More than one wheel seems to be coming off the Harper government after a series of failures and scandals: the nepotism and cronyism the prime minister has demonstrated by his unfortunate appointments to the senate; the failure to get Marc Nadon appointed to the Supreme Court, after a string of judgements by the same body that have gone against the PMO (prompting attorney-general Peter McKay to attack the supreme justice on very unwise and thin grounds). But the biggest scandal by far is the temporary foreign worker program which appears to have become an unwieldy juggernaut that has spiraled out of control under the direction of Alberta mafia.
I’ve been a supporter of the temporary foreign worker program when it comes to the trucking industry as a way to alleviate the driver shortage. Like farm work, Canadians just don’t want to go trucking, and this seemed like a solution. During the last driver-shortage crunch, Canadian carriers went actively recruiting truck drivers overseas. Some of these workers have become Canadian citizens by now, bought houses and trucks, and have become part of the national fabric.
Of course there were horror stories even then. The drivers were, in-effect, hostages to the sponsoring carrier for a year, required to do the jobs nobody else wanted, like running as a team driver for lengthy stints on the road, or end up getting shipped back home on the next flight. I heard one story of a Brit trucker who got fed up with the working conditions and abandoned the company truck at the Minneapolis airport and flew back to the UK on his own volition.
So we’ve all heard about the unscrupulous McDonald’s franchises alleged to have abused the program and their foreign workers. And after that story broke, other employees came forward with claims that the sponsors had cut hours to Canadian workers in favour of the imports. And it’s no longer unskilled workers that are being recruited. Do you recall the story of the mine in BC that wanted to hire 200 Chinese miners in an effort to bypass the provincial labour market? And now it seems that foreign crews and pilots have been hired by CanJet. And here’s something else, on Wednesday May 7, the Toronto Star cited the statistic that the federal government in 2012 “granted positive labour market opinions for 375 temporary workers in Cape Breton, a region of Nova Scotia that had a 17.5% unemployment rate…” Immigration minister Jason Kenney and his party cohorts are in denial that foreign workers have impacted the labour market, but the question remains, has the dependence on this program contributed to overall joblessness in Canada?
Anyone working in the trucking sector has heard the opinion, shared by many domestic drivers, that foreigners have driven drivers’ wages down, but I’ve tended to discount this assertion because often thinly disguised racist sentiments at the crux of this argument. But the stink surrounding this program may have put the damper on future imports. A link to the government program on the website for the Trucking HR Canada (the descendent of the CTHRC) comes up with a blank page (“Page Not Found”) And now the CBC has reported that one Canadian trucking company, Easson’s Transport Ltd., of Berwick, N.S., has been suspended from the program as of May 1. According the the website for Employment and Social Development Canada, Easson’s of Berwick, N.S (the company has two other terminals, not included in the sanction), “There are reasonable grounds to suspect that the employer or group of employers provided false, misleading or inaccurate information in the context of the request for that opinion.”
So the problematic nature of Service Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program has visited Canadian carriers. Is this just the tip of the iceberg, or will there me more revelations? Moreover, I’d like to know if foreign workers are being mistreated by Canadian carriers, or if the carriers themselves are abusing this program. Any thoughts out there?
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