© TC MEDIA/Eric McCarthy
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.
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.”