Life is Belief & Struggle - Ahmed Shawqi

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance and the Globe and Mail.

The Globe and Mail editorial board weighs in on Temporary Foreign workers program and it has to be one of the most scattered editorials I have ever read. It occurred to me that this was the most blatant examples of cognitive dissonance in print that I have read in the last ten years.

It starts off fairly strong, and underscores the most recent C.D. How Institute study to add moral heft to the beginning, and I quote the G& M's own words on thestudy:
A study released this week by the C.D. Howe Institute, titled “Temporary Foreign Workers: Are They Really Filling Labour Shortages?,” concludes that they aren’t, and the program actually raised unemployment levels in the two provinces examined, Alberta and British Columbia. The author, Simon Fraser University public policy professor Dominique M. Gross, also found that the steady ramping up of the program over the past decade occurred “even though there was little empirical evidence of shortages in many occupations.”
But the dissonance comes at the end:
There are economic reasons to rethink and scale back Canada’s temporary foreign worker program. But there’s also the question of the kind of society we want. Do we want a class of working strangers who come here, do our dirty work and then are forced to leave? Canada has always wanted something else: immigrants. People who cross the seas to become our neighbours and our fellow citizens. We don’t just want them to work for us. We want them to join us, as Canadians.

No, actually, I don't believe we want them to join as as Canadians. I would have thought the entire point of bringing in temporary foreign workers is to have them leave, which is why they are brought into the country under a temporary visa rather than as legal landed immigrants.

In fact, I would wage that most of the half million temporary foreign workers currently in this country do not even come close to matching the skill set necessary to enter Canada through the normal immigration channels. Given the destruction of manufacturing and factory in this country through free trade agreements and globalization; the last thing the country needs, is an influx of more unskilled workers – we have plenty of our own homegrown ones, and if the C.D. Howe study is to believed, the presence of these temporary foreign workers act only to suppress wages and keep our own citizens poor and unemployed.

The jobs Canadians won't do

There is a lie I hear over and over again. It has been repeated so often, and in so different venues, by some many different people that it is now taken for a bold-faced fact, when it is a nothing more than a bold-faced lie. In it's simplest form it is expressed as 'the jobs Canadians won't do'.

I am a Canadian, and there are very few jobs I haven't done at one time or another, based on the simplest of economic principle; need. I have been a waitress at a truck stop, chambermaid, retail sales clerk, and lumber broker – even if I was a disaster as a lumber broker – collections clerk, bindery manager, ballet dancer, bookkeeper, secretary, law clerk, project coordinator, writer, painter, but the point is, whatever I did, I gave it my best try. I showed for work every day, and I worked, often very hard, very long, and more often than I care to remember, for very little pay.

I never thought a job was beneath me when it came to paying my bills. After 50 odd years, I know very few Canadians who won't do the same. My oldest son, has been getting up every Saturday morning to be at work by 4:30am and stays on his feet until 6pm, and he has been doing it since he was 14. He's 21 now. My youngest son, works at a movie theatre, and often does closings – well after 1am – and that on school nights. My daughter is a neuro-scientist, who has spent the last 18 months working as a receptionist because she could not get a job in her field. Now she found a job in her field, so she gets up and leaves the house by 6:00 am so she can be in the operating room at 7am. Just a regular family of Canadian slackers are we.

I am sure we can all find the odd Canadian soul, who refuses to work, there is hardly a culture in the world that does have a few of those kicking around, scamming the system or running a con. But by and large, Canadians do work, and work hard. So when I read things like, well, what Doug Sanders wrote on the Temporary foreign worker program, my craw is crossed.

Doug Sanders is a journalist, and that allegedly makes him my intellectual superior and moral better, and he believes we there are jobs Canadians won't do, and that's why we have the Temporary Foreign Workers program in the first place - so we can import 500,000 million Nannies and Tim Horton's coffee servers/cashiers. If he just ended it there, I wouldn't be writing,but he just couldn't stop himself. He had to go on and suggest there should be a fast-track to citizenship for TFWs in Canada since they should be rewarded for all the pain and suffering they endure being separated from their families in order to pick up Canadian dirty laundry and pass out the Timmie's cups.

He does not bother to read reports his own paper published on abuses to the TFW program or even the most recent report from C.D. Howe Institute which suggested the TFW program actually worked to lower or suppressed wages, and helped increase unemployment in the two provinces the institute studied.

Sander's is living in a la-la-land where big lies live. How this program actually plays out is more like this:
The Alberta Federation of Labour is taking aim at the federal government, after Today discovered that 270 Canadian workers had been replaced with temporary foreign workers at Husky Energy’s Sunrise site.

The site – located 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray – is the workplace for more than 1,500 people, however, the AFL estimates that less than one-third of those workers are Canadian citizens.

...In an exclusive article published Tuesday, Today discovered that the non-union Italian construction firm Saipem gave Toronto-based and unionized firm Black & MacDonald contracts to complete the project’s first phase. Husky says construction on the project was finishing, and Black & MacDonald reduced their workforce. However, Saipem replaced those workers with temporary foreign workers from Mexico, Italy, Portugal and Ireland to begin work on other projects. Many Canadian workers were told there shift was abruptly coming to an end during the Labour Day long weekend.

And not a single Nanny on sight at Husky Energy's Sunrise sit. Think this is a one-off? Think again.

Despite promises to rehire Canadians who were replaced by foreign workers last week, Pacer Promec Joint Venture still has not offered the affected workers their jobs back. According to the Alberta Federation of Labour, the company has not contacted any of the 65 ironworkers who were unceremoniously replaced with temporary foreign workers - mostly recruited from Croatia - on Feb. 4. The ironworkers were working at Imperial Oil’s Kearl Lake project north of Fort McMurray and were not given any prior warnings or notice. 

So what do North Calgary Massage Works, RC Contracting Roofing, Acess Taxi, Fas Gas, Cabon Construction Inc, Cardinal Coachlines -First Student Canada, Cavabien Hair Studio & Day Spa Ltd., CB Brothers Transportation Ltd, Continental Auto Body 1998 Ltd, D.R. Painting, Fraser Construction, Cassady Welding Services, Canadian Freight Solutions Ltd, Canyon Creek Toyota, SAM Associates Tax Consultants Inc, Divine Hair Salon, Saipem Construction Canada Inc., all have in common?

They all received positive Market Opinions (LMO) from the Integrity Division, Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. There is a pdf found here of a report run June 20, 2012 by the government. The report runs 475 pages and details every company in Alberta which started the process to import TFWs into Canada. I am not saying these companies did  bring in foreign workers, but they did begin the process. Tim Hortons, McDonalds, Wendy's Family Restaurants, are all there as well, but iron workers, welders, construction workers, tax consultants, hair stylists, truckers, roofers, commercial paintings and drywallers, taxi drivers, school bus drivers, auto body workers, and massage therapists are all jobs Canadians won't do? I don't believe it for a moment.

The point Sander's does not get it is twofold. Temporary Foreign Workers brought into this country do not meet the bench markets for legal immigration to Canada which is why they are brought into this country under the TFW visa program. One good recession, and they would become a burden on the already over-burdened Canadian tax payers. Furthermore, there is simply no guarantee if you fast-tracked the TFW into citizenship they would be able to keep their jobs. If your employer's deeply flawed business model relies on labour based on a modern form of indentured servitude, well, your former TFW would simply be SOL - just like the rest of us Canadians.

You know what would be nice to see? A Canadian journalist really start to dig into this story and ask these companies why they did not go to places of high unemployment in Canada to recruit workers, but instead, chose to raid every third world banana republic that spans the globe. Now that's a story I would even pay to read.