Mr. Speaker, for a member who has been here a long time, one would think he would know the difference between a point of privilege and a point of order.
The member for Cape Breton—Canso was quoted as saying:
Temporary foreign workers are an important part of our economy....
...some of the best workers are temporary foreign workers.
On the other hand, the exact same member said:
...the temporary foreign worker program has been consistently abused as a vehicle to replace Canadian workers with foreign workers.
Which is it? Are TFWs an important part of our economy and some of the best workers, or is the program abused and a vehicle to replace Canadian workers with foreign workers?
Those of us on this side of the House believe that Canadians must always have the first opportunity at available jobs. It has never been the intent of the program to exist as an alternative to hiring Canadians.
Budget 2013 committed the government to fixing some of the problems that are in the program. We have committed to doing such things as increasing recruiting efforts, as well as the length and reach of advertising. We will also work with employers, when there are no qualified Canadians, to develop a plan to transition Canadian workers over time. We will restrict the language requirements for temporary foreign workers to official languages only.
Let me be clear. Hiring temporary foreign workers does not mean creating a pool of second-class labour. Employers cannot exploit or neglect their temporary foreign workers. They have to follow the rules, provide a safe work environment and ensure their well-being.
If not, they will find themselves banned from the temporary foreign worker program. These workers have the same rights and protections as all Canadian workers under applicable federal and provincial employment standards and laws. Foreign workers are registered with the workers compensation board, and they also receive private or public health care coverage, as any Canadian would receive.
A further reflection of our commitment to fairness and equity in the program is the fact that foreign workers must be paid the same wage as Canadian workers for doing the same work they do for an employer. Let me be clear on this point, as union leadership and opposition MPs have been intentionally misleading on it. Temporary foreign workers cannot be paid less than a Canadian. Employers must provide documentation to demonstrate that the wage being paid to a temporary foreign worker is exactly the same as that being paid to Canadian employees doing the same work in that region for the employer.
In conclusion, let me say that the government's focus is on helping Canadians find meaningful work. We are investing in Canadians so they can find better-paying jobs today. However, there are parts of the country where employers cannot find the labour or skills they need to grow their businesses.
I will not be supporting this motion today. The government is at it; our hard-working Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development is on the file. We will be bringing forward changes to strengthen the program and make sure the program works for the workers, for the employers and for all Canadians.