The Conservative government is looking to address the seeming paradox of high unemployment in areas suffering shortages of labour. And they’re doing so by warning recipients of Employment Insurance that they may lose their benefits if they don’t pursue jobs that are being filled by temporary foreign workers.
“What we will be doing is making people aware there’s hiring going on and reminding them that they have an obligation to apply for available work and to take it if they’re going to qualify for EI,” Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told the National Post. According to the newspaper, Kenney pointed to areas in Nova Scotia that, despite having unemployment rates of around 10 per cent, are bringing in people from Mexico to work at Christmas tree operations.
Last month’s federal budget pledged $387 million to align the delivery of EI benefits with labour market conditions. As the CBC reports, Canadian businesses that hire temporary foreign workers are already looking to domestic labourers before recruiting people from abroad. Ken Forth, the president of a non-profit organization that oversees the recruitment of foreign agricultural workers in Canada, told the CBC that 80,000 Canadians are employed at farms in southern Ontario, compared with 15,500 foreign workers.
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley will soon address the changes in further detail, Kenney told the National Post.