Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tory MPs Raised Concerns about TFW Program as Controversy Vexes Conservatives

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tory MPs Raised Concerns about TFW Program as Controversy Vexes Conservatives

Article excerpt

Tory MPs raised concerns about TFW program

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OTTAWA - Employers in hard-hit regions of Canada have been hiring temporary foreign workers despite an abundance of domestic job-seekers, government data indicates, while at least two Conservative MPs have privately sounded alarm bells about the besieged federal program.

Temporary foreign workers were the subject of a heated debate Tuesday in the House of Commons, when Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau accused the Conservatives of contributing to joblessness in southwestern Ontario by allowing companies to hire foreign help.

A recent report by the C.D. Howe Institute, a non-partisan public policy think-tank, suggested the program has also spurred joblessness in Alberta and B.C.

"In Windsor, the number of unemployed workers has risen by 40 per cent while the number of foreign workers in the city has grown by 86 per cent," Trudeau said.

"Unemployment in London has risen by 27 per cent while the number of foreign workers has increased by 87 per cent."

In a letter to Liberal MP John McCallum, auditor general Michael Ferguson suggested he was open to conducting a review of the program. Both the Liberals and the NDP have been calling for a probe by the auditor general.

"Let me assure you that we are aware of the current debates concerning the program," Ferguson wrote, adding he would be asking the government "for their information in planning for future audits.''

But it was two different letters -- one from Conservative MP Kellie Leitch, now labour minister, and Alberta colleague Blake Richards -- that posed even further embarrassments for the government on what's become one of its most vexatious files.

In an April 2012 dispatch to Transport Minister Denis Lebel, Leitch told of an Air Canada pilot in her riding who "expressed concern regarding the hiring of foreign crews and pilots who are driving down the salaries of Canadian pilots as well as contributing to the unemployment of Canadian pilots."

Lebel referred Leitch to other ministries.

Richards, meantime, wrote to Diane Finley in late 2009, raising similar concerns about CanJet's hiring practices. Finley was then the minister of human resources and skills development.

"At a time when many people are having difficulties finding employment, I am sure you can appreciate why some pilots would be upset that their colleagues have been overlooked by CanJet," he wrote.

Questioned about the letters during question period, Kenney thanked his Conservative colleagues for the information and suggested the government had cracked down on the use of temporary foreign workers in the aviation sector.

"We appreciate such input," Kenney said. "It has helped to inform our tightening up of this program."

But data compiled by Kenney's department indeed shows that a slew of temporary foreign workers have been hired in recent years in areas struggling with joblessness, including the Maritimes and southwestern Ontario, and in sectors where there is no lack of domestic candidates. …

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