Skip to main content

Editorials For once, Jason Kenney and the Tories side with labour

Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney speaks at a Canada2020 event in Ottawa on Thursday, October 2, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jason Kenney, the Minister of Employment, is justified in not backing down on the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which limit the numbers of foreign workers that large and medium-sized companies are allowed to hire.

Understandably, Jim Prentice, the new Premier of Alberta, is responding to pressures from employers in his province and elsewhere in Western Canada to relax those changes.

The long-standing and well-founded policy of Canada has been opposed to guest-worker programs, with unusual exceptions at the high end for pro athletes and other well-paid professionals, and at the low end for seasonal agricultural workers. But for the most part, Canada has grown its labour force with permanent residents – immigrants – who have a clearly laid-out path to citizenship. This country does not want or need a temporary underclass.

Story continues below advertisement

But the exception of the TFW program has unintentionally been allowed to mushroom.

Mr. Prentice has defensively said, "I've never agreed with the suggestion that really this is about Alberta business people trying to underpay." No doubt there is no conspiracy to underpay, but the effect of a large number of temporary foreign workers is, almost inevitably, that wages in less-skilled occupations will be bid down. And remember, rising wages are not a bad thing, if driven by market forces; they are a sign of rising prosperity.

And Mr. Kenney rightly points to the evidence that wages for fast-food workers have been rising more slowly than the rate of inflation, whereas the labour force in Alberta as a whole is seeing solid wage growth. For once, organized labour is in agreement with the Conservative government in Ottawa.

If any provincial government seriously believes that there is not enough immigration into Canada, it can make use of section 95 of the Constitution Act, 1867, as Quebec does in a very substantial way; to a lesser extent, so do Manitoba and British Columbia. Even without new federal-provincial immigration agreements, a province like Alberta can and should encourage recruitment from provinces with higher levels of joblessness, and from aboriginal communities in which unemployment is rife.

Mr. Kenney and the federal government are right to reassert the fundamentals of Canadian immigration policy. Some parts of Canada may need more immigrants – that's a discussion worth having. But more non-citizens with limited legal rights? No thanks.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter