Talking Point: Temporary Canadian Worker
What effect will pro-Canadian legislation have on Alberta business?
by Alix Kemp
In February, Pacer Promec Joint Ventures laid off the 65 unionized ironworkers it was employing at Imperial Oil’s Kearl Mine and immediately replaced them with 40 temporary workers from Croatia. The displaced labourers complained to the Alberta Federation of Labour and the story got national coverage. In response, the federal government promised to investigate, while Pacer Promec managing partner Paolo Cattelan offered the company’s side of the story. “I regret that our actions, which we believe are consistent with the legislation, led to the current controversy,” he said in a statement.
Despite criticism, Ottawa’s temporary foreign worker program has proven valuable to Albertan businesses, where labour shortage is the norm and in-migration from other provinces isn’t filling the gap. But abuses of the program, and there have been many, often turn public sentiment against the idea. The numbers are also startling: while Alberta created 54,900 new jobs in 2012, it also saw the arrival of 35,680 temporary foreign workers, or enough to fill 65 per cent of those new jobs.
In an attempt to limit abuses, Ottawa has introduced legislation that would impose heavy fines on companies replacing Canadian citizens with lower-paid temporary overseas workers. The new measures will be in place early next year. What effect will they have on business? Watch Alberta for the answer.