Presented as a solution to labour shortages by the past federal government, Canada’s International Mobility Program (IMP) is similar to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The TFW Program was meant to help employers fill general labour gaps, often in low-skilled positions, while the IMP program is meant to cater to more specialized needs serving “competitive advantages” to Canada.
The IMP is still swelling as employers use it to circumvent the Canadian labour market. This mess created by the past Harper government brings foreign workers into Canada without offering these positions to Canadians first and is threatening wages and employment opportunities for Canadian residents and many Albertans as the demand in the oil and gas industry has increased significantly and employers are once again short of workers in all aspects of the industry. The numbers had ballooned to over 260,000 new workers in 2014 and affected Canadian unemployment numbers in the past. Data shows that in 2016 another 32,000 were added, according to a spokesperson from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Its important that we alert Albertans to this problem as there is a need for an investigation into the present open loose practices of the IMP.
The PC Provincial Conservatives “Back to Prosperity” Budget depends on support from the Federal government to make sure that Canadians at the very least are considered for all new employment opportunities especially future technology and alternative energy positions. Both the Federal PC party and the new PC Provincial Party of Alberta are concerned that the door is still open and continues to destroy employment opportunities in these difficult times with close to 9% unemployment in Alberta. If Alberta wishes to develop a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Educational program in the future we need to at the very least to leave the door open to an Alberta first and Canada first policy instead of bypassing prospective Canadian workers. The most serious concern is that it appears that this program also at the same time pushes down professional and IT specialty wages.
Also, according to Mark Olsen, Western Canada Manager, from the Labourers’ International Union of North America “Like the TFWP before it, the IMP has swelled as employers use it to circumvent the Canadian labour market while pushing down wages and benefits in our industry (construction industry). Olsen suggested that a full study needs to be done to arrest these concerns.
Workers from India, United States, and China make up the top three countries of origin for new Canadian foreign workers according to Statistics Canada. The difficulty identified by the past Harper government was related to worker abuse and employers paying wages lower than industry standards.
The IMP has fewer requirements for employers to prove that efforts were made to find a Canadian resident to fill a job as employers don’t need to apply for a labour market impact assessment (This would be a safeguard to determine if reasonable efforts were made to hire a resident Canadian first). We would also like to know what employers are paying foreign workers so that this does not undermine our economy and the cost of doing business in Alberta.
Presently, unfortunately, all that Alberta employers have to do when applying to bring a foreign worker to Canada via the IMP program is to state that hiring the foreign worker serves a“broader economic, cultural or other competitive advantage” for Canada. This is simply too open ended and left to the discretion of the employer with no protection for Canadian employment. In fact, the changes that Harper supposedly made in the past, and still in place, actually created an even worse situation!
Our key concerns are:
Employers that treat travel costs of employees and other items as part of wages under the program.
Foreign workers are actually being paid less than minimum wage in many situations once other costs are factored together.
Federal government doesn’t seem to track their Foreign Worker program properly.
It appears that by following the past governments policies since taking power in 2015 that the Liberals have been no better at protecting Canadian jobs than the Conservatives showing continued disregard for Canadian labour market needs.The expanded role of the IMP must be addressed before it becomes a serious problem in Albertans new labour market with renewed demand in the oil and gas industry from Grande Prairie to Whitecourt, Alberta for both service and professional workers.
More than this, before any new free trade agreements are signed with China Alberta also needs a commitment from Ottawa to protect Canadians from Chinese company labour practices before its too late.