Jason Kenney faces foreign-worker fallout in own backyard – Politics – CBC News

More on the changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program, the political repercussions:

Like most government decisions, the clampdown on temporary foreign workers has come with a political price.

Last spring, as media reports swirled about questionable use of the scheme by companies small and large, Employment Minister Jason Kenney met for days on end with his staff, hearing hours of briefs and brainstorming a solution, according to a senior government source.

Kenney knew he was walking a political tightrope, trying to maintain the program in industries and regions where employers face legitimate labour shortages, while clamping down — and crucially, being seen to clamp down — on companies that are allegedly displacing Canadians to get cheaper labour.

The minister had long been troubled by reports that included such examples as a coal mine in northern B.C. which listed fluency in Mandarin as a job requirement when requesting foreign temporary workers. The case was the subject of a union-led federal court challenge, but was dismissed.

But the final straw, according to an official who helped craft the government response, was a report that two waitresses were laid off in Estevan, Saskatchewan, only to be replaced by foreign workers.

“That was the kryptonite moment for us,” the source recalls. “This is one of the hardest places to find Canadians to work and yet, they were laying off Canadians.”

Kenney’s decision: phase in a 10 per cent cap on the number of low-wage workers coming in, ban their use in areas where unemployment is six per cent or higher, and increase processing fees and fines for those who abuse the program.

The result: applications to the program were down by 75 per cent this summer over last, Kenney told the Commons last week.

But the result is also growing anger among employers in sectors as far-flung as the fashion and film industries, to fish packing plants, to the hospitality sector and restaurant industry, to mines in remote northern regions.

…Kenney, for his part, is standing firm on the new policy.

His office has argued that businesses, small and large, need to do a labour market assessment as part of their business plan. If they have to offer higher wages to attract people, so be it.

Still, concern about the repercussions could explain the government’s haste to offer a break to small business on EI premiums announced earlier this month by Finance Minister Joe Oliver.

Some Conservatives seem to feel the pot needs sweetening, as they march into election season running on their banner theme: economic prosperity for all.

Jason Kenney faces foreign-worker fallout in own backyard – Politics – CBC News.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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