Those who come to this country and work hard should have a fair and reasonable chance at becoming Canadian citizens. Equally, Canada should not exploit vulnerable people from abroad who arrive on our shores.
This commitment – long upheld by governments of various political stripes – has since been abandoned by Mr. Harper. His Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, has been front and centre in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program since he was appointed to the post in October of 2008. For nearly six years, Mr. Kenney has played a lead role in the rapid increase in the number of foreign workers who have come to Canada.
Now, he wants us to believe that he has had a change of heart.
Previously, the Conservative government encouraged an expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program by accelerating the Labour Market Opinion process; this led to an increase in the number of low-skilled foreign workers in Canada. The Conservatives also changed the rules so that employers could pay foreign workers less than their Canadian counterparts. Meanwhile, they did nothing to stop the rampant abuse of these employees.
Mr. Kenney would have us believe that he is a white knight, here to save Canadians from evil employers who have deceived the government. But we know that this isn’t the case. While the Minister says he has restricted access to the lower-skilled temporary foreign worker stream, which allowed approximately 16,000 people into the country last year, he has ignored the much, much larger International Experience Canada program. This program, which admitted 58,000 people in 2012, is advertised by the government as a means to fill low-skill service sector jobs and it has virtually no controls or oversight mechanisms.
It was disappointing that his recent announcement failed to provide new pathways toward citizenship for temporary foreign workers. Throughout our history, providing pathways to citizenship has been at the core of Canada’s immigration policy. A recent poll shows that the majority of Canadians agree with this kind of policy and want to see more pathways toward citizenship for temporary foreign workers.
Mr. Kenney’s track record when it comes to temporary foreign workers is one of failure. We have absolutely no faith in this government’s ability to clamp down on abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, especially while Mr. Kenney is at its helm.
Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and MP for Papineau
John McCallum, Liberal MP for Markham—Unionville