Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney
©Canadian Press photo
Guest opinion: It is always entertaining to read an article from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I always enjoy how they bemoan the fate of businesses across Canada and how they are supposed to survive in the unfriendly environment the Harper government has placed on small and medium-sized companies. But, I must admit, they do this rather well. After all, their responsibility is to the companies in their organization, not to employees of these firms.
However, I must admit I smile every time when they complain about unions trying to organize these companies. They work for a group of companies, which pay a fee to be members. Moreover, they offer advice on how to access government programs, health and dental insurance coverage, very good salaries, especially for upper-management and lobbies government to introduce or change legislation. Furthermore, since the CFIB is a non-profit organization, its estimated $30 million in revenue is tax-exempt, which means we the taxpayers are subsidizing this group’s political activities.
When Employment Minister Jason Kenney recently changed the TFW program making it more difficult for companies to access foreign workers, he said companies should use “market mechanisms” to fix their plight. Somehow CFIB and Restaurants Canada translated this into employers paying $25 an hour (median is approximately. $20 per hour in most regions of Canada). Yet the median hourly wage for a worker in the restaurant, hotel and retail sector on P.E.I. is between $10 and 12.
We read the employers have to pay a $1,000 fee to apply to the TFW program and that it is non-refundable. The horror! And that it is more expensive to get foreign workers than to hire someone locally. Oh, the humanity! Well, here is an idea: Give the $1,000 and the expenses it takes to hire foreign workers, since it is so costly, and pay the people in your community a living wage to work for you.
The CFIB is a rather large association, with more than 109,000 members, according to its website. And as with any association, members must pay a fee ($250, plus $30 per employee, to a maximum of $3,500 annually). As a large group, membership has its rewards: lower bank costs; reduced health and dental insurance fees; diminished accidental death and life insurance premiums; 43 federal lobbyists, which have had over 60 meetings with federal public office holders the first four months of this year.
The CFIB is very secretive. It does not disclose its financial statements, major contributors, a list of members, its bylaws, membership policy, connections to similar advocacy organizations or its salary structure.
However, we do know it has a close relationship with Restaurants Canada, formerly the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, as its current president and CEO, Garth Whyte, the “So let’s raise it to a hundred bucks an hour and we’ll still need them., referring to TFWs, was an executive vice-president at CFIB.
Restaurants Canada and CFIB are also founding members of Labour Watch, a group active in trying to break union membership.
In an interview, the group’s president described its mandate as “to help working Canadians who may not want to become or remain unionized.” As with the CFIB, it is a non-profit group and discloses little about its internal members, policies or finances.
Finally, it seems the CFIB has worked its magic, as the ban on restaurants using TFWs has been lifted without any fanfare (one prominent restaurant owner has some being processed as we speak).
Perhaps this was the reason for Mr. Kenney’s trip to our island. Apparently, Mr. Kenney has decided to give the TFW program a complete overhaul in the fall. In the meantime, it will be business as usual.
David A. McGregor, Stratford, is a UPEI graduate who lived in South Korea for 11 years where he traded with Daishin and Hana Securities. He is a graduate of IFSE Institute Mutual Fund Dealers Program.