Tom Walkom writes that no one should be taken in by the cosmetic changes to the Temporary Workers program, which Jason Kinney announced two days ago:
The backpedaling Monday by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney underscores a bitter truth about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
It has been forced to retreat marginally from its long-running campaign to push down wages in Canada. But it hasn’t given up the war.
Kenney’s tactical retreat was announced with much fanfare. As cameras clicked, the minister announced numerous changes to Ottawa’s temporary foreign workers program.
Yet only one is significant. That’s the government’s decision to axe a provision allowing employers to pay foreign temporary workers up to 15 per cent less than the going wage.
Even the Harperites had come to realize that, at a time when 1.4 million Canadians are out of work, this was unduly provocative.
But the goal remains the same -- to drive down labour costs and increase corporate profits -- not just in Canada but around the world. Things could be different. When the Harper government signs its much ballyhooed trade deals, it could insist on labour and safety standards which would go a long way to preventing the kind of disaster that happened in Bangladesh:
Canada and other rich nations could help by insisting that wage and labour rights be preconditions for trade with a developing nation like Bangladesh.
To put it another way, trade and immigration policy could be used to boost wages there toward Canadian levels.
But that is not what is happening. Instead, Canada’s government is using trade and immigration policy to lower wages here toward Bangladeshi levels.
The lesson Othello learned from Iago applies equally to Stephen Harper: "One may smile and smile and be a villain."