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Temporary worker program lacks dignity, but Harper’s fix hurts Calgary, says Nenshi|Video

Date

2014-07-22

Authors

Jason Markusoff

Newspaper title

The Calgary Herald

Full text

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is ripping both the temporary foreign worker program and the Harper government’s changes to it, because he feels a growing Calgary needs more access to working newcomers who can become citizens.

The mayor said the “current system strips people of their dignity.” But in comments that mirror Alberta government officials’ protests that Ottawa’s recently announced restrictions on hiring temporary labourers — especially in low-paying jobs — will hurt the city that added a record 38,508 this year.

“I think that the changes that have been announced by the federal government are not particularly responsive to the needs of Alberta in general and Calgary in particular,” Nenshi told reporters Tuesday during the annual civic census release.

“We need migration in order for our system to work.”

Calgary’s mayor, whose parents immigrated from Tanzania in the 1970s, didn’t lay out his own solutions to the temporary foreign worker program. But he said the status quo is unfair to people working at Tim Hortons and in other service jobs.

“To treat people like commodities that come here for two years and serve us our coffee in the mornings, I don’t think is a particularly Canadian attribute,” Nenshi said.

“And I think we have to figure out ways to let people in and give them a path to citizenship and continue to live dignified lives, regardless of the job they do.”

Employment Minister Jason Kenney has argued that several businesses are overusing the temporary worker program in a way that distorts the labour market and keeps wages down.

Companies will still be able to hire low-wage workers in parts of Alberta with low unemployment, but they can only total one-tenth of a firm’s staff.

Alberta’s government has said the changes, announced in June, will hamper an economy already facing labour shortages. Alberta’s three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates have also criticized the federal reforms.

More to come . . .

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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Economic sectors

General relevance - all sectors

Content types

Policy analysis and Current Policy

Target groups

Policymakers and Public awareness

Geographical focuses

Alberta and Federal

Spheres of activity

Political science

Languages

English