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Canada's International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 24, 2012. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
Canada's International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 24, 2012. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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April 27: Letters to the editor Add to ...

Skilled labour pains

When there are gas shortages and pump prices rise, the government says it’s a matter of supply and demand and nothing can be done. But when employers say there’s a shortage of skilled workers, the government is prepared to open the labour market to temporary workers who can be paid up to 15 per cent less than other workers in the same region (West Wins New Foreign-Worker Rules – April 26).

We support people coming to Canada as landed immigrants to fill demonstrated skills shortages. But the government’s plan is unfair. It will simply provide low-wage labour to business at the expense of Canadian communities and migrant workers trying to provide for families they left behind.

Ken Georgetti, president, Canadian Labour Congress

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As someone who has recently gone through the foreign-worker hiring process, I can assure you no company can afford to wait three to four months for a Labour Market Opinion to hire a foreign candidate. But perhaps that’s the point?

If the government really wants to attract highly skilled labour – who will then pay high taxes on their income – they should move to a point-based entry system for work visas, as used in the U.K. Bring down the barriers, cut the paperwork. Only then will Canada will be an attractive place for highly skilled migrants.

Jessica Malawski, Ottawa

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Expanding the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program will do little to ease labour shortages in the oil patch or resolve its mysterious counterpart: the persistent unemployment that afflicts much of northern and rural Canada. Labour markets, just like other markets, work on supply and demand. Northern resource jobs go unfilled because Canadian workers can’t afford to take them: the allure of high hourly wages soon wears off in the light of seasonal and unpredictable employment, scarce accommodation, exorbitant costs of living and often dead-end career paths.

Foreign workers have very different economic circumstances. Even at substandard wages, the program can be attractive to workers whose transportation and accommodation costs are paid and who, when their contract ends, can return to countries where Canadian earnings will double or triple their buying power.

Meanwhile, by suppressing wages in the local market, employer subsidies such as the TFW program can only make those jobs even less affordable for workers who must live in the Canadian economy full-time, ultimately exacerbating the twin problems of skill shortage and unemployment.

The solution is not more subsidies, but serious efforts to smooth out the bumps of the Wild West economy so Canadian workers can look forward to the sort of employment stability that will make an industrial career worth investing in.

John Meredith, Victoria

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Sorry won’t do it

Re Oda And Out (letters, April 26): Is it possible that Bev Oda might have written a letter of resignation but then, at the last minute, added the word “not” before presenting it to her boss?

Mark A. Roberts, Calgary

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Bev Oda’s apology and repayment came about only after the media “outed” her extraordinary expenses during her London trip.

I work in the private sector where you are accountable to your employer for how you spend their money. To hear that Ms. Oda deemed it necessary to upgrade her hotel and employ a $1,000-a-day limo driver was an insult to all of us who are paying her salary. Apologizing isn’t enough. She should resign.

Sandra Blane, Oakville, Ont.

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Ouch, ouch, ouch

You suggest that Rupert Murdoch gave an errant editor “a hell of a blocking” (From The Mouth Of Murdoch – April 26). It’s far more likely he gave him a hell of a “bollocking.” Canadians may not be as familiar with the expression as Australians like Mr. Murdoch. A bollocking, simply put, is a severe, generally loud rebuke lasting several minutes inflicted on the real or presumed transgressor by a person of higher authority.

The rebuke, which generally makes frequent use of a word beginning with “F,” is intended to make the recipient feel so admonished and humiliated that he (seldom, she) feels small enough to exit through the office door’s keyhole.

Theories abound on the origin of the word “bollocks” (or bollox to purists). Most scholars prefer the thesis that it originates in the Anglo-Saxon word for testicles. A bollocking by the likes of Mr. Murdoch would be something to be feared and long remembered, like a kick in the ...

David Murray, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

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Real, it isn’t

I find it amusing that all five cast members of The Real Housewives of Vancouver are white and blond (Why Our Clickers Are Stuck On Shallow – Arts, April 25). Almost half the population of Vancouver is visible minorities and far from every white female has blond hair. “Real,” the show is not; crass, banal and racially biased, it probably is.

Kai Chan, Dubai

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Apples-to-apples dairy

Comparing Canadian to Kiwi dairying is not apples to apples (Kiwis Put Canada’s Dairy Supply Management To Shame – April 25). New Zealand has the ultimate environment for dairy. With its 12-month grass-growing season, cows are outdoors year round; supplemental feed isn’t required. Canadian producers must provide shelter from November to May and grow and store feed for winter months.

N.Z.’s Fonterra Co-operative Group has a membership of 10,700 dairy producers, controls 90 per cent of milk production and is N.Z.’s largest commercial exporter. Yet, based on anecdotal comments, milk and butter are priced at the same level as in Canada.

Cheaper dairy products may be available (on a cyclical basis) across the U.S. border. Where this would go if North America’s doors were thrown open is, at best, a guess. However, for the price of a few weekly cups of Tims or Starbucks, the benefits of a reliable, safe Canadian supply of dairy remains a solid investment.

Martin C. Pick, Cavan, Ont.

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What Picasso said

Letter-writer George Molloy expresses his disappointment that the display of Picasso’s works at the Art Gallery of Ontario will have no explanatory panels (Viewer v. Curator – April 26) and decries the viewpoint of Musée National Picasso curator Anne Baldassari that “we don’t need any explanation at the first level of contact.”

My mother, artist Hilda van Stockum, told me of an exchange that took place at a luncheon in Geneva following an art sale to raise money for refugees. My father was senior director of the High Commission for Refugees at the time, in the early 1960s. A wealthy American woman sitting close to Picasso said to him, “I bought your painting, and I like it very much, but now can you tell me what it means?”

Picasso’s response was, “Madame, you have my painting and you are happy with it. I have your money and I am happy with that. Why don’t we just leave things that way?”

Randal Marlin, Ottawa

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