Tories commit to temporary foreign worker regulation

James McLeod
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Responding to Liberal motion

It’s been less than two weeks since Liberal MHA Cathy Bennett first set foot in the House of Assembly, but she’s already wrung a commitment for more provincial regulation over temporary foreign workers out of the Progressive Conservative government.

Liberal MHA Cathy Bennett has been sitting in the House for about a week and a half, but on Wednesday she introduced a resolution in the legislature calling for more regulation on the companies which bring temporary foreign workers into the province. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

Bennett introduced a private member’s resolution Wednesday in the legislature calling for a registry of the companies that employ temporary foreign workers and a licensing requirement for the companies that recruit them.

Bennett, owner of several McDonald’s restaurants in St. John’s along with a raft of other businesses, has been heavily involved in this issue. She’s brought in people from other parts of the world to staff her fast-food restaurants. And in the House of Assembly, she wasn’t apologizing for it.

“I am proud that I am able to bring in temporary foreign workers in management roles that could not be filled, to train my staff so they could step into those higher paying positions,” Bennett said. “I have long been an advocate for the rights of everyone — particularly those who choose to work and live in our province — which is what this private member’s resolution aims to do: protect everyone.”

The issue of foreign workers has been a hot-button topic in recent months, with stories emerging from across the country of businesses allegedly exploiting workers, or using them to displace Canadians.

The situation got bad enough that federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney stepped in and placed a moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the food service industry.

That didn’t sit well with Advanced Education and Skills Minister Kevin O’Brien, who is responsible for immigration in this province.

O’Brien said he’s got a call scheduled with Kenney because he believes the moratorium goes overboard dealing with a small number of cases.

“He’s actually killed an ant with a sledgehammer,” O’Brien said during debate in the legislature.

The Tory MHAs voted to support Bennett’s resolution after O’Brien made a small amendment to it. The Liberals were calling for a piece of legislation akin to what’s been passed in Nova Scotia and Manitoba. O’Brien’s amendment, which the Liberals went along with, removed any reference to other provinces, but kept the commitment to develop some sort of legislation.

The NDP voted against the whole thing.

In a news release, New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael called it “wishy washy” and not good enough.

“We have all heard the stories of employers who withhold pay, who do not pay overtime, who pay temporary foreign workers less than they tell government they are paying them,” Michael said in the release. “A vulnerable worker in a foreign country, who may not speak the language or be informed about the rights of employees, needs an extra level of protection.”

O’Brien said he supports the temporary foreign worker program generally, but he believes that immigration is a better way to deal with the province’s labour problems.

“My opinion is that if they come here and there is a need for those particular workers in our province, in Canada, well then, I want them to stay forever. I want them to become Canadians, the same as me,” he said.



Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Laughable
    May 15, 2014 - 16:43

    Let me get some understanding here, Cathy by any chance are you saying out of a population of over 500 thousands people, there were no one in our province was smart enough to manager a burger joint? That you had to bring in someone from a foreign land, to show us stupid Newfoundlanders and Labradorians how to put people to work as robots. Because that what its sound like to me. every now and then you hear of someone on the radio complaining about people abusing the social program. Question to you, Do your company get any kind of subsidies from the backs of the working poor. though Government grants? If your answer is yes, Please explain the difference, Between yourself, those receiving social services.

  • guy incognito
    May 15, 2014 - 10:32

    It's just a political tactic to make her look better. Of course McBennett is facing the problem head on. She has been facing so much heat she had to address it head on to make herself look better... She is lucky this story didn't break before the election or those 41 votes could have gone elsewhere. I would never vote for a McOpportunist like her.

  • Concerned
    May 15, 2014 - 08:56

    Province with the highest unemployment rate needs foreign workers - go figure folks

  • Greedy
    May 15, 2014 - 06:28

    Cathy looking out for Cathy.

  • William Coaker
    May 15, 2014 - 05:37

    The foreign-worker-using McDonald’s burger maven – now finance minister in waiting – has found something in common with the tired old government her party wants to replace. Cathy Bennett and Kevin O’Brien, minister responsible for slave labour, are joining forces to persuade the federal government to re-institute the foreign worker program. It is an open secret in this country that this program was being used not only – or even principally – to recruit skills not available in Canada, but to supress wage rates across the board. How is it, for example, that this province has an unemployment rate of almost 20% but McDonald’s can’t find people to flip burgers. The answer is simple. The cost of living in this province and especially in this city makes it impossible for anyone to live on the pittance that can be earned by flipping burgers for Ms. Bennett. People who work at McDonald’s are only able to survive by virtue of their extended family resources. How is it then that temporary foreign workers can survive on such a wage. They can’t – at least not to any standard that would be acceptable to most Canadians. For business operators like Ms. Bennett, the choice between paying a few extra dollars an hour and bringing in cheap labour from other countries is a no-brainer. These are not highly skilled workers. Largely they are uneducated workers facing dim prospects at home and thus willing to work without complaint for low wages here in hopes of converting their temporary status into citizenship. Nothing wrong with that where it can be justified and as long as it’s not being sold to Canadians as something entirely different. Ms. Bennett’s solution to a problem her company helped create is to create a registry of companies that bring in workers as if that would magically solve all these problems. I assure you it won’t, but the idea is to give the feds cover for ending the moratorium. Michaels is showing a rare bit of political sense by refusing to sign on to this sham. If her party is to recover from its self-inflicted irrelevance, it must jump on situations like this to demonstrate that liberals and tories are all about pleasing the people who donate to their election campaigns – not about finding gainful employment for that 20% of Newfoundlanders who have none.

    • Guy Incognito
      May 15, 2014 - 16:11

      The problem isn't that there are no workers. The problem is that there aren't enough workers to work for low wages. The business owners aren't willing to sacrifice their McProfits by raising their pay, so local workers will not apply there. Plus our welfare system is sadly so easy to get on and abuse.....skeets can get more money on welfare than they can working at Mcdonalds. The bigger

    • a business man
      May 16, 2014 - 09:27

      Yes, the problem is that there are not enough workes to work for low wages. I will not sacrifice my McProfits to give a unskilled and uneducated workers any more than the legal minimum wage. They do not deserve a penny more because they are so easily replacable and disposable. As a result locals will not apply there. The reality is that the business owners are right. Locals are not applying for the dead end minimum wage jobs. Regardless of why they are not applying (welfare pays more, locals will not work for little), at the end of the day, locals are not applying and TFWs are needed.

    • Christopher Chafe
      May 16, 2014 - 13:02

      The problem is way too many people depend on these types of jobs for survival. These types of jobs were always meant for students and those who were semi retired. These fast food joints were never supposed to be used to support a family.