Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I'm With Nenshi - The Trouble With TFW

I was quite pleased when Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi waded in on the Temporary Foreign Worker debate that is raging in our country. I have tremendous respect for Nenshi, but it grew even larger when he commented that the current temporary foreign worker system strips people of dignity and that what Canada needs is migration.

I fully agree.

To me the trouble with the Temporary Foreign Worker program is that it is deemed necessary at all, and the word "temporary" rankles me in particular. We have these workers come to our country to serve our fast food and fill our coffee cups for a couple of years, give them a taste of life in Canada, and then ship them home to uncertain futures. We ask them to leave behind their families in many cases and come here solely to work for us for a short period of time, never having to give a thought to their futures or the futures of their families. I would say it is almost exploitative in nature, benefitting us a great deal and only benefitting them in the short term.

We are facing an aging population in this country. We will almost certainly continue to need an influx of employees, but are we truly going to rely on temporary foreign workers to fill that gap? For how long? Forever?

Or do we work on encouraging foreign workers to consider making Canada their new home country instead? Do we put get rid of the words temporary and foreign and instead focus on the workers and try to ensure that what we have is a new migration of permanent Canadian residents who can find their future here, not just a paycheque for a couple of years?

The trouble with the temporary foreign worker program isn't that it doesn't work, because it has supplied workers to industries who desperately need them. The trouble is that it is short-sighted and does not take into account a future where those workers will continue to be needed, and that this program is only a short term and inadequate solution to a long term problem.

There are those who believe the TFW program undermines the employment of Canadians, and to some extent I agree because I think it undermines our ability to attract new Canadians who can become part of our core workforce. TFW is just a Band-Aid solution to a problem that requires time in the ICU.

I'm with Nenshi on this one. The Temporary Foreign Worker program should not be considered a long-term viable solution to employment issues in this country. We should instead be finding a way to ensure Canadians have those jobs - including new Canadians who once may have come to this country as a TFW but who would now come instead with their families to become part of their new home nation - Canada. Then perhaps we wouldn't need TFW at all.

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