Dear editor: Apparently not much has changed since Tom Marshall declared that "this government will start listening to the people." According to the telegram article: (Lobby continues to lift foreign labor ban ) it seems that the only ones being listened to are as always the business lobby groups. In that article Advanced Education and Skills minister Kevin O'Brien goes out of his way to defend the position of using temporary foreign workers in the fast food industry.
This program was never intended to be used this way. It was developed to help find employees in high skills areas that are in demand in Canada. Businesses such as those in the fast food industry have used this program as a means of keeping wages down. Richard Alexander of the Employers' Council even suggested that if the TFWP is halted the EI program should be changed to “force” people to work.
Imagine. These lobby groups claim that businesses simply can't get the applicants required to run their businesses. If businesses pay sufficient wages and benefits such as providing a pension plan there would be no shortage of applicants.
Paying wages such as $10.50/hr creates a class of the working poor. The result being that the taxpayers have to pay for programs such as low income housing and fuel adjustment among others in order to assist these citizens.
In effect, employers who pay wages below the poverty level are passing the burden that they have created on to the taxpayer. That is why you have a shortage of applicants. Offer competitive wages and the market will decide who gets the best employees. Offer employees a suitable pension plan and the taxpayer will not have to subsidize social programs for these low wage employees who are forced to retire into poverty.
Another argument presented for the fast food industry using the TFWP goes like this: "imagine the cost of a fast food meal if there were no temporary foreign workers employed." Yes indeed the cost will no doubt increase as owners are unlikely to reduce their profits. But then again, imagine the cost of your clothing if the sweatshops in Asia and Africa were put out of business. And wasn't the same argument used by the aristocrats in the southern states to justify slavery?
O'Brien feigns concerns for the temporary workers by stating that their visas will come due and this will affect their possibility of immigration to Canada. He does know or should know differently. These are temporary foreign workers and are destined to return to their own countries when their visas run out anyway. They were never accepted as immigrants. Very few of them actually are allowed to immigrate to Canada.
If you want more immigrants, and no doubt Canada needs more, then bring in more immigrants and let them compete for jobs and be treated like all other citizens of Canada. If they are good enough to work in Canada then they are good enough to be citizens of Canada.
As a final comment, most of these foreign workers are so dependent on the employer that they are too intimidated to report abuses of the program. A tracking system involving unannounced inspections is the only way to get accurate data on abuses.
Ed Downey, Marystown