By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, April 29 The Canadian government
announced tighter rules on Monday to prevent employers from
using its temporary foreign worker program to squeeze Canadians
out of jobs, acting after two high-profile cases tarnished the
The new rules will prevent employers from paying foreign
workers less than Canadians, and will ensure that employers who
rely on temporary foreign workers have a "firm plan" in place to
transition to a Canadian labor force.
However, nothing in the government announcement suggested
that the government will prevent fast-food restaurants and
others from using the program to hire low-skilled workers, a
practice that labor unions say must stop.
"These reforms will require that greater efforts be made to
recruit and train Canadians to fill available jobs," Citizenship
and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a statement.
"They will also help ensure the temporary foreign worker
program is only used as intended - to fill acute skills
shortages on a temporary basis."
Canadian unemployment is 7 percent nationally, but there are
labor shortages in some areas and in some professions, and
employers that demonstrate they cannot find enough Canadian
workers are allowed to bring in foreign workers.
The program was designed mainly to bring in cheap
agricultural workers. But it has expanded rapidly to fill
shortages elsewhere, both high-skilled positions in the booming
resource sector and low-skilled fast-food jobs.
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney weighed into the debate
last week by saying the program should be used primarily for
high-skilled jobs and that over-reliance on it for low-skilled
jobs can prevent needed market adjustments through higher wages.
Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan told a
news conference that what was really needed was to stop bringing
in unskilled workers, and that pizza and burger shops cannot
find Canadian workers because they don't pay enough.
"The solution is to increase wages, not to open the flood
gates through the temporary foreign worker program," he said,
adding that it was ironic that a pro-free-market Conservative
government was effectively depressing wages.
Opposition New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair told
Parliament: "Their message is still work for less, or you'll be
The program exploded into the news this month with word that
Canada's largest bank, Royal Bank of Canada, was using
temporary foreign workers hired by U.S. outsourcing firm iGate
, effectively to replace existing staff.
In an open letter, RBC Chief Executive Gord Nixon
subsequently apologized for not being more sensitive to Canadian
employees. But he also said the bank had complied with
regulations, and iGate said its hiring practices were fully
compliant with Canadian law.
The program also came under the spotlight with word last
year that a majority Chinese-owned company had listed Mandarin
as a language requirement for 201 jobs at the Murray River coal
mine in the interior of British Columbia.
The company involved is HD Mining International Ltd, in
which China's Huiyong Holdings Ltd holds a 55 percent stake,
Canada's Dehua Lvliang International Mines Group Inc 40 percent
and an unnamed party 5 percent.
HD Mining said last year it had tried to hire locally but
had been unable to find people with the skills to operate the
specialized mining equipment, currently used in China, that will
be used at the Canadian mine.
The government addressed that HD Mining controversy with a
new rule that English and French will now be the only languages
that can be used as a job requirement.
It will also introduce fees for employers for processing the
paperwork needed to authorize temporary foreign workers, and
will add questions to ensure the program is not used to
facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs.