LETTER: Foreign workers program needs fixing, says Yvonne Jones

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I am very concerned with the ongoing issues affecting our Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program in Canada, including within my own riding of Labrador.

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones

The program was intended to help employers fill jobs as a last resort during a labour shortage, and also to provide a valuable labour force in the live-in caregiver and agricultural/seasonal worker sectors.

Unfortunately, we have seen some employers abuse the program to the detriment of Canadian workers.

What is important to remember is that all Canadians fundamentally deserve the right to have access to available jobs in Canada, and this program is mandated only to fill labour gaps.

Sadly, this government has decided to let violations slide over the last number of years, much to the anger of Canadians who have lost out on available jobs. Some of these violations came during the recent recession, from which Canada still struggles with a high unemployment rate.

Young Canadians, many of whom could have really benefitted from some of the jobs that were given in violation to foreign workers, are disproportionately struggling with a high unemployment rate well over 10 per cent.

We need to get our youth into the workforce, and prevent violators of this program from holding them back.

It is a welcome change to see the government finally begin to address some of the serious concerns with this program, but this should only be the start.

In many cases, there is a need for temporary foreign workers, and the program worked effectively for many years in meeting higher skilled demands in various professional disciplines.

The stream of foreign workers to lower skilled employment fields has been in question since 2009. Each time there were issues, as seen recently with RBC and McDonalds, the government has made some changes. However, they have never seriously implemented more accountability or tighter measures to protect Canadian workers.

This program needs much more intensive and regular monitoring to meet the original objective and labour market gaps in Canada's service industry. The program requires a balance of meeting labour market gaps and accommodating unemployed Canadians.

There are, of course, ways to increase the number of Canadians in the workforce and reduce federal dependency on the foreign worker program. However, it will require addressing issues of skills training and income inequality. In addition to this, the foreign workers need a pathway to citizenship that is currently not effectively promoted.

It is only prudent for the minister to invite our auditor general to examine the Temporary Foreign Workers program and provide a report to Parliament on what parts of the program are broken and how the government can address the areas of concern.

As the vice-chair of our Public Accounts committee, I am very familiar with the various reports that our auditor general releases over the year. These reports examine different government departments thoroughly and without political prejudice. With every report, there are important issues discovered and the government hopefully acknowledges these issues and pledges to address them immediately.

I think such a thorough process is exactly what this flawed program needs, and the government owes it to Canadians to be transparent on this issue, especially since Canadian jobs are on the line.

I also strongly support Justin Trudeau’s stance on this issue, which is highlighted in five main points:

• The TFW program needs to be refocused on the intended purpose of the program; to address a labour gap on a limited basis in which no Canadian workers are available;

• We need to return to nation building by ensuring that those immigrants who enter Canada have a path to citizenship;

• We need to create proper accountability and transparency of the TFW program, which starts with a full review by the auditor general. We must also work on the approvals process and offer full public disclosure on this;

• Employers must demonstrate that they have clearly attempted to fill job vacancies with Canadian workers;

• We need to revisit the Labour Market Opinion approval process and ensure access is given only to businesses with a legitimate need.

The next steps are clearly laid out. Will the Harper government heed our advice and take the necessary steps to correct issues with the Temporary Foreign Workers program?

— Yvonne Jones is the Member of Parliament for Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Alicia
    June 20, 2014 - 01:31

    One of the MANY issues here, is that business owners use this program as an excuse to treat employees horribly. They mistreat their (local) workers to the point where nobody local will work for them. They then, knowing that the foreign workers will be far more tolerant, proceed to bring in foreign workers, and mistreat them even more. I know of a foreign worker who lived in an employers house, and was not allowed to close the bedroom door, but there are dozens of examples of worse treatment once arriving in the country. Before companies can bring in foreign workers, they should have to prove that they are suffering from a labour shortage, instead of just being unable to find workers willing to tolerate their treatment. Foreign workers still deserve to be treated with respect, and it's not likely that they will get it where locals refuse to work.

  • Charles Murphy
    June 08, 2014 - 11:04

    There only one way to fix its, No foreign workers, take care of our own first.

  • Mike
    May 07, 2014 - 23:37

    For the most part I agree with Yvonne Jones and she's right the program does need to have more regular monitoring. I think Yvonne Jones does a good job looking out for the best interest of Canadians. The only part where I somewhat disagree is where Yvonne Jones said "We need to return to nation building by ensuring that those immigrants who enter Canada have a path to citizenship" I say somwhat because I partly agree with that statement and I partly disagree, there needs to be strict screening of immigrants who are allowed to enter the country and have a pathway to citizenship because you can't just let anyone from anywhere come in the country as it would only create a mess just as we see with our neighbours to the south where it has become out of control and with the way the world has sadly changed with terrorism threats people need to be very carefully screened. Those that would make good citizens and be loyal to Canada first then yes, those are the kind of people most Canadians would welcome to the country but again people coming to Canada need to also adjust and show respect for Canadian culture, the country overall. Many people have seen news reports where immigration has become a problem in the States and also with some that show no respect for that country and I'm sure Canadians don't want to see the same thing happen. For the most part yes, Canada does need some immigration with a pathway to citizenship as long as it's done right. I trust Yvonne Jones judgement and she's completely right about making sure that employers play fair and follow the rules. I realize that there is also a need for some high skilled workers, however I think there should be more help available to help Canadians first to learn those skills needed and then if additional help is needed that's where the temporary foreign worker program comes in to fill in the gap but government really needs to invest more in Canadians first. I'm confident that with Yvonne Jones who has brought this topic to light will stay on top of things to ensure things are done correctly.

  • Mike
    May 07, 2014 - 17:00

    Yvonne Jones gets it and I hope that others in government will listen to her because she seems to make more sense than anyone and is looking out for the best interest of Canadians.

  • Jamie O'Flaherty
    May 07, 2014 - 13:27

    The Honourable Member seems to forget, or maybe chooses to conveniently ignore, one of the real and true reasons we need a Temporary Foreign Worker program. She seems to put most of, if not all, the blame on employers and none on the "fallout" of the Social Welfare system put in place by the Liberals under Trudeau Sr.