Mr. Speaker, it seems that the Liberals are speaking out of both sides of their mouths on this program. It seems to be a usual practice of members of the Liberal Party, but it seems in the extreme in this circumstance.
It is interesting that the Liberals have spent the better part of the day talking about the necessity for a permanent stream, or the ability for temporary foreign workers to move from a temporary status into a permanent status. It is interesting that the Liberals introduced this program some 30 years ago with no mechanism for individuals who came as temporary foreign workers to Canada to have any opportunity for a permanent stay. The changes that our government has undertaken over the last number of years have in fact provided a way for those temporary foreign workers who demonstrate that they have contributed to the Canadian economy and have a skill set that is necessary for the Canadian economy to remain here in Canada and become permanent residents and then citizens of Canada.
As a matter of fact, I would like to correct the record. When the opposition members say that there is no avenue for temporary foreign workers or people in a temporary state to become permanent residents and citizens of Canada, that is false. The programs in place today allow for over 62,000 people who are working here temporarily to become permanent residents and citizens of Canada this year alone.
This is because we understand that temporary foreign workers do come here to Canada, that many of them contribute, and that employers would like them to stay in the economy, depending on their contribution to Canada. It is important that the opposition members acknowledge the facts with regard to this debate, because until now the facts have not risen to the top.
The Liberals claim that under their provision of this program, it worked perfectly. Unfortunately, they had no permanent stream. That is something that this government has changed, allowing for over 62,000 people in a temporary status to become citizens this year.
It is important that we also reflect on what the Liberals did during their time with this program. We all recall Strippergate. I know that there are members on the Liberal benches right now who remember it well. Under Strippergate, the criteria that the Liberals put forward in terms of their program allowed for strippers to be brought into Canada. Those was the employees with special skills that the Liberals had designated as the prime skill set needed in Canada.
Our government does not believe that. Our government members believe that the type of skills needed in Canada are ones that actually contribute to the well-being of our local communities.
I can tell members that in the community of Grande Prairie, the community of the Peace Country, we have many employers who use temporary foreign workers, but let us talk about the types of work that they do. We are talking about work in the service sector. We are talking about work in the oil and gas sector. We are talking about work in engineering, in all kinds of construction jobs, and a whole host of others. Nobody is coming to Peace Country on the temporary foreign program as a stripper, as they did under the Liberal program.
What has happened in this debate is unfortunate. There are places like my riding in the Peace Country where unemployment is at the lowest point we have seen in history, where employers have followed the rules, where they have not been subjecting temporary foreign workers to abuse, and where they have not been taking jobs away from Canadians by hiring temporary foreign workers, yet what we have seen day in and day out is members from the Liberal Party, specifically the leader of the Liberal Party, criticizing people who are employers in northern Alberta, both in Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie, who have worked diligently to try to hire Canadians but have been unable to hire qualified Canadians to fill the job vacancies. In some cases, they have not found any Canadians who will fill the jobs under any circumstances.
As a matter of fact, this is the circumstance for the local McDonald's restaurants. Currently there are four restaurants in the city of Grande Prairie. The average number of employees needed for just one of those McDonald's restaurants would be 150. In the case of Grande Prairie, there are only 150 employees doing all of the work for the four restaurants. Currently, there are job vacancies for over 300 people in the McDonald's restaurants alone. These restaurants are paying far more than minimum wage and they are paying far in excess of the prevailing wage rate for our region.
If Canadians want a job in that particular industry, the requirement from the local management at McDonald's is that when they walk in to ask for a job or a job application, they are immediately given a uniform. There is no question, they will hired on the spot. Therefore, there are circumstances in places like the Peace country where these conditions have prevailed. They have required temporary foreign workers to fill some of the job vacancies.
Unfortunately, the Liberal Party and the NDP have vilified the employers again and again, hard-working employers that play by the rules and contribute to our communities. They give generously, pay their taxes and do all the things we would expect them to do, as well as accommodate temporary foreign workers in a way that Canadians would be proud. Unfortunately the NDP and the Liberal Party specifically have targeted these employers and have vilified them as some kind of monsters. They are not monsters. They are people who are working hard, playing by the rules and contributing.
There are cases where abuses have been noted by the media. The minister has aggressively gone after those people who have broken the rules. Under the Liberal Party, there was no mechanism to blacklist employers if they were engaged in abuse. We know that because all kinds of shenanigans happened under the Liberals when the program was in existence.
If employers were found to have abused the system, they could be blacklisted for two years and would be unable to get temporary foreign workers if they broke the rules, if they abused a temporary foreign worker or if they took a job from a Canadian and gave it to a temporary foreign worker.
The government takes abuse very seriously. We believe it is reprehensible and it cannot be tolerated. That is why the minister has undertaken to put in safeguards to ensure abuses do not take place. However, if they do, because the world is not perfect, there are now penalties that were not in existence under the Liberal government when the Liberals claimed the program was running perfectly. During their time, they were bringing in a different type of worker. Specifically, they were bringing in strippers.
Our government takes abuse seriously. We believe strongly that if temporary foreign workers have a skill set and will contribute to our economy, our country and our communities, there should be a pathway toward citizenship. That is why this year our government is allowing up to 62,000 people in temporary status to become permanent residents and then subsequently to become citizens of Canada.
We strongly belive that the mistakes of the Liberal Party of the past can be corrected, and have been corrected. We now have all kinds of things that are far better than what the Liberal Party had when it was in office. The pathway to citizenship, the accountability mechanism, the accountability for employers that break the rules and whole host of other things ensure that those people who are involved in abuse of the program are held accountable for their actions.
I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that the Liberals have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue. I would like to quote a couple of Liberals who believed the temporary foreign worker was important.
In May 2012 the member for Kings—Hants said, “Temporary foreign workers are an important part of the production chain and the value chain”. He also said on May 29, “The government has been promoting this idea that a temporary foreign worker takes a job from a Canadian, but what I'm being told is that in fact it creates a job for a Canadian at a different level”.
The member for Cape Breton—Canso said in October 2012, “Temporary foreign workers are an important part of our economy” and “some of the best workers are temporary foreign workers”.
It seems that the Liberals have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue. They can be reassured that we have corrected their past mistakes. Those employers that are abusing temporary foreign workers and the program are being held accountable.