House of Commons photo

Track Rodger

Your Say

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is program.

Liberal MP for Cape Breton—Canso (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 46.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Employment May 13th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that all the member in the House tonight recall when the minister stood the other day and tried to dismiss the issue around this particular program, saying that it was only a couple of Aussies pouring beer in Whistler.

I am sure the members would remember as well the minister's trip to Ireland, where he was saying “Come on over, use the program, come to Canada”. They do not need a labour market opinion to come over on this program.

When we left government, there were 30,000 visitors to Canada and 22,000 Canadians visiting other countries. That is fairly close. Now it is about 60,000, to 18,000 Canadians who are working offshore.

In the meantime, since the recession started we have lost a quarter of a million jobs for young people in this country.

My question for the minister, with all due respect, is this: Is it not time to take some time to review this program and to try to build back in some semblance of reciprocity and some sense of marketplace neutrality?

Employment May 13th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening and pose a question for the minister. I note it is not often in adjournment proceedings that a minister is in the House to respond to a question. This is an important question on the important issue of temporary foreign workers. The minister's presence this evening deserves merit.

The international exchange program is part of the issue surrounding temporary foreign workers. This issue has really taken off. We have been ringing alarm bells for four years with respect to the temporary foreign worker program.

In 2009, a lot of the checks and balances that were in place in that program were cast aside when the current Minister of Public Works declared that she was accelerating the LMO process. Businesses would be allowed to pay their temporary foreign workers 15% less than Canadian workers. The minister was quite proud of the fact that she was speeding up access to temporary foreign workers. Since that time, the program has ballooned.

The international exchange program was initiated by a Liberal government in 1967. The whole purpose of the program was to give Canadians an opportunity to go to other countries and learn all that could be learned about those countries and peoples. The program allowed youth from other countries to come here and learn about Canada and Canadian culture.

The program was intended to be positive, constructive and reciprocal. The program was supposed to benefit visiting students and Canadians going abroad. It was supposed to be workplace neutral and a program with balance. It was clearly identified as a reciprocal program.

In its rush to take in temporary foreign workers, the Conservative government removed some of the checks and balances in this program and that really opened it up. We are not sure of the impact as a result of that.

There are 375,000 unemployed youth in our country. The last job figures show that there are 27,000 more unemployed young people in Canada. When there is a disproportionate number of young people from other countries working in Canada compared to Canadians working offshore, Canadians deserve to be told what is going on with this program.

In light of what has transpired recently with respect to this program and considering there are 60,000 visiting youth in Canada now and less than 18,000 Canadians offshore, could the minister explain to me the reciprocal aspect of that?

Fair Elections Act May 13th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my friend and colleague and big London Knights fan, in his speech, identified the fact that Elections Canada should not be putting forward a reason why Canadians should be going to vote. It should not be involved in the why, just in the where and when.

However, last year the government, in the Canada job grants ads that it spent millions and millions of dollars on, told Canadians why they should be accessing this program that did not even exist. There was a why there.

Could the member square that circle for me?

Business of Supply May 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister had mentioned several times through his speech the importance of the principle of reciprocity.

One of the stated goals of the international experience Canada program is that it:

...strives to achieve a neutral effect on the Canadian labour market by maintaining a careful balance between the number of opportunities for Canadians to work abroad and the number of opportunities for non-Canadians to work in Canada.

We know that in 2012 there were 58,000 temporary youth working here in Canada, while there were 18,000 Canadians working abroad under this program. The difference is 40,000. A net loss of opportunities for young Canadians of 40,000.

How does that address the minister's commitment to reciprocity and fairness?

Business of Supply May 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let me first clarify that my position would never have been that there is rampant abuse. There has been abuse, and many of those abuses have been very much out in the media. Rather than rampant abuse, the abuses that have taken place are significant and substantial and deserve to be viewed, but there is no rampant abuse.

Other aspects have to be viewed as well. The C.D. Howe Institute has said there is an impact of about 4% on the unemployment rate in Alberta and B.C. as a result of the growing number of temporary foreign workers. We see the downward pressure on the minimum wage. The number of Canadians working for minimum wage has increased 68%. Those factors have to be looked at more so than rampant abuse. Abuses are going on in the system, but the impacts of the system and how they are playing out in the Canadian economy are just as important.

Business of Supply May 6th, 2014

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I agree with myself. If the minister is trying to shame me or embarrass me about a comment that I made in 2012, it will not work. I fully agree with that comment and I stand on that. The temporary foreign worker program is not a bad program. It is a program that has been managed badly.

We would not have an agricultural sector in many parts of this country if it were not for the temporary foreign worker program. There are real needs. They are not just perceived needs. When this program is working right, Canadian employers and Canadian jobs are supported by it.

I have no problem with the program. My problem is with how it has been mismanaged over the last number of years. That is why I am calling for a full, complete, and independent audit in order to fix that problem. Let us get this program fixed for Canadians.

Business of Supply May 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is like déjà vu all over again; we are back talking about the temporary foreign worker program. As I mentioned in my preamble to the question for the member for Newton—North Delta, this has been an issue that the opposition parties have brought forward on at least six different occasions, through motions in the House and through motions at the Standing Committee on Human Resources and Skills Development.

It is seen as a program that is important to the economy of this country and has served us very well over many years, but in recent years with the changes that have been made, independent of any kind of study or full reflection for those impacted, the shackles have been taken off and we see there have been outcomes that have had considerable negative impact and have reflected poorly on the program.

Right now in the minds of many Canadians, there is a great deal of concern around the program, and I think that is legitimate. The purpose of our opposition day motion is to have the government move to regain some of that credibility, that confidence in this program, so that the program will better serve Canadian business operators, Canadian workers, and those who want to come to this country for work opportunities and citizenship opportunities. That is the essence of the motion today.

The abuses have been well articulated. When we look at the HD Mining issue, the Royal Bank blowup from two years ago, and more recently what took place when two women who had worked in a restaurant in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, for 25 or 28 years—Sandy Nelson and Shauna Jennison-Yung—and been replaced by workers who had come in through the temporary foreign worker program, I do not think any Canadians would see that as being right.

We also hear anecdotal evidence that some employers are being subtle with their abuse of the program. They are saying they cannot get workers, but they have Canadian workers who they assign reduced numbers of hours, or the most inconvenient hours. We respect employers' right to manage their workforce as they see fit, but when those types of things are happening with scheduling and split shifts, they are chasing those Canadian workers out of the business and the workforce and creating this need to bring in temporary foreign workers.

We believe that an open audit, getting the true picture of what is going on with the program, would benefit all Canadians. We think it would certainly benefit Canadian workers and Canadian businesses.

We get mixed messages. In response to a question last week, the minister said it was 2002 when the Liberals came out with the low-skill stream for the temporary foreign worker program and all the Conservatives have done since is put in additional restraints and restrictions. He was half right on that. It was 2002 and the Liberals did bring that in, but I have a problem with what he said about the additional restraints and restrictions, the checks and balances, especially in light of the fact that the minister's predecessor, the current Minister of Public Works and Government Services, was boastful about what she did for the temporary foreign worker program in accelerating the LMOs and in providing an opportunity for employers to pay 15% less to temporary foreign workers. She was very proud of those.

The numbers skyrocketed. As my colleague for Markham—Unionville said, they mushroomed, so there is a different take on it.

What would have motivated the current government to allow this, what would have driven it to take the shackles off this program, is something that I am sure the member for Vancouver Centre, who I am splitting my time with, will probably add this to her speech as well. What has driven the unshackling of the temporary foreign worker program has been the misinformation within the labour market, the misunderstanding of where we are in the labour market.

We heard the Prime Minister say two years ago that the skills gap that we have in this country is at a crisis and that Canadians should be seized with this gap. Well, we know that the Conservatives have sort of stepped back from that position. Now they are saying that, yes, there are sectors and parts of the country experiencing skills shortages. We understand that, but we also know that Donald Drummond, TD, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer have all put forward concerns about the government's take on the labour market information in this country.

It is what has driven the current government: they said they need these skills and they need them now. Meanwhile, we still wrestle with an unemployment rate for young Canadians of over 14%. We know that there are a number of Canadians who are still having trouble securing work.

When one does not have the appropriate information and tries to drive policy without factual evidence, that is when one gets into trouble. This is why we are asking for the Auditor General to be called in to give a full and transparent review.

I would think that my friend and colleague, the minister responsible, would be deemed an enabler. He has been a cheerleader for the unlocking of what has taken place here. He would have fired the starting gun.

When he was minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, he was one of the biggest supporters of the temporary foreign worker program. His department issued work permits for a record number of temporary foreign workers. In fact, it was his department that pushed one of the temporary foreign worker streams to be expanded to record levels, that being the International Experience Canada program.

The International Experience Canada program was a Liberal program that was set out to be a diplomatic program with the purpose of allowing Canadian and foreign youth to experience each other's cultures. It was very well intended. However, the Conservatives took it in a different direction, and it has become another access point for temporary foreign workers.

The International Experience Canada program 2005-2006 had approximately 50,000 participants. There were 20,000 Canadians and 30,000 foreign youth. In the past six years, the Conservative government has changed the program to focus more on labour market needs. The program has almost doubled the number of temporary foreign workers, who now number 60,000, yet Canadian participation in the program is down to about 18,000.

I know that my colleague has travelled abroad. When he was in Ireland on one of the television shows, he said that one of our biggest economic problems in Canada was skills shortage and that we encourage young people from Ireland to come to our country. Meanwhile, young Canadians have lost about 200,000 jobs in this country since then.

In closing, the best time to have looked at the problem would have been three years ago, when it was first called upon. The next best time after that would have probably been two years ago, when it was called upon again, and then again last year. However, now is the next best opportunity.

Let us get this program fixed. Let us have the Auditor General come in with an independent study so that this program can work for Canadians and Canadian businesses.

Business of Supply May 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I think between the member for Newton—North Delta and me, we have put forward probably six motions, between the House and the committee, to undertake a review of this program.

This is not a new problem. The alarm bells have been ringing for quite some time. My colleague and I have tried to get this before the government to get it fixed. That is what the whole purpose was.

I want to ask her this specifically, because the government tries to muddy the waters when it responds to questions particularly from New Democrats when it says that the NDP writes more letters than anybody else in support of temporary foreign workers. It has been said in this House, and I contend, that this is an important program. It is not a bad program, but one that has been badly managed. Does she not agree with me that if this program continued to hold the confidence of the Canadian people, if it were better managed, there would be fewer letters being addressed to the minister from the NDP?

Business of Supply May 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Peace River talked about demonizing. The inconsistencies and the different messages we are hearing from the government are causing concern in the minds of the Canadian public.

We heard the former Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development that the government has taken the shackles off, is opening it up, and will allow employers to pay 15% less. Then the minister stood the other day and said that all they have done since 2002 is tighten it up.

Does my colleague from Papineau agree that it is the inconsistencies--

Questions on the Order Paper May 2nd, 2014

With regard to Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation’s (ECBC) responsibility for the former Cape Breton Development Corporation’s Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP) and Compassionate Disability Benefit (CDB): (a) what year did ECBC become responsible for the ERIP and CDB; (b) what is the total number and outcome of decisions by year rendered by (i) the Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Board (NSWCB), (ii) Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT), (iii) the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia related to the ERIP and CDB; (c) how many cases did ECBC utilize in-house legal services and third-party legal services in (i) the NSWCB, (ii) the WCAT, (iii) the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia cases related to the ERIP and CDB by year; (d) what was the total cost to ECBC for in-house legal services and third-party legal services in (i) the NSWCB, (ii) the WCAT, (iii) the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia cases related to the ERIP and CDB by year; and (e) what specific fund and or budget does ECBC in-house legal services and third-party legal services get billed to relating to (i) NSWCB, (ii) WCAT, (iii) the Nova Scotia Supreme Court cases related to the ERIP and CDB?