Kenney errs by not exempting fisheries, tourism

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney

New guidelines on temporary foreign workers pose serious problems for Atlantic Canadians

On Prince Edward Island, things would be much simpler if Employment Minister Jason Kenney had exempted the fisheries and tourism sectors from stringent, new restrictions for the Temporary Workers Program. Agriculture had been previously exempted and remains so. There was an expectation that fisheries might also enjoy exemption status, especially after Justice Minister Peter MacKay publicly expressed that same hope last week. Mr. MacKay is the senior cabinet minister from Nova Scotia, a province where fish plants are even more important to the local economy than here on P.E.I. But for some reason, Mr. Kenney decided not to follow that advice. The result is turmoil among seafood processors and fishermen amid predictions of a weakening capacity to process fish, especially lobster.

Mr. Kenney has over-reacted to abuses in the system caused by some fast-food chains in Western Canada. Those abuses hurt the “Conservative brand” and the federal government decided it had to act decisively to cool public anger — to ensure that Canadians must be first in line for available jobs.

Mr. Kenney’s solution has failed to recognize the unique labour market needs of various regions of the country. He added costs for employers and increased red tape to access the program. Those changes are in defiance of the Conservative brand.

On P.E.I, seafood processors have been the most vocal opponents, while the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce and the local Canadian Federation of Independent Business are also concerned. The chamber has written federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Island MPs calling for an immediate end to the moratorium in the food services sector. The CFIB warned that most small Atlantic businesses will be shut out of accessing much-needed foreign workers.

There is a legitimate concern that too many businesses lost sight of what the TFW program was all about — a plan of urgent need and last resort. Instead, employers started making their business plans around the availability of cheaper foreign workers willing to accept tedious, long hours on assembly lines, harvesting or packing. They eagerly take jobs that local workers were reluctant to accept or refused to fill.

Mr. Kenney asked the question, as did many Canadians: How can we have high unemployment rates when there are countless unfilled job openings across Canada, even with hundreds of thousands of foreign workers in the country?

The focus on fish plants revealed some disturbing issues, such as monotonous 16-hour days standing in the same place on a lobster-packing line. If such conditions are unacceptable to Island workers, why are they considered acceptable for Filipinos? Why aren’t work days limited to eight hours with a higher wage? Maybe then we wouldn’t have a problem with worker shortages.

Some workers don’t mind the long days, especially for the two-month period during the spring lobster fishery. It’s an opportunity to accumulate more stamps for an EI claim.

It was disappointing that Mr. Kenney did not put more emphasis on the valuable effort put forth by many temporary foreign workers or offer more incentives for them to achieve permanent residency status and eventually become citizens. Roadblocks were thrown up to keep them out, instead of making them welcome and appreciated.

Mr. Kenney’s new guidelines mean that Premier Robert Ghiz, Minister Shea and other Atlantic politicians must make a more forceful case and persuade Ottawa to amend the rules for this region. It’s obvious a strong case was not presented to the employment minister before last Friday. Our politicians must get their act together.

Organizations: Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Western Canada, Nova Scotia Ottawa

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Mrs. Fraser
    June 27, 2014 - 03:30

    The fishing industry in the Maritimes must be exempt from Foreign workers reports have come from maritimers immigrating to Alberta who were stalked, brutalized, starved while the foreign workers - Russians- had their rent paid for , food paid for combined with employment . These statements are made without prejudice and are true to the best current written data available.END

  • Louis Cyphere
    June 26, 2014 - 06:33

    The lobster fishery should not recieve any more special treatment whatsoever . It already drains the EI system on the backs of Canadians with special rules Fishing EI allowing two EI claims in the same year even after selling $150 to $200k worth of lobster and then draw 40 weeks of maxed out EI and only have 30% clawed back what a scam . Huge tax breaks and government loans that never get paid back .The benefit to Canadians is always greatly exagerated . Even the rampant cash sales of catch after achieving 3 or 4 EI claims per boat are largely ignored by the CRA and DFO .

  • Scott Holmes
    June 25, 2014 - 15:01

    The editorial, PEI Government and businesses are failing to recognize that the greatest problem with this program is the stagnation of wages in the lowest job sectors. Over the past decade, real wage growth has been less than flat, non-existant, zero. Meanwile, the cost of living over the decade has risen by 20%. How can any industry or government or group hold the beliefe that this is a good thing? What is the incentive? The answer is simple...those that are greedy. The answer to the problem is also simple...raise your wages and add benefits, , then add the costs onto your product and have the consumer pay more for the product. If it is a product everyone wants they will buy it. If not, you should have gone out of business long ago, and would have without an artificially low paid workforce.

  • Scott Holmes
    June 25, 2014 - 15:00

    The editorial, PEI Government and businesses are failing to recognize that the greatest problem with this program is the stagnation of wages in the lowest job sectors. Over the past decade, real wage growth has been less than flat, non-existant, zero. Meanwile, the cost of living over the decade has risen by 20%. How can any industry or government or group hold the beliefe that this is a good thing? What is the incentive? The answer is simple...those that are greedy. The answer to the problem is also simple...raise your wages and add benefits, , then add the costs onto your product and have the consumer pay more for the product. If it is a product everyone wants they will buy it. If not, you should have gone out of business long ago, and would have without an artificially low paid workforce.

  • don
    June 25, 2014 - 14:25

    why not just let ALL jobs go to tfw . that way the slave master money hungry business owners will be happy. but all students will not have a summer job to help pay for there education then they can not go back to school then we can close upei, Holland collage. but the slave masters ill have more money and when all the jobs are filled by tfw no one can afford to eat out, drink coffee, or concerts, so hire all tfw and enjoy your greed but when the tfw goes home you will have no one tom keep you open. say hello to bankruptcy.. but i know of 2 cures for the slave masters. islanders BOYCOTT, PICKET, and when the tfw goes home and the masters are hiring DO NOT TAKE ANY JOBS FROM THEM. that will force them to close shop. then a real owner who cares for islanders ill open up.

  • Pretty broad statement
    June 25, 2014 - 13:19

    There's nothing new in this editorial that we haven't already heard 15 different ways. Fact is- just like the decisions made around EI / the TFW fiasco was done by the Feds in isolation. Talk to any politician in the Atlantic region and they will tell you the same thing. That many people can't be wrong Mr Kenney. But then what do I know - I just pay taxes.

  • WHO TO PICK
    June 25, 2014 - 13:01

    Give the man a break. It must be very difficult to determine which of the local businesses will be allowed to have cheap labour and which ones must pay a decent working wage. I would guess that it depends on which party you donate to but that is only my guess.

    • If only
      June 25, 2014 - 13:21

      If only it were that simple.