Can’t be a comfortable time for any of Canada’s temporary foreign workers. They’re in the middle of a protracted political fight, the complexity of which is often lost in all the yelling. It’s not clear how many parliamentarians reasonably understand the country’s temporary foreign workers programs. Today, they’ve perfected the art of the scattershot debate. Their deliberations are framed by an NDP motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been open to abuse resulting in the firing of qualified Canadian workers, lower wages and the exploitation of temporary foreign workers, and therefore the government should: (a) impose an immediate moratorium on the Stream for Lower-skilled Occupations, which includes fast-food, service and restaurant jobs; and (b) request an urgent audit of the whole program by the Auditor General.
NDP MP Jinny Sims tabled the motion, which is not the first time Sims has raised the spectre of the auditor general. At a heritage committee meeting on Dec. 11, 2012, she asked Employment Minister Jason Kenney if he’d consider taking the same action as laid out in today’s motion. His response telegraphed the Conservative line on today’s debate. “No, I haven’t considered that,” he said. “I don’t decide the work plan of the Auditor General.”
The debate’s conclusion may be foregone, but that didn’t stop Liberal MP Wayne Easter from asking an honest question. He told the House that he was speaking with a farmer on Prince Edward Island earlier today. The farmer employs seven people, including three foreign workers. The four Canadians didn’t show up this morning. What’s the farmer supposed to do if Canadians don’t show up?
Easter got no real answer. Tories and New Democrats had their minds made up and weren’t concerned about lingering details. Just now, for example, Tory MP Brad Butt said the NDP wants to “throw the program in the trash can” only seconds after he lamented their apparent requests for more temporary foreign workers—totally incomprehensible logic. In a few minutes, Question Period hijacks the debate. Well, such as it is.
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