Recent Changes to the Foreign Worker Program are Unnecessary

By Andy Semotiuk | May 6, 2013

semotiuk-andy-clrImmigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk – Pace ImmigrationCanadian Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney today announced some changes to the temporary foreign worker program. In my view, the changes are alarming, and take Canadian immigration policy in the wrong direction. The changes will make it harder for employers to get specialized workers in Canada, which in turn will hinder Canadian economic growth.

Recent news reports about a mine in British Columbia, as well as a foreign worker “scandal” with the Royal Bank, have mistakenly described the problem as having to do with foreign workers stealing Canadian jobs for low pay. Wrong.

In the case of the mine, reports indicated that HD Mining International Ltd. required workers to speak Mandarin in their BC mine. That is not true. What is true is that local miners were not skilled in the kind of mining they were doing in BC. Chinese miners were. HD Mining wanted to bring these specialized Chinese workers to Canada, but they did not necessarily need the workers to speak English since the mine’s leadership spoke Chinese. Thus, they sought permission to bring these miners to Canada.

Remember, companies require a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) before hiring foreign workers over Canadian workers. This LMO certifies that the company took all necessary measures to find Canadian workers before seeking foreign employees to fill their ranks.

Still, such news made headlines, and the government decided to answer with tighter and, in my opinion, unnecessary regulations.

HD Mining received just such an LMO from Service Canada. Further to that, HD Mining was required to pay these Chinese workers a wage approved by Service Canada, a wage not below Canadian market rates. Thus, claims that the Chinese workers were hired in some shady fashion purely to save the company cash are wrong.

Still, such news made headlines, and the government decided to answer with tighter and, in my opinion, unnecessary regulations. The
new requirements now hold that such foreign workers would have to pass English
language tests to come to work in the BC mine – a requirement
that adds nothing to the employer’s needs.

Similar headlines were created by the Royal Bank story, where the bank had 45 foreign nationals working for them. This was again reported as a jilting of Canadian workers in several articles. A local labour union even responded by voting to divestfrom RBC and having their members put their money elsewhere.

Such reactions ignore the fact that, again, the employer had to obtain a Labor Market Opinion. They had to satisfy Service Canada that the foreign workers were in Canada temporarily, were necessary for the task, were being paid the same as Canadian workers, and would leave at the end of their authorized stay.

Reports indicate that the RBC workers were being trained in Canada, and that most of them would return to their country of origin once they had been trained up. Ironically, it is there, in that foreign country, that those workers would then be paid a wage lower than what Canadian workers would be prepared to accept for the same work.

No doubt that thought raises hackles as well, under the Outsourcing label. But that issue needs to be viewed from the standpoint of the Canadian shareholders of the bank. They want the bank to make a profit for them, and they want to cut administration costs as much as possible. From their point of view, if that means processing administrative work overseas, so be it.

In this way, workers at the bank – no matter their nationality – are exposed to the competitive world of big business. The writing is on the wall for Canadian-born workers: it impossible for them to make high salaries in Canada doing menial tasks which the bank’s shareholder’s will send overseas. The way it looks now, the way to better their fate would be to upgrade their skills, rather than fight such outsourcing.

In the last few days I have noted news reports from unidentified people complaining about the immigration system, again using confused arguments that reveal that they do not know how the programs function.

From a lot of fiery and misinformed talk stemming from these two cases, we now have an unnecessary overhaul of our foreign worker system. I believe this overhaul will hurt the Canadian economy, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.