In Foreign Workers

The term “foreign worker” brings out polar extremes in decibel reactions from those who are against increasing such workers as those who are in favour.

Recently the House of Common’s finance committee released a report recommending a review of the foreign worker program. It has just completed hearings with Canadian stakeholders in the agriculture and fisheries sectors and concluded that there are “negative impacts of the temporary foreign worker program”, perhaps alluding to the fact that these industries need more workers.

The Committee’s report has generated the public’s normal reaction to foreign workers who are blamed for keeping wages low and co-joined criticism of the excess profits made by food processing companies.

Any issue that causes arguments of extremes usually points to an acceptable answer in the middle.

Both sides are right, in that timely labour is essential in any food production industry given the seasonal nature of the industries. It can be hard to find the right employees to fill the positions in demand.

But why should wages be retained at 2006 or lower levels for such workers? We would have more Canadians responding and filling vacant positions (and have less need for foreign workers) if the wages were higher. Our government has recognized this variable by making the hiring of foreign workers more difficult for lower wage jobs. It has drawn a distinction between higher skilled and lower skilled jobs by setting the wage boundary between the two levels at $22 to $23 per hour. But therein lies the answer to the dilemma– we, as consumers, are the final judges as to how many foreign workers Canada should take in.

The question comes down to paying more for Canadian products, be they comestibles, clothes or cars.

If we want more Canadians and less foreign workers, we as a society are the ones in the end to resolve the issue and not the corporations or the government. Our Canadian workers should be paid much higher wages which will attract them back to the processing plants or the other industries.

Are we prepared to pay more for Canadian products which will, in turn, ensure more money for our Canadian workers and reduce our dependency on foreign workers?

An Associate of

Crease Harman LLP