All systems are a go: departments are defined, there are committees formed, and community round tables are being held. This sounds a bit like history as it played out in rural Alberta just last fall regarding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
The Hon. Jason Kenney sent down from his Department a committee to launch forth a series of visits to determine employment issues in Alberta.
Myself and many other people from a variety of businesses attended these visits and my recall of the conversations suggested a clear message: Changes made to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program would see businesses shorten their hours of operation; employee hours would be cut; and some businesses would close their doors. To date I have witnessed all three and heard of 13 foreign workers in my community being directly affected by these changes.
Although for different reasons, I agree with Gil McGowan from the AFL; the government is being cynical, sneaky and mean spirited in their approach to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. In September 2014, our Premier Jim Prentice informed the Canadian Press that Alberta has about two per cent immigrant nominees but accounts for most of the job growth in Canada. In October the Edmonton Journal ran an informative article written by Sheila Pratt stating that by 2016 a labor force of 2.3 million will include less than one per cent temporary foreign workers.
The Globe and Mail in November said the hard line Ottawa is taking with the temporary foreign workers program is affecting business and foreign workers who moved here for a better life.
The knee jerk reaction Ottawa had to what I consider a biased, one-sided interview in April by CBC Go Public, began to immediately impact businesses, the economy in Alberta and devastated many hard working foreign workers. This issue has nothing to do with seasonal workers or the abuses to the EI program in the east as suggested at our visit round the table. Nor do the current lay offs in the oil patch have anything to do with this.
In October, Kenney said he would not relax the new rules to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, then, in January 2015 a letter from him and the Hon. Chris Alexander was discovered saying they were changing the rules. In spite of the rules that seem to change daily, why would ministers wait until to now to make changes public?
Call it what they want; bridging, transitioning, one time exemption, or the EE Program. These will do nothing for small businesses or the foreign workers waiting in a 25- month queue for a response to their status. These fancy terms come with many strict criteria that will not apply to entry level jobs that employers are required to pay the median, not the minimum, wage for.
We’re not the Targets, the Wrigleys, or the Sonys of the world; we are small independent and entrepreneurial businesses working with our employees for a win-win outcome. Instead they are forced to return home and the Hon. Chris Alexander has the audacity to state 3,000 new work permits issued in January this year. This does not support small business, is not humanistic in its rulings with the current Temporary Foreign Worker Program and is a far cry from the democratic system we profess to nurture.