploited by their employers. It’s an appalling situation no matter how you look at it, and one wrought with emotion.
A pragmatic approach is needed. The program is clearly broken, a mere shell of what its original intention was. It needs more than just fine-tuning to prevent further exploitation of TFWs and to protect Canadian jobs.
Instead of shoddily stick handling the TFW issue further, the government should work harder to help the thousands of skilled landed immigrants already here to have their skills recognized, aggressively invest in skills training, and employer education. Anything less will likely perpetuate a problem that the government created itself.
Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.
Who wins this week's duel on suspending the Temporary Foreign Worker Program?