The Liberals have vowed to reform the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. John McCallum is making noises about developing a pathway to citizenship for them. But the program is a minefield because it was developed as a sop to business. Its raison d'etre was to keep labour costs low across the country. Tom Walkom writes:
The problem the Trudeau government faces is that the temporary foreign workers program in any guise is a low-wage strategy.When businesses say they can’t find qualified labour what they usually mean is that they can’t find anyone at the wage they are willing — or able — to pay.Appearing before the Commons human resources committee this spring, representatives of the meat packing industry said they must bring in foreign workers because native-born Canadians just aren’t interested in such tough jobs.What they didn’t dwell on was the fact that native-born Canadians are quite willing to work in other tough manual jobs — such as the oil rigs — that pay more.Christopher Smillie of the Canadian Building Trades Unions put the problem succinctly. “If employers can’t entice Canadians to take certain jobs (they should) raise wages,” he told the committee.
After all, that is supposed to be how the free market operates. But the Conservatives -- who proclaimed their faith in free markets -- never really believed in them. What the Liberals believe is not entirely clear. And it's not entirely clear what they will do:
At one level, their problem is a practical one. Even if they are opposed to using temporary migration as a wage suppressant, they live in a world where this is the norm. That’s why, in an attempt to pander to East Coast fish plants, they lifted the ceiling this year on the number of temporary foreign workers seasonal employers may bring in.