Liberal senator urges halt to foreign workers to give Canadians first chance at jobs
Richard J. Brenna
Feb 12, 2009 04:30 AM
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OTTAWAA Liberal senator is calling for a “Canadians First” jobs policy, saying that temporary foreign workers should be banned from the country for stealing jobs from the growing ranks of unemployed Canadians.
New Brunswick Senator Pierrette Ringuette is urging the Conservative government to halt the foreign worker program “so that Canadians will have the first opportunity to obtain these jobs and to work in Canada.”
“We have lost thousands of jobs in the forestry sector and we are losing jobs in agriculture, as well as in the mining and manufacturing sectors,” she said in the Senate on Tuesday.
“In the current fiscal situation, we provide foreign workers with visas to work in Canada while we have Canadians seeking jobs,” she said.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney called Ringuette's comments “really unfortunate,” saying that despite rising unemployment, some jobs across the country are going unfilled.
“There are jobs out there that are going unfilled, businesses that would go under without access … to immigrant labour,” Kenney told reporters yesterday.
He said that a temporary foreign worker is not allowed into the country to fill a vacant job unless the employer can prove that no Canadian was willing to take it.
Last year, some 170,000 foreigners worked in Canada under the program. But Kenney said he expects a significant drop in the number of foreign workers this year as job offers dry up in the face of the economic meltdown.
The Liberals yesterday said that the senator's comments do not represent official party policy. But Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua (Vaughan) accused the Conservatives of being “fixated” on temporary workers.
“That's an incomplete and short-term approach,” he said.
“We want skilled and educated people from around the world to think of Canada as a place where they can come and build a life for them and their families,” Bevilacqua said in an email.
He said that under the Conservatives, the number of permanent residents accepted into the country has dropped to 247,000 last year, compared to 262,000 under the Liberals in 2005.
NDP MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) also wants to see the number of temporary workers curbed, saying they drive down wages and take Canadians' jobs. Rather than focus on bringing cheap temporary labour into Canada, the federal government should be allowing in more immigrants as permanent residents.
“I believe that temporary foreign workers do drive down wages,” Chow told reporters after question period.
Chow said there are Canadians who are prepared to do the work these temporary foreign workers are filling now “if you pay them proper wages.”