That the House recognize that the current Temporary Foreign Worker Program is broken, and call on the government to implement measures to significantly reduce the intake of Temporary Foreign Workers over time and return the program back to its original purpose, which should include: (a) an immediate and full review of the program by the Auditor General; (b) the disclosure of Labour Market Opinion applications and approvals for Temporary Foreign Workers; (c) a tightening of the Labour Market Opinion approval process to ensure that only businesses with legitimate needs are able to access the program; and (d) the implementation of stronger rules requiring that employers applying to the program demonstrate unequivocally that they exhausted all avenues to fill job vacancies with Canadian workers, particularly young Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the leader of the Liberal Party, the hon. member for Papineau.
I liken the government's management of the temporary foreign worker program to a reckless driver because, starting in 2006, it continuously had the accelerator on the floor and mushroomed the number of temporary foreign workers to the point where they went from about 100,000 to 215,000, using methods I will describe briefly; and it did this deliberately. Conservatives deliberately put the accelerator to the floor and mushroomed the number of temporary foreign workers, and then a crisis broke out and it became apparent there were abuses, so they slammed on the brakes. That is why we have this moratorium. That is why we are debating this issue today.
Had the Conservatives driven more prudently, had they managed the numbers responsibly, we would not be where we are today. We would have no need for the moratorium because we would not have had this explosion of numbers and this proliferation of abuses. What one can say is this is an example of a grossly incompetently managed program. We are not content simply to say that. We also have a detailed plan we are proposing, which would allow the Conservatives to fix this mess they created.
I would like to spend a bit of time talking about how the Conservatives continuously loosened the rules on every front, which allowed this explosion to occur in the first place. It is true that when the crisis broke, when they slammed on the brakes, they had begun to tighten the rules and go back in part to where they started from; but the explosion of numbers occurred as a consequence of loosening rules in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. It is only more recently that they have acknowledged the loosening was wrong and are starting to retrace their steps.
What did the Conservatives do? First of all, they reduced the length of time for advertising from three weeks to one week in the case of 170 occupations; and instead of forcing companies to advertise in various local papers, which people actually read, they said that the companies had to only advertise on some government website, which nobody reads. Therefore, effectively they said employers do not have to advertise, because any advertising that was done was on a medium that nobody reads.
Second, they increased the length of time the temporary foreign workers could work in the country, first from one year to two years and then more recently, in 2013, from two years to four years. There are supposed to be temporary foreign workers filling needs that employers temporarily cannot satisfy. Now instead of being here one year, it is four years. The Conservatives reduced the time for certain sectors, 33 in all, for labour market opinions from five months to five days. How comprehensive was this review of the labour market situation if they could get it in five days?
In budget 2007, the Conservatives injected an additional $50 million to speed up the labour market opinion process, this at a time when processing times for regular permanent immigrants were skyrocketing. Instead of addressing with some extra cash the problems for permanent immigrants, they allowed that to fester, and processing times soared. Instead, they injected $50 million to speed up the process for temporary immigrants.
Then there was the Auditor General's report in 2009. The Auditor General made a number of points: one, the insufficient quality of decisions based on labour market opinions; two, the genuineness of job offers was not verified; and three, there were concerns about the integrity of the program and the protection of temporary foreign workers.
That was in 2009 and the Conservatives did nothing. We only have to look at stories we heard in the last few days about the exploitation of temporary foreign workers to understand that back in 2009 they ought to have paid attention to those recommendations, particularly the third one regarding the treatment of temporary foreign workers.
I believe I have said enough to make the point that they loosened the rules in every conceivable way, to the point where there were effectively no rules. Now that the crisis has hit, they are making a virtue of tightening the rules, but they are tightening from the point of no rules and moving gradually back to where they started from. At this point, given this explosion of temporary foreign workers, one can say that the horse has already left the barn.
As if this direct evidence is not enough, another form of proof that this was deliberate is offered by quotes from the minister of the day. The minister of the day in 2007 said, “We've expanded the temporary foreign workers program significantly and very deliberately...”. Her words were “very deliberately”. They did not do it by mistake; they did it very deliberately through loosening every rule in the book.
The current employment minister appears to be onside, because the CEO of McDonald's credited him with understanding how important this is “from a business...perspective”.
There we have it, a mushrooming of the numbers under a deliberate Conservative policy to loosen every rule.
What are the consequences? As we all know, this has had a negative effect on Canadians seeking work. No less an authority than the C.D. Howe Institute, which I think even the Conservatives would agree is not populated by socialist hordes, has argued that the unemployment rate in western Canada particularly is higher as a consequence of this program.
It is clear as well that there has been wage suppression. If there are all these huge job shortages, would one not expect to see some upward pressure on wages? Wages have been stagnant and that is partly because, rather than actively seek out Canadians, companies have been able simply to automatically import temporary foreign workers.
As I mentioned earlier, there is this issue of the exploitation of temporary foreign workers, of which we have seen a lot of evidence.
Perhaps the most fundamental point is that the Conservatives are in the process of changing the nature of immigration. We have a chart, which we released yesterday, showing the evolution of intake of permanent residents and temporary foreign workers since 2005. The permanent residents are relatively flat; they go up and down but are relatively flat at around 250,000 a year. The temporary foreign workers are on a strong upward trend, starting at 100,000 and going to 215,000 in 2012, I think. If we project those trends forward, then we get a situation where the number of temporary foreign workers will exceed the number of permanent residents.
This is fundamental because for decades—at least since Pierre Trudeau, and we could say from the beginning because all of us, except perhaps aboriginal people, were immigrants at some point through ourselves or our parents and grandparents—we have built this country on the basis of immigrants who come here permanently with their families and become full-fledged Canadians citizens in every sense of the term. The Conservatives are in the process of changing the system to one in which, rather than permanent immigrants, we have guest workers who come and then leave. This is fundamentally contrary to Canadian values.