B.C. among hardest hit by caps on temporary foreign workers

posted on March 9, 2015

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article 

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article 

B.C. will be one of the hardest-hit provinces as a result of the Harper government’s reforms to the controversial temporary foreign workers program, according to a report Monday by the Canada West Foundation.

But the loss of access to low-wage overseas workers will be partly offset for B.C. employers because returning workers from the Alberta oil and gas industry can help fill the void, according to the think-tank.

The release of the report, which lends weight to Premier Christy Clark’s argument that the federal reforms are “tragically misdirected,” coincided with the political fallout Monday of a provocative comment over the weekend by Conservative MP John Williamson.

The New Brunswick MP, a former media spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, apologized after telling a gathering of conservatives that it makes no sense for “whities” to be displaced with “brown people” coming in under the foreign workers program.

B.C. New Democratic Party MP Jinny Sims rose in the House of Commons to call the comment “disgusting.”

She said the Tories shouldn’t blame foreign workers for the program’s problems.

Williamson “immediately realized his comments were unacceptable and he has apologized, and I think we can move forward from here,” responded Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre, before defending the programs reforms.

The report said B.C. and especially Alberta have been among the heaviest users of the program, mainly to feed the needs of the resource and service sectors, while Ontario and Quebec employers have been least likely to use the program.

The report’s conclusions are expected to be raised by the Canada West Foundation at the Metropolis conference in Vancouver March 26 to 28, where Canadian and international experts will gather to discuss immigration and settlement issues.

Alberta will be the biggest victim of the federal reforms, with B.C. second on the list.

“Unlike Alberta, however, (B.C.) may be able to find other workers,” noted author Farahnaz Bandali in Work Interrupted: How federal foreign worker rule changes hurt the West.

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