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Mending the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

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There has been much controversy surrounding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), provoked in part by commendable media reports highlighting abuses of the program.

I welcome the opportunity to explain the facts, and dispel some myths, about what the recent changes mean for individuals and businesses in the riding of Portage-Lisgar.

Our government’s goal is to mend the program, not end it. We’ve been clear that Canadians must be first in line for available jobs. Our reforms restore the TFWP to its original purpose as a last and limited resource for employers when there are no qualified Canadians to fill available jobs.

My office has received questions from many constituents across the riding about this issue and despite a commonly-held perception that the program exists to allow employers to hire large numbers of people from abroad to fill low-skilled positions at below Canadian wage rates, this is not the case.

The TFWP is, in fact, a wide array of different programs developed over time, to allow foreign nationals to work in Canada. Most "temporary foreign workers" do not actually come at the request of employers to fill specific jobs, but rather as part of reciprocal agreements that we have with other countries that in turn allow millions of Canadians to pursue opportunities abroad.

Secondly, the TFWP does not allow foreign workers to be paid less than Canadians working in similar jobs. Employers who seek to bring in workers must first certify that they have tried to hire Canadians at the prevailing median wage rate for the job in that area and that no qualified Canadians have applied.

Finally, some of the numbers have been massively exaggerated. Canada’s workforce is made up of two per cent TFWs, only 0.21 per cent of TFWs are in low-skilled jobs, and only two per cent of Canada’s 1.1 million restaurant workers are TFWs.

That said, we have discovered very real problems that exist in the program. We’ve taken action because we are concerned with growing evidence that some businesses have abused the program by resorting to foreign workers without making adequate efforts to hire Canadians, allowing what is supposed to be a last resort to become a business model in some cases.

That is why our government spent two years consulting on a bold package of reforms to ensure that Canadian workers come first.

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