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Politics Tory MP apologizes for 'offensive' temporary workers remarks

John Williamson, former federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, during a news conference in Ottawa, January 17, 2008.

FRED CHARTRAND

A Conservative MP has apologized for using "offensive and inappropriate language" related to Canada's temporary foreign workers program.

Media outlet iPolitics is reporting that New Brunswick MP John Williamson told delegates at a conference in Ottawa that it makes no sense to pay "whities" to stay home while companies bring in "brown people" as temporary foreign workers.

Williamson posted a series of tweets Saturday to apologize for language he used in reference to the controversial federal program, but he did not elaborate on what he said.

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"Today I used offensive and inappropriate language regarding the Temporary Foreign Workers Program," he wrote on Twitter.

"For this I apologize unreservedly."

Williamson, a former communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, also wrote he believes different parts of the country have different labour needs.

He said employers in his riding should try to fill job openings by giving Canadian workers priority.

iPolitics reports that Williamson made the remarks in response to a question at a conservative policy conference about the shortage of workers in meat packing and processing plants.

The report says Williamson responded by saying he realized labour shortages have been a bigger problem in Western Canada than his own region.

"My part of the country, I deal with temporary foreign workers and the interaction with employment insurance, and it makes no sense from my point of view — I'm going to put this in terms of colours but it's not meant to be about race — it makes no sense to pay 'whities' to stay home while we bring in brown people to work in these jobs," he reportedly said during the Manning Networking Conference.

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"When I have 10 to 12 per cent unemployment rates in my province, I'm not going to abide by a policy that encourages people to stay home and collect an EI cheque and bring people from overseas to fill these jobs.

"I know it is different in Western Canada, but I've also seen cases in Western Canada where companies were putting in Mandarin as a requirement for a job requirement, thereby bringing in Chinese workers.

"That is unacceptable."

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