MP Morrissey wants temporary foreign worker program changes made soon

Eric McCarthy
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Egmonty MP Bobby Morrissey on the wharf at Northport.

ALBERTON - Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program need to be implemented early in the New Year, Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey says.

Morrissey expressed frustration with senior bureaucrats for suggesting the program is working.

He insists it’s not working in Maritime Canada.

“I didn't get elected to defend Harper Conservatives’ policies,” Morrissey said.

Of particular concern to the new MP is the 2016 fish processing season.

“We’ve got a real crunch coming that, if it is not addressed, it’s going to have a significant economic impact.”

He said the Island “needs several thousand highly skilled, highly motivated people to run these sophisticated seafood processing plants today.”

If the problem is not fixed, Morrissey warns, fish plants might be forced to enact boat quotas, a situation that foreign buyers could seize to force down prices.

Morrissey recalls former Conservative Employment Minister Jason Kenney using a statistic that suggested there were 1,000 people in the Bloomfield post office region who were unemployed, and many of them being fish plant workers.

RELATED: Temporary foreign worker changes will have serious effect on P.E.I.

RELATED: P.E.I. fish plant wants review of temporary foreign workers program

While he strongly disputes that statistic, Morrissey points out many seasonal workers, especially fish plant workers, maintain an open EI claim even when they’re working.

I didn't get elected to defend Harper Conservatives’ policies. Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey

“A bureaucrat in Ottawa can brief their minister and say, ‘Look at this area: they shouldn’t be looking for foreign workers because there are 400 people unemployed and they list their occupation as fish plant workers.’

“But, they’re working.” Morrissey said.

Fish plants’ schedules, Morrissey pointed out, are largely dictated by fishing seasons established by the federal government.

While the real crunch time comes in May, Morrissey suggests many fish plants would be able to operate on a sporadic basis throughout the winter with lobster from Nova Scotia, if it were not for an Employment Insurance system that, he says, discourages seasonal workers from accepting part-time work.

“If you bring that product in overnight, and it’s there, and you need 80 people to process it within the timeframe before it dies, and 40 show up… So, what does the plant do? It doesn’t bother going through the frustration of that any more.”

And the region suffers economically, he added.

Not only can the temporary foreign worker program help fill the gap, Morrissey said it can also be used to promote population growth in Prince County.

He said the Egmont riding has not benefitted to the extent of other regions of P.E.I from immigration.

“We should be sitting down as a government and figure out how to get some of those temporary foreign workers to stay here.”

Organizations: Employment Insurance

Geographic location: P.E.I., Maritime Canada, Ottawa Nova Scotia Prince

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Recent comments

  • Malpeque Mariner
    January 05, 2016 - 20:46

    The problem that the Island faces is low wages. We don't need foreign workers! We need higher wages.

  • Garth Staples
    January 05, 2016 - 18:56

    Robert is happy to help his friends.

  • feddupp
    January 05, 2016 - 18:09

    Here is the simple fix pay the workers a fair wage at least 15 dollars an hour and you will get workers nobody should have to work for min wage

  • Islander
    January 05, 2016 - 15:25

    THE ELECTED GURU HAS SPOKEN, - wow. How long would it be before the temporary foreign workers, IF they became permanent residents, would be in the same mood as those Islanders that now sit home and refuse to work in the fish plants? One season? Two seasons? The cure lays in up grading the working conditions (in floor heating and ergonomic seats and assembly lines, warm and attractive changing and lunch rooms) and the job be re-named to fish plant technicians.

  • Dave
    January 05, 2016 - 13:57

    He said the Island “needs several thousand highly skilled, highly motivated people to run these sophisticated seafood processing plants today.”..............this is an insult to truly skilled workers. It's time to stop pretending seasonal workers are skilled. The rest of the country is running similar businesses with summer students and PEI could too. Stop the charade. I fished lobster summers when I was a University student, it's miles away from skilled labour.

    January 05, 2016 - 11:57

    Morrisey states that we need thousands of highly skilled, highly motivated individuals to work for minimum wages. Give your head a shake Robert. What we need is for you and others to deal with the processors to pay livable decent wages and benefits, But as we all know, that is not the Island way is it? Get to the root of the problem and stop blaming the people that cannot solve the situation.

  • Marie Gallant
    January 05, 2016 - 10:26

    Thank you Bobby Morrissey it is high time this situation of getting skilled fish processing workers to stay here in each of the communities and regions is needed. There are those that could work but choose not to do so because of cost of travel and other expense to themselves. They need an incentive to work that part-time work. Maybe if wages were increased or extra pay for those months when there is little product it might entice more of the local population to work then. There is a mismatch somewhere and the the whole fish processing industry for these people who are skilled at what they do are just as skilled at this type of work as any other labour position. They need competitive wages to stay in this industry of fish processing over the long term of their employment in this Business.

    • mmj
      January 05, 2016 - 17:17

      Marie, you did read this right? Morrissey wants to bring in foreign workers to fill these jobs!

  • Just Sayin
    January 05, 2016 - 08:42

    PEI has the highest unemployment rate in Canada and this guy wants to bring in temporary foreign workers. Preposterous! The problem is EI. When they are getting as much for staying at home as working in the fish plants, why would they work. The problem is the fish plants pay minimum wage to people who have been working there 25 years. The price of lobster has gone from $2.50 to $6.00 a lb. in a year but did the wages go up? No. The greedy fishermen want it all for themselves and are not prepared to share with their workers, that's why they want TFWs. Robert Morrisey's brother is the GM of Royal Star in Tignish, do you think that Bobby might have a conflict here?

    • SlyFox
      January 05, 2016 - 17:55

      The fish brokers/buyers set the price at the wharf. The fishermen/fisherwomen can either accept it or not fish. What is odd about this is all brokers/buyers have the same price at the start of the fishing season and the brokers/buyers state that they do not converse on a price with other brokers/buyers before the season opens.

    • David
      January 05, 2016 - 21:43 the COOP's pay any better? Are they in cahoots too? The processors aren't getting rich, I don't believe it. In today's world, canned lobster is no longer the luxury it once was. In the global marketplace, its simply not competitive anymore.