Conservatives accused of hypocrisy in dealing with immigrants: Policies prove they are no friends to new Canadians or foreign workers

Hypocritical federal Conservatives are reaching out to immigrant Canadians on one hand, but crafting policies that punish them with the other, says Alberta's largest labour group and Linda Duncan, who is seeking re-election in the federal riding of Edmonton-Strathcona.

"Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has made a very public attempt to court immigrant votes in the coming federal election," says Duncan, the NDP's candidate for Edmonton-Strathcona. "However, his actions speak louder than words. The truth is that Conservatives want to cut real immigration to Canada, while relying more on migrant labour to meet Canada's needs for workers."

Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said a new rule in the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program that comes into effect April 1 is proof that the Conservatives want to prevent workers from settling in Canada.

"The ‘four-years-and-you're-out' rule will make it almost impossible for low-skilled temporary workers to even consider becoming citizens," says McGowan. The new regulation imposes a four-year cumulative limit on temporary foreign workers. This means that after they work a four-year term, they will be expelled from Canada and will have to wait four years before becoming eligible to again work here temporarily.

"The Conservatives say they are the party for immigrants, but reports last month showed the government was considering a 20-per-cent cut to immigration targets for skilled-worker category and a 25-per-cent cut to the family reunification category. In January, the government cut $53 million in funding for immigrant-settlement agencies. It's pure hypocrisy," says McGowan.

"Rather than welcome immigrants to Canada as permanent and contributing members to our communities, the government wants to rely on temporary migrant workers from overseas. These people work here, pay taxes here and contribute to our communities, but they have no hope of putting down roots and no hope of becoming citizens. We need to be clear on this - temporary foreign workers are not immigrants, they do not get to stay, they do not get to be with their families, they are condemned to second-class lives in the countries where they work," says Duncan.

The TFW program is rife with abuse, according to McGowan. Workers are charged thousands of dollars in illegal fees, often live in homes owned by employers or agencies who charge outrageous rents, are told to work long hours while being denied fair rates of pay - but are afraid to complain because their employer can lay them off and have them deported.

"The Tories would rather have temporary workers solve the nation's labour problems, even though it will undoubtedly mean more workers being abused and will push wages down for all Canadian workers," says McGowan.

Contact: Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888 (cell)

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