The government's decision to bar the food service industry from hiring temporary foreign workers is a wake-up call for employers across the country, says federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney.
There will be no tolerance for employers trying to skirt the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, Kenney said in Vancouver on Friday.
"Let me be clear: the Temporary Foreign Worker program must always and only ever be a last and limited resort for employers who have made every possible effort to hire and train Canadians but can't find them for available jobs," Kenney said.
Kenney announced the moratorium on the food service industry Thursday night, after the controversial program made headlines yet again over allegations of misuse of the temporary workers at three McDonald's franchises in Victoria and a pizza restaurant in Weyburn, Sask, when
Canadian employers must do more to attract employees, Kenney suggested.
"We are distressed that wage rates have barely kept pace with inflation since the global downturn, which is not indicative of a tight labour market. We are disappointed that Canadian employers invest less than virtually any other developed country in training," Kenney said.
Wages and working conditions must improve, and employers must invest more in training, in particular among under-represented groups such as immigrants, youth and aboriginal Canadians, he said.
"We've put them on notice that we expect Canadian employers to do better," Kenney said.
The temporary foreign worker program was first under fire in the fall of 2012, when it came to light that approval was granted to Chinese-owned HD Mining International to bring more than 200 people from China to work at its coal mine near Tumbler Ridge, BC.
The controversy prompted Kenney's predecessor to announce a review.
A study released this week by the C.D. Howe Institute found the program has grown from about 100,000 people in 2002 to as many as 338,000 now working across the country.
It also found the program actually increased jobless rates in Alberta and BC, which Kenney calls home.