Two companies on the federal government's list of employers that rely heavily on temporary foreign workers are asking Ottawa to retract and correct information they say is false and potentially damaging.
Industrial giant Siemens AG and Studon Electric & Controls Inc., an Alberta construction company, are the latest employers upset by a document that was cited as a key piece of evidence to justify major changes to the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program.
(What is the temporary foreign worker program? Read The Globe's easy explanation)
Employment Minister Jason Kenney spoke several times in recent months of government research that shows more than 2,500 firms operating with more than a third of their workers as TFWs. But once that list of employers was released to The Globe and Mail under access to information laws, it was immediately apparent that it contained several errors. More than a dozen employers told The Globe the figures were wrong. Laval University, for example, was listed as having 4,200 TFWs, more than half its work force, which is clearly false, the university said. The government has so far responded to four specific complaints: In one case, the government said it made a data entry error, in three others it said the companies had submitted incorrect information. The information was never checked, but will be checked in future, Mr. Kenney's office said.
According to the government's list, Siemens Canada Ltd. has a work force that's more than half TFWs. That's way off, the company said. Roughly 20 of its 4,500 workers in Canada are TFWs, or less than half of one per cent, said company spokeswoman Ann Adair. She said now that incorrect information is circulating, it will be very hard to correct the false impression that the company employs a huge number of TFWs, an issue that has cast other companies in a negative light. Siemens was named in a document released by the Alberta Federation of Labour based on this list and it wants the government to retract the numbers.
"I need them to make a correction," Ms. Adair said. "The damage that's done, it's really hard to reverse that. I would have appreciated some sort of verification along the way."
Louie McCullagh, director of human relations at Studon Electric in Red Deer, Alta., said he's deeply troubled that his company was named as one of those that employ a high proportion of TFWs.
"It's absolutely false. There's no other way to say it," Mr. McCullagh said. At no time in the past two years has his company had more than 10 per cent of its workers through the TFW program, he added. He said this could damage his business and he wants the government to correct the record.
"I would like to see a public accounting from the government that we, Studon Electric, have been wrongly identified," Mr. McCullagh said.
In Question Period on Tuesday, NDP employment and social development critic Jinny Sims called for an independent review.
"The minister keeps blaming the companies for providing false information, but it was his department that was supposed to be doing the verifying," Ms. Sims said.
Mr. Kenney replied that the government is taking action to ensure Canadians come first in the labour market.