Canadian Liberal Leader Calls For Scaling Back Temporary Foreign Worker Program

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The man who many predict may be Canada’s next prime minister is calling for dramatic changes to his nation’s Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program.

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau is critical of the Conservative government’s handling of the TFW program, stating that since taking office Prime Minister Stephen Harper has “transformed the Temporary Foreign Worker Program — which was originally designed to bring in temporary workers on a limited basis when no Canadian could be found — into one that has brought in a large pool of vulnerable workers.”

In a high profile newspaper editorial, Trudeau lashed out at the Harper government for mishandling the TFW program, pointing out that number of short-term foreign workers in Canada has more than doubled from 141,000 in 2005 to 338,000 in 2012; as a result, Trudeau says, there were nearly as many temporary workers admitted into Canada in 2012 as there were permanent residents.

Trudeau went on to say his party believes this dramatic increase in the TFW program has badly hurt the Canadian middle class, by driving down wages and “displacing Canadian workers.”

Supporting this belief, Trudeau wrote, is the fact that the TFW program has grown substantially in areas that are facing higher unemployment such as Southwestern Ontario.

The Liberal leader cited the fact that in Windsor, Ontario, the number of unemployed workers has increased 40 percent, while the number of foreign workers in that city rose 86 percent; similarly, unemployment in London, Ontario, rose 27 percent while the number of TFW workers jumped by 87 percent.

Trudeau said the recent decision by Employment Minister Jason Kenney to suspend the TFW program for the food service industry was too little and too late, and that abuse of the program is “not rare, it is far too common, and must end immediately.”

To do so, he proposed five specific changes to the TFW program:

  • Scaling back the TFW to its original purpose, filling jobs with foreign workers only when Canadians cannot be found for the positions
  • Re-committing Canada to attracting permanent immigrants with a clear pathway to citizenship, with a goal towards ‘nation building’
  • Greater transparency, and public disclosure, of applications/approvals granted under the TFW program
  • Requiring that Canadian employers demonstrate they have attempted to fill positions with Canadians prior to approval of the hiring of foreign workers
  • Tightening the Labour Market Opinion approval process to ensure that only businesses with ‘legitimate needs’ can access the TFW program

Trudeau concluded that ultimately these changes must be made to the TFW, if only for the sake of fairness.

“In the end, this is a basic issue of fairness,” Trudeau wrote. “Fairness for Canadians who need work, and for vulnerable people who travel to Canada from abroad in search of a real opportunity to succeed. I believe it is wrong for Canada to follow the path of countries who exploit large numbers of guest workers, who have no realistic prospect of citizenship.”