OTTAWA – There has not been a single inspection done of a workplace that employs temporary foreign workers — even though the Conservative government promised to do so last year when it overhauled the controversial program for the first time.
Now, with further reforms set to be announced today, questions are being raised about why Ottawa has been so slow to act on a major part of changes announced last December.
The Canadian Press made a request under the Access to Information Act for all inspection reports of workplaces that employ temporary foreign workers. But in a letter dated June 2, Employment and Social Development Canada replied that no inspections have been carried out.
“Department officials have informed our office that workplace inspections are expected to occur beginning in fall 2014,” wrote Jackie Holden, the department’s director of access to information and privacy.
“As a result, ESDC does not have the information you requested.”
New regulations announced last December gave the government the power to inspect workplaces to make sure employers were following the rules of the temporary foreign worker program.
The program has become a hot potato for the Harper government ever since stories of abuses came to light in the news media, including one case where Royal Bank employees were asked to train foreign workers to take over their jobs.
In February, 65 Alberta ironworkers alleged they were let go so that foreign workers could replace them.
Canadian firms are using the program more and more to fill both high- and low-skilled positions, despite relatively high levels of unemployment and data showing that the ratio of unemployed to job vacancies is rising.
A recent government calculation estimated there were 386,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada, or about two per cent of the labour force, up from about 100,000 in 2002.