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News archive for April 30, 2013

Foreign worker program changes denounced

The federal government’s changes to the temporary foreign worker program announced Monday are bad news for Yukon, says the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.


Photo by Whitehorse Star

Val Royle, Rick Karp and Yvonne-Clarke

The federal government’s changes to the temporary foreign worker program announced Monday are bad news for Yukon, says the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

“What’s being proposed by the federal government today is not in the interest of Yukon business,” Rick Karp told the Star Monday afternoon.

“It’s really disappointing for us to see unemployment rates or Canadians or local Yukoners unemployed, but there are jobs out there.”

The problem is that many locals don’t want to work some of the available jobs, he said.

Those willing to fill the jobs want a wage Yukon businesses can’t afford to pay, Karp asserted.

Among the changes is the removal of wage flexibility for temporary foreign workers.

Last April, the government announced a two-tiered wage system that allowed temporary foreign workers to be paid 15 per cent less than the average wage, a condition Monday’s announcement rescinded.

The government also announced higher fees for work permits and Labour Market Opinions, aiming to reduce taxpayers’ subsidization of the program. And proficiency in French or English is now mandatory.

Karp raised concerns about the newly-required onus on employers to demonstrate a strategy to recruit, train and hire Canadians before they can be approved to hire foreign workers.

According to the revised program, employers will also need a plan for eventually transitioning out of the temporary foreign worker program to a Canadian workforce.

“This is a problem. This is a serious problem for Yukon because we need immigration to fill the jobs that are coming open this summer and the next few years,” said Karp. He highlighted the importance of immigration for filling jobs as the baby boomers reach retirement.

Yvonne Clarke, the president of the Yukon Filipino Association, is less concerned about the impact of the changes than the chamber president.

“I have always been in favour of the Yukon Nominee Program because it is specifically designed to encourage qualified foreign nationals to come to the Yukon and make it their home,” she said in an email this morning.

“Canada is full of people who are, or are descended from, immigrants,” she said.

Where the temporary foreign worker program is concerned, however, Clarke is not as supportive.

“Temporary foreign workers do not come to Canada with an attachment to Canada,” she said. 

“They come to Canada, work for a while, and then they are supposed to leave.  In the meantime, the jobs they fill are not available to Canadians.  I have always been concerned that  the program was open to abuse.”

Clarke said she’s supportive of the change requiring employers to pay the prevailing wage. She suggested it removes the financial incentive for an employer to hire a temporary foreign worker over a Canadian.

“I think overall that the federal government’s stated goal of ensuring that temporary foreign workers do not displace Canadian workers is a good goal.  I don’t know if the announced reforms will actually accomplish that. Time will tell,” she said.

In 2011, the Yukon government signed an annex agreement with the federal government that gave the territory a role in managing the temporary foreign worker program.

But Ottawa asked the territorial government to hold off releasing its program until it had completed its review of the federal program.

Now, as Val Royle, the deputy minister of Education, explained, the government will have to review the federal changes and make any necessary adjustments to the territorial program before unveiling it.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to roll our program out in a way that address the concerns and meets the needs of the local labour market,” she said.

A key benefit of the annex agreement will be that it removes the requirement for a Labour Market Opinion by the federal government.

“We, on the ground here, particularly because we’re small, we know the labour market pieces,” said Royle.

“We know who’s in the pool to be trained, we know the apprentices out there, we know the people in the communities who are looking for jobs, we fund the employment assistance providers, so we would know pretty quick, ‘hey, wait a minute, we have lots of these people locally.’”

The Yukon’s annexed program will also be one of the first to partner with the territory’s Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, Royle noted.

“We’re trying to be a bit more proactive about safety, and if there’s any issues that arise at the work place, we can deal with them in a proactive manner.”

Another unique aspect will be a 50 worker-limit on the number of temporary foreign workers a company can hire.

And some issues with the federal program addressed in Monday’s changes were already being dealt with in the Yukon program, Royle said, noting the language requirement as an example.

But because the territorial program is authorized through the federal program, the department will have to review all the changes to ensure its version falls in line prior to release.

CommentsAdd a comment

Business Engineering

Apr 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm

To Mr. Karp and the businessmen seeking to support their businesses through Temporary Foreign Workers, they must first review their business plan like any entrepreneur.  Make sure there is a market for the goods or services, make certain there is sufficient cash flow, make certain there is enough cash reserves for lean times and make certain there is a readily available work force.  Should any of these basic underpinnings not be available, the plan is not feasible in the short-term.  Should the problem be labour, the business should invest in training to bring the labour supply up to standard, not invest in bringing overseas workers into the labour force.  This only saturates the labour market, suppresses wages (wages do not rise when an employer knows that every 6 months to two years they will replace the current TFWs with new TFWs at the same wage) and sends the payroll benefits of the business overseas.  Therefore, the business has no Net Benefit to the community.

Frank Irish

Apr 30, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Rick Karp and the Chamber of Commerce- what a sense of entitlement.
“Karp raised concerns about the newly-required onus on employers to demonstrate a strategy to recruit, train and hire Canadians before they can be approved to hire foreign workers.”

Wow Rick- you represent the Chamber of Commerce and you have concerns about demonstrating a strategy to recruit Canadians.
“According to the revised program, employers will also need a plan for eventually transitioning out of the temporary foreign worker program to a Canadian workforce.”

“This is a problem. This is a serious problem for Yukon because we need immigration to fill the jobs that are coming open this summer and the next few years,” said Karp. He highlighted the importance of immigration for filling jobs as the baby boomers reach retirement.

Rick, please consider the impression you leave before speaking. Maybe you need speaking notes. How pathetic- you need FRWs because baby boomers are retiring. Have you really looked at the rate of unemployment and underemployment for young people- do you care?
And look at your contribution to Yukon another way. Would the Yukon be a better place if you and your businesses were not here?

gordon casselman

Apr 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm

hey I’m not against others taking as you say Canadian jobs, what I am against is picking up the extra work load put on to me by Canadian born managers when the immigrants can’t speak the language or work at the level of high standards here in Canada. If you think I’m out of line proof is at our Whitehorse Wal-Mart - here expect no response to a Q about products or availability. Oh thanks Rick for spearheading this immigrant hiring program in the Yukon and notice the decline in locals supporting your adventures.

Something Smells Fishy

Apr 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I’ve thought something was fishy about what’s been happening with this program. My 45 year old sister and her co-worker who are both hard workers were told by a local business owner not to complain about their jobs or ask for a raise because this business owner could just hire Filipinos to do the job for less per hour anyways. So it was basically a threat that she would lose her job to a immigrant unless she put up with any crap the owner dished out. Whether it would happen or not I don’t know, but who needs that threat hanging over their head?

Jackie Ward

Apr 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Rick, why is the only time we hear you speak is when TFW are mentioned? Granted, your job is to represent business, I get that. But seeing how much you are concerned about anything TFW compared to other issues affecting Canadians (job related) concerns me.  I for one don’t believe anything out of your mouth. In one line you state we need TFW for jobs people won’t do. Then in another line you state that baby boomers retiring will create a shortage. We all know those baby boomer jobs is not a Timmy’s job. So which one is it Rick? You seem very concerned that a little accountability is being brought to the TFW program. Why the hissy fit? You should welcome the changes not attack them. It’s very obvious you want a stream of cheap labour so businesses have a reason to drive down wages.
You continue to show your hand and prove you don’t represent Canada at all. You support money. That’s not me saying businesses are not allowed to make money. But the sheer influx of people coming here is having a negative effect on our society. The ones coming here now don’t want to learn English. They don’t care about our values or culture. They refuse to assimilate. You support this? With a straight face? Right, as long as its profits over people? I for one refuse to support businesses that are staffed by people who can’t speak or understand English. Or use excuses why they can’t pay a decent wage when their prices always seem to go up. I speak with my wallet Rick. Maybe more people should stop whining about “what can I do about it?”. STOP SUPPORTING THESE BUSINESSES WITH YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY. It’s the only language people seem to understand nowadays.


Apr 30, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Why are all the folks coming through these programs from the Philipines? I would like to see more immigration from the well educated European Union - where they have 27% unemployment.


Apr 30, 2013 at 10:33 pm

I disagree with Karp yet again, I strongly believe Mr Karp is not in the times of today.  There are tons of “young” Yukoners that I know, that have went and applied for jobs, but were denied jobs because they were already filled by temp foreign workers.  I applaud The feds on this.


May 1, 2013 at 8:05 am

“It’s good for everyone,” said Karp. “It really is. It’s good for everyone, and it’s worked out well for locals as well, because it has increased wages.

”The problem is that many locals don’t want to work some of the available jobs”, he said.
Those willing to fill the jobs want a wage Yukon businesses can’t afford to pay, Karp asserted.

Advice to Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.
Get a new spokesperson.

Josey Wales

May 1, 2013 at 2:48 pm

There ya have it folks, wanna know why Whitehorse AND the Yukon looks more like Manila than any place we used to call home?
Just look at Mr. Karp and his minions.

Imagine how MORE screwed up it would have been if when we replaced our hairdresser we (all 20% whom care to vote) voted this greedy fool into office?
The very fact he put his name in the hat to drive the gravy train…scared the HELL outta me!
Thankfully we DID vote a Yukon’er and YES we are watching his start into office…hopefully we will hold his AND councils feet to the fire and retard the tax increases…the MASSIVE sense of entitlements within…and wasteful borderline corrupt spending and planning policies.
Do Yukon folks even work in the mines or are they like Wal Mart with safety vests and hard hats?
The sooner Karp leaves us…who cares how…the better off we at least in Whitehorse are concerned…will be!

Arn Anderson

May 1, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Thank you all for contributing to the human divide, now go back to your iphones. I don’t see any of you rushing out to fill those positions. If there is something to blame, blame your phony economic make believe system, thats the only thing needed to be blamed.


May 2, 2013 at 6:11 am

The Temporary Foreign Worker program is great for local business but not, in general, for our communities. These workers do not have a connection to the community, do not spend a lot of money locally, do not pay income taxes in Canada and add little to the mosaic of our vibrant society.

This and similar programs are part of the rush to the bottom advocated by the the likes of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. They, and their political allies, the Conservatives, want to do away with pensions of all types, hire foreign labour to drive already low wage rates down even further and they tell their members to not offer benefits like supplementary insurance programs that cover such things as prescription drugs and dental care for their employees.

A sad result of the Temporary Foreign Worker program is the accommodation that is offered to those workers. There are no standards so these visitors to Canada will no doubt live in accommodations designed for 2 people and share that space with 10 or even more people.


May 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm

@ Arn Anderson. Is that all you have to add to the discussion? People here have brought up very important points. You sound like Rick and the old tired line of “no one will work these jobs”. How do you know? Young Canadians especially are being denied jobs because employers would rather save money and import help. That harms our society. It harms young peoples chance to get vital job experience. You don’t seem to have a clue. As all your comments suggest, you don’t really have a clue of what you are talking about. So instead of joining the discussion you use lame jokes of a 10 year year old. I hope your job is taken by a TFW, lol. If you don’t think it can’t happen, look at the Royal Bank. So sit there with your smirk on your face and watch over your back. Because I would find it hilarious if a TFW took your job.

Arn Anderson

May 3, 2013 at 11:49 am

Exactly Evermore, your discussion, if you call it that is feeble, predictable and weak-minded. You can’t see the big picture, that’s not my fault, so get some clues to fill in that big picture you can’t see. So drop your iphone, quit your current job and take up these important positions that our young patriotic canadians want so much. I’m tired of control freaks telling people when and where to work in this phony economic game that everyone loves so much. Thanks for your entertaining post and I hope you have the time to thank a foreign worker working for what he/she wants in life.


May 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I have spoken to the management folks at a couple of these stores and it is plain to see that they have a hard time filling some of these jobs.  If you go into the Superstore in the summer and there are 200 people in line and 3 aisles open…that is proof positive that this number of non-skilled jobs and what we have available to fill it are a long way apart.  I agree that we need to keep an eye on this…I have kids who might take PT work at Canadian Tire but I think that they have gone full circle there and have become reliant on the program and have forgotten about local applicants…maybe they just gave up?

Groucho d'North

May 3, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I for one appreciate the customer service delivered by these workers from afar. They have a great work ethic, unlike many of the young people I assume are local.
Of course there are the usual communications frustrations due to language skills but those can be improved over time.
I wish each of them continued success and I hope they achieve their dreams here in the land of plenty.


May 3, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Sorry Arn, but it’s bigger than that. The cost of the foreign worker program is not limited to job losses. The standards in our schools (such as they are) are compromised because they are inundated with ESL children (nothing wrong with that but the resources are not aligned), as well as health care and other social services. We also retrain a lot of foreign workers in to skilled jobs such as LPN’s. There are significant costs beyond the Canadian tire jobs.

I do my Yukon Best!

May 4, 2013 at 10:15 am

Baby boomers have two more years to slave at work, Thanks Harper. So no worry,seniors don’t have a choice but to keep working. I said it many times that most clerks at the big box stores won’t look at customers in the eyes by fear the customer might need assistance.
I would expect the prices to reflect the situation and it does. So, customers have to trade customer service for cheap goods. This is versus paying outrageous prices at a mom an pop shop where you get customer service Yukon style, which isn’t much different.

Whitehorse Retail Experience

May 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm

You said it Yukon Best. It’s off topic to this discussion board but service in Whitehorse is pretty lousy. I had to chuckle the other day being in a Whitehorse store looking to purchase some major items that will total in the $15,000 range. The clerk walked right past us and saw we were looking at the items, completely avoided us and hurriedly put on her jacket and went out the door presumably on a break.
Another clerk eventually came over and informed us that the person who took off out the door was the one we needed to speak to but she would not be back for a while. This was 4 days ago and we left our name and number and still haven’t received a callback. I have now crossed that store off the list as a possible supplier of this item. We then went to another supplier where the guy basically didn’t show much interest considering the item being purchased and asked if we could come back later, (I think it’s because this sale will actually take a little bit of effort on their part with measurements, etc.)
My wife and I have discussed how these episodes are typical of the shopping experience in the territory and we will probably end up going outside the territory for the purchase.
In a nutshell you get the feeling that you’re inconveniencing these businesses by asking for service in what for us is a fairly big purchase and important. I like to buy local but am not going to start chasing clerks down with multiple phone calls and messages so they can take my money.

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