Jean Calls For Temporary Foreign Workers Reforms

April 22, 2015 News

JeanAlberta has demonstrated it needs more workers, says Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, but the Temporary Foreign Worker Program needs to be reformed before the economy rebounds.

During a Monday interview, Jean defended the program’s use in Alberta, arguing the province’s economy could not afford a worsening labour shortfall, particularly in the energy industry and with small businesses. But when asked what he thought of the program itself, he was less praiseworthy.

“First, people from Fort McMurray are the ones that should be prioritized for jobs locally. The second are Albertans. Then Canadians, and if there is a real demand and shortage, then temporary foreign workers can be used,” he said. “But that program should be an accelerated citizenship and residency program.”

Jean says that, if elected, his party will lobby the federal government to hasten citizenship and permanent residency applications for qualified foreign workers interested in remaining in Canada.

“If they have shown they are honest and trustworthy, if they work hard after coming to Canada, we should give them the opportunity to become Canadian citizens,” Jean said on Monday. “I’ve heard from lots of businesses who are not happy with the way Alberta is being treated right now.”

As a business owner, Jean said he has been forced to rely on the program. When he was MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca, Jean said during a 2012 debate that northern Alberta had “run out of people” to fill jobs in northern Alberta.

As a result, he warned many businesses were being forced to close early and reduce service.

Jean also criticized the number of work camps dotting northern Alberta, arguing the camps were filled with potential Albertan residents who could easily relocate if it weren’t for Fort McMurray’s land shortage and housing prices.

“It’s a mess all the way through. Those people don’t pay taxes to Alberta while they use our services,” he said. “If people want to work in Alberta, they should be able to move to Alberta and bring their families to Alberta, pay their taxes in Alberta.”

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo NDP candidate Stephen Drover says his party would go one step further than Jean and advocate for the program’s destruction entirely, replaced with a more open immigration system.

“This program was originally to be used when highly skilled workers could not be found and now it’s being used everywhere,” he said. “Many times, these people are being exploited. I do think that is a good step in the right direction, but we should aim to end the program altogether.”