Feds face B.C. pressure over Temporary Foreign Worker program

August 12, 2016

By Peter O’Neil, the Province |

The federal Liberal government is under enormous pressure from people like Langley resident Donalda Madsen as it stands poised to loosen restrictions to the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker program.

Madsen, who needs a caregiver for her severely disabled son, represents one small component of a plethora of interested parties who have either appeared before a parliamentary committee or privately lobbied officials in hopes of influencing the changes.

They include companies like Vancouver’s Lululemon as well as business, labour and human rights organizations.

Some believe the former Conservative government overreacted in 2014 to a string of media reports outlining abuses in a program that brought hundreds of thousands of workers to Canada, many to take work that Canadians shun in areas such as meat-packing, berry-picking, home care, and the fast-food and hospitality industries.

Immigration Minister John McCallum was quoted in a media report this week that he wants to remove some of the “silly” barriers that prevent companies from meeting labour shortages.

One of the most problematic of the 2014 changes for Madsen was the hefty increase in the fee, from $275 to $1,000, to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) determination that confirms the job opening can’t be filled domestically.

That increased cost, as well as additional red tape injected into the LMIA process, have made it onerous for Madsen, 69, and her 74-year-old husband Peter as they try to care for their 50-year-old son Shane.

“Shane’s a wonderful, happy, kind man but he is quadriplegic and has about 40 words that people could understand,” said Madsen.

“He needs supervision 100 per cent of the time for safety and health reasons.”

Filipina nannies, whom she and her husband have been hiring since 1989, typically stay on the job for two to four years before they move on to different careers or to raise their own families in Canada, she said.

“So we’re always reapplying. And the cost is just going through the roof.”

Another of Madsen’s problems is the rule that she must pay her caregiver 17.50 an hour, whereas it would be $10.50 if Shane were under age 19. She noted that unionized Community Living B.C. workers who care for her son in a day program are only paid $15 an hour.

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