It's hard to get worked up when just one Senator says something that you disagree with. The senator wasn't elected by anyone. Represents no one. So who cares what he or she says, right? Except when the senator is advocating for one of the worst possible policies Canada could adopt faced with a global slowdown, I'm not sure how you can stay quiet. There is a chance someone might take them seriously. Senator Pierrette Ringuette is advocating that the Federal government adopt a " 'Canadians First' policy and cut the number of temporary foreign workers allowed during the economic downturn." Keep the foreigners out, give the jobs to hard working Canadians. Just to make it clear that the policy is drafted on the back of a proverbial napkin, the senator goes on to argue that "if a business absolutely can't find a Canadian and must bring in a temporary foreign worker, that business should have to pay $500 a month into a fund to train Canadians to do those jobs in the future." So what inspired the good senator? "I was looking at the layoffs of the 700 miners in Sudbury and I was thinking there are a lot of foreign workers working in the mines in northern Alberta and northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba and maybe our Canadians could do a very good job there."
Of course, the "mines" in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan have had huge labour demands that started slightly before last week. Thousands of Canadians from across the country have relocated there - anyone who has picked up a newspaper in the last five years knows this. Never mind that employers who want to hire a foreign, temporary worker already need to demonstrate that they "conducted reasonable efforts to hire or train Canadians for the job" (and yes, the tar sands do have a special exemption because of the extraordinary demand that was there before the price of crude collapsed. Not sure how much of an issue it really is now). Never mind that as of 2006, the two largest classes of temporary foreign employees were for agriculture workers and live-in care givers (making the $500 per month "train Canadians to pick fruit" policy even more laughable). In other words, never mind the "facts", the senator sees the policy as a no brainer: "It would cost the government zero dollars to bring back a Canadians First for jobs policy. ... We must reconsider that during this current fiscal situation, we are providing foreign workers with visas to work in Canada while Canadians are seeking jobs." So it's a free policy that may or may not change a thing but makes nothing but sense. Huzzah, let's get on it. And the cost to not imposing the "Canadians First" policy? "If the issue is not revised, I think that it could certainly increase a certain intolerance" Ding, ding, ding... Tthe heart of the issue - better change the law before unemployed Canadians get wind that foreigners are "taking their jobs" in the mines of northern Manitoba (her example, not mine). Never one to shy away from a bad idea, NDP MP Olivia Chow jumps into the fray and agrees "that tensions could rise if Canadians lose their jobs while temporary foreign workers remain." Look, we may agree or disagree with the government's stimulus package. It's too big, it's not big enough. Fair debate and argument can ensue, life carries on. This proposal - keep the foreigners out to help Canadians - is the recessionary period slippery slope that if we hop onto causes real lasting damage to Canada. Economically and in terms of our social cohesion. Why stop at temporary workers? The damn immigrants are coming here and we need to pull back on our immigration levels... Well, you know the slippery slope without me writing it out. Nope - we need to be going the opposite way. We need more skilled immigrants, not less. Our businesses need access to more skilled and unskilled labour - domestic and foreign - not less. We need more openness, not less. More tolerance, not placating to fears of potential "tension." I'm sure there are worse policies we could adopt right now than this one, it's just that none pop to my mind. Luckily we have senators to do the deep thinking in this country.