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Employment Minister Jason Kenney has put the brakes on hiring temporary foreign workers for the food-service industry. (AP)
Employment Minister Jason Kenney has put the brakes on hiring temporary foreign workers for the food-service industry. (AP)

Conservative MP questioned foreign workers’ wages in 2009: letter Add to ...

Add Rob Merrifield to the ranks of Conservative MPs who have complained privately about the government’s besieged temporary foreign worker program.

The Alberta MP wrote in 2009 to Diane Finley, then human resources minister, after a Boston Pizza franchise owner in his riding complained about having to pay his temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage rate.

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(What is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program? Read The Globe’s easy explanation)

Merrifield’s letter says the owner felt he couldn’t afford to pay $15.82 an hour to a temporary foreign worker, but might have no other choice due to local labour shortages.

Merrifield, who served for three years as a junior minister before being dropped from cabinet in 2011, also writes that the owner was paying his eight temporary foreign workers more than their Canadian counterparts.

The letter says the foreign help was paid between $13.25 to $14 an hour, while the Canadians earned $12 an hour.

It asks whether it would be possible for the employer to pay his temporary foreign workers the same wage he was paying his Canadian employees.

Merrifield’s dispatch, obtained by The Canadian Press, is the third known letter written by Conservative MPs to raise concerns about various aspects of the temporary foreign worker program.

Kellie Leitch, now labour minister, and Blake Richards have also raised concerns about temporary foreign workers.

In an April 2012 dispatch to Transport Minister Denis Lebel, Leitch told of an Air Canada pilot in her riding who “expressed concern regarding the hiring of foreign crews and pilots who are driving down the salaries of Canadian pilots as well as contributing to the unemployment of Canadian pilots.”

Richards, meantime, wrote to Finley in late 2009, raising similar concerns about CanJet’s hiring practices.

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