Tories eye 'wage floor' and raising fees for foreign-worker program

The Conservative government is putting employers on notice that it could force them to pay more for temporary foreign workers, a move that would likely make the program too costly for low-wage sectors like restaurants that have been accused of abusing it.

The government has been under intense pressure to announce reforms to the controversial temporary foreign worker program since April, when it put a moratorium on access for the restaurant sector because of complaints that Canadians were denied employment in favour of foreign workers.

(What is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program? Read The Globe's easy explanation)

During a closed-door meeting with employer groups on Thursday, Employment Minister Jason Kenney floated several major reforms, sources told The Globe and Mail. While the minister said no final decisions have been made, changes are imminent, sources said.

Currently, employers must pay temporary foreign workers at least the average hourly rate ‎paid to Canadians for the same occupation in the same geographic area. Imposing a minimum wage that is higher than the minimum wage for Canadians would be aimed at encouraging employers to offer higher pay for lower-skilled jobs before turning to the program. However, the idea could mean foreign workers are paid more than some Canadians. And some employers might accuse Ottawa of excessive interference in private-sector wage decisions.

One of the other reforms under consideration would make it easier for employers to access the program in regions with low unemployment while tightening the eligibility rules in areas of high unemployment. The Conservative government is also looking at a dramatic hike to the user fee for accessing the program, from the current $275 to something closer to the fee of up to $2,325 that is charged for a similar program in the United States.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander also attended the meeting, and both ministers then met with four labour organizations: Canada’s Building Trades Unions, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Christian Labour Association of Canada and Unifor.

Mr. Kenney’s decision to suspend restaurants’ access to the program was in response to allegations of abuse, including at three McDonald’s franchises in Victoria.

At the time of that announcement, Mr. Kenney said he was sending a message not just to the restaurant sector, but to all employers that wages must go up.

“We expect Canadian employers to do better, to raise wages, to increase salaries and improve working conditions, to invest more in training, to increase labour force participation, particularly amongst groups of our population who are underrepresented,” he said.

The restaurant sector has urged the government to lift the moratorium as soon as possible. Restaurant owners say they desperately need to fill positions such as cooks for specific ethnic foods.

Minimum wages in Canada are a provincial responsibility. The rates vary from a low of $9.95 in Alberta to a high of $11 in Nunavut and, as of June 1, in Ontario. The minister did not provide details on the proposed wage floor for foreign workers.

Jayson Myers, the president and CEO of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said he likes the idea of a wage “threshold,” provided that it ensures foreign workers are paid the same as Canadians and is not used as a tool to increase wages in Canada.

“Personally speaking, I have concerns over a government putting in wage controls basically,” he said. “If [the threshold] is higher, then you’re setting up wage expectations and wage pressures.”

Tightening access in geographic areas of high unemployment could also be problematic, he said, if it ignores the fact that specific skills could be in demand.

Joyce Reynolds, the executive vice-president of Restaurants Canada, left the meeting concerned that a wage floor could price restaurants out of the program.

“The idea that wages could be elevated to the degree that the minister seemed to be indicating is just not going to be workable for our industry,” she said. “It would impact a lot of industries other than ours as well.”

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Business, noted that Canada allowed only about 20,000 low-skilled temporary foreign workers in 2012, but it looks like Ottawa wants to reduce that dramatically.

“I’m not optimistic. I think the government is going to gut the program for a large number of employers and that’s a really sad thing,” he said. “This is being done entirely for political reasons.”

Follow on Twitter: @curryb


Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre

The Conservatives are Financial Delinquents and promote Criminal Organizations by their Billions of Dollars in Funding for Ontario's Government Funded Terror Organization, the Cartel of 48 Children's Aid Societies of Ontario.

These Criminal Organizations, promote Hatred towards fathers. Ontario with it's Secret Police Files actively promotes Abuse of Power by encouraging officers like
the Corrupt Child Abusing Evidence Fabricating Det. Peter Van Der Zander to fabricate evidence, to make "notes" in the Ontario Police Secret File system that
Judges and destroys citizens without a trial.

The Conservatives claim to be law and order but act to support "The Establishment" even when its CORRUPT and wastes Billions of Dollars. Instead, they follow NRA or Tea Party zealots to destroy the gun registry etc.

The Conservatives in Ontario (Liberals) "RIG" the judicial Selection process to recruit the most unsuitable Gutless Cowardly, Child Abusers and insults to justice imaginable.

Ottawa is is cess pool, with victims of injustice drowning in a cess pool of Judicial Feces that make Ontario a heavenly smorgasbord for those who promote hatred towards Fathers, that is the Government of Ontario, funds Billions of Dollars towards the destruction of Children and Fathers, all in the name of
Gender Superiority.

Father hating Judges like Maria Linhares De Sousa leave a trail of destroyed lives by blatant Corruption in favour of The Children's Aid Society of Ottawa

where man hating examples of the legal profession, like Marguerite Isobel Lewis personally fabricate evidence to ABUSE children and male victims of domestic Abuse.

Marguerite Lewis aka "The Baby-Snatcher" is notorious for asking that Children be removed from the full time care of Fathers for the SOLE reason that the fathers were victims of unprovoked Female violence.

In the mad mad corrupt man hating world of Marguerite Isobel Lewis, it's heresy for any man to say a "woman" was violent or that a female abused a child, that's probably because she is Ottawa's most notorious Child Abuser.

This vile example of humanity is "Rubber Stamped" by our corrupt Judiciary give even the Most Corrupt Lawyers on earth, like Marguerite Isobel Lewis a carte blanche to do what ever she wants.

The Torries need to examine how many Billions of Dollars that Ontario need to have REMOVED From it's budget that is illegally used by Corrupt Government Funded Criminal Organizations that use Tax Payers Billions of Dollars to promote hatred towards men.

The Federal Government, claims to be a law and order government when in reality it turns a blind eye to the greatest Child Abusing Criminals in Society like
ROBERT GODMAN "The GOD-FATHER of OTTAWA" who "supervisors" Criminal Fabrication of Evidence, Terrorism, and Child Abuse in Ottawa for Ottawa's most notorious Billion dollar Criminal Organization
"The Children's Aid Society of Ottawa"

Ottawa Mens Centre