QP Live: How do you define a labour shortage?

Your daily dose of political theatre

Adrian Wyld/CP

Adrian Wyld/CP

Temporary foreign workers have held the attention of parliamentarians’ collective attention for weeks—in particular, those workers who allegedly steal Canadian jobs or are abused by their Canadian employers or, depending on the day, both. The House of Commons spent a week as a big, empty room. As its inhabitants return to Ottawa after a week in their constituencies, they confront some numbers produced by the Alberta Federation of Labour.

The Globe and Mail reports that AFL’s digging has produced troubling statistics—namely, that the feds have approved applications to hire thousands of temporary foreign workers at minimum wage. The Globe reminds its readers that TFWs “must be paid the median prevailing hourly wage for that occupation in that geographic area.” If employers can pay minimum wage, the AFL says, that’s proof that no labour shortage afflicts the Canadian economy.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s traditional response to labour-shortage skeptics has been that no broad labour shortage plagues the country, but that TFWs assist targeted, regional gaps. Expect more duelling definitions of labour market shortages in today’s 45-minute session.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair may largely throw the foreign-worker file to his go-to lieutenant on the file, MP Jinny Sims. He’ll no doubt expend some energy asking the government about another Globe scoop from the weekend paper: the Tories’ apparent fixation last summer on filling a Supreme Court vacancy with a Quebec judge from the Federal Court. Mulcair’s taken glee in dissecting the government’s tricky defence of its conduct on the file.

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We livestream and liveblog all the action.