Do Canadians have appetite for jobs that temporary foreign workers fill?

posted on April 9, 2014

By Lee-Anne Goodman, the Star | Link to Article

By Lee-Anne Goodman, the Star | Link to Article

OTTAWA—Amid the uproar of yet another temporary foreign worker scandal, some observers insist that many Canadians in various regions of the country simply won’t work the jobs coveted by those eager to start a new life in Canada.

Hotel chambermaids and restaurant workers, particularly in regions of the country struggling with labour shortages, are among the positions that small businesses are having trouble filling, said Daniel Kelly, head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“If we’re not prepared to do these jobs, and we don’t want our kids to do them either — yet we still want to go to the mall and find a clean bathroom and we still want someone to clean our hotel rooms — why are we so afraid to allow people to come to Canada to happily do these jobs?” Kelly said Wednesday.

“Why wouldn’t we allow that to happen?”

Many employers say temporary foreign workers work harder than their Canadian counterparts, said Kelly — they volunteer to work long hours, weekends and holidays in order to improve their lot in life and perhaps increase their chances of a permanent life in Canada.

Homegrown employees often lack that dedication to performing what they consider menial labour, he said.

“Employer after employer is telling us they have tons of workers who don’t show up for shifts, don’t call, and when they finally show up, they have a very questionable excuse for their absence,” Kelly said.

“I don’t blame the young Canadian graduating with a liberal arts degree for having no enthusiasm for this kind of work. But that doesn’t help the quick-service restaurant owner who needs hard-working staff.”

Kelly’s comments came as Employment Minister Jason Kenney alluded to the problem again Wednesday in the House of Commons, reading out a 1-800 snitch line that Canadians can call to report any businesses they suspect are illegally hiring temporary foreign workers.

As the NDP called for an emergency debate into temporary foreign workers, Kenney told the House that an MP with the party had approached him just this week to complain about a lack of hotel workers in his northern Ontario riding.

One hotel’s application to hire temporary foreign workers was refused because it was not offering the “prevailing regional wage rate,” Kenney said.
“This MP asked me to intervene. I said: ‘No, we are going to stick by the rules.’ We are going to do everything we can to ensure that Canadians always come first; that the temporary foreign worker program is only and always a last resort.”

Earlier this week, Kenney said the owner of three McDonald’s locations in Victoria, B.C., could face criminal prosecution if investigators conclude he provided false information on an application to hire temporary foreign workers.

Ottawa has already suspended all pending foreign worker permits for the restaurants until the investigation is completed.

A numbered company in Newfoundland and Labrador, the owner of a trio of fast-food restaurants, was suspended this week for the same reason, as was a numbered company in Fenelon Falls, Ont., that operates a local restaurant in Ontario’s cottage country.

Kelly said his federation fully supports cracking down on employers who fail to hire Canadians when they’re available. But he also suggested that some small businesses may be turning to temporary foreign workers out of desperation.

“Try to find a hotel in Canada that has an easy time finding people to clean rooms,” he said. “People are not lining up for those jobs in Canada — but we want clean hotel rooms.”