Province gives more money to help foreign workers

The provincial government is giving $850,000 to agencies that provide services for temporary foreign workers as they adjust to life in Alberta.

Dennis Salvador arrived in Canada two years ago. He says he is trained in medical promotions in the Philippines, but now works at an Edmonton fast food outlet.

"Back home the salary wasn't competitive enough," he said.

He says he sends his earning back home to support his wife and two daughters. This man recalls that adjusting to life here was difficult at first.

"It's actually lonely because you're not with your family."

Alberta's minister of employment says it's important to recognize the contributions of temporary foreign workers to our economy.

"The fact of the matter is that we need a very targeted immigration program, which the temporary foreign worker program is. General immigration, opening up the borders for anyone who applies to come in does not address your labour problem because you need specific skill sets for specific locations, and for specific employers," said Thomas Lukaszuk.

Funding has been provided to immigrant-serving agencies in Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Calgary, Banff, Brooks and Lethbridge.

Edmonton will receive $250,000 in funding of the $850,000 being provided. Some of that cash will go toward programs at the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.

Staff say every little bit helps.

"We need more staff, we need more resources, we need emergency supports," said Terry Andriuk.

Critics say the funding isn't enough to improve the program.

"Our expectation is a decent wage," said Nancy Furlong with Alberta's Federation of Labour.

Furlong says the program needs some big changes, and recommends scrapping it altogether and starting fresh.

"As long as you're bringing in lots of people who are willing to work for a lot less, that will have a lowering impact on the lower income wages," she said.

The minister says the province is launching a review of how the program affects communities. The plan is to meet with employers, civic leaders and foreign workers in the coming weeks.

Currently, more than 60,000 temporary foreign workers live and work in Alberta., Fri Sept 3 2010

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