From Temporary Work to Permanent Residency

By Ainslie Pierrynowski (AIMS on Campus Student Fellow) 

In an earlier op-ed for AIMS On-Campus, I examined immigrant retention in Atlantic Canada. One key migration pattern which I left untouched, however, was the practice of temporarily hiring foreign nationals—who represent a rapidly expanding part of the Atlantic Canadian labour force. To provide some context, employers in Canada can recruit temporary foreign workers through several streams. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), for instance, enables employers to hire workers from abroad to fill temporary labour and skill shortages for eight months or less. Typically, employers must complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to affirm that no Canadian workers are available to fill the position in question.

Meanwhile, the International Mobility Program (IMP) allows employers to hire temporary foreign workers who are exempt from the LMIA, due to their eligibility for special pilot programs, economic agreements like NAFTA, and other reasons. In the case of Atlantic Canada, between 2005 and 2012, the number of temporary foreign workers in the region more than tripled. This increase stems, at least in part, from continued outmigration and an aging population, which have left many employers in rural and high-unemployment areas with limited hiring options.

These temporary foreign workers could be prime candidates for permanent settlement, being somewhat familiar with the region, its labour market, and immigration procedures. Given the region’s poor immigrant retention rates, members of Atlantic Canada’s growing contingent of temporary foreign workers who choose to reside here permanently could help to allay the region’s dismal demographic trends. Yet, for many temporary foreign workers in Atlantic Canada, the road to permanent immigration is beset with confusion, uncertainty, and barriers, like a lack of recognized professional credentials. In fact, a 2017 report from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration urged Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Atlantic provinces to facilitate workers’ transition from the TFWP to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, a key path to permanent residency in the region.

To this end, I hold that an approach rooted in human capital is needed to bridge the gap between temporary foreign workers and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program. In particular, foreign workers in Atlantic Canada tend to be concentrated in low-skill, low-paying sectors like fish-processing. This trend could prove problematic for workers, since the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program and other immigration processes based on economic needs target skilled workers and international graduates. Moreover, having a narrow range of skills and limited adaptability could compromise foreign workers’ ability to adjust to short- and long-term labour market changes as they attempt to make a life in Atlantic Canada. For these reasons, temporary foreign workers seeking permanent residency in Atlantic Canada need training programs aimed at developing professional communication skills, an understanding of the Canadian workplace, and other soft skills—similar to the skills development courses delivered by the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia—and programs to facilitate workers’ entry into secondary or post-secondary education, perhaps modeled on the World University Service of Canada’s program for refugee students. Such an initiative could be sponsored by high-skill employers, local business organizations, or educational institutions, who would in turn benefit from foreign workers’ newfound skills. In short, while the growing number of temporary foreign workers in Atlantic Canada has drawn attention to the alleged shortcomings of the TFWP, this migration pattern also represents an opportunity for the region to combat current demographic trends. In the words of this 2009 AIMS study on Atlantic Canada’s declining population, “Well-informed policy decisions are those that take prospective demographic changes into account, rather than ignore them.” Indeed, as we consider proposed reforms to the TFWP and related programs, it is imperative that we consider how our decisions on the matter will shape Atlantic Canada’s fate in the years to come.

How will NAFTA & U.S Softwood-lumber tariff affect the Canadian Economy

By Patrick O’Brien (AIMS on Campus Student Fellow) 

With many discussions circling around NAFTA we must investigate the direct causes that the termination would bring to the Canadian Economy. While the U.S doesn’t seem to be very cooperative, Canada and Mexico are more than willing to negotiate and keep NAFTA on the table. The eliminate would cause the both the U.S and Canada to be subject to a 3.5% tariff imposed by the World Trade Organization on trade, and anticipated Canadian GDP to drop by 1% in ten years’ time. As yearly data is compiled for 2016, Canada’s three top exports to the united states were Vehicles ($58 Billion), Mineral Fuels ($54 Billion), and Agriculture ($22 Billion). The new tariff that would be imposed would severely affect the vehicle export business as parts are traded back and fourth over the border to complete the manufacturing process. This would severely affect Canadian jobs by the border, and others that work in the industry.

The Maritimes would be greatly affect as our primary revenue comes from the export market to the Unites States. In Nova Scotia the two biggest export markets to the U.S are Tires and the seafood industry. In a report prepared by BMO Michelin, which employs roughly 3200 employees in across its three plants in NS and had exports of $1.1 billion to the Unites states in 2016. Nova Scotia department of Finance estimates the WTO tariffs that would come into place if NAFTA ceases to exist would be between 2.5% on the rubber used in the tire manufacturing process and 4% for completed tires. The profit margins on the cross-border tire trade would be reduced if NAFTA was eliminated completely, leading to cost reduction which usually results in job loss. The $1 Billion Seafood industry in Nova Scotia which contributes to many jobs, especially in rural communities would be a risk. Tariffs on the primary good in the industry: Lobster, and filleted fish, would be taxed between 4-10 percent.

Aside from NAFTA negotiations, but still closely tied together, Softwood lumber producers/exporters in Canada will also be feeling the pain. As of late November 2017, the U.S had imposed tariffs on softwood lumber being shipped from Canada, at an average rate of 21 percent. The Forestry industry in Canada will be deeply affected by the tariff which will effectively eliminate the provincial subsidies that some lumber producing companies receive. Competitively this puts Canada in a bad position to be exporting to the U.S as it is now less attractive.

How will Canada combat the potential renege of NAFTA, and endure the affects of the Softwood lumber tariffs? Amid the current discussions of NAFTA with Premier Trudeau there needs to be discussions of an exit strategy to deal with the incoming tariffs. With current tariffs on Softwood lumber exports to the U.S, many log-producing companies are focusing their efforts on expanding into foreign markets. European markets become more attractive and profitable with CETA and also Asian markets. The same needs to be done with our major export industries. Vehicle exports to foreign markets will be difficult as German based vehicle manufacturers dominate Europe and Asia, although there could be great opportunities for shifting agriculture and seafood exports to these markets.

In conclusion the current situation with NAFTA is yet to be determined, and there is hope that we will come to an agreement with the United States and Mexico on trade deals that benefit all three parties, each individually different.

 

 

 

 

Leave Timmies Alone

By Henry Gray (AIMS on Campus Student Fellow) 

There are few things more iconically Canadian than an early morning Saturday drive to the hockey rink with a Tim Hortons coffee in hand. Recently, however, the warm and cozy Norman Rockwell-esque feelings the Tim Hortons brand tends to evoke in the public consciousness have taken a backseat to indignation at mistreatment of workers.

 

This indignation has even led some to take to the streets to express their displeasure. These protest efforts, centred primarily in Ontario, emerged following a dramatic increase in the minimum wage of Ontario that came into force on January 1, 2018. On that day, the minimum wage rose from $11.60/hour to $14.00/hour. While a minimum wage this steep and sudden is so unprecedented as to make its long-term economic effects nearly impossible to ascertain, the political repercussions were felt immediately. As a consequence of this $2.40 per hour jump, the management of some Tim Hortons locations in Ontario announced cuts to paid breaks and other employee benefits.

 

The institutional left pounced on this business decision, suggesting that it was illustrative of a broader problem of inequality in Canadian society. “This is about the multibillion dollar corporation and its parent company, Restaurant Brands International, who have the means to protect workers, but aren’t doing it,” Leadnow spokesperson Brittany Smith explained. Premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario reacted rapidly, categorizing these decisions as “not decent” and “not fair” – “It is the act of a bully,” she said. Not satisfied with buying voter sympathy with the money of “bullies,” the Wynne government also announced that it would be hiring up to 175 new labour inspectors to investigate allegations that Ontario businesses violated workplace rules after the recent minimum wage hike.

 

Being seen as taking a stand against large corporations surely garners favour for the Liberal government among the base of their NDP rivals—whose support is badly needed at a time when the Liberals consistently trail the Conservatives in opinion polls—but is this harsh approach really the best way to make private companies treat their workers well? Contrast the Tim’s brouhaha with the aftermath of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 south of the border, which reduced the corporate tax rate from 35% (one of the highest rates in the world) to 21%. On the very day that the bill passed, Wells Fargo, Fifth Third Bancorp and Western Alliance Bancorp all notified their employees that they would be raising the minimum wage of their workers to $15 an hour. Capital One followed suit a few weeks later, and Walmart announced its intention to raise its base rate for US employees to $11 an hour.

 

The Ontario government’s policies in this domain would suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of how wages work. The (mistaken) assumption that undergirds the push for a higher minimum wage is that wages can be changed without affecting anything other than the pocketbooks of the owner and employee. These advocates are under the illusion that the only reason that workers’ wages are as low as they are is because their employers are mean and greedy. In reality, a wage is the price of a person’s labour. A minimum wage is, thus, an arbitrary price floor. What this means is that the minimum wage makes it illegal for those workers whose labour is worth less than the minimum wage to sell their labour, i.e. to have a job. It is those very working people that the minimum wage is meant to boost who are, in fact, harmed the most by such laws. It is these baleful effects that the now famous Tim Hortons employees in Ontario have been feeling. Because Tim Hortons is forced to pay some workers more than their labour is worth, it is forced to attempt to recuperate costs elsewhere. These policies, thus, create a “class warfare” dynamic in some places that may serve the short-term ends of some politicians, but their adverse effects fall almost exclusively on the least educated, least experienced, and most marginalized members of the workforce, which is quite unjust. We should blame governments, and not Tim Hortons or any other company, for the effects of bad public policies.