Feds make TFW problems worse in Atlantic Canada

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Last Friday, the federal government announced massive changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program. These changes were unnecessary and largely driven by a cynical, union-led media campaign.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has worked in co-operation with the federal government on many files, but we regard this as a gross over-reaction to a few negative stories, many of which have been exaggerated heavily by big labour, seeking to organize small- and medium-sized businesses, particularly quick-service restaurants.

CFIB members strongly support stiff penalties for those caught abusing the program or mistreating any employee, Canadians or TFWs. These changes, however, convict all employers and prevent those who have followed the rules from even attempting to use what has become a valuable tool to solve urgent and serious labour shortages.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney has singled out the restaurant, hotel and retail sectors, effectively barring them from even applying to use the program for most positions in most parts of Canada. For both high- and low-wage positions, employers will now be facing a $1,000 fee for each TFW position. Oh, and if your application is rejected, don’t expect a refund.

Massive amounts of red tape

are being piled on, including the requirement to report every interaction with every applicant, including why they weren’t hired.

What’s more, Kenney made these changes while seemingly oblivious to the reality of the labour market in Atlantic Canada.

During his media conference, the minister noted his inability to comprehend why employers can’t find Canadian workers in areas of high unemployment in places “like Cape Breton.”

For starters, our population is aging and declining and young people are moving in droves to his home province of Alberta. He says employers should use “market mechanisms” such as higher wages to attract new workers. Well, the employers he is referring to are already operating on razor-thin margins because of those same market mechanisms and simply paying people higher wages is not an option.

You might pony up $25 an hour in Fort McMurray to serve coffee, in St. John’s ... not so much.

The solution he offered on CTV’s “Question Period” was, if you can’t find enough Canadian workers … don’t start the business.

The logical extension of this? If you are struggling to find employees at your fish processing plant … shut it down. As an economic growth strategy, this seems a little counter-intuitive.

In the same interview Kenney noted he wants to return the TFW program to its original objective to be the “last, limited and temporary resort for employers who absolutely cannot find qualified Canadians to take jobs at the Canadian wage rate.”

 So now, in order to assist those who are at the end of their rope finding workers, he has made the program impossibly bureaucratic, financially out of reach and absolutely inaccessible to those who need it most.

Again, a little counter-intuitive.

Perhaps the minister should take a walk in the shoes of those Newfoundland and Labrador entrepreneurs who want to contribute to their communities, create employment and build a business in Atlantic Canada while competing with the oil patch and the federal employment insurance system for workers. He might just get a clearer comprehension of those market mechanisms.

Atlantic Canada is in need of sound immigration, productivity and employment policy, not punitive measures designed to solve problems in tight labour markets in Alberta.

Jordi Morgan is vice-president — Atlantic,

of the Canadian Federation

of Independent Business.

Organizations: Canadian Federation of Independent Business, CFIB, Canadian Federationof Independent Business

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Cape Breton, Alberta Fort McMurray Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Samuel J.
    June 26, 2014 - 08:42

    We don't believe you Mr. Morgan. We don't believe your arguments for giving business in this country unlimited access to cheap foreign labour. We don't believe the CFIB represents the public interest. We don't even believe your claim that the CFIB represents 'small' business owners. We believe the CFIB is actually a wolf in sheep's clothing - that you're actually a shill for big business. The fact is that the vast majority of small, locally and independently owned non-franchised business in this country employ locally and have never, ever used the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. It is not small companies, but multi-national resource extraction industries that are unhappy with cutbacks in this program - oh, and giant food-service companies like McDonald's who rake in billions every year in extra profits by pushing government to give their franchisees like Cathy Bennett an advantage over home-grown mom and pop restaurants. The CFIB and its big business benefactors are distressed at the thought they might actually have to work at recruiting and maintaining the loyalty of their workforce - which includes paying them a dollar or two more than the minimum wage. Our hearts bleed for you.

  • 911The Conservative Party on the Dancefloor
    June 26, 2014 - 08:09

    If we train workers to only sleep when absolutely necessary, and live on Soylent, and live at work, the economy will be fine. DUM DUM DA DUM. We got another Video up of Justin looking confused....www.letyourcountryerode.ca Ireland is having a youth drain, and so has Syria. So are a lot of regions Newfies and Canadians are uneducated about. We need educated youth not afraid to tell a prov. gov. That we have seen the Celtic housing bubble, we have see the oil-torn war zones of class division. We see the wind and the sins on yer souls (once the kiss the cod, they will learn this). Canada kissed the ass of the crowd that caught the 50 tons.

  • Sick of the Shills
    June 26, 2014 - 07:36

    Lol, yeah sure Jordi, how many business owners do you know getting by on $20K a year in profit - which is the wage they epect their employees to take. Too low? How about doubling it to $40K and they can keep the accumulated equity in their fixed assets? Stil searching, yeah, I thought so. Greed is the problem, not the Federal Government barring the legal slave trade.

  • Angus
    June 26, 2014 - 06:03

    Jodi morgan should tell the truth first of all. I know one person who was hired by a national hotel chain to do laundry in St. John's, NL. That person was only able to scrape up 25 hours a week at minimum wage and was expected to be on call 7 days a week in case of increased work load. The hotel's solution? Apply for a Temporary Foreign Workers permit to hire someone from outside the country. The worker's solution? get a job in Fort Mac with triple the pay at 2 on 2 off. It is not hard to see what this program was designed to do. Drive wages down as low as possible and not only keep them low but keep driving them down until they reach zero like the internships.. The restaurant and hotel business in St. John's like the rest of the country can't relocate to areas of low wages so the program was designed to bring an endless supply of low wage workers here all in the name of free enterprise. Sorry Mr. Morgan but your Tea Party philosophy has expired with the next election date.

  • Charles Murphy
    June 26, 2014 - 05:34

    Were becoming our own worst enemy, "Richest " province in Canada, and we " Continue " to fall behind, I'll still say it again, It come down to our Leader who haven't got the foresight to bring us to the next step. For some reason we are lead to believe some company from the outsides has the best " Intentions " concerning our people, when in reality, they don't. we need a leader who going to "Maximize " any and all benefits for our residence. People there nothing Newfoundlanders and Labradorian can't do. Lets demand more from our leaders.

  • Ken Collis
    June 26, 2014 - 05:02

    You can't find workers in Cape Breton? Really? Are you offering even a little over minimum? Maybe they should open an alcoholic beverage store because all I hear from these groups is WHINE, WHINE, WHINE. Pay a decent wage, charge more for your product, and be prepaired to accept a little less for yourself. If your business fails, it wasn't a good business to begin with. If your fish plant closes, the others will pick up the slack.