Manitoba’s foreign worker strategy called a model for other provinces

posted on July 2, 2014

By Joe Friesen, the Globe and Mail | Link to Article

By Joe Friesen, the Globe and Mail | Link to Article

Jay Short is a mild-mannered investigator who favours the corrective power of a phone call to peering around bushes or breaking down doors. He is also at the sharp end of the best system this country has so far devised to target abuse in the temporary foreign worker program.

Since 2009, Mr. Short and his fellow sleuths have investigated more than 600 employers in Manitoba that hire temporary foreign workers. They found nearly half were breaking the law.

Mr. Short leads Manitoba’s workplace special investigations unit, a six-person team that inspects businesses that employ temporary foreign workers as well as other employers that pay near the minimum wage. It is the enforcement arm of a strategy that’s being called a model for the rest of the country. As the Conservative federal government overhauls the politically vexing TFW program, other provinces may come under pressure to adopt the Manitoba approach.

Last week, federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney told The Globe and Mail’s editorial board he’s urging the other provinces to follow Manitoba’s example.

“I’ve publicly and amongst my ministerial counterparts said I think the Manitoba legislation is something of a model,” Mr. Kenney said.

While the federal government is responsible for the TFW program, provinces are responsible for enforcing labour laws. The lack of communication between Ottawa and the provinces has often been cited as a barrier to protecting temporary foreign workers elsewhere in Canada.

Read more