The Commons: Jason Kenney and Thomas Mulcair disagreeably agree

Of temporary foreign workers, they are almost of one mind


Thomas Mulcair offered a simple premise.

“Mr. Speaker, a year ago the Conservatives created a new accelerated approval process for hiring temporary foreign workers,” the NDP leader offered. “They allowed them to be paid 15% less than Canadian workers doing the same job. That is an incentive to hire temporary foreign workers instead of Canadians. Today, Conservatives are begging Canadians to believe that this time they are really going to crack down, but Conservatives have not removed the incentive to hire temporary foreign workers. Why have they not changed the 15% rule? Their message is still, ‘Work for less or you’ll be replaced.’ ”

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney rejected this premise entirely.

“As always on this matter, Mr. Speaker, the NDP is wrong,” Mr. Kenney declared. “I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition has been improperly briefed or whether he knows he is wrong when he says that the rules allow for foreign workers to be underpaid. That is not true. People cannot come into this country to work on work permits unless they are paid at the prevailing regional wage rate. However, of course, in every occupation there is a range and this allows for some people to be paid as long as Canadians are paid within that range, at the same wage level.”

That said, the answer to Mr. Mulcair’s actual question was apparently yes. Indeed, an hour and 45 minutes later, Mr. Kenney convened a news conference to declare that, a year after it was the introduced, the 15% rule was no more. Only, as Mr. Kenney explained, for entirely different reasons.

The original problem was apparently that some temporary foreign workers were being paid too much.

“The requirement has always been that Canadian employers … must offer the position to qualified Canadians at what is called the prevailing, average, regional wage rate, which is based on data on an occupational category taken by StatsCan and HRSDC, which determines what is the median average for a particular occupation in a particular region of employment. And some employers came to us to say that this created an aberration because, of course, for every job there is a range. There’s a starting salary, people typically move up in terms of their compensation based on their duration or their performance. And the aberration was that newly hired temporary foreign workers, the requirement was that they be paid the average, when newly hired Canadian workers were paid a starting wage that was, by definition, less than the median average.”

Enter the 15% rule. And commence disagreeing.

“But what’s always been misunderstood here is that the requirement was that they could not pay 15% less for high-skilled, 5% less for low-skilled, unless, unless, Canadians were being paid 15% less than the median average, or 5% for low-skilled workers,” Mr. Kenney explained. “So that’s why, I guess it’s easier to convey a falsehood in 30 seconds in Question Period than to explain a complicated truth. But the truth is very simple.”

And so now exit the 15% rule.

“But, our experience, since we put in place the flexibility in April 2012, is that less than 5% of employers actually used the flexibility that they were given to pay less than the median average. And so, given the confusion about this and given the fact that it has not been used, we decided to end the pilot.”

Mr. Kenney ventured that the opposition had “knowingly misled” Canadians in this regard. But there was no demand anyway. And for that matter, Mr. Kenney decided to add, the government’s desire was that businesses consider raising their wages to attract workers as a first resort.

“One thing I want to say is that we want to ensure that employers are looking at and using wage and salary increases as their first option, before they look abroad,”  the minister offered. “And that’s what the other changes here will do.”

All this just after Mr. Kenney had explained that the government would be seeking input from, among other interested parties, unions.

A couple hours previous, the NDP’s Chris Charlton had picked up Mr. Mulcair’s line of questioning.

“The Conservatives completely lost control of the temporary foreign workers program,” she charged. “Originally, it brought in a small number of workers. Now it is massive, pays them less, displaces Canadians and drives down wages for everyone. Even Mark Carney agrees the current program is good for neither workers nor our economy.”

Mr. Kenney was once more unimpressed. “What is interesting is I have this stack of letters from NDP members of Parliament asking for more temporary foreign workers in their constituencies,” he reported, holding aloft the stack in question. “The members opposite know who they are. They come up to me all the time. While they are seeking to increase the number of foreign workers in their constituencies, we are working to ensure the program works for the Canadian economy.”

Ms. Charlton felt it necessary to clarify the disagreement here. “Mr. Speaker,” she shot back, “no New Democrat asked this minister to displace Canadian jobs.”

At his desk, Mr. Kenney now flipped through the aforementioned stack, perhaps in search of something that might directly rebut this bit. Whether or not he found something in those papers, he had an example at the ready when he stood to respond.

“Mr. Speaker, let us be clear,” he humbly offered. “The NDP is suggesting that the temporary foreign worker program always displaces Canadians and yet it wants more temporary foreign workers to come into Canada. I went to a heritage committee hearing a couple of months ago where the NDP members were attacking the government for not making it easier to bring in people more quickly to work in the computer gaming programming business in Montreal. They said that the government was being far too rigid in the way that it applied the rules, seeking to ensure that the employers offered the jobs to Canadians first.”

In his seat, Mr. Mulcair held a hand aloft and made a derisive gesture—the “blah-blah-blah” cited here—to suggest Mr. Kenney’s remarks were lacking in content.

“The NDP policy,” Mr. Kenney finished, “is to say one thing but do another.”

Mr. Mulcair chuckled.

Back then to the future.

“One of the misconceptions about the program,” Mr. Kenney explained to a reporter, “is that it’s predominantly about low-skilled workers and that just simply is not the truth … The vast majority of positions are in the mid- to high-skilled range of jobs.”

Jobs like, say, the programming of computer games.

“If you talk to the computer game production businesses in Montreal,” Mr. Kenney continued, “they are absolutely desperate for accelerated access to people from countries like France and the United States with very specific skills.”

So we are agreed. The 15% rule should be done away with. And if this country is to develop the next Angry Birds, government policy must allow for the safe importation of the finest Americans and French programmers.

It is unclear what remains to disagree about, but surely the interested parties will find something.


The Commons: Jason Kenney and Thomas Mulcair disagreeably agree

  1. “Immigration Minister Jason Kenney rejected this premise entirely.”

    In short: Really, people…. When will you acknowledge that you just aren’t on the same planet as us!

  2. The Leader of HM Loyal Opposition is a citizen of the Republic of France.

    • To be fair, he is also a Canadian citizen — it’s called dual citizenship.

  3. And so The Incompetent Party snorted and huffed, waved their
    furry little hooves, kicked some dust in the air, and said ..
    so there !
    We will await the arrival of the free market economists to tell
    us how wrong Everybody is …

    • Lol

  4. There are two possibilities;

    1) Kenny is proposing that companies bring over untrained foreign workers with no relevant experience. If so, pegging the rate to entry level Canadians would be at least defensible, although, why would we want those people?

    2) Kenny wants the companies to bring over qualified, trained workers with relevant experience to assist on a temporary basis. The pay should be pegged then to highly experienced Canadian workers NOT ENTRY LEVEL. Perhaps, the pay should be 15% above the median but certainly not below.

    Kenny is a smooth talker and a sharp dresser. From the above, he is either dishonest or stupid. Hard to tell which for certain.

    • Play it safe, assume both.

      • Or listen to Minister Kenney directly. You don’t have to take Wherry’s word for what’s happening in Canada.


        • I have listened to Kenney explain. 1) the 15% rule was not introduced as a pilot and was a bad idea from the start
          2) they were much more concerned about corporations that wanted labor at a fixed price rather than increase wages to get labour.

          I am not actually against the concept, however the details matter and this is another example of a poorly crafted policy by the Conservatives.

          • And you lie again.

            It must be difficult trying to find fault with this government if it wasn’t for you stating lie after lie.

            Kenney said that the 15% rule was part of a range, as in high and low wage and when taken as an average, the 15% could be used.

            He also said that the 15% rule was explained so misleadingly by the opposition parties that it was better to do away with it altogether, since only 5% of the time the 15% rule was used.

          • Nothing that you said contradicts what Stewart has said. So the only lie here is your claiming he lied.

          • Kenney has never said that the 15% rule was a bad idea from the start. Saying that he has is StewartSmith’s first lie.

            Under point 2, StewartSmith is trying to pass on his very own opinion as that being the government’s or Kenney’s statement. And to do so is lie number 2.

            Try reading comprehension, Thwim, if you want to be part of this game. Without reading comprehension, you won’t have a chance of keeping personal credibility in check. Oh, sorry, you have nothing to worry about; fake names don’t have credibility to speak of, and besides, fake namers can lie about anything they want. So, keep it up – your game of fake, fake, fake.

            In the meantime I will call out the lyers.

    • 1) bang on. Kenney still hasn’t explained why the explosive growth in the programm; if not to put pressure on unemployed Canadians to take any job at a reduced wage. But now we’re asked to accept that he’s suddenly discovered the free market, supply & demand and all that good stuff.
      Anyone who’s been on a recent road trip to AB would be hard put not to to see this as a business cost saving measure in the great national endeavor of the age – turning Northern AB into a moonscape.

      Now Kenney of all people asks for understanding of the subtleties of his grand and ludicrously over complicated national immigration retooling scheme. The chutzpah of the man is off the charts. Wear it Kenney: as you’ve made so many others do before you.

      • Listen to what Mr.Kenney has to say in person, rather than read Mr.Wherry’s word for what Mr.Kenney has said or what the program is all about.


        • So Wherry is lying or falsifying something, is he?

          • It must be disheartening to Wherry to see the thumbs-up on your comment implying that he may be lying or falsifying.

          • Go back to grade school, Andrew. Reading is more than just knowing the words, and they’ll teach you that there.

          • What is it with you Alberta Liberals ?
            So serious…….
            So humourless…….
            So angry………..
            So wrong……..
            So lonely…….

          • Im sure he couldn’t give a darn either way.

            That’s pretty witty for you. But i’m curious to know how many thumbed up because they got it was sarcasm – not including you of course.

            Don’t see any luv for Francien’s original comment. So, you’re wrong…once again!!

    • Why do you feel the need to lie? Why not listen to Minister Kenney yourself?


      Within the interview, Kenney talks about the misinformation the opposition parties are spreading around. Listen to what Kenny has to say directly!

      • The opposition? parties? are spreading misinformation? Lawdy!! Say it ain’t so!

        • It is sickening how the keep opposing the government all the time.

  5. “The catch is, if a segment of an employer’s workforce is made up of migrant workers only, they can be paid 15 per cent less than the local prevailing wage”

    Which is pretty much the case for say any THs I go into ( presumably for much of the hospitality / food service industry these days)
    It’s pretty much a license to stifle any kind of market forces on the wage side of things. Good luck with getting that job if you’re a Canadian with higher expectations – remember, it’s supposed to be a buyers market for for jobs that are in demand – wages should be trending upward, depending on where you live.

    What isn’t getting as much attention is the skills side of the market ( other than finance/banking)
    A friend tells me while he’s doing fine in Fort Mac, he’s been seeing skilled trades come from places like India at reduced rates and benefits ( 15% presumably)
    It’s a national scandal. The only surprise is its taken this long for it to become a national debate.

  6. I’m surprised the opposition isn’t bringing up the specific example of companies (banks) using this program as a starting step towards exporting jobs to lower-wage markets. I bet the computer programmers working out of India for the big Canadian banks are getting paid substantially less than 85% of the wages of an equivalent programmer in Canada. I would be interested in the results if some intrepid reporter researched the comparative salary ranges for typical positions that have been moved offshore using the temporary foreign workers program. Hell, Lang from CBC’s Lang and O’Leary report could probably supply the numbers, given her experience exporting said jobs.

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