TFWs spark debate

A report this week by Global News reveals a disturbing trend.

Temporary Foreign Workers, part of a federal government program to fill jobs Canadians don’t want, are staying longer.

The report says the number of TFWs present in Canada has increased from 52,000 in 1996 to 310,000 in 2015, quoting StatsCan.

But just how badly are these TFWs needed? Are they truly here to plug up job shortages in specific areas or are they just providing Canadian employers with cheap labour?

The Global News report goes on to say:

“Of the roughly 264,000 foreign workers admitted to Canada between 1995 and 1999, nearly 15 per cent, or just under 35,000, were still in the country after five years. Of the roughly 500,000 workers who came between 2005 and 2009, over 35 per cent, or around 186,000 remained for at least five years. The overwhelming majority of those who remained in Canada over the long term became permanent residents,” reads the study, which analyzed arrivals between 1990 and 2009.

So what gives? Are temporary foreign workers here for the jobs Canadians don’t want or have they found a unique pathway to become permanent residents of Canada? The Global report seems to indicate the latter.

“Among low-skilled temporary foreign workers, those most likely to stay are the ones who come in through a work-permit program that offers a pathway to gain permanent residence,” the report says. “For example, among live-in caregivers, who can apply for permanent residency after a number of years, the share of TFWs who are still in Canada 10 years after arrival is over 85 per cent. Among seasonal agricultural workers, for whom there is no established path to residency, the share of those who stay long-term is close to zero.”

But the plot thickens. If we reference a 2015 story from Thinkpol, it  says right in the headline: “Canada will be forced to accept (an) unlimited number of TFWs under the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).

That means things could get worse for Canada’s unemployed workers desperate for a job. And the Canadian Workers Advisory Group knows it.

“Prohibiting the government from attaching any form of testing or certification as a condition to entry would see many unskilled foreign workers taking up skilled positions,” the organization stated. “Not only will we see wages for skilled workers plunge as a result, but unskilled workers doing skilled trades or engineering work also puts Canadian lives in jeopardy.”

“If (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau cared one bit about Canada and Canadians, he would tear up this treaty,” the group concluded.

It should be clear by now that the government has to do a better job of distinguishing between companies truly in need of specialized labour it can’t find in Canada and those Canadian companies who are just using the TFW program as a way to cut labour costs and cheat Canadian workers.

The question now is who’s side is the government on? Does the federal government want to help Canadian employers fill their vacant positions with cheap foreign labour or does it want to help train Canadian workers for those positions?

If you look at some of the policies developed by the Trudeau government, it appears they are moving to favour bringing in the immigrants. It wasn’t that long ago, Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen told the world, Canada will admit one million immigrants over the next three years “Our government believes that newcomers play a vital role in our society,” Hussen said. “Five million Canadians are set to retire by 2035 and we have fewer people working to support seniors and retirees.”

The government believes what’s best for them and Canadian business and industry is best for Canadians. But Canada’s Auditor General Michael Ferguson holds a different view. In his report last May, he indicated the Temporary Foreign Workers Program was prone to abuse “Some companies have effectively built a business model on the program that could be having unintended consequences that the government doesn’t know about, including wage suppression or discouraging capital investment and innovation,” said Ferguson in his report.

Ferguson’s report indicated the government approved applications for temporary foreign workers even when employers had not demonstrated reasonable efforts to train existing employees or hire unemployed Canadians, including those from under-represented groups, such as First Nations.

Maybe, it’s time the federal government took another look at its TFW program to ensure it has struck the proper balance between the Canadian employers’ desire to fill positions in the cheapest possible way and the Canadian workers desire to find reasonable jobs at reasonable wages.

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Jeff Wilkinson

About the Author: Jeff Wilkinson

Jeff Wilkinson  is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining  Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and

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