Canada’s temporary foreign worker (TFW) program should be used as a “last resort,” for Canadian employers, Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told a packed Burnaby Board of Trade event today.
Kenney, whose speech focused on immigration reforms to ensure immigrants are employable before allowing them into Canada, faced pointed questions about the TFW program following his speech.
In responding, Kenney backed up federal human resources minister Diane Finley’s statement, released yesterday, that the government is reviewing the TFW program. However Kenney clarified that the review “has been on-going for sometime and is a regular, periodic review that we do of all of our programs to make that sure we meet our objectives.”
When asked by B.C. labour boss Jim Sinclair, president of the BC Federation of Labour, if the government will allow public input into that review, Kenney said he saw no impediment to that.
He said the government is quite aware of stakeholder views ranging from businesses who feel the program is too rigid to labour groups who feel it’s too lax.
“I think we’re pretty aware of the range of views but I think certainly receiving formal submissions would be – there’s no good reason not to.”
Kenney added that the TFW program encompasses a lot of smaller programs. He said that the largest number of TFWs are students getting open work permits after they graduate and youth mobility program participants from countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Britain and France.
“Whistler would grind to a halt if we didn’t have the Aussies and Kiwis up there pouring pints and minding the ski hills,” he quipped.
Canada’s TFW program has drawn scrutiny in recent weeks following reports of Chinese workers being hired to staff a northern B.C. coal mine.
Kenney’s speech also attracted a handful of protestors who carried signs saying “Kenney: architect of a racist state” and passed out pamphlets protesting Canada’s treatment of refugees.