Judging by their recently leaked proposals on how to fix the challenges facing the temporary foreign worker program, the Conservatives have no idea how to fix the mess that they created. They seem inclined to use sledgehammers when scalpels are needed. I will give you two examples of misguided Conservative proposals that simply will not work.
One proposal is to raise substantially the wage that must be paid to foreign workers so that they will end up being paid more than their Canadian co-workers. Imagine you are a Canadian working in a fast food restaurant, and you are told that because of an order from Conservative Minister Jason Kenney, your temporary foreign co-worker, working beside you and doing exactly the same job, has to be paid more than you. Such an order would produce a double backlash – not only a backlash against the Conservative government that ordered such a wage differential, which is not my concern, but also an unwarranted backlash against the temporary foreign workers themselves. In short, this idea is a totally unworkable solution to the mess which the government has created.
A second proposal is that temporary foreign workers be banned except in regions of low unemployment. This is equally unworkable. Suppose I own a small high tech company and I’m in desperate need of a highly specialized worker. I’ve searched long and hard for Canadians and haven’t found anyone qualified to do the job. So I’m an entirely legitimate candidate to hire a foreign worker. But if I happen to be located in a town where unemployment is high because, for example, the main employer, a manufacturing plant, has just gone out of business, then I’ll be denied access to the foreign worker who may be essential to the survival of my business. Same thing if I’m in any Canadian region that, for whatever reason, is subject to high unemployment. So this is another sledgehammer solution that simply will not work.
The answer is that solutions to this mess have to be much better thought out than the simple-minded answers proposed by the Conservatives. The bottom line, however, is that a Conservative mess that took years to create will not be solved by a couple of badly designed, back-of-the-envelope proposals.
John McCallum is the MP for Markham-Unionville and the Liberal Critic for Citizenship & Immigration, Multiculturalism and Seniors.
Official statement released by the Office of the Hon. John McCallum, P.C., M.P. , 21 May 2014.