Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Change of Heart, Or A Change In Political Winds?

Much has been written and discussed about the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, both on this blog and in various other media; consequently, I suspect that the majority of well-informed Canadians will look with deep cynicism upon the announcement that the Harper regime intends to crack down on widespread employer abuses of the program that has seen Canadians displaced by immigrants being paid up to 15% less in wages.

Those whose acquaintance with Canadian politics is limited only to being able to name the Prime Minister of Canada and perhaps one opposition leader will doubtless feel that the Harper crew is being responsive to the needs of Canadians, now that these wholly unanticipated abuses of the program have become known.

In this, of course, they would be completely deluded.

Consider this about the TFWP:

Critics say it has been misused to recruit foreigners for many low-skilled positions that could have gone to Canadians. With 1.3 million Canadians out of work, the Conservative government was facing charges that it was making it too easy for companies to go abroad for their labour needs.

The article reminds us that the problem was well-known to the government, adding to the suspicion that its purpose all along was to lower labour costs for business. For example last year, HD Mining International Ltd. a Chinese-backed coal mining operation in British Columbia, brought in 201 miners from China under the plan.

Or Consider this observation:

NDP MP Chris Charlton said government’s record so far on the file makes her skeptical they have fixed the problems.

“The reality is that they have made an absolute mess of the temporary foreign workers program,” Charlton said.

“They have systematically loosened the rules to make it easier for employers to hire cheap foreign labour at the expense of Canadian workers.”

Advocates groups are similarly cynical that the Harper regime has experienced a sudden epiphany:

“We have little faith that they would result in anything meaningful,” said Naveen Mehta of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada. “It’s just (smoke and mirrors).”

Using Ottawa’s bad employer list as an example, former live-in caregiver Kay Manuel, whose story of exploitation sparked off new migrant worker protection laws, said the federal government has yet to name a bad Canadian employer on its website since its 2011 launch.

Mehta's doubts are shared by many others:

“The changes announced today are mostly about rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship,” said Chris Ramsaroop, a member of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, a coalition of grassroots advocacy groups.

Calling Ottawa’s reforms “political jockeying,” Deena Ladd, executive director of the Toronto Workers’ Action Centre, said Ottawa could enhance the migrant worker program’s transparency by publicizing Canadian employers using the program and the jobs migrant workers they are bringing in to fill.

Perhaps the final word should go to the business community which, quite predictably, is warning that the sky may fall as a result of these changes:

“One of the worst decisions this government has ever made,” said Dan Kelly, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said of the new rules. “They’re completing ignoring the needs of small firms and the needs of employers who are in need of entry level workers.”

“I’m very, very unhappy with this government for this decision,” Kelly added.

Or how about this apocalyptic morsel from a former Progressive Conservative politician:?

“It’s going to drive up costs and make it more difficult to use the program,” said Perrin Beatty, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“Nobody benefits from that,” Beatty said adding it could force come employers out of business.

One might tartly add, Mr. Beatty, that no Canadian workers have benefited from the TFWP in its current configuration.

Welcome to the real world, sir.

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