Tag Archives: Temporary Foreign Worker Program

How Ottawa minds our own business


What are these posts for? Shut up, government says, sit on 'em

What are these posts for? Shut up, government says, sit on ’em

What do 33 dejected foreign workers, denied positions in New Brunswick, and low blood sugar have in common?

If you said it’s the bevy of busybodies beavering away to make a general nuisance of itself in Ottawa – otherwise known as the Government of Canada – give yourself a pat on the back. But stay away from the sweets.

Apparently inspired by a Globe and Mail investigation earlier this year, Harpertown is all set to poke its proboscis into the pantries of the nation.

“In recent months, the Globe and Mail documented the links between sugar and harmful health concerns, and called on the federal government to set a recommended daily sugar limit,” the newspaper reported, in one of the most pompous displays of self-serving grandiosity it has been this ex-staffer’s pleasure to witness, earlier this week. 

“Our reporting revealed the extent to which the food industry adds sugar to many products in various forms, the extent to which labelling requirements don’t sufficiently inform consumers about this practice and the broad range of health problems that stem from the amount of sugar in the daily diet.”

Now, galvanized by this magnificent example of public service journalism, we are asked to believe that Ottawa is about to require food producers to finally play it straight with Canadians and tell the truth about the degree to which they are poisoning the general populace. 

Accurate labelling, it seems, is the answer. So is a federally-sanctioned “recommendation” for the amount of sugar Canadians should consume in any given 24-hour period.

Bully for the federalistas, but methinks the chances that this famously recalcitrant crew of onetime reformers and oftentimes media mashers takes its marching orders from Canada’s self-appointed, self-important, “national newspaper” are perishingly small. 

The more likely explanation (which may be weirder still) is that despite its right-wing, small-government, anti-Liberal, nanny-state-hating political pedigree this particular crew of Tory MPs and their fellow-travelling bureaucrats just can’t resist telling people – any people – what to do.

And that extends far beyond the sugar bowl.

As the Moncton Times & Transcript reported recently, Canadian consular officers in Vietnam rejected 33 applicants from that country for jobs at Captain Dan’s Seafood and Pecheries GEM Ltee despite the fact that the two employers had “valid labour market opinions at the time of the application and had paid all due fees while the Vietnamese applicants took additional measures to improve their candidacy.”

Those measures included “weeks of intensive English-language courses and specific seafood processing training.”

The Moncton lawyer representing the two local firms is flabbergasted. “The employers have been let down without an adequate workforce,” Martin Aubin told T&T reporter Kayla Byrne. “They have paid good money, done everything by the rules and received permits to hire people. We had openings for 33 people, we found 33 people, but all of them have been denied. . .To fail completely is a new experience for me.”

Get used to it. 

No one – but, no one – gets around these dogs once they’ve got several bones clenched between their incisors. Consider, if you will, one more choice example of latent control freakishness: Bill C-24, which passed quietly in June.

Also called the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, this legislation moves its patron, Minister of of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, practically to tears. 

It will, he said recently, “protect and strengthen the great value of Canadian citizenship, and remind individuals that citizenship is not a right, it’s a privilege. . .It is in honour of those who protected this city, in honour of those who have served and serve today, in honour of all who have made the sacrifice of war, and those who have contributed in their own way to building this great country, that we are further strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship.”

It will also do a couple of other things, according to one news report – notably provide the federal government with sweeping new license to share information about Canadian immigrants with foreign powers almost indiscriminately.

Of course, that’s all in a day’s work for a government whose main business is fast becoming minding other people’s.


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Bring us your tired, yearning to work



Through no fault of their own, 50 million people around the world are rootless and stateless. The victims of wars and warlords, dictators and economic dissolution, they wander the Earth as refugees, as unwilling nomads, and in numbers not recorded since the end of the second, great, European conflagration of the 20th Century.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government once a beacon of light in the United Nation’s Human Development Index – plays a crass round of poker in which it chooses those immigrants it wants, those it will merely tolerate and those it would rather wash its hands of entirely. 

The latest incarnation of this game of drones is the new regime governing the nation’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney says he’s doing Canadians a favour by restricting the number of international grunts businesses in this country can hire and installing punitive fines on  those who flout the fresh regulations. 

As CTV reports: “Under the new rules, employers in places with high unemployment rates won’t be allowed to hire temporary foreign workers in the lowest wage and skills groups in the accommodation, food service and retail sectors. Companies will also be required to re-apply each year to have low-wage TFW’s, instead of every two years. The cost of that will rise to $1,000 per employee, up from $275.”

Mr. Kenney justifies his decision in typically bellicose terms: “As opposed to being a last resort, in too many cases it’s (the TWF) become a first or only resort. . .That is unacceptable. I don’t care how tight the local labour market is, you shouldn’t be setting up a business and spending money on capital for a business if you don’t have the human capital to staff it.”

Don’t you just love the way these guys talk? 

Human beings become “human capital”, commodities that governments can and do rate and rank according to their own political exigencies and circumstances. 

At the same time, the minister in charge of labour markets doesn’t give a fig about the condition of labour markets if giving a fig means annoying a partisan base of low-end citizen workers/voters who, once their pogey runs down, can’t find sufficient numbers of mc-jobs to qualify them for another, ritualistic term of government-sanctioned, fully funded couch potatodom. How exquisitely NDP of him.

All this from a government who thinks it perfectly reasonable to lecture Atlantic Canadian provinces on their habitual use of Employment Insurance to actually sustain a labour market that backstops at least four, bone-fide seasonal industries (fishing, forestry, tourism, and agriculture).

In fact, on this subject in this country, almost no one looks good. Abuses of the system are systemic and rampant. And no government – Tory or Grit – has ever figured out a compelling, convincing, comprehensive, rational fix. 

But why should they bother? After all, no one in this country gets elected by insisting that low-wage foreign workers are only here because native-born and naturalized citizens don’t possess the skills that commercial enterprises actually need.

Have you ever worked a naan oven at 5 am in the morning? I didn’t think so. 

On the other hand, too many employers in this country work these people like virtual slaves; gaming the system at every opportunity to feather their marginal nests. As there are no federal oversights, no provincial or municipal protections that practically apply, what else would we as fine, upstanding Canucks expect?

Today, according to the Canadian Council for Refugees, “the number of migrant workers in Canada has increased by 70 per cent in the last five years. Canada has been shifting towards a reliance on migrant labour. In 2008, for the first time, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada exceeded the total number of permanent residents admitted in the same year. At the end of 2012, the gap had grown: There were 338,189 temporary foreign workers in Canada on December 1, 2012, compared to 257,515 new permanent residents.”

Rather than revile these people publicly, we should embrace them as essential contributors to our society. Or, have we become too hardened to the plight of the world’s rootless that we have forgotten our own history?


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Keeping our own economic promises



The premiers of Canada’s least economically promising provinces display a marvelous esprit de corps, becoming a cheerful band of battle-ready brothers, when their mutual enemies in Fat City rattle their swords.

So it was this week when New Brunswick’s David Alward, Nova Scotia’s Stephen McNeil, Prince Edward Island’s Robert Ghiz and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Tom Marshall emerged from the semi-regular gabfest they dub rather self-importantly, Council of Atlantic Premiers, with agreements to, in effect, throw down the gauntlet on Ottawa’s front yard.

Having agreed to harmonize apprenticeship programs across the region (finally), they raised their voices en mass and called for Ottawa to stop pushing its immigration and jobs-protection agendas in the absence of any credible research or consultation on the subjects. 

Referring to a pending report he and his provincial counterparts commissioned on the impact of federal changes to the Employment Insurance system in the Atlantic region, Premier Ghiz told the Telegraph-Journal, “What this is really about is the Atlantic provinces putting together evidence-based research to take to the federal government that will indicate how the EI changes have negatively affected our region based on the seasonal industries that we have.”

Added Premier Alward: “It’s not just about EI. We can talk about any other changes. When they impactt regions, when they impact provinces, there needs to be a level of consultation before.”

Indeed, said Premier McNeil, the federal government must stop functioning as if it were in a partnership with only itself. “There needs to be a broader consultation between governments. The national government needs to make the provinces part of the decision making that has a huge impact on the regions or programs that are affecting regions.”

Well said, and bully for all of them. Now what? 

It’s true; since snatching power from the wobbly, scandal-riddled Liberals, federal Conservatives have displayed a dreadful lack of respect for the provinces, and not just the ones that hug the East Coast. Our region has, however, always seemed to earn special contempt from the callow, black-hearted, centre-obsessed boys and girls who populate the Prime Minister’s Office. 

Government of Canada reforms to EI seem almost deliberately crafted to cause the most inconvenience and disruption possible in the Atlantic provinces, where seasonality is, alas, one of the defining characteristics of the labour market.

Meanwhile, Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s ban on temporary foreign workers in the restaurant trade will hit the region’s tourist trade disproportionately hard, as the industry draws from an immigrant labour pool that is, alongside all the other evaporating ones, shrinking.

Still, Atlantic Canada’s premiers have complained about these and other slights for years and largely to no avail. Lamentably for Mr. McNeil, et. al, this is not a national government that feels any compelling need, whatsoever, to make the provinces part of its decision making. 

In fact, the federal Tories sometimes leave the impression that if they could shut down this messy Confederation of ours and run the whole show from glass towers impressively arranged along the banks of the Rideau Canal, everyone would be much happier. 

Poorer, for sure; but happier.

In fact, a more profitable use of our regional premiers’ time and energy – given the central government’s utter intractability – would be a full-sail vision quest, the purpose of which would be to translate their periodic displays of unity and filial bonding against a common foe into pragmatic commitments to formal socio-economic cooperation in the region itself.

Atlantic Canada’s real enemy doesn’t dress in blue pinstripes and speak with an Ottawa Valley accent. 

Our real enemy is our own parochial notion that our sputtering engines of growth are somehow stronger functioning apart from one another than they are operating in concert, together. 

Our nemesis is our pride, which cleaves to centuries’ old commercial conventions, long past their best before dates, that helps maintain an ossified culture of inter-provincial barriers against the movement of trade, people and skills.

In this regard, the Atlantic premiers’ decision to take the handcuffs off apprentices   is right and correct. 

But what more can this battle-ready band of brothers do for themselves, for the people they represent, for the region whose economic promise is not yet kept?


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