VANCOUVER -- The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has caused unemployment in B.C. and Alberta to jump significantly, according to a C.D. Howe Institute study released on the same day Ottawa announced a partial moratorium on the controversial program.
Using government data from 2002 to 2012, study author Dominique Gross found that using temporary foreign workers (TFW) has impacted B.C. workers by almost 4% over several years.
“What I found is there has been some impact on the unemployment of local workers,” Gross said. “In my study, it’s mostly the low-skilled workers.”
Due to a now-eliminated fast-track pilot program from 2007 until 2010, the program resulted in an accelerated increase of 3.9% in the unemployment rate in B.C. and Alberta, and has since kept it up, the report said.
With B.C.’s current 5.8% unemployment rate, the number would represent thousands of people without work, especially those who could fill low-wage jobs such as fast-food staff.
The report said a Labour Market Opinion — needed to show no Canadian was found to fill a position for which a TFW is being applied for — was only filed for 37% of entries through the program in 2011.
Changes were made to the TFW program last year, but in her report Gross said they were unlikely to be sufficient to change the trend
On Thursday, federal New Democrat MP Jinny Sims demanded the Conservative government put a moratorium on the program for low-paying jobs and conduct an audit.
“It’s just gotten so ridiculous now when you’re looking at entry-level jobs,” Sims said. “What do you say to Grade 12 students? ‘You can’t have a job because you don’t have the skill set.’ Give me a break.”
Sims said the Conservative government has opened up the floodgates for the program by relaxing regulations, alleging the plot is to suppress Canadian wages and exploit foreign workers.
Late Thursday, Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced a moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the food services sector.
Sims had earlier in the day accused Kenney of feigning shock whenever a new story of the program’s abuse surfaced.