Hearing the concerns of citizens is, in my view, one of the most important responsibilities of public office. Why I make a point of personally returning phone calls and attending a great many meetings is that, as taxpayers, you deserve to be heard by those you elect to represent you. There may not always be agreement on every issue but there can often be a consensus even on those points, upon which we can agree to disagree. However, there are also those issues where we can be unified in our views on matters that we collectively see as important. One of those issues that I continue to hear about from increasing numbers of constituents, is Canada’s temporary foreign worker program. Although concerns on this program have increased significantly over the past week, this has been an issue I have been hearing about for some time. As a result of these concerns that many constituents have taken the time to pass on to me, I was able to raise this issue in the House of Commons in late March when I stated:
“There are times when as Canadians we must rise above partisan interests and recognize areas that are of Canadian concern. I am not alone when I say that many of my constituents are concerned when they see temporary foreign workers taking jobs that many of us agree Canadians should be working at. Let us also recognize that the program originates back to the early 1970s. It was always intended to be temporary and yet, nearly 40 years later, the program is now older than many members of the House.”
The above is only a portion of my comments found in the Hansard record from March 26th, 2013. At the time I made these comments within the House of Commons I heard widespread agreement from all sides of the House recognizing the importance of this issue to Canadians. It also should not be overlooked that this is also a concern for many employers that I have taken the time to meet with locally. Although there have been some recent examples of employers potentially accessing this program for purposes that are contrary to the intent, and as a result this program is currently under formal review, the vast majority of employers I have heard from would prefer to hire employees who are Canadians or permanent residents. The challenge expressed by many employers is that either they are unable to find qualified workers with the required skills, or frequently in the case of the agricultural and hospitality sectors it is hard to find workers who will accept the positions offered.
In response the 2013 Economic Action Plan introduced by our Government has announced a new Canada wide job training program to help promote an increase of targeted skills training. The new program proposes a partnership between the federal and provincial governments that could potentially provide 2/3rd’s funding with the remaining 1/3rd share from employers for a combined total of up to $15,000 per worker for important new skills training. Although the partnership agreements need to be in place with the various Provinces and Territories the initial reaction I have heard from many employers and some post secondary training institutions has been positive. The importance of our country in being able to respond quickly and more efficiently to critical skills shortages is important. Recently I heard from one local employer about the need for skilled saw technicians and the lack of this type of training in our region in spite of these jobs being extremely well paying. This is but one of many examples that I hear on an ongoing basis and I am certain that most can agree that increasing the availability and diversity of our educational opportunities that can lead to well paying employment for citizens is an important priority that is in our National interest. As this is the final week before the House of Commons resumes sitting this Monday, April 15th I welcome the opportunity to hear from you. I can be reached at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at email@example.com
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. His blog is DaninOttawa.com and previous MP reports are on line at http://www.danalbas.com/
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.