The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour says federal plans regarding Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program could open the door to abuse of Canadian workers.
During a closed-door consultation on immigration, Gil McGowan of the AFL said Immigration Minister John McCallum discussed potentially easing regulations requiring a labour market impact assessment before hiring foreign workers.
“(McCallum) made it clear that the federal government is seriously considering loosening the rules on the TFW program and making it easier for employers in many sectors to use the program to bring workers into the country,” McGowan said.
McGowan said employers looking to hire TFW’s have to apply for a labour market impact assessment and, as part of that process, employers must demonstrate they looked for Canadians to fill the jobs in question.
“He’s talking about eliminating it almost entirely for high-skilled workers in the tech sector; he’s talking about removing it for service sector workers for certain parts of the country, like the mountain parks here in Alberta,” McGowan said.
McGowan said that by removing the need for labour market assessments, the system could be left open to abuse and it is “almost a guarantee” that some employers would drive down wages and “shirk their responsibilities” to hire and train Canadians.
“That’s exactly what we saw under the Harper government,” McGowan said.
“That’s what created such a backlash with the public, and I’m afraid the Liberals might be sleepwalking into the same quagmire. It’s an important safeguard and it’s not one that should be abandoned or abolished lightly.”
Roundtable meetings with McCallum have taken place across Canada over the summer.
One of the organizations invited to the consultation was the Centre for Newcomers, a not-for-profit resource that provides 10,000 immigrants and refugees with employment and integration services every year.
Anila Lee Yuen of the Centre for Newcomers said she is not opposed to changing requirements for TFW’s and labour market assessments in particular industries, as long as native Canadians are not negatively affected.
“If we are going to loosen (labour market impact assessments), then it would again stand to reason that it would be loosened in areas where we know there are those kinds of (employment) shortfalls, where we can prove there are shortfalls,” Yuen said.
“I can’t imagine that the government — or that any reasonable average citizens — would want to loosen that kind of thing where there are a lot of Canadians who would like those jobs, but they’re just not available at the moment.
“It would be matched to where the labour shortfall is.”
During a news conference following the roundtable in Edmonton, McCallum said there was a “strong consensus” that Alberta businesses are in favour of more immigrants, especially in rural communities.
“Canada is an aging country, so we are in need of new blood because Canadians aren’t having enough babies and so the labour force growth depends very much on the entrance of immigrants,” McCallum said