Terry Glavin: Canada’s servile relationship with China | National Post

In Glavin’s diatribe against previous and current governments efforts to strengthen ties with China, some valid observations and concerns with respect to immigration policies and programs:

….Canadians were similarly hoodwinked by the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP). Begun by Conservative free trader Brian Mulroney and conceived mainly as a way to lure thousands of jittery cash-rich Hong Kong entrepreneurs to Canada, the IIP ended up as the primary means by which Canadian real estate became a favoured bolthole for all the money being spirited out of the People’s Republic. As the country descends deeper into the abyss, Chinese banks were drained of nearly a trillion dollars in illegal money transfers last year alone.

The IIP had to be folded up by the Harper Conservatives after it became clear — and as it took the South China Morning Post’s Ian Young to reveal — that Canada’s ragged refugee-class immigrants had contributed more to Revenue Canada than the IIP’s big-spender immigrant investors did over the life of the program. Now, in an inter-provincial ripoff far more outrageous than any of those “equalization payment” uproars between “have” and “have-not” provinces that have erupted from time to time, the Quebec government has taken over the immigrant-investor racket. Quebec scoops up an $800,000 loan from every IIP arrival – roughly 2,000 “investors” annually — nine out of 10 of whom then immediately get back on a plane and fly elsewhere, mainly Vancouver.

The B.C. treasury gets nothing out of this — and the B.C. government’s recent 15-per-cent sales tax imposition on properties bought by foreign nationals isn’t expected to change a thing. What Vancouverites have gotten out of this is one of the world’s least affordable cities, bitterly divided against itself. Average house prices in Metro Vancouver have nearly tripled over the past 15 years. Home ownership for working families is a thing of the past.

Now we’re being sold on a Chinese version of the temporary foreign worker program. Conceived as a short-term remedy to the occasional ailment of acute labour shortages in key industries, the indentured-labour service had to be dismantled by the Conservatives owing to its inevitably scandalous abuse by disreputable employers. By 2012, there were 338,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada. Last year the number was down to about 90,000. Now, McCallum is championing a ramped up, Beijing-vetted version. You would not be unwise to wager that this will not end well.

Source: Terry Glavin: Canada’s servile relationship with China | National Post

Temporary Foreign Workers: Film, TV industry assured timely permits

Another sector adversely affected but whose concerns appear reasonable for the Government:

Christian Allen, the chair of the Commercial Production Association of Western Canada, has been calling on the government to give the film and TV industry the same exemption it recently gave musicians.

“The meeting was incredibly positive. The government is very aware of the issues and is responding by working with us to correct the problems as quickly as possible.”

A spokesperson for Alexander would not say what action the minister agreed to take but said he acknowledged the economic contribution the film and TV industry brings to the Canadian economy.‎

“Minister Alexander met with representatives from the television and film industry in Vancouver yesterday [Wednesday] because he understands the sector creates jobs and economic opportunity for Canadians.

It was clear that some of their concerns predate our government’s reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program,” Codie Taylor told CBC News in an email Thursday.

Temporary Foreign Workers: Film, TV industry assured timely permits – Politics – CBC News.

Kenney Op-Ed: Foreign workers in Canada: Let’s separate the facts from the myths

From anecdotes (“”There are tens of thousands of employers who tell me that they would go out of business if they couldn’t find people to fill those jobs.”) to Minister Kenney’s more evidence-based approach announcing the changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program.

His op-ed is particularly revealing:

Several recent studies have come to this conclusion, suggesting that over-reliance on the program’s general low-skilled stream has prevented wages from rising in some low-paid occupations in parts of Western Canada, and may have reduced labour mobility. For example, overall median wages in Alberta have gone up by an average of 31 per cent since 2006, but wages in the province’s food services sector, a heavy user of the program, increased by only 8 per cent. This kind of distortion is unacceptable.

Former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney put it well last year when he said “We don’t want an over-reliance on temporary foreign workers for lower-skilled jobs, which prevent the wage adjustment mechanism from making sure that Canadians are paid higher wages, but also so that firms improve their productivity as necessary… The intent of the government’s review is to ensure that this is used for transition, for those higher-skilled gaps that exist and can hold our economy back.”

Foreign workers in Canada: Let’s separate the facts from the myths – The Globe and Mail.

Lots of coverage on the changes, largely targeted towards abuse of the program for the fast food service industry. CBC overview on the changes, Changes to Temporary Foreign Worker Program include limits and fines, Macleans (Temporary foreign worker rules reformed, but tensions remain) and the Government briefing package with the key message of Overhauling the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Initial commentary of interest:

Campbell Clark in the Globe, makes some valid points in Reforms to foreign worker program are welcome, but why the long wait?:

To their credit, they produced a serious plan. The reforms provide greater incentives for employers to find low-wage workers at home by raising application fees and limiting the percentage of each company’s work force that can be brought in from abroad. The caps will be phased in over two years. And Mr. Kenney promised to increase transparency by reporting the numbers for each employer.

Even the style used to unveil the reforms was refreshingly grown-up for a government that typically prefers slogans to explanations. The ministers briefed journalists on technical details, and did a talk-till-you-drop press conference explaining their rationale. They acknowledged some businesses might be hurt, but said companies should turn more to recruitment, training and wage increases. Mr. Kenney said he wants to return the program to what it is supposed to be: a last resort.

But there is also the past. Should the Conservatives have woken to the problems before? “No,” Mr. Kenney said. The Conservatives, he explained, accepted the policy in place when they took power as “normal.”

That is a frank admission. Governments do not look under every rock for worms. But it is a tad short on mea culpa. Under the Conservatives, the number of low-wage workers – those not in special programs for nannies or farm workers, or covered by agreements like NAFTA – grew from a few thousand to tens of thousands. Mr. Harper’s government spent to speed up processing for TFWs. If it is broken now, they should have fixed it sooner.

Helpfully, to the Government’s communications strategy, negative reaction from Alberta and the tone-deaf Canadian Federation of Independent Business (Alberta decries changes to foreign worker program):

“This is an appalling over-reaction,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which has supported the Conservative government’s economic approach in the past. “This will be a serious knock on this government’s small-business credentials to have taken the kind of move that they just did.”

Restaurants Canada, which represents restaurant owners, predicts the formula, combined with new $1,000 user fees, will force some restaurants to close, while others will need to raise prices to cover higher wages.

“I think there are going to be business casualties,” said Joyce Reynolds, Restaurants Canada’s vice-president of government affairs. “Are Canadians prepared to pay double what they pay now for a steak?”

Andrew Coyne starts off with a somewhat predictable more libertarian economic approach in Hiring foreign workers in Canada is a crime, but outsourcing overseas is fine but ends up arguing for a pathway to citizenship:

And the reforms themselves? They will be widely praised, and should succeed in moving the controversial program off the front pages, adding to Mr. Kenney’s reputation as the safest pair of hands in cabinet. Unfortunately, that does not make them good policy.

Consider an employer in the manufacturing sector, who finds himself unable to attract enough workers for certain kinds of unskilled labour, at least at the going wage. He is entirely at liberty to outsource the work to a company overseas, paying a fraction of the wages he would have had to pay his Canadian employees. He can move the whole plant offshore if he likes, laying off every one of its current employees, and import the product he sells rather than make it here. ….

This is the crime of which these [food service] employers, whom Mr. Kenney vows to harass and punish with $100,000 fines, are guilty: operating a business while in the service sector. They “cost” no more jobs than their manufacturing counterparts. It’s just that the hard-working, low-wage foreigners they employ are in our midst, and visible to us, not toiling away in some sweatshop overseas we never see. …

It certainly won’t help the foreign workers themselves, who will now be subject, as a support group, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, put it, to a kind of “mass deportation order.” Many had hoped to convert their demonstrable fitness for life in Canada into permanent residency, and ultimately citizenship. Those hopes will now be dashed.

Yet if any reform were needed, that remains the more promising route. If temporary foreign workers were not temporary, they would no longer be foreign. They would not be “taking jobs” from Canadians. They would be Canadians.

John Ivison sides with the CFIB and other small businesses in With the temporary foreign worker changes Jason Kenney has done a great deal to insulate himself:

The Employment Minister has certainly gone to great lengths to insulate himself from more incendiary allegations of abuse. Unfortunately, the risks will be borne by those small businesses that are about to see their costs soar.

Tom Walkom from the Star, from a different perspective, ends up in the same place (Jason Kenney’s temporary foreign worker changes not enough):

Public pressure has forced Kenney to make the arrangement seem more palatable. But it is not. If we need more foreign labourers, let them come as full-fledged immigrants.

If paying Canadian fast-food workers a decent wage means we must shell out more for a cup of coffee, so be it.



“Keeping the price of latte low” – Why the Conservatives need to make changes to the foreign worker program fast

Good piece by Campbell Clark in the Globe on Temporary Foreign Workers. Latte line is priceless:

Temporary foreign workers really shouldn’t be part of any company’s basic business model, especially if it’s their strategy to fill jobs that don’t require training. Governments should be expecting wages to rise, not stepping in to provide thousands of visas for low-paid workers.

But the government has watched that grow into a common practice over several years. Freezing it has just added unpredictability.

The moratorium won’t kill Canada’s economy. Most consumers will spend their dollars elsewhere in Canada if a restaurant with a labour shortage has a long wait. But the tourism industry does have some reason to worry that the sudden freeze just as their busy season starts will cause problems for some businesses, and perhaps hurt the sector….

But whatever the government decided to do, it should have provided a transition program so the sector wasn’t hit suddenly, he [Garth White, Restaurants Canada] said. And the government should stop moving its deadline and announce its plans to reform the program, he said….

The president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, David Goldstein, said most in the industry don’t like the current program, but they do need the workers. There are some jobs it’s just hard to fill with Canadian workers, he said.

“The inconvenient truth is that in a Richard Florida society, somebody still has to make him his latte,” he said.

It’s not clear that Canadians should make it a policy priority to keep the price of the latte low, by making it easy to recruit lower-paid workers from abroad.

Why the Conservatives need to make changes to the foreign worker program fast – The Globe and Mail.

Temporary foreign workers: Canada needs fewer guests – and more citizens

Globe editorial:

What should Mr. Kenney do?

Study the issue: Take the time needed to get this right. Commission a group of experts and give them at least six months. Bring the other parties in, and borrow their best ideas. Don’t just introduce legislation in the next few weeks, backed up by nothing more than a thin press release and no actual evidence, and try to hustle it through Parliament. Learn from the fiasco of the Fair Elections Act.

Be principled: A temporary worker program should be for jobs that are temporary. There’s a logic to bringing in seasonal agricultural workers. There may be a logic to some highly skilled workers being brought in under the program, in cases where no trained Canadians exist or where the job is temporary. But burger flippers?

Shrink the program: Make it smaller. Much smaller. Cap the number allowed in each year. Let Canada’s labour market work. If employers in low-wage fields find that they have to offer compensation in excess of minimum wage to attract short-order cooks, customer-service agents and retail sales people, that’s a good thing. It will lead to higher wages for people at the low end of the wage scale, and it will also spur innovation and productivity gains. We want the market to work and to self-correct as it is supposed to, with a tight labour supply in one area of the country forcing up wages, thereby drawing in the underemployed, be they part-time students from down the road or the unemployed from across the country.

Give temporary workers more rights: Shrink the program – but expand their rights. Why not give them the right to change jobs, and even complete labour mobility within Canada, just like Canadians? Give them the power to fight back against abuse and raise their own wages.

More citizens, fewer guests: Canada was built by immigrants who became citizens, not visitors who went home. That’s our future, too.

Citizenship Bill C-24 at Committee goes in other direction, by making citizenship harder to get and no longer providing credit for time spent in Canada as temporary foreign workers.

Temporary foreign workers: Canada needs fewer guests – and more citizens – The Globe and Mail.

Interestingly, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business includes in its recommendations on Temporary Foreign Workers a pathway to citizenship, while the government’s Bill C-24 makes this more difficult given removal of partial credit for pre-Permanent Residents time:

•  Ending the moratorium on restaurants

• Creating a pathway to permanent residence for all TFWs

• A Bill of Rights for TFWs

• Stricter enforcement of existing rules

• An accredited TFW stream for trusted employers

• Matching TFW/Canadian wages by employer

• Maximum 1:1 ratio of TFWs to Canadians

• Allowing permanent immigration for those in entry-level jobs

• Ensuring other government programs (eg. EI) address need for entry-level workers.

CFIB urges feds to end moratorium, enforce rules, protect TFWs’ rights – National Scene – Daily Business Buzz.

Foreign workers issue delays trade deals

The higher-end of Temporary Foreign Workers. But given that one of the original cases was in relation to foreign IT workers displacing Canadian IT workers at the Royal Bank, not an easy issue for the Government. Particularly given that in contrast to NAFTA and the upcoming CETA, India is a low-cost supplier of IT services:

While discussions have also been delayed in part because of India’s lengthy election cycle, the fact that foreign workers have emerged as a potential stumbling block has implications for other lucrative trade agreements that Canada hopes to realize. It remains to be seen whether the resounding victory by Narendra Modi, a pro-business Hindu nationalist who heads the Bharatiya Janata Party, will help Canada overcome the impasse.

Rentala Chandrashekhar, the president of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), which represents India’s IT community, recently visited Ottawa to stress the negative impact Canada’s reforms are having on trade and the potential that further changes could make things worse for both economies.

Mr. Chandrashekhar, a former senior public servant with the Indian government, met with Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, senior officials with Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s department and Don Stephenson, the chief trade negotiator for the Canada-India talks.

“Most important is perception, the perception that the Canadian economy is becoming more closed,” Mr. Chandrashekhar told the Globe. “The perception that walls are being put up … [This] is not something that is very conductive to the kind of environment that you need for pushing forward the idea of a freer trade regime.”

Foreign workers issue delays trade deals – The Globe and Mail.

TFW’s are just one piece of immigration puzzle – New Canadian Media



My piece on Temporary Foreign Workers and the linkages to permanent residency and citizenship:

Over the past 10 years, permanent immigration levels and citizenship applications have largely remained stable. The only major growth that has occurred is for Temporary Foreign Workers, many at lower skill levels, most of whom do not have a pathway to permanent residency. Moreover, the pathway from permanent resident to citizen has also become harder, and will become even more so, undermining the overall Canadian model of immigration and citizenship.

Over reliance on anecdote and weakness in the evidence base have contributed to a number of these policy changes. Policy change is complex and the effects are only known after a number of years. It took four years before the flaws in the redesign of Temporary Foreign Workers became apparent. It will likely take that long to know whether the new “Express Entry” immigration approach works as intended. The full effect of changes to the Citizenship Act will only be known in about 10 years, given the increased residency and related requirements.

TFW’s are just one piece of immigration puzzle – New Canadian Media – NCM.

Kenney defends job bank despite outdated postings

Yet another headache for the government in the context of Temporary Foreign Workers and the introduction of the “Express Entry” new immigration approach which will also use the Job Bank. To be fair, keeping such sites up-to-date is always a challenge:

The federal government will soon make enhancements to its online job bank amid revelations that hundreds of positions posted on the site have long since been filled, Employment Minister Jason Kenney said Monday.

“We are making improvements to the Canada Job Bank … we will be using new technological developments in the near future to ensure an even better matching of unemployed Canadians with available jobs,” Kenney said in the House of Commons.

The government will work with “private-sector web platforms” when provinces fail to send their own postings to the job bank, he added. Currently, most provinces and territories do so automatically.

The job bank is a critical component of Ottawa’s controversial temporary foreign worker program. Employers are required to post ads on the site seeking Canadian workers for four weeks before they’re able to apply to hire temporary foreign workers.

The government also relies in part on job bank data to determine what regions of the country are clamouring for labour.

But from customer service representatives in New Brunswick to food service supervisors in B.C. and RCMP clerks in Saskatchewan, many of the 110,000 jobs listed on the job bank are no longer available. A litany of postings are several months old; some have been on the site for more than a year.

Kenney defends job bank despite outdated postings.

In related Temporary Foreign Workers news, Minister Kenney’s refuses Quebec’s request for an exemption for the moratorium, and Minister Alexander makes one of his few public comments:

Kenney told the Commons the moratorium was imposed to protect Canadians who are looking for work.

The federal minister pointed out that 14 per cent of Quebec youth are unemployed as are 20 per cent of new arrivals to the province.

Ottawa announced the moratorium in late April after reports suggested the program was being abused by the food-service industry.

A spokesman for Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said on the weekend the province has no problem with the program and that restaurants need temporary foreign workers to keep operating, especially in summer.

The moratorium has been widely criticized by industry groups, with Quebec’s restaurant association calling it “exaggerated and unreasonable.”

Earlier on Monday, federal Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said the moratorium was imposed for “very good reasons.”

“There was abuse and we are absolutely committed to completing the review and the reform we have underway,” he said at an unrelated event in Montreal.

“And I can assure you and her (Weil) and Canadians across the country that when this program is relaunched, it will not be subject to abuse.”

He said the hiring of foreign temporary workers should be a “last resort.”

“There are young people across Canada…who are looking for permanent jobs and summer jobs and our first obligation as employers is to look to the domestic market.”

Temporary foreign worker ban: Kenney tells Quebec to hire unemployed youth

Lastly, commentary by Matt Gurney on the irony of the Quebec request:

But restaurant workers? It’s harder to make that case. If Canadians aren’t taking those jobs, the jobs probably aren’t paying enough. I’m sympathetic to the restaurant owners — the restaurant business is highly competitive, with razor-thin margins — but this is how capitalism works. Long-term jobs won’t adjust their prices to appropriate market-driven levels if there’s a gigantic foreign-worker-fed short circuit built into the process. Foreign workers when necessary to sustain and grow the economy, sure, but not foreign workers handing out the dessert menus as the default option.

Quebec is in an odd position here, and an ironic one. Despite the recent election of the Liberal party, and the attendant crushing defeat of the oft-xenophobic Parti Quebecois, the province still has a warranted reputation of being one of the less welcoming places in Canada with which to move. Even Canadian citizens, of the generically white ethnic background, can run into trouble for what language they speak. There are recent signs that this sad trend may slowly be moderating, but there’s still a very long way to go.

And while Quebec sorts out its discomfort with outsiders, it’s also insisting that it wants to retain access to a vast pool of foreigners to work in an industry in which they probably ought not to be working in the first place. “Send us some foreigners so we can hire them for service-sector jobs!” isn’t really something anyone would have expected to hear coming out of the province that was recently in an uproar about what civil servants could wear on their head or around their necks without getting binned, but here we are.

Quebec government really wants more foreigners. OK, then

Jayson Myers: Building a better foreign workers program | National Post

From Jason Myers, CEO of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) on Temporary Foreign Workers and some sensible recommendations (these are not fast food workers) to improve the program, including pathways to residency and implicitly citizenship:

We recommend that a new foreign skilled worker program be introduced, incorporating:

  • an improved national jobs bank that includes employment insurance claimants;

  • a broadly defined classification of skilled workers that’s based on industry needs, rather than on pre-specified qualifications;

  • an “above normal” wage threshold for temporary employment;

  • streamlined and consistently administered application and approval processes;

  • additional flexibility for employers located outside major urban centres, or in regions of rapid economic growth; and

  • improved pathways to residency, in order to give temporary foreign skilled workers better opportunities to become permanent contributors to the Canadian economy.

Jayson Myers: Building a better foreign workers program | National Post.

Meanwhile, Quebec wants an exemption from the federal moratorium.

Interesting that no cases of abuse or concern about Temporary Foreign Workers in food service industries, given Quebec’s overall higher unemployment rate. Quebec had about 44,000 foreign workers in 2012, about 13 percent of the Canadian total (Quebec’s percentage of Canada’s population is almost 24 percent):

“We are a bit worried about the impact of the moratorium on our restaurants and on our small and medium-sized businesses,” he said Sunday.

“We are ready to work with the federal government to tighten the rules of the program if need be.”

Weil is also planning to make the same case to Employment Minister Jason Kenney, who oversees the temporary foreign workers program, McMahon said.

A spokeswoman for Kenney said there are no immediate plans to lift the ban, in Quebec or anywhere else.

“Abuse of the temporary foreign worker program will not be tolerated,” Alexandra Fortier said in an email.

“Allegations of misuse will continue to be investigated and any employer found to have violated the rules will face serious consequences.”

Quebec wants exemption from temporary foreign worker moratorium on restaurants – The Globe and Mail.

Québec réclame la levée du moratoire sur l’embauche de travailleurs étrangers | Le Devoir

Website maps businesses using temporary foreign workers in B.C. and Alberta

Interesting and innovative way to analyze and communicate Temporary Foreign Workers and their impact through mapping:

Of 511 Metro Vancouver businesses that received government authorization to recruit temporary foreign workers over a one-year period, 107 were restaurants, pubs or fast-food outlets — almost 21 per cent of the total. Everything from Megabite Pizza and Waves Coffee to Dead Frog Brewery and Doolin’s Irish Pub received approvals.

In Calgary, 299 of the 718 business that received authorizations in the same period were restaurants, pubs and fast-food outlets — 41 per cent. Those included a slew of Subway, Dairy Queen and many other franchises, as well as several mom-and-pop eateries.

“The majority of the people in those programs are not skilled workers working on construction projects where there’s a labour shortage,” Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said Wednesday.

“They’re simply being used as cheap labour in large urban areas where there’s already tens of thousands of people unemployed.”

Website maps businesses using temporary foreign workers in B.C. and Alberta.

The link to the map application: