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41st PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 076

CONTENTS

Tuesday, April 29, 2014




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 147 
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NUMBER 076 
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2nd SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Committees of the House

Justice and Human Rights 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, entitled “Statutory Review of Part XVII of the Criminal Code”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table its comprehensive response to this report.

Petitions

Criminal Code  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions. The first petition asks that the Criminal Code of Canada include a specific criminal offence for torture committed by non-state actors, private individuals, and organizations.

Mining Industry Ombudsman  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls for the creation of an ombudsman for the mining industry in Canada.

Human Rights in Venezuela  

    Mr. Speaker, the third petition calls on the government to do what it can to review what is happening with the Venezuelan government and human rights activities in Venezuela.

Blood and Organ Donation  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise and present two petitions. The petitioners are asking that the sexual preferences of people not be an instant refusal of their right to donate blood and blood products. They are asking the government to return the right of any healthy Canadian to give the gift of blood, bone marrow, and organs to those in need. They point out that no matter their race, religion, or sexual preference, the right to give blood or donate organs is universal to any healthy man or woman.

Human Rights in Venezuela  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present this petition drawing the attention of the House of Commons of Parliament to the following: that Canada and the international communities' actions are not attending the level of severity, cruelty, and impunity of the human rights crimes perpetrated by the President of Venezuela, President Maduro, nor the ongoing massive protests in Venezuela.
    They are requesting an emergency debate at the Organization of American States to discuss the Venezuelan crisis and the activation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, among a number of other requests.

Blood and Organ Donation  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honour of the Rocky Campana and iCANdonate campaign to present a petition. The petition requests that organ donations not be discriminatory and that they be based upon science. Petitioners call on the government to review this policy so that individuals who wish to donate organs will not suffer discrimination based on their sexual preferences. Science is the basic reason deciding organ donation, not prejudice.
    Mr. Speaker, I too rise today on behalf of Canadians who are calling on the government to thoroughly review and change its policy on blood and organ donation in Canada. They are asking that sexual preferences of people not be an instant refusal to the right to donate and point out that discrimination against people in same-sex relationships is unconstitutional and goes against Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The issue is promiscuity, not the choice of partner.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions from Canadians asking the Government of Canada to return the rights of any healthy Canadian to give the gift of blood, bone marrow, and organs to those in need. No matter their race, religion, or sexual preference, the right of people to give blood or donate organs is universal.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two similar petitions from a group of Canadians. They request that sexual preferences of people not be an instant refusal to the right to donate and they request that the Government of Canada return the right of any healthy Canadian to give the gift of blood, bone marrow, and organs to those in need. No matter the race, religion, or sexual preference of a person, the right to give blood or donate organs is universal to any healthy man or woman.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions relating to the issue that has already been raised, which is the automatic refusal to accept blood, bone marrow, and organs as a consequence merely of sexual preference. The unconstitutional nature of this practice has been pointed out by others, and it is time to end it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition this morning calling for the elimination of discrimination regarding blood and organ donation. The discrimination has to do with people's sexual preference, which is a personal choice. We should be relying on scientific data regarding blood and organ donation.

[English]

Lyme Disease  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.
    The first is relevant to business that we will take up later this afternoon in private members' business. My bill, Bill C-442, calling for a national Lyme disease strategy, is up for the second hour of its second reading. Citizens from Etobicoke, St. Marys, and other locations in Ontario have petitioned this House to support the bill. I hope that will be the case.

  (1010)  

Blood and Organ Donation  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of Victoria and southern Vancouver Island. It calls upon the government to review and reaffirm the rights of any healthy Canadian to make donations of blood, bone marrow, and organs. Canada ranks well behind other industrialized countries in our rates of organ donation. We should not be refusing organs that have been pretested and proven to be safe because of prejudice toward the sexual preference of the donor.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from thousands of Canadians who call upon the Government of Canada to return the rights of any healthy Canadian to give blood, bone marrow, or organs to those in need, no matter the race, religion, or sexual preference of a person. The right to give blood or donate organs is universal to any healthy man or woman. The sexual preferences of people should not be an instant refusal of the right to donate.

The Senate  

    Mr. Speaker, today I table a petition that I believe is quite timely. It is signed by residents of Winnipeg North. It is dealing with the issue of our Senate. The petitioners are asking for the Prime Minister and the government to look at ways to reform the Senate that would not require constitutional amendments. I believe it is a timely petition, given the Supreme Court ruling.

Blood and Organ Donation  

    Mr. Speaker, I am joining the chorus of members today who are putting forward petitions by residents of Canada who are calling upon the government to thoroughly review and change the policy on blood and organ donation, specifically that the sexual preference of people not be an instant refusal of the right to donate.

[Translation]

    That constitutes discrimination against people in same-sex relationships. This is unconstitutional and goes against the rights of all Canadians. Clearly this needs to be changed.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I too rise to present a petition calling upon the Government of Canada to revise the blood and organ donation policy in this country. It is currently discriminatory against people who are in same-sex relationships and it discriminates in particular against gay men.
    I would like to salute the efforts of Nancy and Rob Campana on behalf of their son Rocky. They discovered after his death that his organs could not be donated. It has been their push, along with that from my colleague from Windsor, Brian Masse, that has called all of us together in the House today on this issue.
    I remind members not to use the personal names of members.
    Presenting petitions, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North.
    Mr. Speaker, I have hundreds of petitions from Canadians urging that despite sexual orientation, people be allowed to give the gift of life to those who need organ transplants or blood transfusions. The petitioners remind us that to refuse people the right to donate on the basis of sexual preference is unconstitutional.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I also wish to present two petitions, joining the other members who have risen today on this issue. The petitioners are demanding that gays be given the right to donate organs. These people currently face systemic discrimination regarding that right. There is no discrimination regarding other factors, such as race and religion. The petitioners and donors, who realize that all donors must be pretested, want this automatic ban to be lifted, giving everyone the same rights as every other donor.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I join a multitude of my colleagues in presenting a petition this morning on behalf of the iCANdonate campaign. These residents of Canada are calling upon the Government of Canada to review thoroughly and change the policy on blood and organ donation in Canada.
    The petitioners are asking that the sexual orientation of people not be an instant refusal of the right to donate. We know that organ, blood, and blood product donations are vitally needed across this country, and every Canadian who wishes to donate should be able to do so. Discrimination against people in same-sex relationships is unconstitutional and goes against Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    Petitioners are requesting the Government of Canada to return the rights of any healthy Canadian to give the gift of blood, bone marrow, and organs to those in need. No matter the race, religion, or sexual orientation of a person, the right of any healthy woman or man to give blood or donate organs is universal.

  (1015)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I too wish to present some petitions on organ, bone marrow and blood donation. The petitioners want this to be a fundamental right for all Canadians, regardless of the donor's sexual orientation.
    Mr. Speaker, like my colleagues in the House of Commons, I also wish to present a petition from the iCANdonate campaign. Canadians are calling on the government to change the legislation and allow homosexual men to donate blood and organs. These archaic regulations date back to the 1980s, and scientific evidence has shown that these kinds of regulations are no longer needed.
    Along with the people of Canada, I am calling on the government and Health Canada to review these regulations.
     Mr. Speaker, sometimes it is difficult to stay on top of legislation because there is so much of it, and I was astounded to learn that this matter had not been settled yet. It is completely backwards to think that organs donated by a homosexual individual are unacceptable. It is absolutely backwards.
    I have the honour to present this petition to the House. It comes from Canadians across the country. They are pointing out that this is simply unconstitutional and that it goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I hope that this will soon change.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition signed by thousands of Canadians who took part in the iCANdonate campaign.
    The petitioners are calling for an end to discrimination that donors face, particularly gay men and members of the LGBT community. Everyone should have the right to donate, and we do this in memory of a man who was prevented from doing so because of his sexual orientation.
    Canadians are saying that we must put an end to this and we must move forward.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present three petitions in support of the iCANdonate campaign.
    It is particularly fortuitous that these petitions are being presented this week, during national organ donor week. When Canadians are looking for ways to find more people to donate organs, it behooves us to make sure we eliminate the discrimination against gay men that prevents them from donating organs and to base our decisions on donations of blood and organs on science and not prejudice.

Genetically Modified Alfalfa  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present.
    The first petition calls upon Parliament to impose a moratorium on the release of genetically modified alfalfa in order to allow proper review of the impact on farmers in Canada.

Income Tax Deductions for Tradespeople  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with regard to allowing tradespersons and indentured apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable income so they can procure and maintain employment.

Food and Drugs Act  

    Mr. Speaker, the third petition calls upon the House of Commons to amend the Food and Drugs Act with regard to mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods.

Blood and Organ Donation  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to add the dozens of names contained in my two petitions to the thousands of Canadians who have participated in the iCANdonate campaign and join the voices in the chorus of all the colleagues here who have presented this petition today.
    It is 2014. It is time that we end the prejudice in organ, blood, and marrow transplants.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

  (1020)  

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker Program   

    That, in the opinion of the House, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been open to abuse resulting in the firing of qualified Canadian workers, lower wages and the exploitation of temporary foreign workers, and therefore the government should: (a) impose an immediate moratorium on the Stream for Lower-skilled Occupations, which includes fast-food, service and restaurant jobs; and (b) request an urgent audit of the whole program by the Auditor General.
    She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Saint-Lambert.
    I am pleased to stand this morning to introduce our opposition day motion, one I hope all members of this House will join me in supporting.
    I want to start by reminding my Conservative and Liberal colleagues of the purpose of the temporary foreign worker program, which is to enable employers to hire a worker on a temporary basis to fill immediate skills and labour shortages when Canadian citizens and permanent residents are not available to do the job.
    It might seem curious that I choose to highlight the purpose of the program to both the Liberal and Conservative members of this House. However, the original version of the program was created under the Liberals in 1973 by Pierre Trudeau. In 2002, again under the Liberals, Jean Chrétien grew the program to include a category for low-skilled occupations. The current Conservative government then expanded the low-skilled occupations category in 2006. In 2012, the Conservatives made it even more enticing for employers to overlook qualified Canadian workers by sanctioning lower pay for temporary foreign workers and introduced an expedited LMO approval process, which was no process.
    The fact is that the Liberals created this program wrought with loopholes and then made unwise changes that resulted in bigger holes. The Conservative government has continued that trend, so badly managing it that now not only are Canadians being overlooked for jobs in favour of cheaper labour via this program, but they are being fired from jobs they have held for years.
    Recently the media has been awash with stories, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. The Alberta Federation of Labour has identified over 200 cases in which employers broke the rules of this program last year alone.
    I was opposite the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism when he was responsible for immigration. It was in that capacity that I first began to ask him about his plans to fix this program. We talked about it in November 2012 when it was discovered that HD Mining had hired 201 temporary foreign workers through this program when there was no shortage of capable Canadian miners who could have filled those positions. At that time, the minister assured me that he was reviewing the program. I find myself wondering what that review looks like these days.
    A year ago, 45 RBC employees in Toronto were set to lose their jobs after the bank brought in temporary foreign workers to replace them. At that time, I and my NDP colleagues appealed to the minister and he made some token changes to the program in response. Still, there was no comprehensive review of the whole program.
    Earlier this year, 65 ironworkers at an oil sands project near Fort McMurray were fired in favour of temporary foreign workers. In Victoria, three McDonald's restaurants, all operating under the same owner, are accused of overlooking Canadian applicants in favour of temporary foreign workers. In Kelowna, Dairy Queen is accused of taking hours from Canadian employees and delegating them instead to temporary foreign workers. In Weyburn, Saskatchewan, after 28 years at Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza, Sandy Nelson was suddenly fired in favour of temporary foreign workers. In B.C. and Alberta, temporary foreign workers were brought in to work at Tim Hortons and they were made to reimburse their employer in cash for their overtime pay. In Labrador, two dozen temporary foreign workers were housed in a single apartment complex, and in Nova Scotia, a business owner was charged with 56 counts of fraud last year for paying temporary foreign workers as little as $3.00 an hour.

  (1025)  

    These are but a few of the many hundreds of examples of the Conservative government's complete mismanagement of the temporary foreign worker program. When challenged time and time again, the Conservatives feign outrage and surprise as though it is somehow not the program they are supposed to be running that is allowing for these egregious abuses.
    In 2009 the Auditor General told the government that its process for issuing LMOs does not ensure quality and consistency of decisions. There is no follow-up to verify that employers are complying with the terms and conditions agreed to when they were issued the labour market opinion, such as wages and working conditions. The LMO component of this program is deeply flawed. After two years sitting across from the minister, I have had more opportunities than I can count to observe the unbelievable erroneous distribution of labour market opinions by the government. The mess of the LMO granting process alone warrants an audit. When I was first handed the immigration portfolio, I assumed the LMO process was thorough and accurate. It certainly seemed that way at face value. It did not take long before I realized that something was drastically wrong.
    Something is wrong. The LMO granting process is in dire need of an overhaul. How else are fast-food restaurants in urban cities where youth unemployment is sky-high getting LMOs to bring in temporary foreign workers? There is no oversight. How can employers state on their applications they will pay x number of dollars per hour and in actuality pay several dollars less? There is no accountability. This is driving wages down in Canada. This is displacing Canadian workers. This is preventing Canadian workers from being considered for entry-level jobs. This is exploiting temporary foreign workers. This is not okay.
    In 2011 the Conservatives pretended to fix the program by creating a blacklist of employers who abuse the program. It was all for show. That list was blank until this month when, to save face, the government scurried to add the names of three employers on a Sunday afternoon.
    The Conservatives talk a good game. They keep promising to get tough on employers who abuse the program and yet the program keeps going and they keep issuing LMOs and reports of abuse keep pouring in.
    The fact is the Conservative government has grown the temporary foreign worker program to outrageous proportions. In the lowest skilled category alone the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has increased by 698% since the Conservatives came into power. To date, the government has refused to do anything to fix this program in a substantive way. Why should Canadians believe them now?
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said there is very little evidence of a skills shortage in Canada and yet the minister goes on and on about a skills mismatch in this country. This is his way of justifying the expansion of this program and ignoring experts who know more in this field.
    Between 2007 and 2010 Dominique M. Gross of Simon Fraser University in my beautiful province of B.C., studied the process of hiring temporary foreign workers in B.C. and Alberta. She found that there was very little real evidence of shortage in many of the low-skill occupations, but they were being fast-tracked nonetheless. Her study concluded that the flood of temporary foreign workers in the country added a cumulative 3.9 percentage points to the unemployment rate in western Canada.
    Economist Arthur Sweetman agrees with her conclusion. He said that the Canadian unemployment rate would probably be going down a little faster if the temporary foreign worker program wasn't quite so robust.
    Christopher Worswick, an economist at Carleton University, feels especially bad for young people in all of this:
    The kinds of jobs that are more and more likely to be filled by TFWs...were traditionally first jobs for many young Canadians and/or supported them while they pursued post-secondary education. If employers are able to bring in TFWs rather than raising wages to induce young Canadians to take these jobs or perhaps move to regions where such jobs exist, this could mean that young Canadians may face even greater difficulties in becoming established in the labour market and accumulating the skills they need to move into higher-skilled occupations.
    The real reason we are here today is to protect jobs not only for my teenage grandchildren but for everybody's grandchildren, children, nephews, and nieces.

  (1030)  

    Therefore, I am calling on the government, and I am reminding my hon. colleagues, to do the right thing. The unemployment rates among young people have risen. For those with a high school education, it is at 15.5% in my home province of B.C. This program, as it is being managed, is not going to bring that number down.
    We are asking for an immediate moratorium on the stream for low-skilled occupations, no new applications for fast food or hospitality, cleaning services, food processing, general labourers, or working a cash register. We want this program fixed first, actually fixed.
    We are also asking for an urgent audit of this program by the Auditor General. The Liberals and Conservatives have been in charge of this program since its inception, and it is a mess. We must clean it up. We must go forward and use this program as it was intended, for temporary labour shortages.
    I look forward to standing with my colleagues from all parties in this House in unanimous support of this motion. The evidence is clear. This cannot continue.
    Mr. Speaker, there were a large number of inaccuracies in that speech. I would just like to ask the member about the two most serious of them.
    First, in the case of the company she cited but did not name, where $3 per hour has been paid to a temporary foreign worker, has the member or her office brought this to the attention of the hotline, the CBSA, or law enforcement so that these illegal activities can be stopped? We have a responsibility in cases such as this not just to talk about them anonymously in this House but to take action to ensure the law is enforced.
    Second, there has been a flood of a different kind in recent months, as my colleague the Minister of Employment and Social Development mentioned in this House yesterday, and that is of continuing requests from NDP members for LMOs for low-skilled workers to come and serve companies in their ridings.
    Before asking for an even broader moratorium than the one we brought in, will the member in question start with a moratorium on those requests from her caucus to my colleague the Minister of Employment and Social Development and to me for LMOs for low-skilled temporary foreign workers to come to their ridings?
    There is a double standard here, and we need to clean that up first.
    Mr. Speaker, let me remind my hon. colleague across the way that the story I cited about somebody who was being paid $3 an hour was investigated. It was all over the media. It is not a secret to anyone else, but apparently it may be to the minister.
    Second, let me also reassure my colleague across the way that absolutely no member of the NDP has ever asked for a Canadian worker to be fired or not to be hired.
    Let me also remind my colleague across the way that it is his government that gives LMOs, and that once it grants the LMOs, if our MPs help with the process of the guidance of that through the system that exists, that is different.
    I want to make it very clear that this party, this caucus, is not opposed to a temporary foreign worker program that is robust, highly regulated, enforced, and has very clear consequences. The minister seems to think that, just because advocacy occurs at some time, we are opposed to the whole program. We are opposed to the government's granting of LMOs, which only it can grant, willy-nilly and without any oversight.
    Mr. Speaker, in good part, I agree with some of the comments made by the New Democratic Party member.
    Where I disagree is with how she tries to pass blame as if there is some fault here within the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party called for Canada's Auditor General to investigate. The program is broken. It does need to be fixed. This is something we have been advocating for.
    The member accurately points out that it was Pierre Trudeau who established a foreign worker program, and at the time the New Democrats actually supported that particular program. In her last answer, the member said she wants to see a robust temporary foreign worker program. That is exactly what it was under Liberal administrations. It is only in the last four or five years that we have seen massive abuse of the program.
     My question to the member is this. Does she not recognize that in representing her caucus she needs to be a little more focused and needs to make sure her comments are somewhat accurate, in the sense that the problem we have today is because of the last number of years? If the government does not get it rectified, thousands of Canadians will in fact be deprived of opportunities for employment.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my colleague that he does not have to worry about my focus. My focus is very clear.
    The Liberals introduced a program with very tight guidelines at the beginning, and New Democrats absolutely supported it. We would support a program that is highly regulated and enforceable today for the skills shortage and legitimate needs. However, it was the Liberals who opened the door, and it is the Conservatives who have now opened the floodgates to allow for the abuses that are taking place today, which are denying Canadians jobs, losing Canadian jobs, and keeping our young people out of the job market, where they could get the kind of training they need to up their skills.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, on April 14, CBC reported that three McDonald's franchises in Victoria were cutting jobs and the hours of their Canadian employees and replacing them with temporary foreign workers. Since that news report, other reports about the abuse of the temporary foreign worker program have come flooding in.
    Bowing to pressure, the Minister of Employment and Social Development finally announced a moratorium on hiring low-skilled temporary foreign workers for the food services sector.
    At that time, the minister reiterated that he had warned the businesses numerous times: the temporary foreign worker program should be used only as a last resort. Businesses must be able to prove that they first offered available jobs to Canadian workers, without success.
    It is important to remind them about the rules, but it is not that useful if it falls on deaf ears. Scandals related to the temporary foreign worker program have been building up since 2012. It took the minister two years to do something more than just remind them of the rules. How is that for efficiency and diligence?
    For two years, the Conservative government ignored the evidence. It spared the businesses that are scamming the system. It turned a deaf ear to the NDP's concerns and our request for an emergency debate on April 8.
    Canadians across the country are becoming increasingly concerned about the job situation. Three hundred thousand people have not been able to find work since the 2008 recession. True to form, the Conservatives do a lot of talking, but they take too little action, too late.
    This series of scandals that has just come to light with regard to the temporary foreign worker program is proof of much more than the Conservatives' incompetence, a fact that is known and recognized. It proves that the Conservatives' real objective is to reduce workers' wages and benefits, which is disgraceful.
    This ideology is at the heart of the Conservatives' employment policy. It explains why they see labour shortages where there is unemployment. It explains the current irregularities in the temporary foreign worker program.
    This program was originally created to fill occasional labour shortages when employers were unable to find Canadian workers or permanent residents to fill those positions.
    The number of eligible sectors was quite limited, and the process was very controlled. Companies had to show that they had made an honest attempt to hire local workers. Then, they would be allowed to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis only to fill an occasional need, thereby preventing the lack of workers from hindering their development and depriving them of business opportunities.
    However, since the Conservatives took office, things have gone from bad to worse in this regard, and Canadians are paying the price. The Conservatives began by expanding the list of jobs that are eligible for the program. They expanded it to lower-skilled jobs. Then, they made the rules of the program more flexible and reduced oversight. Even though there was a recession, they did not tighten the rules for recruiting foreign workers.
    Each time, the Conservatives justify their lax management of this program by saying that there is a labour shortage.
    The Conservatives do not listen when the NDP shows that there is no labour shortage and that 300,000 Canadians have not been able to find work since the recession.
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer has produced a report indicating that the Conservatives' labour shortage claims are based on false data, but the minister continues to insist that there is a labour shortage. It is no use. The Conservatives continue to insist that the temporary foreign worker program needs to be even more flexible.
    The government has pushed this logic to the point of allowing companies to pay temporary foreign workers 15% less than Canadian workers. It is therefore not surprising that the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada skyrocketed from 100,000 in 2002 to 340,000 in 2012.
    The number of temporary workers has ballooned since the Conservatives came to power. There are now 60,000 more temporary workers than permanent residents. Low-skilled occupations account for the most significant increases. Since 2006, the number of low-skilled temporary foreign workers has exploded by more than 700%.
    Food services are the second most common occupation for temporary foreign workers. In 2012, the restaurant industry received 44,000 positive LMOs, 900% more than in 2006.
    We are talking about cashiers at Tim Hortons and employees at McDonald's, not highly specialized jobs requiring skills that are in short supply.
    We also have to take into account the experiences of these foreign workers to understand the problems with this program.

  (1040)  

    They come here hoping to create better lives for themselves and their families—a laudable goal. Many of them come to Canada not knowing how to speak English or French. They know nothing about normal working conditions here. They know nothing about their rights, their employer's obligations toward them, or their options for recourse against their employer.
    There have certainly been scandalous and shocking revelations lately, but let us also bear in mind that the Conservatives' lack of concern about the temporary foreign worker program is having significant repercussions on the labour market. These repercussions are described in a C.D. Howe Institute report released last week. The report shows that the use of temporary workers has resulted in a 4% increase in the unemployment rate in Alberta and British Columbia. The unemployment rate for low-skilled workers is 13.4% in Alberta and 15.5% in B.C., which is twice the average.
    In Canada, there are six workers for every available job, so how can there be a general labour shortage? Why is there any need to resort to temporary workers to work in restaurants when the unemployment rate in that field is twice the national average?
    Instead, the Conservative government is encouraging temporary foreign workers to come because they are easier to manipulate than Canadian workers. If they ask for anything, starting with a wage increase, the employer can easily get rid of them. The Conservative government's sloppy management of the temporary foreign worker program and its determination to see a labour shortage where there clearly is none say a lot about its ideological motives.
    The Conservatives want a society in which corporations can freely exploit workers, where wage increases slow down, businesses pay lower taxes and people receive fewer services. The Conservatives' plan for Canada is a society of injustice and inequality. We want the results of this investigation to be released as soon as possible.
    Unlike this government, we want to build an inclusive society where everyone can find their place. To do that, we must make every effort to stimulate the job market and integrate the immigrants we need for the long term. This means that the temporary foreign worker program must be changed in order to restore it to its original purpose.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, again I would like to just reinforce that the program in itself has historically played a fairly significant role in our development as a country. Having said that, there is no doubt that there has been massive abuse of the program over the last number of years, at a significant cost. Among other ramifications, literally tens of thousands, if not even getting into the hundreds of thousands, of Canadians have been displaced or have not been able to get the type of employment opportunities they should have been able to get.
    The question I have for the member is this. Would she not agree with what the deputy leader of the Liberal Party specifically advocated—and it is a part of the motion—that to re-establish confidence in the program, we need to have Canada's Auditor General investigate and report back on the program itself? Something has gone wrong. The best person or office to look into this is the Auditor General of Canada. In order to restore confidence, would the member not agree that it is necessary and should be done immediately?

  (1045)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, obviously, the abuses of this program have doubled and even tripled. That is unacceptable. It is clear that this government has been lax about auditing this program and conducting investigations that might put an end to the abuses.
    As far as today's motion is concerned, I want to reiterate that what we are asking for is perfectly clear. First, we want the government to impose an immediate moratorium on the stream for lower-skilled occupations, which includes fast-food, service and restaurant jobs. Second, we want the government to request an urgent audit of the whole program by the Auditor General.
    I urge all my colleagues to support this motion.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have one question for the New Democrats and they have not answered it. There is a calling for a moratorium, which the minister has already undertaken. My question for the New Democrats is this. How long do they want the moratorium to be in place?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister took action only because the temporary foreign worker program was making headlines and still is. That is when the minister saw fit to respond, and quite substantially at that. It is clear to us, when we see the abuses of this program and the significant consequences they have for Canadians, that it is necessary to support this motion. That is what I am asking my colleague to do.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the last question from our Conservative friends. It is up to them to determine how long the moratorium will last. If the program works well, as it should, the moratorium will not last very long.
    I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about this aspect of the problem, which is the government's and not the official opposition's responsibility. Unfortunately, the Conservatives are in charge for a few more months; they run the country.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the question.
    Ever since this program was established—and constantly since 2012—we have pointed out the abuses. We have called on this government to take responsibility and appropriate action, which it has not done.
    Today, as my colleague mentioned earlier, there is no doubt that we are committed to this program. We hope that the businesses that really need it and are acting in good faith can hire temporary foreign workers. Quite simply, as called for in the motion, a moratorium is needed. The length of this moratorium will be decided once it is in place. Obviously, the sooner this decision is made, the sooner the government supports this motion, the sooner we can fix the problems associated with this program.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this motion. The motion has been brought forward by the member for Newton—North Delta. It is passing strange, of course, that the motion calls for doing things that are very similar to what the minister has already done. Again, it is the NDP late to the party and late to getting things done.
    However, what is concerning to many of us is that the NDP actually maybe wants something different from what it is calling for today, and it is those things I will discuss today.
    I should indicate, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the Minister of State for Social Development.
    The reason the minister brought forward the moratorium in existence today is to provide assurance to Canadians that everything is being done to ensure that there is integrity within the temporary foreign worker system and within the program itself.
    It is my belief, and it is the belief of our government, that there should be zero tolerance for any employer who creates a situation by which Canadians are being displaced from work opportunities by temporary foreign workers. We have always stated, and the rules require, the law requires, that Canadians get a crack at every single job before any temporary foreign workers are able to take those positions.
    We believe that the program needs to be in place for those employers who actually need it, but it is important that we undertake a system that is rigorous to ensure that temporary foreign workers are not displacing Canadians, that temporary foreign workers are not being abused, and that temporary foreign workers are being paid the prevailing wage rate for that industry in the particular region to which they are going.
    The Minister of Employment and Social Development has said repeatedly, and continues to say, that we have a mismatch between skills and the available jobs in this country. That is in fact the truth in my riding of Peace River. Throughout the country, there are places like the Peace Country where it is difficult to find people to fill the jobs that are available.
    Over the last number of years, the city of Grande Prairie and the region I represent have seen a massive influx of people coming from across this country to find opportunity, prosperity, and hope for their families as a result of the great opportunities that have been developing in the Peace Country. These opportunities are, of course, in the oil and gas sector, the agricultural sector, the forestry sector, the hospitality sector, and all the other sectors in between.
    Employers' number one concern, number one issue, over the last number of years, or really the last decade, has been trying to find the right people for the jobs to fill the vacancies that exist today.
    I will tell members just how acute the labour challenges are in the riding I represent. Currently, Statistics Canada reports that the unemployment rate in the region I represent is under 3%. It is, I believe, 2.8% right now. What we know is that this means that there are major challenges for employers to fill the job vacancies that exist today.
    I was talking to one employer yesterday. It is an employer who owns four restaurants in the city of Grande Prairie. They have a hiring policy whereby they will hire anyone who walks through the door. Currently they have four restaurants that are being served by 150 employees. It is a franchise operation. A similar operation in other parts of the country would have 150 employees per location. They have 150 employees for four locations. Right now there are over 300 job vacancies for that employer alone. Their policy is to hire anyone who applies for a job at their restaurants. For the last 13 years, this employer tells me, they have had an ongoing hiring process by which they will hire pretty much anyone who walks through the door. Right now the policy is that employees are told that no person who comes in and asks for a job application is allowed to leave the store without having an interview.
    This is the type of environment we see in my riding. We see it in other places in this country. Obviously, the temporary foreign worker program has been essential for this particular industry in my riding, as it has been in other places, but even the temporary foreign workers who have come still have not filled all the jobs that are available. In fact, this is one employer who has 300 job vacancies. I can tell the House that it is the same circumstance for other employers throughout the city of Grande Prairie and throughout the Peace Country.

  (1050)  

    Just the other day, I was speaking to one of the other employers in my riding. He is the owner of two small restaurants. They are fast food operations. He told me that he has quite a diverse group of people in his employ at the two locations. As a matter of fact, he has two 12-year-olds on the payroll right now. With the exception of a few of the managers within his operations, almost the majority of the Canadians who work in his operations have either a physical or a mental disability. The employer has made every effort to ensure that people of all abilities are being hired at his operations to ensure that no Canadian is passed over when he is hiring folks and trying to fill the vacancies there today.
    Regarding the program that exists, I am concerned about some of the comments by the Liberals and the NDP. My friend from Winnipeg North said that there is the possibility that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are being displaced by temporary foreign workers. The difficulty with the statement the member made is that there are approximately only 400,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada right now. That would mean that the vast majority of temporary foreign workers were displacing jobs that Canadians would otherwise have. That is not even plausible.
    We know that in applying for temporary foreign workers for an LMO, a labour market opinion, employers have to prove that they have made every effort to hire Canadians first. They have to post national advertisements for the vacancies. They have to require that the advertising indicates not minimum wage but the prevailing wage rate in that industry that Canadians would be paid. That is before they can even apply to get a permit to bring in a temporary foreign worker. Then there is a whole other process to ensure that the person who is coming actually meets the criteria of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. There is quite a process.
    We have had some high profile cases of abuse that have been in the media. There is no question. I find it horribly offensive and reprehensible that employers would be involved in these abuses. However, it is important that my colleagues on the opposition benches understand that legitimate employers find it even more offensive. They understand the importance of temporary foreign workers and the role they play.
    The employers in my region and the vast majority of employers across the country who use the temporary foreign worker program make every effort to hire Canadians first, not just because it is the right thing to do but because it is oftentimes the easier thing to do. People who are trying to bring in temporary foreign workers have to go through a number of different processes to ensure that they are legitimate in bringing those temporary foreign workers to Canada. Especially in the low-skill labour market, they have to pay for the tickets for these folks to come. The employers are responsible for those costs. The employers have to provide housing. The employers have to pay for health insurance. The employers have to do a number of things they would not have to do if they hired Canadians. In the vast majority of cases, employers would absolutely hire every Canadian before bringing on a temporary foreign worker.
    There are cases of abuse. The minister has indicated through the moratorium that he is going to review these cases of abuse. It is important that members of Parliament, if they are aware of any cases of abuse within their own constituency, make the hotline aware of them so that these cases can be investigated. It is not right for people to come to the House and allege that all kinds of abuse are happening without making the authorities aware of them.

  (1055)  

    I encourage members of Parliament, not only on behalf of the government, but on behalf of employers that use this program, to protect the program and its integrity. It is important for those people who know of or have heard of abuse to report it, and it will be investigated immediately.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a little correction for my colleague across the way. He said that the NDP was late to the game after the moratorium was called. Let me assure him that when some very brave Canadians broke the story on CBC about how they were having their hours and pay reduced or being fired, it was only then we became aware of how widespread this abuse was. We called for a moratorium on low-skilled workers before the minister actually declared one.
    I keep hearing the fact that it is so difficult to get LMOs. Would my colleague like to explain to me how a McDonald's owner in Victoria, with very high youth unemployment rates, got LMOs when he reduced hours and fired a person? Why would anybody think that Victoria, one of the most beautiful cities to live in, would have had that kind of shortage? What kind of oversight is there to ensure LMOs are not given out willy-nilly?

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what the minister has undertaken. He has undertaken a review of that case to ensure that if there was abuse, if the rules were not followed and if the law was broken, the people who undertook to break the law would be held accountable.
    When I said that the New Democrats were late in the game, it was that they would bring forward a motion to debate exactly what the minister had already announced, unless they are proposing something more than what minister has already announced.
    The New Democrats are saying more and they are assuring me of that now, but they are not calling for anything more in the text of that motion, so I can only assume they want the program shut down.
    I believe the program must be managed well. The minister has undertaken the responsible action of putting forward an investigation during the time of the moratorium, including cases that have been identified in the media. If the members in the NDP know of additional cases that should be reviewed, it is important they make those cases known to the minister or to the hotline to ensure those people breaking the law or rules are held accountable.
    Mr. Speaker, in listening to the response from the member, one is led to believe that the Conservatives are supportive of the motion before us today, but they have already taken the necessary action.
    One of the actions within the motion is to recognize the importance of Canada's Auditor General. Yesterday the deputy leader of the Liberal Party stood in his place and asked the government to have the Auditor General of Canada engaged on this very important issue.
    The bottom line is that we have excessive numbers of temporary foreign workers in Canada today, well over 300,000 I understand. That is a huge increase from what it was a decade ago.
    Would the member reaffirm, as he started to do in his last answer, that he is comfortable with the motion, albeit somewhat late in terms of timeliness, and of getting the Auditor General of Canada engaged on the issue?
    Mr. Speaker, as the minister has already indicated, the Auditor General is welcome to review the program, as the Auditor General is welcome to review any program.
    I can assure the member opposite that the program is there, the rules are robust and that those people who are breaking the rules must be held accountable.
    In cases of law-breaking, I am not sure the Auditor General is the right agency to hold them accountable. It is important that people from CBSA and, if it needs to be, the RCMP, are called in if people are involved in breaking the rules, in displacing Canadians or in human trafficking.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to talk to this motion, what the opposition has proposed and what we have already done as a government.
    I very much appreciate the comments of my colleague from Peace River. The fact is the opposition is not only late to the game, but in some ways it is speaking out of both sides of its mouth on this issue. What we all recognize, and what the opposition clearly recognizes, is that there is some value in the temporary foreign worker program. If opposition members did not believe that, they would not have asked us many times over the last number of years for temporary foreign workers to come to their ridings. Therefore, they recognize the value in it.
    They obviously recognize that there are flaws that need to be fixed, but we do not have the support from those members to fix those flaws and make it a better system. Instead, they do things like they are doing today. They stand to present motions that are somewhat redundant and empty because they do not have a lot of actual action in them. Instead of supporting real reforms, real changes, they bring forward these kinds of motions.
    I appreciate the fact that we can talk about it today, but I want to talk about what we have done, review what has gone on in the last few weeks and then talk about the changes we made this past summer. Just after I was sworn in to my current position, I worked with Minister Kenney, and we brought forward some changes to the temporary foreign worker program in July—

  (1105)  

    I would remind the minister not to use names of members or ministers, but only refer to their ridings or titles.
    I am sorry. Thank you for that, Mr. Speaker.
    I want to remind all of us of what has gone on over the last little while. In recent weeks we all became aware of abuses within this program and the Minister of Employment and Social Development acted immediately and directed officials to urgently look into these cases. Labour market opinions were suspended and companies were blacklisted. That is not just a small repercussion. In some cases, they can be blacklisted and banned for up to two years. When we talk about a moratorium, for these specific employers, it is a two-year moratorium.
    However, more action was needed and that is why last Thursday, the Minister of Employment and Social Development announced an immediate moratorium on the food services sector's access to the program. That means until further notice new or pending applications for temporary foreign workers related to the food services sector will not be processed. That is very severe and very swift action.
    In addition, previous approvals for any unfilled positions will be suspended. This moratorium will stay in effect until the ongoing review of the temporary foreign worker program is completed. Why are we doing this? It is simple. Swift, strong action was needed to send a message that abuse would not be tolerated.
    Once again, we recognize, and I think the opposition also recognizes, that there is value in the temporary foreign worker program. In my riding there has been a really positive response to a seasonal worker program, for example, and there have not been abuses within that part of the program. However, when we see abuses, our government takes swift and decisive action.
     Despite the minister having repeatedly warned employers that the temporary foreign worker program could only be used as a last and limited resort when Canadians were not available, some employers were blatantly misusing the program. We must have a zero tolerance policy and Canadians must always be first in line for every available job. Employers must do more to fill jobs with Canadians.
    If employers are found to have lied about their efforts to hire Canadians before asking to bring in a foreign worker, they will face criminal prosecution with sanctions that include fines and even jail time. Make no mistake, we are going to fix this program and our record shows how serious we take this.
    This is where I want to talk a bit about what we have been doing, very concrete, common sense measures that also have a real ability to stop abusers. This is what we have done and unfortunately the opposition members have opposed all of these measures.
    First is the authority to conduct on-site inspections to ensure that employers are meeting the conditions of the program. The opposition talks about the Auditor General, and certainly the Auditor General is welcome to come and look. He can do whatever he and his office choose to do. However, what I do not understand is that the members are calling for that when we are calling for inspectors to be on-site ensuring that the conditions are being met. Opposition members did not support that. In fact, they voted against that. When we are taking real action, and thank goodness we could pass that and it is in place, they opposed it. The next thing they could ask for is a royal commission or something like that.
    We brought forward legislative authority to impose significant financial penalties for employers who broke the rules. Again, this is another a concrete measure. If an employer breaks the rules, it is going to cost that employer. One would think the opposition would support that. One would think members would say that this was a good idea, that it was something concrete, but they opposed it.
    Another measure is the ability to ban non-compliant employers from the program for two years and immediately add their names to a public blacklist. The opposition members voted against that. There is no better way to stop abuse than to say to the abusers that they are blacklisted, that they will not be able to use this program for two years. Let us forget about politics. I understand opposition members have political points to try to score, but these are good, solid, common sense measures that actually have some teeth and ability to stop abuses. They did not support it.
    Requiring employers who legitimately rely on temporary foreign workers to have a plan to transition to Canadian workforce over time is not penalizing abusers. This is working together with employers that are using the program legitimately. However, as the government, we are saying to those employers that we want them to transition into a Canadian workforce.

  (1110)  

    One would think the opposition members would say that is a good idea that makes sense. However, they did not support it. They voted against every positive idea we brought forward.
    I remember this one in July very clearly. By removing the existing wage flexibility, we now require employers to pay temporary foreign workers at their prevailing wage. I remember the opposition members talking about this. We went ahead, made the change, and agreed that it was a good policy initiative. We did it. They voted against it.
    We added questions to employer LMO applications to ensure that the temporary foreign worker program is not used to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs. That was a loophole we needed to close. We did it. They voted against that.
    We introduced fees for employers for LMO processing and increased the fees for work permits, so they are not being borne by the taxpayer. Again, I remember this clearly from July, when we brought this one forward. I remember some of my hon. colleagues across the way defending employers and saying they should not have to pay the fee, that the taxpayer should keep paying it, and asking why we were making employers pay the fee for LMOs. It is because employers should pay, at a minimum, the fee for LMOs.
    They are looking puzzled across the way, but they voted against it. They did not support it. They spoke against our changes in the media. We did this nine months ago.
    What they are talking about are changes we brought forward nine months ago, and instead of supporting them, they voted against them. Today, they are behind the eight ball. They are not up to date with what has been going on.
    Another change we made was making English and French the only languages that could be used as job requirements when hiring through the temporary foreign worker process. We also suspended the accelerated labour market opinion process. These were changes that would help Canadians get jobs.
    The other change we made that has been so important is ensuring employers advertise for longer periods of time and across the country. Certainly more reforms are needed, but our government does not want to throw the baby out with the bath water, and I do not think that is what the opposition would want either. We want to keep the program strong. We want it to be integral. We want it to work for employers that need it. However, we will not tolerate abuses.
    That is the action we have taken. That has been our record. Canadians can count on us to continue to stand up for them, to make sure Canadians are always the first on the list and get first crack at every job available. We look forward to the opposition supporting other reforms as we deem them necessary.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to this. If we check the record, most likely any changes to the temporary foreign worker program were probably made in one of the multifarious omnibus budget bills. If the government would bring forward these kinds of amendments separately, we might give due consideration to them.
    In every occasion that has come to light—for example, serious problems in the restaurant sector—it has been revealed by the Alberta Federation of Labour, after access to information, that it found hundreds upon hundreds of violations by the applicants for LMOs, where they are paying below the wage offered in that sector. We have not seen any action by the government to start better scrutinizing of these LMOs that it is issuing illegally.
    There is the issue of the oil sands workers. Iron workers—and I am hearing from other sectors it includes welders and boiler makers—are being replaced by temporary foreign workers. We have repeatedly, as much as a month ago, brought this to the attention of the government. My questions to the minister are these. What can we see in the way of increased surveillance and actual enforcement by the government? How many enforcers does it have available and deployed full time? Are any of those inspectors, or enforcers, deployed to the oil sands?

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to believe what my hon. colleague is saying, that the New Democrats would have supported these changes had they been stand-alone bills, except I vividly recall the NDP speaking out against our changes when we introduced a large number of them in July, including the fee changes and some of the other changes. The opposition members did speak against it, so it is a little rich for them to say that they would have supported it. The fact is that they did not. They did not support it in their voting record. They did not support it when they spoke publicly about the changes. They are coming to the table really late in terms of how we address these issues.
    To address the member's question, this is exactly why we brought forward changes like being able to go in and inspect. Today the opposition members are again talking about the Auditor General coming in. We are talking about real inspectors going to the sites and ensuring compliance. We are including stiff penalties if employers are lying or not being honest on their LMOs, which include not only fines but jail terms, being blacklisted, and being banned from using the program for two years. These are real and substantial consequences.
    We are looking at the program and will continue to make changes as needed, because at the end of the day we want Canadians to get first crack at every job that is available across the country. We want employers to know that, if it means they need to be paying Canadians more to get Canadians to come and work at that job, maybe that is what they need to do.
    We want Canadians to get the jobs. At the same time, we do not want to throw out the whole program, for example, for agricultural seasonal workers.
    Mr. Speaker, the temporary foreign worker program has tripled since the current government took over. Nothing much happened until it became visible. The first big incident that occurred was the story about RBC hiring many employees from India to help it with its accounting. The government said it would do something about it. It always likes to come out and say it will take swift and decisive action. My hon. colleague has used those words several times today to say the government would fix the problem.
    The next incident that occurred was dealing with a coal mine in British Columbia. When it became apparent that temporary foreign workers were being used instead of Canadians in this coal mine in British Columbia, the government again said it would take swift and decisive action.
    Then there was the incident that occurred with McDonald's recently. Again, we are hearing that the government will take swift and decisive action to fix the problem.
    Apart from that, the Conservatives attack the opposition members for anything they have ever said before.
    I ask my hon. colleague this. When is she going to come up with a plan so that we do not have to resort to swift and decisive action again and again in the future?
    Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we have done. I know the Liberals did absolutely nothing. When temporary foreign workers came to Canada under the Liberals, there were no programs in place to change those temporary foreign workers into permanent—
    Just attack us.
    Then they had no ideas, Mr. Speaker. They did nothing to change the integrity of the program.
    We have a moratorium on the program for restaurant workers. Ask the restaurant workers if that is not swift and decisive action. Maybe it is time the member got back into his riding and, instead of asking for more temporary foreign workers, talk to them and see what is happening in those restaurants.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely misinformed.
    This is the problem with the government. It does not want to take responsibility. It is like a foreign word that originates in the Prime Minister's office. It does not like to take responsibility.
    The member, as well as the previous member, talked about the Conservative government fixing the problem. Who does the member think created the problem? It was the Conservative government that created the problem.
    The member for Portage—Lisgar asked what the Liberals did to cure the problem. When we were in government, there was no problem with the temporary foreign worker program. That is the issue.
    If it does its job as government, and it puts the checks in place, it can prevent the type of things that have taken place since the government has been in office. There has been massive abuse of the temporary foreign worker program. The responsibility lies with the government. It has not done its job. It has dropped the ball. As a result, tens of thousands of Canadians are losing their jobs.
    I should have said at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Cape Breton—Canso.
    We need to recognize the reality of the program. It was brought back in the 1970s. Former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau recognized the need for it, in order to allow Canada's economy to continue to grow and develop, in certain industries where there was a need for a high level of expertise. It was felt that we could not meet those needs at the time. It was important to have a program that would allow us the opportunity to bring people in to further develop certain industries, on a temporary basis.
    That was the intent of the program. Over the years, the program has provided literally hundreds of thousands of opportunities for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It has added tremendous value to our economy.
    Jean Chrétien made some positive changes to the program during the 1990s, which really empowered a great deal of growth, in particular out west, through some of the refinements to the program.
    Let us be very clear. Even though we might find an isolated case, overall, during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and all the way up to 2005-06, that program was a huge success. It added tremendous value to our economy.
    Now we have a government that is using that program for other means, to accomplish things Canadians would not be very happy with. We are starting to see that more and more. In particular, we have Canadians who are losing opportunities. The government has failed to ensure that the process is in fact being properly adhered to.
    What is the process? One member made reference to the LMOs. They are a critical element of the process. If employers want to be able to hire temporary foreign workers, they have to advertise and be able to demonstrate to the Government of Canada, through human resources, that they have gone out of their way to try to hire someone locally.
    Then, when they are unable to hire someone locally, which the employers have to be able to prove and demonstrate very clearly, then human resources would give them an LMO. With that LMO, employers now have the authority to hire people outside of Canada.
    During Liberal administrations, I do not think we ever exceeded 160,000. Now we are well over 300,000. It is because there is a different agenda.

  (1125)  

    Within the Conservative government, there is a hidden agenda to suppress levels of income and to prevent individuals within Canada from having some of those critically important jobs.
    We have university, post-secondary, and high school students looking for jobs, and they are looking to industries such as our hospitality industries. One gets a sense of frustration when one's son or daughter comes home saying they cannot find a job, that there is nothing out there, and then watches the 10 o'clock news to find out that the Conservative government has allowed an excessive amount of abuse within the temporary foreign worker program which is thereby denying their son, daughter, and other Canadians employment opportunities.
    Government members would say that they are acting tough on this issue. However, they have not been acting tough. They talk tough, but they definitely do not take action unless they are forced to take action. That is what we have seen from the current Conservative government. It does not take action unless it is forced into it, and this is an excellent example of that.
    This is not the first time that the issue has been raised inside the House of Commons. I, for one, and members of the Liberal Party, have raised this issue on many occasions. However, the former minister of immigration would say that, well, the member for Winnipeg North had a request for a temporary foreign worker.
    In Winnipeg, we had a million-dollar factory that was being established and the capital equipment was coming from a foreign country. The company asked if I would be able to assist in getting two individuals who took apart the machine to come to Winnipeg to establish the machine and train some of the employees so that it would be operational. They wanted to come for a couple of months. This is what the program is for. By getting that machine operational, we created more wealth here in Canada. We are providing more jobs here in Canada. That is why the program is in existence, and that is why I wrote that letter. I thought of the value to my constituents, to Canada, by allowing that to take place. Of course, the minister responsible talks about it as some weird thing, as if we support abuse of the program. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    We want accountability. We want the current government to be responsible, and we are concerned about the program. We recognize the importance of the program and we want it to survive. Unlike the New Democrats, we see the value of the program, which is why the deputy leader of the Liberal Party stood in his place yesterday and challenged the government to get the Auditor General's office involved in this.
    There is a lack of confidence that Canadians have regarding the temporary foreign worker program, and it comes from the government's inability to administer what should be a good, solid program. Because of the government's inability to administer the program properly, we now have Canadians highly suspicious of it. They want action, and who can blame them? Day after day, the leader of the Liberal Party has been talking about the importance of the middle class, and many of these jobs are being taken away from the middle class.
    We want action. We want to see this program reviewed thoroughly, and the best person to do that is the Auditor General of Canada. It is through the Auditor General of Canada that we believe we will ultimately re-establish confidence in the program. That is what we are fighting for. Yes, we know the Auditor General can take it upon himself to investigate the program. We trust and hope, and we have taken action to encourage that to take place.

  (1130)  

    However, it would go a long way toward taking responsibility if the Conservatives recognized that they have messed up, and they joined with us and all members of the House to say that they want the provincial auditor to get involved on this file because it is the integrity of the program that we should all be concerned with, because it is the prosperity of Canada that we are fighting for today.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, some of the things my colleague said are certainly accurate. The Conservatives did in fact completely lose control of the program a long time ago. In addition, there is no doubt that it is the minister's responsibility to provide real solutions to address the various breaches of the program. It is also important to remember that the minister did respond when the issue made the headlines in the media.
    I have a very specific question for my colleague. The Liberal leader downplayed the magnitude of the flaws in the temporary foreign worker program. Does the Liberal member agree with his leader that the government has lost control only to a certain extent?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the member gets her information. The leader of the Liberal Party has never downplayed the importance of what is taking place and the impact that this is having here in Canada. Never has that taken place. The leader of the Liberal Party has been a very strong advocate for Canada's middle class, and this particular program is causing a great deal of concern and losing jobs for many members of Canada's middle class. I do not know where the member gets this whole idea that the leader of the Liberal Party seems to be offside.
    At the end of the day, if I want to contrast representation from leaders' offices and in particular on the Prairie file, I will take my leader over the leader of the New Democratic Party who has talked about western Canada and the Prairies being a Dutch elm disease and targeted western Canada as not necessarily the best environment for economic growth and that he wants to see it shift into other regions or base things on division.
    The Liberal leader has been consistent. No matter whether it is in Quebec, the Prairies, Ontario, the Atlantic, or the Pacific, we have consistently fought for the middle class and will continue to do so.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my Liberal colleague's speech and I agree with him on some points. The Conservative government never backs off, unless it is pressured to do so. I would like to remind my Liberal colleague that we were the first ones to denounce the problems with the program.
    I would also like to remind the Liberal member, as my colleague mentioned, that their response was half-hearted at best.
    The question I would like to ask my Liberal colleague is the following: why have the Liberals refused to say whether they are taking the side of the Canadians losing their jobs or of the employers misusing the programs?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting, as viewers will no doubt be watching, that the New Democrats seem to be focused strictly on the fact that they want to be perceived as the first party to deal with this issue. The record will demonstrate that the member is wrong. If the New Democrats want to assert proper credit to where credit is due, I would suggest that all they need to do is go over the years of Hansard discussions and they will find that theirs is not the party that not only first talked about the issue but whose members have consistently talked about it through the years.
    It is important that we recognize that in the last five or six years we have seen excessive abuse of the program and that is the reason the Liberal Party has specifically requested that we have the Auditor General engaged on the issue. On that particular point, I do believe our party might have actually been the first. However, again, it does not really matter. We are just glad to be able to bring this issue in this fashion to the House and continue to lobby for the government members to recognize that if they really want to establish or reinforce the importance of the program and get to the bottom of it, that we do need to get Canada's Auditor General engaged on it, thereby, hopefully, saving the program and providing and ensuring that Canadians are not losing jobs.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for his well thought out and impassioned speech. He brought a lot to the debate today and hopefully I will be able to contribute a bit more myself.
    I was able to dust off notes from the debate we entered into a year and two weeks ago when I presented a motion in the House calling for the government to embark on a full review of the temporary foreign worker program. Since that time we have seen another glaring example of the current government's ineptitude. We have seen the government's ineptitude time and time again, whether it is with respect to the fair elections act or something else. Any legislation that has gone well for the Conservatives would be on an incredibly short list.
    The approach that the Conservatives have taken toward developing legislation is often in error, seldom in doubt. They are adverse to seeking the opinion of the people who know the issues. They are reluctant to study specific issues, or take any kind of recommendations or amendments from the opposition parties because they know it all. That attitude has placed the Conservative Party in trouble many times. Canadians are catching on. Canadians understand that full well, and nowhere is it more obvious than on this particular issue of temporary foreign workers.
    One of my colleagues mentioned the letter we sent to the Auditor General. The Auditor General was aware of this issue back in 2009. It was the Auditor General who triggered great concern about the explosion in the number of temporary foreign workers in this country. As my colleague from Winnipeg North identified, in 2006 the number of temporary foreign workers in this country was 160,000. That number is about 360,000 now.
    Two and a half years ago the former Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development took the shackles off this program, let the program run wild thereby accelerating the LMO process for businesses that wanted to bring in temporary foreign workers, and provided employers with the opportunity to pay 15% below market rates for their temporary foreign workers. This program was identified at that time as a great concern because it would put downward pressure on wages and impact the unemployment rate. That is what we are seeing now. We knew that was going to happen.
    The government has said that this is an isolated case and that the minister has taken action. Make no mistake, this is not an isolated case. We have seen it many times. We have seen it in the mining sector, the banking sector, the service sector, and now we are seeing it in the fast-food industry.
    The temporary foreign worker program is an important program in this country. At one time Canadians had a great deal of confidence in it. Many parts of this country do not have an agricultural sector. Nova Scotia would not have an agricultural sector if it were not for this program. The temporary foreign workers who work in these industries provide support to Canadians. They provide an opportunity for Canadians to maintain their jobs and continue to raise their families.
    The government's mismanagement of the program has brought it into disrepute. Canadians think the program is like the Senate: we should just get rid of it. That does a great disservice to the program because it deserves to be saved.

  (1140)  

    I presented a motion this morning. The opposition parties, certainly the Liberal Party, with regard to this program, want to mend it, not end it, but that cannot be done in isolation. We have seen the government make one-off changes to this program, and every time it made a change, it created an unintended consequence and an even greater degree of mess.
    Just to pick up on a comment from my colleague from Winnipeg North, whenever there is a question asked, the minister dismisses it. He has been particularly hard on the NDP this week, saying the NDP has asked for more temporary foreign worker support.
    He threw that at me one time. In fact, six years ago, I wrote a letter of support for a company in my riding. ExxonMobil needed, for a short period of time, a very specific type of engineering that was within the realm of the company. I wrote a letter of support once for that company for the particular work that it needed done. That is the intent of the program. That is what that was all about. Then the minister gets up, beats his chest, and says, “The member for Cape Breton—Canso supports this program. He wrote a letter of support”, and all the backbenchers gloat.
     That is what is wrong with it. That is what is wrong with the government. Rather than trying to get to what works for Canadians and supports Canadian enterprise and business, it tries to score these cheap-shot, sucker-punch little answers to stuff like that rather than trying to find some real answers. It is a huge disservice to our country and the people who are trying to do business in this country.
    One of the problems—and I am sure I can get support for this not just on the opposition benches but from most Canadians as they realize this now—is that rather than trying to seek out the best evidence and information on which to base some kind of logical decision and way forward on whatever the issue might be, the government will take whatever is in the paper and anecdotally say that this is what the government should be doing. It does this rather than researching the issue and trying to get facts. Everything around job skills development has been based on that type of information rather than on actual labour market data.
    We heard the Prime Minister talk about the skills shortage crisis and say that Canadians have to be seized by this crisis, but we know that opinions from some of the most respected people in this country, such as Don Drummond with TD Economics and most recently the PBO, have all provided actual evidence that debunks the government's approach to the temporary foreign worker program.
    In his labour market assessment, the PBO said that Canada is not experiencing a skills and labour shortage but that a higher portion of temporary foreign workers in the private sector could also be putting downward pressure on private sector job vacancies. We see that the C.D. Howe Institute is attributing an increase in unemployment by four percentage points in western Canada right now to the temporary foreign worker programs.
    If we were to actually investigate this particular program, as has been requested by the House on a number of occasions over the last number of years, and if recommendations were brought forward to the government and a full debate took place, then we would be serving Canadians. We would provide temporary foreign workers to companies that need them, but we would not be putting downward pressure on wages or putting Canadians out of work. It is shameful what the government has done with this program and the disrepute it has brought upon it.
    Liberals will be supporting this particular motion today.

  (1145)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree with my Liberal colleague that the Conservatives have opened the floodgates to abuses of the temporary foreign worker program. Largely because of the Conservatives' incompetence, many Canadians have lost their jobs and the wages of temporary workers are being driven down.
    This is what I wanted to ask my colleague: why has his party abstained from supporting the NDP's previous requests for a review of the program?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, she has caught me off guard here. I know that the government takes all votes in committee. I sit on the standing committee on human resources and skills development. The member might want to have a chat with her colleague, the official critic, on that, because the official critic knows where I stand on the issue of temporary foreign workers.
    Again, the proof is in the pudding. We have put this motion before the House before. We have brought motions before the committee before and challenged the government to do what is right and what is best for the businesses in this country that need access to workers and workers who need access to jobs. I will stand today, as I have been, to ask the government to take this issue seriously so that it works for all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the member's remarks. The reality is that this is a good program gone astray as a result of the actions of the Conservative government. I can give the member an example, and maybe he could give me some.
    I have constituents who do Anne of Green Gables tours for Japanese tourists. They cannot get enough Japanese-speaking tour guides. They use the labour market opinion to advertise. No one applies, so they have to bring in three tour guides, plus the odd local one that they have.
    That exemplifies the purpose of the program. It allows employers, where the skills do not exist in Canada, to be able to attract foreign workers. It actually enhances the economic opportunity of that particular industry, in this case through tour guides for Japanese people visiting the Anne of Green Gables site, one of our highlights on Prince Edward Island.
    Is that not the purpose of the program? I agree that abuse in the program needs to be challenged if some industries are trying to use and abuse the workers and lower the cost of labour; I can tell members, though, that in this particular instance, it works well. Is that not what the program was designed to be, an assistance to industry in that regard?
    Mr. Speaker, that pretty much frames the situation. That is exactly how the program should work. Those temporary foreign workers brought in for that short period of time help to support the entire tourism sector in Prince Edward Island. Anne of Green Gables is Prince Edward Island. It puts heads in beds. It puts bums in seats at theatres and restaurants. People are buying gas. They are staying in accommodations. That is what it is all about.
    I remember the government taking a shot at our leader because he had supported an application by a high-end Japanese restaurant in his riding that needed somebody to come in for a short period of time to pull together the menu and specifically train the kitchen staff. The government said the leader of the Liberal Party was looking for a temporary foreign worker. Yes, he was, and that is how the program is supposed to work.
    We need less rhetoric and more study. The government should bring forward some quality recommendations and fix this program for Canadians.

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise in support of the motion by my colleague. It is a very sensible motion, and given the nature of the issues that have been arising over the last couple of months, I think it is well overdue.
    I am pleased as well to be sharing my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
    It is very clear that there is a need for an audit by the Auditor General. The government speaks in terms of its enforcement regime, but its surveillance of the temporary foreign workers program consists of spot audits commissioned by the companies themselves. It is not that there are any credibility questions related to independent auditors it might hire, but I think there has been enough public attention to this issue for it to be time for the Auditor General to come in and do, as per usual, a fabulous job in auditing federal programs.
    What are the issues that we have before us? The first issue, I would suggest, is this: do we even know if we have a labour shortage? Do we have a labour shortage for skilled workers, for the service sector? Do we even have reliable data? The response to that by some independent bodies, including the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the C.D. Howe Institute, is that we do not.
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer has reported that Canada has continued excess capacity in the Canadian labour market. He also reported that there was only modest growth in real average wages. He also reported that there is little evidence of a national labour shortage in Canada and that there is no evidence supporting an acute national skills mismatch, except in some specific areas. He singled out some of the sectors in Saskatchewan.
    He has also reported that there are lower job vacancy rates and higher unemployment, obviously raising some serious issues about how the temporary foreign worker program is addressing the supply of labour and addressing unemployment in Canada.
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer has reported that there is a skilled labour shortage of just 32% and an unskilled or semi-skilled labour shortage of 16%. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has suggested the higher proportion of temporary foreign workers in the private sector could be putting downward pressure on private sector job vacancy rates and reducing the number of job vacancies; in other words, it could actually be imperilling the creation of jobs for Canadians, not filling them.
    Provincial data also suggests that no provinces are experiencing acute labour shortages or skills mismatches related to the period before the 2008-2009 recession. The C.D. Howe report concurs with the findings of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It has found little empirical evidence of shortages in many occupations and that the relaxations of conditions for hiring temporary workers resulted in rising unemployment in Alberta and British Columbia.
    They suggest that the minimal uniform application fee paid by employers to hire temporary foreign workers offers minimal incentives to seek Canadian workers to fill vacancies. They also found that other countries imposed substantially higher fees, pro-rated per sector.
    In other words, they have identified two problems. One is that there is an across-the-board fee, and if dealing with a big sector like the fossil fuel sector, it is probably not a high enough fee to deter the hiring of temporary foreign workers instead of investing in training or investing in searching for a Canadian employee.
    To quote Professor Dominique Gross, the author of the C.D. Howe report:
    A successful program would encourage employers to attract and train domestic workers for jobs that are permanent and that ensure stability of their business activity in the short-term. The current Canadian program falls short of these goals.
    Do we have reliable labour and skills data? The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the C.D. Howe Institute say no. Statistics Canada has also now said no. Why? It is because apparently the government, in its wisdom, provided dollars sufficient only to survey employers on work demographics, skills shortages, hiring of temporary foreign workers, and which positions are hard to fill and why. It provided no money to analyze the data and thereby inform the Canadian economy of where there might be gaps, where we might need to be directing our training dollars, whether we needed to give support for mobility, or whether there might be space for temporary foreign workers. Even the minister has been quoted as saying that we must do a better job of collecting detailed labour market information.

  (1155)  

    The budget was shrunk. For such analyses, it was cut by almost $30 million, and staff at Statistics Canada was cut by over 18%, so we are not going to immediately address the problem.
    What information have we gleaned? Has the temporary foreign worker program impacted wages? According to the information obtained through access to information, the answer to that is, yes, in Alberta. Across the board, it has been revealed that for the service sector, labourers, restaurants, nurseries, farm workers, hotels, casinos, and gas stations, hundreds of unlawful temporary foreign worker permits were issued by the current government at wages below the prevailing wage rate for each of those occupations. That indicates a pattern of using temporary foreign workers to drive down Canadian wages.
    This evidence merits broader independent review by the Auditor General.
    The minister said that he encourages employers to raise wages. I think perhaps the minister has additional powers. He should be going beyond encouraging Canadian employers to employ Canadians or train them. This evidence suggests that his temporary foreign worker program is having the direct opposite effect.
    Third, what has been the effect of the temporary foreign worker program on employment for Canadians in the major employment sector, which the government likes to speak of all the time, the oil sands sector?
    The first accelerated program, for which there was no LMO required to hire temporary foreign workers in Alberta, was finally ended, but it was replaced with a pilot program, in other words, no LMO required, and has been recently extended. What has that caused?
    As I raised in this place, on behalf of Canadian workers, particularly the ironworkers at two major oil sands projects, Husky Energy and Imperial Oil, 65 Canadian ironworkers were laid off and replaced by Croatian temporary foreign workers, in the case of Imperial Oil. In the case of Husky Energy, 300 Canadian workers were replaced by temporary foreign workers.
    In the case of Imperial Oil, I have actually been approached by a number of the workers who have been laid off, who have come to meet with me. One of them is a single mother apprentice.
    The current government talks all the time about how it is working hand-in-glove with major industry to encourage the support of apprenticeships, yet here we have a scenario in which a single mother, who has gone back to school and is apprenticing, was laid off and replaced by a temporary foreign worker.
    Why is that serious? It is because apprentices need that work experience to get their tickets.
    I also was approached by an aboriginal apprentice who was laid off. He has a young family and is very seriously concerned about the lack of enforcement of this program in the oil sands sector.
    I have also been approached by steamfitters apprenticing in the Esso heavy oil sector in Cold Lake, where apparently eight of 11 of the crew are temporary foreign workers, despite the fact that there are many workers, including Albertans, who would like those jobs. The problem is that the sector is moving so fast that rental rates are skyrocketing and there is simply not a place for people to stay, whereas we are enabling temporary foreign workers to come. We pay their travel and in some places subsidize their housing.
    I have heard from welders who cannot get work. They have been waiting for a year where jobs are posted, and they have not been taken up.
    I have heard from an insulator where 200 jobs were posted and then removed. That person was then told by the company that it was applying for an LMO to fill those jobs.
    Where is the oversight? Where is the inspection? Where is the enforcement? Where is the enforcement and compliance strategy?
    I have raised this issue repeatedly with the government. An efficacious regulatory program includes good regulations and rules, fully trained inspectors who ensure that those rules are enforced, and an enforcement and compliance strategy that sets forth how exactly they are going to ensure that this program is complied with.
    We are told that there is no on-the-ground surveillance program for this sector, so the obvious question is raised. There is a lot of talk about increased penalties. How on earth are they going to assert these penalties, when the only time violations are raised is when workers who are displaced either come to the official opposition or other opposition members or to the media?

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to this member, and she started her comments by asking if we know if we have a labour shortage. I think the implication is that the program should either be discontinued or not there at all.
    I would ask the member what she might have to say to the chambers of commerce and the various members of the chambers of commerce in areas like Souris—Moose Mountain, where they are not able to fill positions. One city has over 400 unfilled positions. Estevan has over 1,000-some unfilled positions. Places such as Moosomin, Saskatchewan, cannot attract people to fill many of the food and service industry positions.They are in dire need of people and would hire anyone who might want a job in that industry. They have used them and still cannot fill the positions. There are facilities that have not opened or that cannot remain open to the degree that people would like simply because they cannot fill those jobs.
    Do we know if we have a labour shortage? In certain areas of the country, in particular in Souris—Moose Mountain, this is a very important program, and there are significant shortages. What would the member say to that?
    Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had listened closely, he would have heard not just once but twice that I mentioned that there may be some exceptions where we need to be emphasizing that there may be a need for temporary foreign workers. I mentioned the province of Saskatchewan twice.
    The bigger question is whether the government is basing its decision to issue an LMO simply on a company saying, “this is the going rate and this is what we are going to pay our service workers or our oil and gas workers”.
    In the case of Alberta, it has been discovered that, in fact, employers have been undercutting salaries. The government has been inappropriately issuing LMOs and driving down salaries.
    There can be many reasons for a labour shortage. Maybe the salaries are not appropriate. Maybe there is no appropriate housing or people do not want to relocate. There are a lot of issues. Of course, we have raised the issue of a shortage of affordable housing in this country.
    The issues the member raised are exactly what we would like the Auditor General to take a look at. Where exactly are the labour shortages? Do we have enough data on that? Do we need to be supporting Statistics Canada actually starting to analyze the data? Where are the problems with this temporary foreign worker program?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on the member's reference to the Auditor General. In terms of the abuse that has taken place within the program over the last number of years, especially given the heightened attention the issue has been given in recent months, there is a general lack of confidence among many Canadians in terms of the temporary foreign worker program.
    One way to deal with that issue is to turn to a body Canadians have a deep amount of respect for, that being the Auditor General's office. I would ask the member if she would agree that having the Auditor General directly involved in reviewing the program and coming up with recommendations as to how the program can be fixed would be the best way to try to fix this problem.

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, clearly I agree, because that is precisely what our motion is. It is to call on the Auditor General to do a program audit of the entire temporary foreign worker program.
    However, there is more the government can do in tandem, in parallel, with the work of the Auditor General. For example, it could genuinely step up an enforcement regime. There is actually no on-the-ground surveillance regime for this temporary foreign worker program. The government simply sits back and waits for complaints.
    I am informed that the government actually brought the border guards in to deal with McDonald's, which is pretty incredible.
    While there is a lot of talk about the penalties, what we do not have is an inspectorate under this program, under labour or immigration or wherever the government wants to have it. They would be people who were fully trained and deployed full time to the regions where there are major numbers of temporary foreign workers.
    There is a lot that could be done. We fully support an audit by the Auditor General. There is a lot the government could do. It is the government's responsibility to deliver a credible program that does not prejudice Canadian workers.
    Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of the motion by the hon. member for Newton—North Delta:
    That, in the opinion of the House, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been open to abuse resulting in the firing of qualified Canadian workers, lower wages and the exploitation of temporary foreign workers, and therefore the government should: (a) impose an immediate moratorium on the Stream for Lower-skilled Occupations, which includes fast-food, service and restaurant jobs; and (b) request an urgent audit of the whole program by the Auditor General.
    I want to first deal with abuse within the temporary foreign worker program. There have been complaints across the country, but my perspective is the Newfoundland and Labrador perspective, with particular emphasis on my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
    The first time I heard of abuse of the temporary foreign worker program was in December 2012, when the Atlantic New Democratic caucus travelled to Labrador West for meetings. We heard horror stories at the time, and I described them at the time as horror stories, about more than 20 temporary foreign workers living in a single home. We went public then with the story. I listened to the CBC radio clip again just this morning. It is available on the web.
    It was not until November 2013, 11 months later, that Canada Border Services Agency executed a warrant at a Labrador City residence as part of an investigation into housing arrangements for temporary foreign workers. It was not until April 2014, earlier this month, 16 months after our caucus went public with the alleged abuse, that the Conservative government suspended two Labrador City residents from the temporary foreign worker program. It was 16 months later.
    Four former employees of the two restaurants told CBC News that 26 foreign workers had shared one Labrador City split-level residence for months, in violation of the employers' agreement with the federal government, in violation of every law.
    That was the first case. My office has dealt with numerous cases.
    Another complaint was received by my office in early 2012 from the parent of a young person who worked at a McDonald's in St. John's. It was alleged that the young person's hours of work were cut back when the restaurant brought in temporary foreign workers. The parent explained that temporary foreign workers were guaranteed a set number of hours as a condition of their being brought in and at the expense of our local young people.
    Yet another complaint was reported by my office, this time in late 2012, and it involved five Guatemalan labourers employed as chicken catchers. They had two complaints. First, they alleged that they were not paid but were promised that they would be paid before coming to work in Newfoundland and Labrador. The pay was the first complaint. They alleged that they were paid less than their Canadian counterparts for the same work.
     The other complaint had to do with living conditions. My staff visited the basement apartment where they were lodged, and we took pictures. We also brought in the local newspaper, which wrote an article on the plight of the Guatemalan workers. Let me quote from that article:
    The five workers say they were living in subpar conditions in the basement of a company-owned Mount Pearl house, sharing a tiny, ill-equipped kitchen, living with mould and holes in the ceiling that dripped water, and sleeping on filthy mattresses. Each was charged $80 a week for the basement apartment for a total of $1,600 a month. When they complained, one worker said he was told it must be better than his house in Guatemala.
    One of the points I made to the media at that time, in December 2012, was that there is no oversight in Canada when it comes to temporary foreign workers, no federal oversight. The provincial labour department looked into complaints by the Guatemalan workers that they were not paid what they were promised they would be paid. All the provincial government could do, and it tried its best, was ensure that foreign workers were at least paid the minimum wage.

  (1210)  

    As for the living conditions, where they were forced to live in squalor, we went to the local municipality and the Consulate of Guatemala in Montreal. Repairs were eventually made to the basement apartment, but what became of the five Guatemalans? They went home and they have not returned. They were afraid that as a result of complaining there would be repercussions, and there were repercussions.
    My point is this. The federal government runs the temporary foreign worker program and it should investigate when there are complaints about pay and living conditions, when there are complaints, period. My office could not find anyone federally to investigate.
    I received two more complaints in recent days. One complaint is from an unemployed aircraft technician who says that temporary foreign workers are replacing locals who are ready, willing and able to work. We referred that complaint to Employment and Social Development Canada. The answering machine said that it would not provide any feedback or give any update as a result of the information we submitted. Where is the accountability? There is none.
    The other complaint was from a former employee of McDonald's in St. John's, but I will save that quote until the end.
    The temporary foreign worker program has grown to outrageous proportions. It has pushed down wages and resulted in Canadians being let go or forced to move on and replaced with foreign workers. The number of temporary foreign workers in Newfoundland and Labrador jumped from 916 in 2006 to 1,392 in 2010. That is a growth of almost 500 workers in the span of four years. At the same time, according to Statistics Canada, our youth unemployment rate in Newfoundland and Labrador as of this month stands at 20.2%, the highest in the country. Less than 50% of youth aged 15 to 24 were employed in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2013.
    What are we doing with temporary foreign workers? There is a need. All sides of this honourable House admit that there is a need. However, the temporary foreign worker program is not administered in the best interests of foreign workers to ensure that those foreign workers are paid fairly and have decent living conditions.
    The temporary foreign worker program is also not administered in the best interests of Canadians, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It is not addressing unemployment. If anything, it is driving down wages and taking away work from our own.
    The Conservative employment minister brought down a moratorium late last week on the use of temporary foreign workers in restaurants. That does not go far enough. The moratorium should be on all lower skilled occupations until the Conservative government fixes the program and there is an independent review by the Auditor General of Canada of the entire kit and caboodle.
    Let me now return to that second complaint that I received in recent days. I want to end with a quote from that complaint. The letter states:
    To be blunt, if business owners viewed staff as more than indebted serfs and did the right thing and actually paid better wages and took better care of their staff there would be less turnover, happier more productive staff and to the benefit of Newfoundlands tax base, less out migration.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by the member and would ask him to provide further comment on this.
    When we talk about the importance of the temporary foreign worker, we need to recognize that quite often there is an exploitation that occurs of that foreign worker. This is something that is very easily overlooked. As much as we are primarily concerned about the loss of potential employment opportunities for Canadians, that other side of the potential abuse of the foreign workers who arrive in Canada should also be taking place in this debate. Would the member provide his comments on that issue?
    Mr. Speaker, as I outlined in my speech, my office has received a half a dozen complaints so far from Canadians, from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, who have a problem with the fact that their hours have been cut back as a result of temporary foreign workers who have been brought in. We have received complaints from temporary foreign workers themselves, but they have been reluctant to come forward to speak about exploitation because they are afraid of repercussions.
    In the case of the Guatemalan workers whom I referenced in my speech, they came forward with complaints. The media did a bit of an exposé on their situation and on their allegations. They eventually went home and they have not returned, which is what they were afraid of in the first place. There is exploitation in terms of housing, wages and hours of work.
     Another point I made in my speech was that when there were complaints, there was no federal arm to investigate.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He provided a good explanation of two problems with this program in its current form.
    The Conservatives are rather quiet right now but, when they had the opportunity, they said that the NDP was against this program. They were talking out of both sides of their mouths because they were inviting foreign workers to Canada while criticizing the program.
    As my colleague alluded to, accepting temporary foreign workers is not necessarily the problem. Instead, the Conservatives should be focusing on the major flaws of the program, which emerge after each crisis and which the Conservative government has not managed to fix.
    After all these years hearing such incredible stories as the ones my colleague mentioned today, we have to stop and thoroughly review this program, so that we can ensure good working conditions for the temporary foreign workers we accept while preventing them from taking Canadians' jobs.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank the hon. member for bringing up that point because I want to highlight it. The New Democratic Party of Canada, Her Majesty's official opposition, is not against the temporary foreign worker program. We are against the exploitation of temporary foreign workers. We are against temporary foreign workers being paid less than Canadians. We are against temporary foreign workers being housed in squalor, being forced to sleep on filthy mattresses in apartments where the ceiling is falling down and the water is pouring in. We are against up to 26 temporary foreign workers being forced to live in a single home.
    We are not against the temporary foreign worker program. We are against how temporary foreign workers are being treated. We are against how the Conservative Government of Canada has allowed this program to spin out of control.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the NDP motion concerning the temporary foreign worker program. I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour.
    We have all been concerned about the recent allegations of abuse in the program. I am pleased to speak about the strong action that the Minister of Employment and the government have taken. The temporary foreign worker program should only be used as a last and limited resort, when Canadians are not available. Employers should also be committed to attracting Canadians, to raising wages, improving working conditions and investing in training for workers. Our government is very concerned that some of the employers are not doing enough to hire Canadians and are even abusing the temporary foreign worker program.
    Canadians are telling us that they are concerned that the program is being misused by some employers. They are questioning the use of the program in certain areas and certain sectors. Our government takes such allegations very seriously. That this program could be used to displace Canadian workers and suppress wages is unacceptable, to say the least, and we will not stand for it. That is why we have been taking steps to ensure that the program does not negatively impact the ability of Canadians to find jobs and that those that abuse the program will face the full consequences of the law.
    That is why we introduced a number of reforms, which the opposition has voted against at every opportunity. In April 2013, we made sure that employers using the program paid temporary foreign workers a prevailing wage, consistent with what Canadians receive. We suspended the accelerated labour market opinion process. We added new questions to the employer application as part of the labour market opinion process. This way, when employers bring in temporary foreign workers, no Canadian workers are displaced as a result of outsourcing.
    We also improved and clarified language requirements. Now French and English are the only languages that can be identified as a job requirement, unless another language is essential to the job itself, as it might be to a translator, for example. That has been raised in the House.
    We also introduced processing fees for employers applying for temporary foreign workers so that the cost of labour market opinions would no longer paid for by hard-working taxpayers. We also improved recruitment and advertisement requirements to almost double the reach of employers' advertising efforts. This ensures that Canadians have a better chance to learn about and apply for available jobs.
    We continue to take action to strengthen the integrity of the temporary foreign worker program. Late last year our government announced further measures. These include regulatory and administrative changes that give the Government of Canada the authority to do four things: first, to conduct inspections to ensure employers are meeting the conditions of the program; second, to ban non-compliant employers from the program for two years and immediately add their names to a public blacklist; third, to further improve the criteria to assess LMOs so Canadians are always first in line for every available job; and fourth, to immediately revoke or suspend LMOs, to refuse to process LMO applications and to revoke and refuse to process work permits when necessary. These measures serve one primary purpose: to ensure Canadians remain first in line for jobs.
    However, we are not done and there are more reforms to come. We have repeatedly warned employers that the temporary foreign worker program must only be used as a last resort, when Canadians are not available. Therefore, we will not hesitate to make examples out of rule breakers.
    In recent weeks, our government has been made aware of some serious allegations of the abuse of the temporary foreign worker program. We immediately asked officials to investigate these matters and determine the facts. As a result, labour market opinions were suspended and the employers in question were placed on the blacklist. Nevertheless, there remain serious concerns regarding the use of the program in the food services sector.

  (1225)  

    Until these concerns can be laid to rest, our government has placed a moratorium on the food services sector's access to the program. That means departmental officials will not process any new or pending LMO applications related to the food services sector. In addition, any unfilled positions tied to a previously approved LMO will be suspended. This moratorium will remain in effect until we have completed our ongoing review of the program.
    This clear, decisive action demonstrates that any abuse of the temporary foreign worker program will not be tolerated by our Conservative government. We will continue to investigate any and all allegations of misuse, and any employer found to have violated these rules will face serious consequences. In fact, we encourage anyone who has any concerns to contact Service Canada's confidential tip line at 1-866-602-9448 or integrity@servicecanada.gc.ca.
    Those employers who are found to have lied about their efforts to hire Canadians could face criminal prosecution, including fines and jail time.
    All these measures, combined, demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that employers hire Canadians first. We believe that employers must do more by raising wages, improving working conditions, and investing more in training for Canadian workers.
    If opposition members were serious about reforming this program, they would have voted for all the reforms we have already brought in. Instead, we see the NDP and the Liberals keeping on asking for more TFWs for their ridings.
    Let me read a list of all of the opposition MPs who have asked for more TFWs.
    For the NDP: the deputy leader and MP for Vancouver East, the MP for Halifax, the MP for Ottawa Centre, the MP for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, the MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, the MP for Sackville—Eastern Shore, the MP for Churchill, the MP for Victoria, the MP for Trois-Rivières, the MP for British Columbia Southern Interior, the MP for Laval, and the MP for Brome—Missisquoi.
    For the Liberals: the leader, the House leader and MP for Beauséjour, the deputy House leader and MP for Winnipeg North, the MP for Random—Burin—St. George's, the MP for Cape Breton—Canso, the MP for Mount Royal, and the MP for Sydney—Victoria.
    These opposition MPs must not just talk the talk, they must walk the walk. Rather than contributing to the problem, the opposition should be supporting our reforms.
    We also know where we stand: break the rules and one will face serious criminal consequences. We are already taking the necessary action, and we will take further steps to make sure the program is fixed. That is why I will not be supporting the NDP motion.
    Mr. Speaker, the problem is that we know, because of the egregious reports from the media from coast to coast to coast, that there have been serious abuses of this program. However, one area in which I do not see the government taking responsibility is in the fact that it is the government that gives out the LMOs.
    I looked up the Victoria situation where LMOs were given out to McDonald's. This is a city with high youth unemployment. What kind of a common-sense approach was taken in an area with high youth unemployment that LMOs were approved for temporary foreign workers? What kind of improvements would the government make to the LMOs and take responsibility for them?
     Second, would my colleague agree that an audit is a good beginning to fixing the program?

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the proportion of labour market needs is different in different regions of our country; yet we are designing a program that tries to fit across the nation. Of course, we are a national government and we want to try to put in place programs that are equal across the nation. That is why we have taken steps now to suspend and put a moratorium on the introduction of new temporary foreign workers, and to provide opportunities for a correction process to be put in place. We have done this because we have listened to Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, obviously, we want to what is best for Canadians. Decisions have to be made based on actual evidence. Could my colleague share with us what bank of evidence the government would have gone to two and a half years ago to go forward with an accelerated LMO process and the ability to pay 15% less to temporary foreign workers than to Canadian workers? Did it use the same bank of data and information to revoke those initial changes that it had put in? Where is the reference to the data?
    Mr. Speaker, the member heard my comments and those of my predecessors here today, including the minister in charge, that we have suspended the accelerated labour market opinion process. That is so we can learn from the process that will take place with regard to listening to Canadians further across our nation before the moratorium may be lifted, or to see what types of improvement may be made to a very successful program in many areas of Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise in the House to address concerns raised regarding the temporary foreign worker program. However, before we can address these concerns, we need a clear understanding of what those concerns are, and I want to be absolutely clear that Canadians must always be first in line for the available jobs.
    The temporary foreign worker program exists for one reason, and one reason only: to be a temporary, last resort solution when qualified Canadians are not available at the moment. There are times when Canada's labour supply cannot always meet the needs of businesses in this country, but that does not change the facts. Canadians must always—I reiterate, must always—be first in line for available jobs.
    Over the last few weeks, Employment and Skills Development Canada has been made aware of some serious allegations of employers' abuse of this program. Again, our position is very clear. Our government will not tolerate any abuse of this program. When the Minister of Employment and Social Development heard disturbing allegations about the hiring practices of a McDonald's franchise in Victoria, he took immediate action. Inspectors were on site within 24 hours; all labour market opinions in process for this franchise were suspended pending the outcome of the investigation; and it has been publicly blacklisted. Other allegations are being investigated on an urgent basis.
    These actions, coupled with last week's suspension of the food services sector's access to the temporary foreign worker program, have made it clear that we do not take allegations of abuse lightly. The temporary foreign worker program remains under ongoing review, and until that review is completed, the food services industry faces a moratorium, given the increasing number of disturbing allegations concerning the use of this program. Our government repeatedly warned employers that the temporary foreign worker program must only be used as a last and limited resort when Canadians are not available. Even in spite of this, serious concerns remained.
    While opposition members still cry foul, they have been asking for foreign workers for businesses in their own ridings. Members of the opposition, NDP and third party Liberals, have regularly made these requests. Our government recognizes that there are challenges in today's economy posed by employers being unable to find workers, but when opposition MPs make these requests, they often do so for businesses that have already been denied labour market opinions because they could not demonstrate that Canadians were genuinely unavailable. The answers to such problems should not be to seek the ear of the government. It is for employers to raise wages for Canadians to attract them to the jobs. Our government has said this before, and I am saying it again.
    Not long ago in this very place, the Minister of Employment and Social Development noted that a member of the opposition asked for temporary foreign workers for a hotel whose labour market opinion was rejected. Then there is the Liberal Party, which many times asked for temporary foreign workers for a restaurant because of the famous Hollywood celebrities who frequent it. This restaurant, too, had its request for temporary foreign workers turned down by existing program standards. I would remind the opposition that the point of using the temporary foreign worker program is to be temporary only until Canadians are found, not in place of them.
    I want to provide a quick example. In British Columbia, there are very significant concerns in terms of a mine with language requirements. That was clearly something that disturbed British Columbians. I want to contrast that with a recent announcement I made with the First Nations Employment Society, which is an organization responsible for supporting aboriginals in the labour market. We were providing funds three years in advance of when Seaspan was looking toward having to build the ships for which it has a contract. It is looking at training local Canadians and recognizes that it is going to have a need. It really supports how we are going to go about training young Canadians from across the country in terms of meeting those needs now. That is a very important piece. Businesses and organizations should be projecting what their needs are and actually having a plan in terms of how they are going to get the employees they need.
    To go back to the temporary foreign worker program, we have taken steps to ensure that this program continues to work the way it is supposed to, and there will be serious consequences, including jail time, for those who try to use it in ways it was never meant for.

  (1235)  

    As announced in economic action plan 2013, we are taking action to reform the temporary foreign worker program to ensure that Canadians continue to be given the first chance at available jobs. The results of these changes have strengthened and will continue to strengthen and improve the program to support economic recovery and growth and ensure that more employers hire Canadians before temporary foreign workers.
    Just last April we eliminated the wage flexibility to make sure that employers use the prevailing wage consistent with what Canadians receive.
    We have ensured employers maintain a workplace free from abuse, a safe and secure working environment for foreign workers who are here under the program.
    We have accelerated the accelerated labour market opinion.
    Our government has added new questions to the labour market opinion application process to make sure no Canadians are displaced as a result of this outsourcing.
    Similar to the issue that I mentioned a few minutes ago, we have made changes to ensure that French and English are the only language requirements that are identified.
    Our government has introduced a processing fee so that the cost of moving the temporary foreign worker program forward is no longer absorbed by taxpayers but by employers. This means a better outcome for employers and a fair system that keeps job-seeking Canadians at the front of the line.
    Late last year we also made changes that empower the government to do four things. First, we are able to do inspections to make sure employers are meeting the conditions of the program, which is very important. Second, we are now able to ban employers who abuse the system from the program for two years and immediately put their names on a blacklist. Third, we have strengthened the criteria for assessing labour market opinions. Fourth, our government has the power to revoke or suspend LMOs and work permits and refuse to process LMO applications.
    Canadians must always be first in line for available jobs. That is our message to employers and it is a clear and unambiguous message. If the opposition has any doubt about that, it can talk to the food service industry.
    Our government will continue to ensure employers make greater effort to recruit and train Canadians. We will continue to remind them of the program's intention. It is a last and limited resort when Canadian workers are not available.

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, my question to my friend across the way is quite specific. What took the government so long?
    In 2009 the Auditor General pointed out significant and serious problems. As my colleague said in her comments, this program should be the place of last resort. For over five years the government has known that is not how the program has been used. For over five years the government has known that the program has been abused. Suddenly the government has found religion on this issue and I cannot help but think it is connected to the headlines that have suddenly hit the newspapers about the most egregious abuses.
    How is my colleague able to rationalize her government's promotion of this program? The government spent Canadian taxpayers' money promoting the program. How can her government justify allowing it to be abused for so long when the C.D. Howe Institute of all places has said that the program has had a suppressive effect on wages and a negative effect on those seeking employment?
    For a government that is supposed to be concerned about jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity, does the temporary foreign worker program fit into that mantra that it has repeated ad nauseam without any actual effect behind it?
    Does the government take any responsibility for the program that it has allowed to be abused and has taken five years to correct once it was—
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Mr. Speaker, I find it incredibly ironic that the member can stand up in the House and talk about this program when many opposition members have begged the minister to have this program in their own ridings. They have said the program is needed.
    We really need to reflect on this issue. There is a true need for this program. It has been around for some time. Some places in this country have issues in terms of employers being able to fill positions, so therefore we need to hit the appropriate balance.
    Again, it is hypocritical for opposition members to suggest that their party does not support this program and they do not want temporary foreign workers in their ridings.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives like to say that this is an isolated incident and that they have taken corrective action but we know better. We have seen it in the mining sector, the banking sector, the service sector and so on.
    I have a fundamental question for my colleague. One in seven jobs that has been created in this country has gone to a temporary foreign worker. Is my colleague comfortable with that? Does she feel that is right?
    Mr. Speaker, what I am very comfortable with is if every Canadian who would like that job has been given the opportunity and that if there is no one available the temporary foreign worker program fills an important gap and role in helping our businesses in a temporary nature. Again, what we need to do is recognize that Canadians absolutely should have the first opportunity for every job. There are occasions when our employers across the country have true issues in terms of their businesses, and this program is there to fill that gap.
    Mr. Speaker, I must admit to being somewhat surprised by the comments from the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, a member of the New Democratic caucus.
     I recall, just a few months ago, appearing before the heritage committee when the NDP heritage critic berated me, as did the other New Democratic MPs, for the temporary foreign worker program. This is all on the record in the public domain. They berated me for the temporary foreign worker program being too bureaucratic, too slow-moving, too many checks and balances, and too much scrutiny and oversight. It is absolutely true and on the record that the New Democrats wanted rapid, almost unlimited access for the computer gaming industry, particularly in Montreal, to access high-skilled temporary foreign workers.
    I had the heritage critic for the NDP criticizing this government for not exempting foreign musicians coming to Canada from the requirement for a labour market opinion. Guess what? This government's position was endorsed by the Canadian musicians' union, which thought that the NDP was being too lax in its policy on the program.
    Does the member think it is not peculiar that the New Democrats say one thing in this debate, but quite something else whenever it comes to an interest group that they favour?

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, again what is happening here is that the minister is just pointing out the hypocritical nature of the debate here. Again, we have a program that fills a gap, we need to ensure it is working right, and we need to ensure that all Canadians have the first opportunity for the available jobs.
    Mr. Speaker, I am intrigued by the minister's and the Conservatives' comments, simply because a system that the Conservatives allowed to be exploited is somehow the NDP's fault, a system that the Liberals created, let's give fair attribution.
    I will be splitting my time with my friend from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
    It is fascinating how, when the Conservatives get caught doing wrong, their first reaction is not to fix the problem, it is to look for someone to blame. We saw it with the so-called minister of undemocratic reform, saying that the problem was the head of Elections Canada. Sheila Fraser is the problem. The problem is the NDP, not his bill. His bill was perfect. The Conservatives' first instinct is to blame others, rather than take any kind of responsibility for a program that they allowed to explode. The minister allowed it to explode under his watch, yet somehow it is somebody else's fault.
    Growing up in politics means that we take ownership from time to time of decisions that we make. The Conservatives do not want to take ownership of this decision because the economic impacts on Canadians, on wages, and on the job vacancy rate have been real, and have helped contribute in their own way to the significant problems that the middle-class working Canadians have faced. These problems are that real wages have been stagnant for almost a generation, that we are seeing incredibly high debt loads, and that we are seeing Canadians time and again working harder just to stay in the same place.
    The temporary foreign worker program, in a sense, has become the poster child for bad Conservative management of the economy. The Conservatives allowed a program that was meant to be awfully specific, as the minister said. It should be legal, it should be fair, and it should be rare, as opposed to how the Conservatives applied it, where they sped up the process for LMOs to 10 days and allowed companies to slip through the program without any real scrutiny.
    We saw it in the most egregious cases. Was it HD Mining? The minister will remind me. It was allowed permits for 200 miners to work in Canada, with almost no scrutiny from the federal government at all.
    The government can only play a certain role in our economy, and it should only play a certain role, but one of them is looking out for the public interest. I represent northwestern British Columbia. It is a beautiful place that is resource rich. Oftentimes, when I meet with resource companies, one of the arguments that they use, which is a pretty good one, is to say that these are jobs that cannot be exported. When we are knocking down trees, mining, or fishing, these are jobs that we just physically cannot export. Somehow, the Conservatives found a way to export these jobs too.
    We would think that service industry jobs, ones where we have to deal with a customer face to face, rather than telephone banking where people sit on the phones waiting, could not be exported because they have to be done here in Canada. That way, if the economy does well, Canadians should do well. However, Conservatives have somehow ended up creating a system allowing it to be exploited so that even if the economy were to pick up, Canadians would not receive the full benefit.
    It is so similar to the Conservatives' policies on resource management in general. Conservatives are very happy with a “rip and ship” attitude to just drop the raw resources and send them somewhere else to have the value added there, not deriving the full benefit that we could, whether it is the mining, oil or forestry industries, all the way down the line. For those watching and listening to this debate who live in the city, and are not connected to the resource sector, know that the cities of this country, which are the economic engines, only survive because of the fuel and energy that are supplied by the rural parts of this country, the resource areas, the agriculture, mining, forestry, and oil sectors. Without the two working in conjunction for a fair and better economy, it is going to be very difficult.
    The exploitation of this system cuts both ways. One would argue that the abuses upon the Canadian worker in suppressing and keeping Canadian wages down has a serious and significant effect. It is part of the reason why Canadians have one of the highest personal debt rates in the world. It is one of the reasons why real wages, when adjusted for inflation, have not moved much at all for 35 years. It is one of the reasons why Canadians, when asked about the hope for the next generation, are feeling more and more pessimistic about the opportunities for their children and grandchildren.
    All of this has been aided and abetted by bad Conservative policies. They are policies that have gone to such an extreme that only with screaming headlines in the national media do the Conservatives actually react. The minister knows that the Auditor General's report of 2009 pointed out serious problems with the program that he allowed to expand. Did he react? Did he take charge of the situation, and say that this was hurting the Canadian economy, that he would step in and take some ownership? He did not.

  (1250)  

    We saw the Conservatives making these so-called tough efforts, taking this issue seriously in 2011 when they introduced the blacklist. I am curious if the minister can update us on, since 2011, how many companies ended up on this blacklist for abusing the program? If there are no companies on the blacklist, one would then assume that the program is not being abused.
    In Alberta alone, there were only 100 cases last year. Only in the last 30 days has a company ended up on this blacklist. So much for tough-on-crime Conservatives. They really get out there and get tough when it is white collar crime.
    Here is the foundation of this, which I am sure frustrates many Conservative-minded people. One would assume that those who sit within the Conservative cabinet would hold Conservative principles toward the economy, such principles as supply and demand, that if an employer is unable to find employees when offering a contract, then that employer would then have a couple of choices: not filling the position or raising the offer.
    CEOs of major corporations in our country make that argument all the time. The Conservative government makes that argument when justifying the bonuses it pays to top civil servants, the argument that if we want to attract the best, we have to pay them, that if we want to get better and better people, we have to compensate them accordingly.
    However, that same measure does not apply to people who are not in the Conservative world view of being important, people working in the service sector, people working in some of the industries that we have been talking about. When companies come to them and say that they simply cannot find any Canadians willing to accept this wage, the Conservatives tell them that they have a solution and that they will make this temporary foreign worker program.
     Today, and every day, 300,000 people went to work under this program in Canada. That is an estimate, by the way. Actual numbers from the Conservatives are a bit like a unicorn, mythological. Every once in a while they make reference to them, but no one has ever actually seen the numbers.
    It seems that when one tries to break apart the ideology behind this, it is not a Conservative ideology. It is actually quite a radical ideology that says that the market forces in play should not be allowed to exert their pressures in a natural way, that if employers are offering a wage at a certain level and nobody fills the position, that the employer then has to adjust their offer.
    I was in small business before politics. It was pretty obvious to me. It seemed to work out well for most of the successful businesses I knew.
    This labour shortage mantra that the minister and others have been ranting about to justify this program has also been shown not to be entirely true. The Parliamentary Budget Office is an office created by the Conservatives. I think they regret that day. I think they regret the day they actually sought to have truth in accounting for government, which was a Reform idea. Every time the Parliamentary Budget Office offers truth to the Conservatives' ideology, they simply reject the evidence that is before them.
    Increasingly, from the cancellation of the long-form census to the absolute miserable labour market data that we have in our country, which is decreasingly reliable, it seems the Conservatives much prefer that ideology over evidence. If the evidence does not fit the ideology, well then the they just ignore the evidence.
    We see this right now with the Conservative promise for income splitting. It is a $5 billion to $6 billion promise. It is not cheap. It will affect, and help, 14% of Canadians. Eighty-six per cent of Canadians will never see a benefit from this promise. The former finance minister, Hon. Jim Flaherty, a good man, well remembered since his tragic passing, argued publicly and in speeches that this was a very costly program that would not benefit everyone.
    Instead of listening to the evidence of his own finance minister and the evidence of economists, as well as the actual hard numbers available, the Conservatives continue the mantra that it must be good because they say it is good. The temporary foreign worker program, again, should be legal, fair and rare, as opposed to the way the Conservatives have allowed abuses to go on.
    The minister is going to get up and make all sorts of protestations about the NDP doing this and that, and yet never has there been a moment when I heard him take responsibility for his own creation, his own part in the allowance of the abuses that have gone on under his watch in a program that he augmented and increased. That is a shame. Denial is a long river in Egypt. He should do better on this and actually own up to what he helped create.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, if the member actually wants a debate based on facts and not facile political rhetoric, I would invite him to look at the facts of the program. To be absolutely honest, not many people do this because it is complex. Within what we call the temporary foreign worker program, which I think is a misnomer, there are actually a whole lot of different programs.
    I wonder if the member would care to reflect on this. For example, is he aware that 62% of the so-called temporary foreign workers, who are foreign nationals getting work permits in Canada, are coming through streams that do not require labour market opinions, typically things like, for example, high-skilled intercompany transferees, or an executive comes in for a few months, or a lawyer comes up to work on a deal or a university brings in a foreign researcher. I have never heard any objections about this.
    I am wondering honestly, and let us try to put the politics on the low dial for a moment, does he object to streams like that? Does he object to the international experience Canada programs, which are based on reciprocal agreements we have with various countries that allow young Canadians to work abroad for a few months and vice versa? That is actually one-quarter of the program and represents half of the growth and the flow of TFWs to Canada. Is the member focused on any particular stream? Is it low-skilled with LMO, or is it so broad that he objects to even the high-skilled reciprocal kind?
    Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what I repeated twice in my speech for the minister. We believe the program should be legal, fair, rare and specified. The minister has not read the motion that is in front of us. I know he is a busy guy, but it is what we are debating today. I believe the minister used some patrimonial lines toward me as he started his comments and now he does not like getting any of it back. He can choose whether he agrees with the motion as it is stated or not.
    The minister is asking me if we want to abolish the program entirely. I am not sure if I read that in the motion before us today. He can insinuate that it is, and the Conservatives have. The talking points from the PMO have clearly told Conservatives that this is the approach they should take rather than the facts as the minister likes to say. The facts are right in the motion before us. If the minister does not agree with the motion before us, of course he will vote against it. He had another opportunity here to take some ownership of the exploitation that he knows and has finally acknowledged has gone on in the program.
    Has the minister acknowledged that the exploitation has gone on? Of course he has, because the Conservatives have just put a temporary ban on service sector workers in the fast food industry. Obviously it was exploited. Obviously it was under his watch. Obviously at some point he should take some ownership for the actions that were of his own creation. There are the politics, there is the reality, he could own up to it.
    Mr. Speaker, I will adopt the approach the minister has taken to take the politics out of this and look at the facts. He referenced the reciprocal agreement with other nations where Canadians could go to a specific nation and it in turn could send people to Canada.
    If he thinks that program is working really well, we know that there are about 380 Croatians working in Canada. Meanwhile there are four Canadians working in Croatia. He can check the order paper. These are actually stats. My numbers are off a bit, but about 700 people from Poland are working here and about 4 Canadians are working in Poland. We are getting jacked on those beautiful arrangements too. Therefore, let us take the politics out of this.
     I am going to defend my NDP colleagues for a second. The Conservatives have attacked the NDP for soliciting support. There are aspects of this program that are essential to maintaining Canadian jobs, and I stand by that. However, let us open this up. Let us fix this problem so it serves Canadians and not discriminates against them or hurts them.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend across the way because what I have noticed from the Conservatives, and the minister in particular, is that they have chosen to say two things which are not true. One is that the NDP wants to get rid of the program, full stop. That is clearly not what the motion says today. My colleague from Newton—North Delta has been explicitly clear, yet Conservatives perpetuate the lie again and again.
    The second thing is that I have had a number of colleague who have gone to clarify where an application for foreign temporary worker program is, a specific application to the minister. He has flipped that around and said that the NDP is begging him for this. That is hypocritical.
    My friend talked about reciprocity, and I would welcome the minister and any of his colleagues to talk about reciprocity. If they want to talk about the actual motion we are dealing with to make the program actually work, because we think it is a program that could work rather than the rhetoric from the Conservatives, we welcome it. However, if they are going to vote against this motion, that speak volumes to where the Conservatives are right now, which is caught having caused great harm to the Canadian economy and unwilling to this point to even own up to a little of it.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise to speak to this opposition day motion, and I want to start by stating the obvious: that as Canadians we are, apart from first nations, a nation of immigrants and refugees. Those of us who arrived here first have always been very welcoming of those who come after. We have always welcomed those who want to come here to build the country and create stability for their families, and in doing so, create a loyalty to Canada.
    Now we are in the unfortunate situation where we have expanded the temporary foreign worker program so much that each year we have more and more temporary foreign workers and we have more temporary foreign workers in the country than we have immigrants every year.
     Despite long wait lists for immigration by those who would love to come to Canada to make a solid future here, despite long wait lists for family reunification for people who have been waiting years for their parents or their children to come here, it is very hard for me to see how we have arrived in the situation where immigrants are still waiting to have their applications considered for six, eight, ten years, where the Conservatives have simply thrown away applications, just cancelled them, from skilled workers who want to come to this country.
    It is very hard for me to see how we got to where we are today, other than to say that clearly the Conservatives have put a wrong emphasis on the temporary foreign worker program rather than on immigration and family reunification. This is an emphasis that I think most Canadians, if they were they aware of it, would never support.
    We have been a welcoming country. We want people to come and join us here. We recognize that long-term immigrants will help to build a better future for all of us and a better future for their families.
    We all know the experiences other countries have had when they have created guest worker programs, especially those in Europe, where they deny people long-term rights to be part of society, to be part of the country in which they are working. I belong to the school of thought to which I think most Canadians belong. If people are good enough to come and work here every day, then they are good enough to stay here and share Canada with us.
    I am not opposed to the temporary foreign worker program. As my hon. colleague who spoke before me said, there are some legitimate skills shortages in our economy that need to be filled on a temporary basis. All New Democrats accept that. If highly-skilled, specialized people are needed and a search has been done for Canadians and no one is found, none of us on this side would object to filling those jobs temporarily with foreign workers. However, we do not support a program that displaces Canadian residents and denies access to entry level jobs to both youth and to new Canadians.
    We have high youth unemployment rates in my community. We have high unemployment rates for first nations. We have high unemployment rates for new Canadians, all of whom would like access to those entry level jobs to get a start on their future for them and their families. Instead, their future is being blocked by the very large numbers of temporary foreign workers in my community.
    We have called for a moratorium for the issuance of permits for lower skilled occupations: those in fast food and those in the service industry. Why have we done this? As we have said, there is a need for a pause here to conduct an audit and to let us have a look at the impact of this vast expansion of the temporary foreign worker program.
    It is not that we do not have evidence already. The CD Howe Institute, a group which I, like most New Democrats, usually do not cite, did a study on the impact on British Columbia and Alberta on the presence of temporary foreign workers. Its findings were very specific. It found that the unemployment rate had been driven up by perhaps as much as 4% by the presence of temporary foreign workers. It also found that the impact of temporary foreign workers was to depress wages.
    In those sectors of our economy where people are having trouble hiring employees, the normal thing we would see is an increase in wages in those jobs to attract people to the job. Instead, those positions are being filled by temporary foreign workers.
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer, whose office the Conservatives must regret having created, is an independent officer of Parliament who works from the facts. When the Conservatives crow about the vast increases of employment they claim to have been responsible for in Canada, the PBO pointed out that at least 25% of all new jobs in Canada since the recession had gone to temporary foreign workers. That is a very large number of jobs that might otherwise have gone to Canadians.
    If we stop for a moment and look very specifically at my community on lower Vancouver Island, I will restate some facts: youth unemployment is in double digit; first nations unemployment is in double digit; and unemployment for new Canadians is also in double digit.

  (1305)  

    However, we have found more than 26 employers employing hundreds of temporary foreign workers in entry-level occupations.
    Now, there may be some high-skilled temporary foreign workers working in my riding. That is absolutely possible. However, these 26 employers are McDonald's, Tim Hortons franchises, and pizza franchises. These are 26 employers employing hundreds of workers.
    I also want to make it clear that I have no problem with the workers who come to Canada as temporary foreign workers. In my community, they are almost all from the Philippines. They came to Canada to seek a better life. They were often falsely promised that becoming a temporary foreign worker in Canada would provide a path to permanent residency here, so they came to Canada in good faith, expecting to be able to make a life here and expecting to be able to eventually bring their families to Canada. They were just trying to do what is best for them.
    Many of those on the Lower Island actually came to Canada after being employed in the Middle East, where they had no possibility of getting any permanent residency status. They actually left jobs with higher wages and better working conditions in Kuwait and other countries in the Middle East to take jobs on the Lower Island.
    I know that some of the confusion has been caused by our live-in caregiver program, which again on Lower Vancouver Island is almost entirely staffed by people from the Philippines. The difference between the temporary foreign worker program and the live-in caregiver program is that the live-in caregiver program does provide that path to permanent residency in Canada, so after completing four years of work, it is possible to become a permanent resident, to reunify the family in Canada, and to help become a part of that future that we will all share together.
    However, temporary foreign workers have been falsely promised that the same path is open to them, and many of them are in a quite difficult situation now, having borrowed money to come to Canada to take up these low-paying jobs.
    What we have is a case of denying opportunities to Canadians while at the same time creating ideal conditions for exploiting temporary foreign workers.
    I would argue that those in entry-level jobs are, by the nature of the program, very vulnerable to exploitation. Often they are ill-informed as to labour standards in Canada, having come from other countries. As a result, they are not really sure if they are eligible for overtime. They are not really sure when the employer says, “Oh, to keep this job you have to rent an apartment from me.” They are not really sure how this all works in Canada. They are often pressured into what I would call side agreements, under which they pay inordinate amounts for housing or for transportation to the job, as well as paying all kinds of other fees to their employers.
    As I mentioned earlier, quite often in my community I have talked to temporary foreign workers who have paid fees exceeding $4,000 each to get the job in Canada. We all know that is illegal. The minister says if we know of cases of abuses, we should individually, as MPs, report them.
    My problem with that idea is that this abuse has been well reported in the media. It is well known that this practice is going on and it is well known who is profiting from the fees charged to temporary foreign workers.
    Labour market recruiters charge not only temporary foreign workers to get the jobs but also the employers. We have people on the Lower Island who are making out like bandits on both ends of the temporary foreign worker program at the expense of those workers who are just trying to provide for their families.
    There is a danger of creating a rift in my community, but so far, thankfully, through the efforts of groups like the Bayanihan Community Centre, we have managed to avoid pitting the Canadian entry-level workers, the new Canadians who are already in Canada, against the temporary foreign workers. The community centre has worked very hard to try to ensure that we keep the focus where it belongs, which is on the wrong-headed nature of the temporary foreign workers program.
     I myself have actually seen an email from an employer to a temporary foreign worker saying, “You are not allowed to go to the Bayanihan Community Centre. If you do so, you will be sent back to the Philippines.” They are in such a vulnerable situation that they cannot even go to the community centre that is offering some community support to those temporary foreign workers.
    As I said, government members seem surprised by the abuse that is taking place, and I find that very hard to believe. We can run through, as my colleague before me did, dates stretching back to the fall of 2009, when the Auditor General first reported abuses in the program, or 2011, when the government first created blacklists, or budget 2012, when it said it would align temporary foreign workers better with the labour market, or November of 2012, when it said it would review the program, or April of 2013, when it promised to review it again.

  (1310)  

    Now, in April 2014, we have this very narrow moratorium on the food services industry. What we are asking for, what we want, is a broader moratorium and an audit of the program. We want an outcome that would see both new Canadians and young Canadians getting the first chance at entry-level jobs and an end to the exploitation of temporary foreign workers.
    Mr. Speaker, I know the intent of the motion from the NDP and I agree to a certain extent. However, I am concerned with that part of the motion that calls for a full-fledged moratorium on the stream of lower-skilled occupations, which include fast food service and restaurant jobs. I am wondering if anyone could explain to me if seasonal farm workers also fall into that category.
    I just got off the phone with a farmer in Prince Edward Island. He has three temporary foreign workers and four locals. These farms are not all big operations, but those workers maintain that operation and the economy. Today, for whatever reason, it being a damp day, some of the locals did not show up. I will quote what this farmer said. He said, “I don't know what we'd do if we didn't have these three foreign workers that fall under the seasonal agricultural worker program”.
    Could the member give me the assurance that this motion would not place seasonal farm workers into that moratorium?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Malpeque for his question, but he has answered his own question by naming the program at the end. It is separate and it is a different line. The moratorium we are calling for would have no impact on the agricultural workers.
    However, I want to add to that the interesting thing that we heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and yesterday from the Minister of Employment himself. Both of them are calling for higher wages and better working conditions. it is a bit ironic to see the Minister of Employment and the parliamentary secretary for labour calling for higher wages and better working conditions. That is not something we usually hear coming from that side of the House, but that is obviously the ultimate fix to these shortages.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very thoughtful speech and his very balanced way of looking at the issue of temporary foreign workers. As he articulates, the idea here is not to blame the temporary foreign workers, who come here in good faith and often suffer abuse at the hands of employers and at the hands of some not-so-nice consultants along the way as well.
    Over and over again the government keeps wanting to blame just the employer, but I am reminded over and over again that the LMOs are given by the government. The reciprocal of the program is administered by the government. The 62% the minister talked about that do not require LMOs are administered by the government.
    Do you believe that the audit is one way to start fixing this broken program totally?

  (1315)  

    Before I go to the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, I want to remind this member and all hon. members, as I have multiple times recently, to address their comments and questions to the Chair and not directly to their colleagues.
    The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
    Mr. Speaker, I guess I am in the lucky position today, as members seem to ask questions to me that they have already answered themselves in the question.
    Obviously it is the member for Newton—North Delta's motion today, and it is very true that we need an audit so that the evidence can be placed before the government. It apparently is not willing to read what is out there for the common person to see in the media, which is that we know there are abuses to this program.
    Therefore, let us have a formal audit. Let us place that information before the House of Commons and then let us act to build a stronger Canada for those who want to come and build a future here with their families.
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be able to participate in this important debate today on the topic of the temporary foreign worker program.
    At the outset, I would like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.
    I want to be clear about where we stand. Canadians must always be given the first crack at available jobs.
     The temporary foreign worker program is largely employer-driven. It is meant as a short-term solution for Canadian employers, who should only use it as a last resort when it is absolutely impossible to fill positions with Canadian workers. That is a critical point.
    The program is not designed to take jobs away from Canadians and it must never take jobs away from Canadians. As a government, we are obliged to ensure the program is not abused in this way. That is an obligation that we welcome. That is why the Minister of Employment and Social Development felt the need last week to take action to put in place a moratorium on the access of the food services sector to the temporary foreign worker program pending the government's ongoing policy review of this program.
    The minister's actions came in the wake of serious allegations of abuse in this particular sector. We underline this government's commitment to combat such abuse and to ensure that employers always make efforts to hire Canadians first before making use of the temporary foreign worker program. That is why the food services sector is now facing a moratorium on the temporary foreign workers program. It is a temporary moratorium that will last until our government finishes its ongoing review.
    When our government hears allegations of misuse, allegations about the labour market being distorted, or allegations about Canadians being displaced, we take action, unlike the NDP, which keeps asking for more temporary foreign workers for businesses in their ridings while at the same time calling for the program to be shut down.
    It is simply stunning to listen to the New Democrats bring forward this kind of motion, because it does not seem to fit with their continuous calls for more temporary foreign workers in their ridings. We have had calls from the NDP deputy leader and MP for Vancouver East and the NDP MPs for Halifax, Ottawa Centre, Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Skeena—Bulkley Valley
    The member for Malpeque is rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, this is a backbench member. How could a backbench member have access to confidential information that should be privileged only to the minister's office on who asked for temporary foreign workers? It is malarkey that this can happen. A backbench member who does not have access to the files is releasing what should be confidential and privileged information between members of Parliament who do their job in asking for something in their riding, and the minister's department is supposed to handle it.
    There is something wrong here.
    The Chair thanks the member for Malpeque for raising this point. The Chair will look into this and will return to the House with a ruling on that point if necessary.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Wild Rose.

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would just respond that I did hear some of these particular lists from that end of the chamber in debate today, so it seems to be a matter of public record somehow. Anyway, I do note that there have been several requests, and of course the Liberal members are certainly among the many who did not want to be outdone by the New Democrats in trying to find ways to push and pull or to suck and blow at the same time. Far be it for the Liberal Party to be outdone in that regard.
    To underscore the point I was making, it is disingenuous and certainly stunning, in my opinion, to hear a party bring forward a motion like this. Those members talk about trying to shut down a program that they are continuously asking for greater use of, so that is an important point to make.
    Moving on, in recent years our government has made a number of reforms to this program, and they are made with the view of ensuring that Canadian workers always get the first crack at available jobs. They are made also to protect foreign workers from exploitation and abuse.
    For example, in economic action plan 2012, our government announced the intention to better ensure that businesses look at the domestic labour force before accessing the temporary foreign worker program.
    In economic action plan 2013, the government announced further changes to strengthen and improve the program once again by, among other things, ensuring that temporary foreign workers are relied upon only when Canadians genuinely cannot fill the jobs, and by requiring that employers increase their recruitment efforts to hire Canadians before they will be eligible to apply for temporary foreign workers.
    Then at the end of last year, improvements to the temporary foreign worker program took effect that strengthened our government's ability to assess and monitor employers to ensure they are using the program as it was intended to be used, and those improvements also increased protection for foreign workers. These included measures like the imposition of conditions on employers who hire temporary foreign workers, to demonstrate that they are paying them proper wages and providing safe and healthy working conditions consistent with Canadian standards; the authority for government officials to conduct on-site inspections to ensure that employers are meeting the conditions of the program; legislative authority to impose significant penalties on employers who break the rules, including serious criminal sanctions, even jail time, for those caught lying on their applications about their efforts to hire Canadians first; the ability to revoke the LMOs of businesses not complying with the rules of the program; and the ability to ban non-compliant employers from the program for two years and to add their names to a blacklist that is available publicly, where they are named and shamed for their misuse of the program. All these initiatives help to ensure that the temporary foreign worker program does not undercut the recruitment of unemployed skilled Canadians and permanent residents into the workforce.
     Of course, our government has also made efforts to improve the efficiency of the program and to ensure that it is responsive to labour market demands. In fact, a comprehensive review of the entire temporary foreign worker program has been under way for some time, and its findings will be critical to making improvements to the program. These improvements will better support the country's economy and enhance service to Canadian employers in need of workers.
    I can assure all hon. members of this House that the government is very eager to ensure that a temporary foreign worker program serves Canadians well, that it complements the domestic job market, that it is not misused to deny jobs to qualified Canadians, and that any potential changes to the program help it best meet labour market demands. I cannot stress enough that the government is focused on ensuring that Canadians are getting the first crack at any available jobs and that employers are given the tools they need to match Canadian workers with the labour market needs in their respective industries.

  (1325)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that the none of the facts in my colleague's speech have been verified nor are they true. My colleague said that the NDP wants to shut down the program, which is absolutely not true. The motion, as drafted, only talks about a moratorium. If my colleague needs a dictionary, I would be happy to give him one so he could at least look up the definition of “moratorium”.
    The C.D. Howe Institute, a non-partisan institution, said that changes to the program between 2002 and 2013, which made it easier to hire temporary foreign workers, accelerated the rise in unemployment in Alberta and British Columbia during that same period. The report also adds—and it is important to point this out—that the rules were relaxed even though there was little empirical evidence of skills shortages.
    How does my colleague explain that?

[English]

    The first comment I would make, Mr. Speaker, is that since the member across the way talks about using a dictionary, I suggest she use a dictionary and look up the word “context”. Context is an important word for her to understand when I talk about the NDP's position on this issue. Trying to argue polar opposite ends of the spectrum is a very difficult position.
    The context I talk about is important. Sure, the NDP has a motion today to put a moratorium on the program, but having listened to the comments it made publicly in the past and in the House, I find there is no question that while, on one hand, it asks for more temporary foreign workers, it really wants to shut down the program down as well. The context is very important, and I ask that she use a dictionary and look up that word.
    I have made it very clear that the most important aspect is that Canadians must always—and I have to make sure they are sure of this—always be given first crack at available jobs and that this government takes very seriously any misuse or abuse by employers of this program. If there is any misuse or abuse, there are significant consequences that would be applied in any case. Canadians are always to be given first crack.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the word “context” to which the member made reference. Let us put it into proper context in that, prior to the government's management of the temporary foreign worker program, there was no problem. This is a problem that was created in the last four or five years due to the government not doing its job in terms of oversight and establishing proper checks to make sure Canadians are, in fact, being afforded the opportunities for employment.
    My question to the member is specifically this. The government talks tough when this issue surfaces, but in reality, its actions fall quite short. I am wondering if the member can indicate to the House when he believes the government was first aware that there were issues with the way in which the government was allowing the number of LMOs being released through the program. When was he first aware that there was any problem that needed to be addressed?
    Mr. Speaker, the member talks about talking tough. When we talk about the significant consequences, I find it a stretch to say that we are simply talking tough. We are talking about employers lying on their applications about their efforts to hire Canadians first and facing serious criminal sanctions, including the possibility of jail time. When we talk about LMOs being removed and employers being banned from using the program, being named and shamed on a very public blacklist, that does not sound like talking tough to me. That sounds like taking action, and that is what our government is doing.
    None of those things existed when the Liberal government was in power. They all exist now. We as a government take very seriously any misuse or abuse of this program, and Canadians must always be given first crack at any available jobs.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, first I would like to express my thanks to the member for Wild Rose for sharing his time with me.
    I am certainly pleased to stand in the House of Commons today to address the motion raised by the hon. member for Newton—North Delta regarding the temporary foreign worker program.
    Our government's utmost priority is to ensure that Canadians always get first crack at available Canadian jobs. We are the first government to acknowledge that changes to the temporary foreign worker program are necessary, and that is precisely why our government has taken strong action to ensure that Canadians are first in line for available jobs and that employers do not abuse the program in any way, shape, or form.
    First of all, I think it is important to note that this program is not new. Canada has had a temporary foreign worker program for more than 40 years; since 1973, in fact. This type of program also exists in virtually every other country around the world, and I will also add that it was the previous Liberal government that opened up the low-skill stream in 2002.
    The program should only and always be used as a last and limited resort. That said, we became aware of a number of allegations of abuse in recent weeks in the food services sector, and we have been telling employers, loud and clear, that such abuse will not be tolerated.
     The temporary foreign worker program does not exist to take away jobs from Canadians, nor does it exist to facilitate the exploitation of foreign workers. As announced in economic action plans 2013 and 2014, our government is taking action to reform the program to ensure that the program is not abused in those ways and that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs.
    The results of these changes will strengthen and improve the program to support our economic recovery and growth, and ensure that more employers hire Canadians before hiring temporary foreign workers. Specifically, our government has already taken action to impose conditions on employers who hire temporary foreign workers to demonstrate that they are meeting the conditions of hiring them. These include paying them proper wages and providing safe and healthy working conditions consistent with Canadian standards.
    Of course, robust monitoring and compliance measures are important tools for ensuring employers are living up to their commitments with respect to wages, working conditions, and investments in training for Canadians. That is why we have also taken action to allow officials from the departments of citizenship and immigration and employment and social development to conduct inspections of employers who hire temporary foreign workers to ensure that they are meeting the conditions of employment.
    In addition, CIC can now revoke or suspend processing of work permits and ESDC can revoke, suspend, or refuse to process labour market opinions, or LMOs, which assess the impact that hiring temporary foreign workers would have on our domestic market. A positive LMO means there is a need for a foreign worker to fill a job and that no Canadian worker is available. Meanwhile, employers who fail to provide documentation as requested or who do not co-operate with an inspection can be barred from hiring temporary foreign workers for up to two years.
    With these reforms, officers will also be able to inspect an employer at any time during the employment of a temporary foreign worker and for up to six years after the start date of that worker's work permit. In addition, we now require employers to pay temporary foreign workers at the prevailing wage.
    We have added questions to employer LMO applications to ensure that the temporary foreign worker program is not used to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs.

  (1335)  

    We have also introduced fees for employers for the processing of LMOs and increased the fees for work permits so that the taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the cost. These fees have been vigorously opposed by both opposition parties. However, time and time again, we repeated that taxpayers should not be on the hook for processing applications for temporary foreign workers. Their employers should be.
    We have also put in place new rules to ensure that employers who rely on temporary foreign workers have a firm plan in place to transition to a Canadian workforce over time through the LMO process. More recently, in economic action plan 2014, our Conservative government also committed to introducing reforms to the temporary foreign worker program for workers who are exempt from the LMO process to ensure that the program continues to promote Canada's economic and labour market interests.
    If the opposition was serious about reforming this program, it would have voted for all of the reforms that we have already brought in. Instead, what we see is our friends in the NDP and the Liberal Party continuing to ask for more TFWs for their own ridings. Several members during debate today in the House said that they have asked the minister to support applications for TFWs. We know many others who have also done so on a regular basis.
    Despite the opposition asking for more TFWs, it has become obvious in recent weeks that even stronger action needs to be taken. Therefore, following the serious allegations of abuse, the minister announced last week that his department will no longer process any new or pending LMO applications related to the food services sector. In addition, any unfilled positions tied to a previously approved LMO will be suspended. This moratorium will remain in effect until the completion of the ongoing review of the temporary foreign worker program.
    Our Conservative government will not tolerate abuse of this program. Allegations of abuse or misuse will continue to be investigated, and any employer found to have violated the rules will face very serious consequences. Those employers who are found to have lied about their efforts to hire Canadians could face potential criminal prosecution, with sanctions that include fines and jail time.
    We want to make sure that this program best serves Canada's economy; that it serves to complement, not undercut, the recruitment of unemployed Canadians and permanent residents into the workforce; that it effectively provides service to Canadian employers facing short-term skills gaps; and that it is responsive to labour market demands. That is why we will continue to pursue significant reforms to the temporary foreign program to ensure that employers are genuine in their efforts to recruit and train Canadians, and that it is only used as a last and limited resort when Canadians are not available.
    We are responding. We are acting. We are improving this program to make it work for employers, for employees, and for all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, if I did not know any better, I would say that the speech was written and produced by the Prime Minister's Office and, I must say, somewhat delivered by the member. He seems to have to say all of the right words in order to impress his leader, quite frankly.
    When the member talked about the issue, he needs to recognize that he said “we are going to fix this issue” and “we are going to fix this problem”. The Conservatives like to pass on blame. What they need to do is take a look in a mirror and realize that the problem exists today because of the Conservative government. Prior to the government taking office, there was no problem. It is completely and 100% the responsibility of the Conservative government. The Prime Minister's Office has misinformed the member and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who is heckling from his seat.
    When was this particular minister first aware of the problem? We know that it has been there for years. They are only recently talking about taking these tough actions after it surfaced on numerous occasions. When did the minister first learn about the issues surrounding the temporary foreign worker program?

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the compliment from the member for Winnipeg North, but I am not the minister. I think if he has a direct question for the minister, he should ask the minister.
    I can certainly say that I have had some experience with the TFW program as a member of Parliament. I can say that, generally speaking, it is a very successful program. It works for the workers and it works for the employers.
    I am going to say that if an employer deliberately misleads, if an employer deliberately shows up and fills out forms incorrectly to get an LMO issued in their favour when they have not done the right work to make sure they are recruiting Canadians first, that is not just the program's fault, that is the applicant's fault. The applicant is misleading the Government of Canada. We are going to make sure that we toughen the system up to make sure those potential loopholes that have been identified are completely shut down, and that LMOs are only issued to bona fide companies that need them because they absolutely were not able to find Canadians to do the work.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member opposite.
    A C.D. Howe study was done that took a look at the fact that there was really little evidence of shortages in many of the low-skilled occupations that were being fast-tracked, and that the flood of foreign workers in two provinces added a cumulative 3.9 percentage points to the unemployment rates in the west.
    Now the NDP has called for an urgent audit of the program by the Auditor General. Part of the role that the Auditor General plays is taking a look at a department's programs, and the checks and balances in place to see if they are being effective in how the program is being managed.
    I have to ask the member why it is that the Conservatives are objecting to having the Auditor General review this program to see if the department has in place the appropriate checks and balances?
    Mr. Speaker, as we are all aware, the Auditor General is an independent officer of Parliament. The Auditor General can investigate, launch investigations, and do work on any department or agency of the government he wishes to do. If that is something he wishes to do, that is fine.
    Here is the difference. The government has to take responsibility and it has to do things that need to be done. What this minister is doing is taking responsibility, working in his department, and working with the officials to improve a program that is vital to Canada's economy. I know the opposition wants to throw the TFW program in the trash can. We want to improve it and make it better, and make sure that Canadians who can do the jobs and who are available to do the jobs get first crack at the jobs.
    Canada is a country that needs a temporary foreign worker program. We just need a better, stronger program.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
    I am honoured to rise today in the House to speak to the motion on behalf of my constituents in Surrey North. I do not know where to start. What a mess the Conservatives have created. They have badly bungled this program. I have no other way to describe it.
    There appears to be a trend in the government's response to a number of programs. Mention is being made in all of the papers across the country about Canadian workers being replaced by foreign workers. There is also the issue of abuse in the Senate by both Conservative and Liberal senators with regard to expenses. There is the issue of the government's inability to catch tax cheats. The current immigration program is being abused. Government programs in different departments are being abused and there seems to be a trend.
    The government appears to be getting old and growing tired. It has failed to provide leadership to Canadians in order to provide them with the services they need. It has failed to manage programs in the way Canadians expect them to be managed in this country.
    The Conservative government is once again failing Canadians in order to benefit their rich corporate friends. How is it that in a time of high employment, rather than striving to match hard-working Canadians with available jobs they are being replaced with temporary foreign workers? This is unprecedented. It is happening under the Conservative government.
    I have heard members of the Conservative government talk about the reforms they are bringing in and how they are investing money in their economic action plan. We have seen this picture many times before. This problem did not just happen yesterday. This has been an ongoing problem. The government has known about abuse in the temporary foreign worker program for years. In the fall of 2009 the Auditor General reported that the practices of HRDC “do not ensure the quality and consistency of decisions when issuing labour market opinions”. The government has known that this program has not been working since 2009, and perhaps prior to that. We have not had any answers from the minister in the House with regard to when he first knew about the problem. We know from the Auditor General that this abuse has been going on for the last nine years and yet the Conservatives get up in the House time and time again and say they are going to fix the problem. The Conservatives have failed to fix this problem for the last five years. It is unbelievable.
    In 2011 the Conservatives stood up in the House and said they were going to create a blacklist that would name employers who have broken the rules of the temporary foreign worker program. We have not seen any blacklist and no companies have been charged, yet in the House today members of the Conservative Party get up and use the talking points from the Prime Minister's Office to say that they are going to fix this problem, that they are matching Canadians with jobs. We know that is not happening and Canadians know that is not happening. It is time for the Conservative government to fix this for good.
    Let me give the House another example.
    In November 2012 over 200 low-skilled temporary foreign workers replaced workers at a mining company in British Columbia, my beautiful province. Many workers in my constituency were more than willing to go up north and work in the mines but the Conservatives chose to bring in those temporary foreign workers instead of employing Canadians.

  (1345)  

    Again, in April 2013, there was another example, so this problem was not created today. This has been going on for a number of years, and the government has been notified. We have brought this issue up in the House many times, and the Conservatives have promised to fix it. It has not been fixed.
    In April 2013, RBC brought in foreign workers to replace Canadians. The government has known about this. This was about a year ago, and Conservatives still have not worked on this matter.
    I could provide other examples of where the government has failed to act on temporary foreign workers. Under the Conservative government, the temporary foreign worker program has grown exponentially. There are over 350,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada at this point. When we look at the queue to get into this country on a permanent basis for family reunifications, it takes eight years, yet we are importing over 350,000 temporary foreign workers to this country.
    The Conservatives make up stats to justify programs that are seriously broken.
    We often hear Conservatives talk about market forces and how they drive our economy. If we look at the gas price today, it is $1.52 a litre in my constituency. I have had a number of constituents talk to me about high gas prices in this country. It adds to the cost of living for Canadians, yet the Conservatives will tell us that the market drives the prices, and there is nothing they can do. We have proposed many solutions. We have asked the government to appoint an ombudsman to look at these unfair gas prices.
    We have heard in the House over and over about high cellphone prices. We know the roaming charges we pay in this country. The government says that market forces drive competition, and it does not have any control over it.
    When it comes to wages, what do the Conservatives do? They use their power to drive down wages. How? It is with temporary foreign workers. Why do we not let the free market economy determine wages? No. It is a way to help the Conservatives' corporate friends. They will bring in temporary foreign workers to drive Canadian wages down. I do not know how the Conservatives can justify that to Canadians.
    They talk about the free market. Why do we not let the free market determine the wages of people who are going to be employed, especially Canadians? Yet the Conservatives interfere in low-paying jobs and low-skill jobs. They bring in foreign workers to drive down wages. That is not fair. When it comes to wages, the Conservatives do not believe in the invisible hand in the economy.
    It is clear that the Conservatives have created a double standard to please their big corporate friends. The government is assisting these companies to work around the marketplace to the disadvantage of Canadian workers for the sake of the bottom line and on the backs of Canadian families.
    The Conservatives will stand and talk about how they are going to fix this. The fact is, the problems have been ongoing in this program for the last four or five years. The Minister of Employment and Social Development is promising the House and Canadians that he will fix the problem. Unfortunately, Conservatives have failed Canadians. They have not worked hard enough to ensure that Canadian workers, not temporary foreign workers, are employed in good-paying jobs.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to talk about the importance of the Office of the Auditor General, which has done immense work in all sorts of areas. Canadians have a great deal of confidence in the auditor's office.
    Yesterday the deputy leader of the Liberal Party emphasized how important it was for Canada's Auditor General to investigate the temporary foreign worker program. There is a need to restore public confidence in the temporary foreign worker program.
    I am wondering if the member could emphasize the importance of the program and the way it was originally designed, back when we had Prime Minister Trudeau, in the seventies. He said that this program could be of great value to Canada. Over the years, it has demonstrated that. It is only in recent years, when it has been abused, that it has really caused problems. The benefits of having the Auditor General look into it with the idea of--

  (1355)  

    The hon. member for Surrey North.
    Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for the Auditor General and his office and the service he provides to Canadians. We have been asking the government to ask the Auditor General to conduct an independent review of the program, because the Conservatives have failed to deliver a good working program.
    As the member has pointed out, the temporary foreign worker program can be a good tool for our country, yet under the Conservative government, we have seen abuses year after year. This is not a problem that just popped up today. The government has known about it and it has failed to act. It is time the government acted on it and made sure that Canadians are employed before temporary foreign workers.
    Mr. Speaker, I think the foreign worker program raises profound issues for Canadians. It is not just the abuse of the program, as in the recent uncovering of employers who brought foreign workers here and displaced Canadian workers. When we look at an incident like the XL beef plant, where E. coli got into steaks, we realize that the workers there were forced to deal with many more carcasses per hour than they could possibly deal with while cleaning each knife in between. Those workers, from Somalia, all happened to be on the temporary foreign worker program. They lacked the ability, the union mentioned at the time, to complain, to go back to the employer, because if they complained, their relationship was only to one employer. They could have immediately been sent back to Somalia.
    There are fundamental moral questions about the temporary foreign worker program, and I think Canadians need to look to those as well. We need to ensure that capital, our respect for natural resources, and our use of human beings is never stateless, without place and without respect for Canada as the country it should be.
    I ask my friend if he does not agree that we need to look at some fundamentals with respect to how we treat human labour, whether from Canada or from overseas.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right. We need to ensure, once those temporary foreign workers are here, that they are not abused by the employers and are not subjected to wages that are lower than the minimum wages we have in Canada. As the NDP pointed out, employers were happy paying 15% less to the temporary foreign workers.
    We need to ensure that this program is not only functional but is credible and clean. We need to ensure that we provide protection for those workers to ensure that they are able to get the same protections Canadian workers would get.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech and I found the points he raised very relevant. He gave a number of examples of how we have been speaking out about cases of abuse and misuse of the program for years. We have called on the government to review this program on a number of occasions.
    As we know, the government does not want to listen to anyone when it comes to the immigrant worker program or electoral reform. Unfortunately, they do not walk the talk.
    My question for my colleague is the following: If the government listened to experts and parliamentarians, would we be in the situation being described in the House today?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out at the outset of my speech, what a mess. This is a mess created by the current government. It did not happen overnight. It has been ongoing since 2009. We know that the Auditor General pointed this out.
    Every time this comes up in the news, whether last year or the year before, the Minister of Employment and Social Development gets up in the House to say that the government is working on it and will fix it. Unfortunately, the government has not delivered.
     The temporary foreign worker program is being abused. I ask all members of the House to support our motion so that we can clean up this mess. The Conservatives have failed to do that.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[English]

Trinity Western University

    Mr. Speaker, despite the fact the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that tolerance of divergent beliefs is a hallmark of democratic society, the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society have voted to ban future graduates from Trinity Western University's School of Law from practising.
    Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms constitutionally guarantees freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination. I stand in this House urging both of these societies to change course and respect the enshrined rights of Trinity Western University graduates. To be clear, while these discriminatory positions taken by these oversight bodies will never survive a court challenge, it is truly sad that such an action should ever have to be undertaken against the very bodies that shoulder the responsibility of protecting these very rights.
    In standing for the rights of future Trinity Western University graduates to practise law wherever they choose in Canada, I am standing up for the constitutionally enshrined rights of every single Canadian citizen. I trust this position enjoys the support of every member in this place.

Four Winds Ministry

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment today to recognize the Four Winds housing project in my riding of Provencher. Four Winds, with the support of the Southland Church in Steinbach, is a support and housing program with self-initiated mentorship programs for individuals dealing with life-controlling behaviours and broken relationships.
    The Four Winds Ministry is a one-year-long volunteer-driven program that helps people with a variety of issues like addictions, depression, fear, anxiety, and anger. While Four Winds helps residents with their basic needs, it also provides individuals with a healthy community where they can flourish and grow. Their long-term goal is to have people find spiritual and emotional wholeness and encourage personal growth with God and others. Four Winds runs a variety of life skill workshops throughout the year. This includes workshops on boundaries, communication, conflict resolution, cooking, raising godly kids, finding and keeping a job, and a fresh-start financial course.
    I would like to congratulate Stefan Duerksen and his team at Four Winds for all the great work they do for our community in Provencher.

Dan Heap

    Mr. Speaker, the first time I voted for a winning candidate, it was for Dan Heap. I was thrilled because Dan Heap, who died last week at the age of 88, was the real deal.
     Priest, politician, pacifist, socialist, a factory worker, and a father, his life was not about a career; it was about a calling. He believed in the social gospel of the common good. He fought for the rights of the little guy, those on the margins: low-wage workers, immigrants, the homeless, refugees. As a priest, Dan did not settle for the comfortable parish assignment, spending 18 years working on the factory floor. As a member of Parliament, he did not settle for the sound bite, challenging the Trudeau government of the day's decision to test cruise missiles in Canada.
    Dan Heap walked the walk and countless activists followed. From John Sewell to Jack Layton, from Olivia Chow to many of my colleagues in this place, he will continue to inspire generations of Canadians to stand up for social justice, fight for equality, and work every day for peace around the world.

Naturopathic and Acupuncture Services

    Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I thank the Canadian Association of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as the Federation of Ontario Traditional Chinese Medicine Associations for welcoming me at their annual gala.

[Translation]

    Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine complement western medicine very effectively. After I was diagnosed with multiple melanoma last November, a good friend of mine, Mado Gravelle, recommended that I consult an acupuncturist, Dr. Alexander Tran. My friend attributed her recovery from cancer dating back to 1988 to Dr. Tran's professional care. Since my first visit to him, all of his very hopeful projections have come true.

[English]

    For this reason, I am happy that the government has removed its portion of harmonized sales tax on naturopathic and acupuncture services as part of its 2014 economic action plan.

  (1405)  

[Translation]

    These proven treatment methods must be recognized.

[English]

    I am now calling on provincial governments to improve the way they regulate this profession.

World Immunization Week

    Mr. Speaker, this is World Immunization Week. The theme is “Are you up to date?” and many Canadians are not.
    Developing countries have made progress in expanding vaccination programs. Some will soon eradicate fatal childhood diseases. Vaccinations prevent three million deaths a year, yet in 2012, over seven million children under five years of age died from diphtheria, measles, pertussis, pneumonia, polio, diarrhea, rubella, and tetanus; all preventable with vaccination.
    Twenty per cent of children globally have not had basic vaccinations. In Canada, we once had a 95% rate. That today has dropped to 60% in some areas. Diseases we thought were eradicated in Canada for years are now recurring diseases that maim permanently or kill. Canada faces its worst measles outbreak in two decades, and this can be lethal.
    We must renew the national immunization strategy, an idea I took to the health committee but it is not on the agenda. Let us protect our children and prevent the spread of these diseases to others. Vaccinate our kids.

M. Sullivan & Son

     Mr. Speaker, A Hundred Years on a Handshake is the name of a recently published book on prominent Ottawa family business M. Sullivan & Son, Arnprior, Ontario.
    This year marks 100 years in business for the oldest family-owned, privately run construction company in Canada. Based in eastern Ontario, the company went from $5,012 in revenues in its first year to more than $100 million in annual sales today. M. Sullivan & Son is recognized as one of Canada's 50 best-managed companies. The secret of its success? Loyalty; loyalty to its customers and to its employees. M. Sullivan & Son can boast of an employee still with the company after 72 years of service. Not many other companies can say the same thing.
    It was my privilege to know Tommy Sullivan, company founder Maurice's grandson. Tommy was always a good supporter. He built up M. Sullivan & Son in the modern age. He was an Arnprior booster.
    Please join me in congratulating M. Sullivan & Son as it celebrates 100 years in business.

Blood and Organ Donation

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honour of the late Rocky Campana and the iCANdonate campaign.
    Born in Windsor, Ontario, Rocky was a determined social justice advocate whose work with the LGBT community included initiating a program to raise funds for the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, as well as volunteering for the Pride Library and Alzheimer's Society.
    At the time of his passing, the Campana family hoped to continue his legacy by donating his organs and tissues for transplant. Unfortunately, their wishes were denied when they disclosed that Rocky was an active gay man. The decision came despite an estimated 4,500 Canadians waiting for an organ transplant today. This prompted the family, medical organizations, and other stakeholders to start the iCANdonate campaign and begin petitioning for an end to discrimination by sexual orientation when donating blood, organs, and tissues post-mortem.
    I am proud to have joined with fellow New Democrats and members of all political parties who are tabling these petitions signed by over 3,000 people from across Canada.
    In the wake of National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, I hope that all members of this House will continue to work toward ending these discriminatory practices and follow the positive example that Rocky and the Campana family have set out for us.

Brantford

    Mr. Speaker, Brantford continues to experience an economic revitalization and cultural renaissance, driven by post-secondary growth in our downtown core. In fact, Brantford is celebrated as a model community for renewal through post-secondary and higher education. What is more, projects continue to emerge and move forward, thanks to the philanthropy of individuals and model corporate citizens determined to give back.
    Brantford is excited about the plans for a new YMCA Laurier athletics and recreation complex to facilitate further growth and new opportunities for families in our downtown. The partnership of the Y and Laurier is the first of its kind in North America, but the project would not be possible without the generous support of business leaders passionate about Brantford's future.
    Two exceptional families, the Roger and Edith Davis family and the Steve and Helen Kun family, recently stepped up with generous million-dollar donations. We thank the Davis and Kun families.

  (1410)  

Renewable Fuels Strategy

    Mr. Speaker, I want to celebrate the successes of this Conservative government's renewable fuels strategy.
     In my riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, the Integrated Grain Processors Co-operative very recently produced its one billionth litre of ethanol. IGPC Ethanol Inc. began producing fuel ethanol in October 2008. Located in the town of Aylmer, IGPC produces 150 million litres of ethanol annually. The distiller's grains, which are a co-product of ethanol manufacturing, feed area beef, dairy, and pork operations. This bio-refinery provides a local market for grains and employs over 50 people in my riding.
    Our government's approach to reducing greenhouse gases spurred the construction of plants like IGPC. Our renewable fuels strategy would reduce emissions while creating economic growth in rural areas. This is in stark contrast to the NDP and Liberal tax on everything, which would just hurt farmers and small businesses.

Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Task Force

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday was the National Day of Mourning for workers killed on the job. Today, I have the honour of recognizing fallen workers from my riding.
    The building of the Welland Canal from 1914 to 1932 brought jobs to the region and made our communities thrive. However, this incredible achievement was built at great cost and sacrifice: 131 men and boys tragically lost their lives while working in difficult and dangerous conditions. To recognize those who lost their lives, the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Task Force was created to build a memorial to remember the sacrifice of those men and their families. I am proud to serve on the task force and look forward to seeing this important project come to fruition.
    I am pleased to announce that the memorial will be located at Lock 3, in St. Catharines. I would like to thank the St. Catharines city councillors who unanimously approved the location of the memorial and the Seaway, which actually dedicated the land.
    We owe a responsibility to those who built the canal because, many decades ago, this House promised a memorial to those fallen workers. Now, we will finally complete that promise.

Canadian Film Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is the first-ever Canadian Film Day, celebrating Canadian films on all screens big and small. The timing of the inaugural Canadian Film Day is perfect, as it was announced recently that six Canadian films have been selected to compete at the prestigious 2014 Cannes Film Festival. This an historic milestone worth celebrating.
    Our government is very proud of our talented filmmakers. We invest more than $600 million annually in the audiovisual sector through Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board, the Canada Media Fund, the Canada Council for the Arts, and tax credit programs. We support the Canadian audiovisual sector because we know how much it contributes to our communities and economies. In 2012-13, film and television production in Canada generated $5.8 billion to the Canadian economy and approximately 130,000 jobs.
    I invite my hon. colleagues to join me in saluting Canada's wonderful audiovisual talent today and every day.

[Translation]

World Immunization Week

    Mr. Speaker, since this is World Immunization Week, I rise to underscore the importance of immunization for all Canadians.
    Vaccination currently prevents an estimated two to three million deaths every year from diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, measles and tetanus. Infectious diseases know no borders, as evidenced by the recent measles outbreak in British Columbia, the largest such outbreak in Canada in the past 30 years.
    The government must remain vigilant and continue to fund organizations like the GAVI Alliance, which provides more equitable access to existing vaccines for people in all communities, including the most remote communities.

[English]

Humanitarian Workers

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians to express our deep sadness for the loss of the three Médecins Sans Frontières staff members killed in the attack on the health clinic in the Central African Republic. Our thoughts are with the families of all the victims of the attack.
    It pains me to have to express this only eight months after the death of an MSF employee in South Sudan and just weeks after the deaths of Canadian aid workers in Afghanistan.
    Canada values the work of individuals undertaking humanitarian assistance in fragile states under very challenging and insecure environments. We appreciate humanitarian workers who put themselves in harm's way every day to assist people in some of the most dangerous conditions in the world.
    Canada will continue to make a difference.

  (1415)  

Palliative and Compassionate Care

    Mr. Speaker, end-of-life questions are not easy to consider, but without doubt we want happy, healthy lives, free from pain and full of dignity for ourselves and all our loved ones. I am proud now as I was in 2010 to come together with the hon. members for Windsor—Tecumseh and Kitchener—Conestoga as co-chairs of an ad hoc committee of dedicated MPs from both sides of the House to hear from Canadians across the country directly affected by end-of-life long-term care and mental health issues. I felt then, and do now, that men and women of all ages want to be enabled to live pain-free and with dignity, free from emotional, physical, and systemic abuse, to feel their lives are relevant and that they are not a burden on society and in particular their families and friends.
    This is an important discussion to keep having, and I am glad the Canadian Medical Association will cross the country this year to keep the discussion going. I encourage everyone here to continue in this discussion and to join us this evening in room 216-N after votes.

Fair Elections Act

    Mr. Speaker, last Friday our government announced it would support amendments to the fair elections act. The amended bill would end the use of the voter information card, which is an unreliable form of ID and a move that many of my constituents in Calgary Centre say is needed.
    Also, it will not be possible for voters to show up with no ID and have someone vouch for who they are. While the amended fair elections act would end the use of vouching and all voters would have to show ID, if their ID has no address on it, which is a concern for students, they could have someone with proper ID co-sign an oath of address. However, those who give false information would face up to a $50,000 fine, or even jail time. The law would require Elections Canada to check people who take the oath as well as their co-signers to ensure that no one votes more than once. A post-election audit would ensure that these rules are followed.
    Canadians believe that these changes are common sense and reasonable, and they support them.

[Translation]

New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, May 2 is just around the corner, and that means that it is time to take stock. It will be good news for the NDP and bad news for the Conservatives.
    Our MPs from the south shore are fighting so that the public does not have to foot the bill for replacing the Champlain Bridge. In the Eastern Townships, rocked by the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, NDP MPs are pushing for improved railway safety. Out east, our MPs are fighting for VIA Rail service. Thanks to our Quebec City MPs, the only bilingual maritime rescue sub-centre was kept open. MPs from the north are fighting for aboriginal treaties to be honoured and against high food costs. Thanks to the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, officers of Parliament will now have to be bilingual. Thanks to the work done by the vice-chair of our caucus, cheese producers know that they can count on the NDP.
    Meanwhile, the Conservatives gutted employment insurance, the CBC and environmental protection. They are caught up in their scandals. They are refusing to work with the provinces. They are making cuts to health care and raising the retirement age. In 2011, the people made a choice, but in 2015, they will choose the NDP.

[English]

Rail Safety Week

    Mr. Speaker, following the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic this summer, our government took further measures to ensure the safety and security of our rail network. Our government marks this Rail Safety Week by investing $9.2 million for improvements to over 600 grade crossings across Canada, and that includes over $250,000 for improvements across Windsor and Essex county.
    As well, our government took action last week to address the Transportation Safety Board's recent recommendations following the Lac-Mégantic incident by requiring, among other measures, that DOT-111 tank cars which fail to meet the January 2014 published standard be phased out within three years.
     The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs applauded the Minister of Transport for “listening to the public safety concerns of emergency responders and for following through on her commitments”.
    Our government continues to show our commitment to the health and safety of Canadians by improving rail safety.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, when did the Prime Minister become aware of the blatant abuses of the temporary foreign worker program?
    Mr. Speaker, that is an odd thing for the NDP to ask. More than any other caucus, the NDP is always asking for temporary foreign workers.
    For the past three years, we have been making changes to the program, and our position is very clear. We will never allow an employer to use a temporary foreign worker when a Canadian is available.

  (1420)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there have been complaints about this program for years. I first alerted the Prime Minister about it in September 2012. The Prime Minister himself admitted four months ago in a closed-door meeting in B.C. that, “We have seen very blatant examples of companies using this in ways that were not in the best interests of Canadians”.
    How long has the Prime Minister known about these blatant abuses?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, since 2011, the government has been making modifications to this program, by the way, against the wishes of the NDP. The NDP members have voted against these changes and continue to inundate the Minister of Employment and Social Development with requests for temporary foreign workers for their own ridings.
    We have been extremely clear. It does appear to be the case that there are some Canadian employers who believe that they can have a preference for temporary foreign workers over Canadian workers. This government has been clear: that is absolutely unacceptable and it will not be tolerated.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, they say “clear” and “unacceptable”, but for years, they have done nothing. Under the Conservative Party, the number of temporary foreign workers has grown by many hundreds of thousands, yet the Conservatives have done nothing. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister refuses to admit that there has been ongoing abuse of the program.
    Will the Prime Minister support the NDP motion to end these abuses and enable the Auditor General to take an objective look, get to the bottom of this whole shocking affair, and find out who is responsible for these abuses and where and how they took place?
    Mr. Speaker, thanks to this government's reforms, the number of applications for temporary foreign workers dropped by 30% last year even though the NDP voted in favour of the status quo.
    The NDP is refusing to do anything to reform the program, and that is unacceptable. This government, however, is taking action.

[English]

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words. We will see later today during the vote which side is in favour of the status quo.
    This once again is a quote from the Prime Minister, “Canadians understand that our Senate, as it stands today, must either change or, like the old Upper Houses of our provinces, vanish”.
    Why is it only the Prime Minister's resolve about abolishing the Senate that has vanished?
    Mr. Speaker, as members would know, the Supreme Court has ruled in its wisdom that the federal government can neither abolish the Senate, or, in fact, can the federal government actually propose significant reforms to the Senate. That is all now, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, within the purview of the provinces. Therefore, my position has not changed.
    If the provinces believe, as I do, that there should be reform, they should bring forward those forthwith. If they do not believe that, they should bring forward amendments to abolish the Senate.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, for months the Prime Minister kept saying that the leader of the third party was defending the status quo and gave us the impression that he disagreed with that.
    Now, all of a sudden, the Prime Minister is waving a white flag and admitting defeat. Why? Because he would have to talk to the provinces and it is far too difficult for him to talk to them.
    Is the Prime Minister now the new champion of the status quo in the Senate?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary. According to the Supreme Court, only the provinces can reform or abolish the Senate. I encourage the provinces to do that. They have the power to make amendments through their legislators. Nonetheless, it is clear that Canadians do not want constitutional negotiations.

[English]

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, the government has allowed the temporary foreign worker program to become a force that drives down wages across the country and takes advantage of vulnerable people from abroad. It has doubled the intake of temporary foreign workers since taking office.
    Will the Prime Minister now commit to significant reductions in the size of this broken program?
    Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we are doing, and we are doing it with the opposition of the Liberal Party. Under reforms brought in by this government over the past three years, applications for low-skilled temporary foreign workers have dropped this year by 30%, in spite of the fact that the Liberal Party voted against them.
    Liberal MPs continue to write to the Minister of Employment and Social Development, demanding more temporary foreign workers for their ridings. It is absolutely clear that the government's position is that temporary foreign workers can be used when they are needed, but only when they are needed. They can never be used in place of available and willing Canadian workers.
    Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, the jobs minister said that abuses were rare in the temporary foreign worker program. The very next day, the program was so broken that the government had to impose a moratorium on an entire sector.
    I raised concerns about this program with him a year ago. Will the Prime Minister have us believe that the government just learned about these program problems last Thursday?
    Mr. Speaker, we are getting a revisionist history from the Liberal Party, which not only started this program and expanded this program, and continues to demand temporary foreign workers for its own ridings, but has consistently voted against any restriction on the use of temporary foreign workers.
    Our position is very different. We will not tolerate any situation where an employer thinks he can use temporary foreign workers when Canadians are available.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the youth unemployment rate is twice as high as that of other Canadians. The government is driving wages down with the hiring of temporary foreign workers. Canadian students are looking for summer jobs as we speak.
    Will the Prime Minister fix his broken program and allow students to get a job with a decent wage this summer?
    Mr. Speaker, again, the Liberal Party opposes any changes to this program. The reality is that the number of applications for temporary foreign workers has dropped this year by 30% thanks to the changes made by this government. Our position is clear.

[English]

    Because we stand up for Canadian workers, it is one of the reasons why, and I just cannot help mentioning this, we saw in the report last week that the Canadian middle class was doing better than the middle classes of just about any country.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, why is the Prime Minister refusing to give the commissioner of elections the power to compel witnesses to testify to investigators? The Competition Bureau has this power. The elections watchdogs in seven provinces in Australia and in the United States all have this power. What is he so afraid of?
    Mr. Speaker, first, I am delighted to see evidence that the Canadian population, including, by the way, supporters of the New Democratic Party, strongly supports this government's electoral reform legislation, including the principle that people should not be able to vote without being able to show their identity.
    Regarding the specific question, the powers given to the independent Commissioner of Official Languages are consistent with those given to all other investigators for similar offences.

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, I believe the Prime Minister probably meant to speak of the commissioner of elections and not the Commissioner of Official Languages.
    Even with the Conservative about-face, the Chief Electoral Officer still will not be able to encourage Canadians to vote. Encouraging voter turnout is the sort of thing that used to be non-partisan, something we could all agree upon was important.
    Does the Prime Minister really believe that encouraging people to vote is a partisan issue?
    Mr. Speaker, let me correct myself. I meant to say, of course, that the commissioner of elections will have powers in terms of investigations that are fully consistent with those of all other investigators on similar offences.
    As we know, the biggest single reason why people fail to vote is that they are not aware of the various times of when, where, and how they can vote. That is the core responsibility of Elections Canada, and we encourage it to focus on that responsibility and actually reverse the trend we have seen in elections, to see voter turnout go up instead of down.
    Mr. Speaker, actually, as we saw from the examples I provided the Prime Minister, it is simply not true to say that other investigative bodies on elections do not have that power. In Australia, in the U.S., and in seven provinces, they do have that power.
    Yesterday I made a personal appeal to the Prime Minister to work constructively on this bill. Will the Prime Minister sit down with me and the other opposition leaders to work together to write an elections bill that will truly strengthen our democracy for all Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, as we know, the New Democrats decided they were against this bill before they read it. Their own critic admitted that.
    The reality is that we have seen in polling that the public strongly supports this. The public is very strongly opposed to the NDP's fundamental view that people should be able to vote even if they have no intention or ability to prove their identity. That is an extreme position, a recipe for fraud, one that Canadians do not support, and one that this government will not support.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, although the Conservatives have made some amendments, their election reform is full of holes. Bill C-23 still does not give investigators the powers they need to uncover fraud. Even with the Conservatives' election reform, perpetrators of the robocall scandal would remain unpunished, because Bill C-23 does not allow Elections Canada to compel testimony and to get hold of the documents it needs for its investigation, nor does the bill force call centres to retain telephone numbers and the scripts of their calls.
    Will the minister stop protecting fraudsters and fix the holes in his bill?
    Mr. Speaker, the Elections Canada investigator has the same powers as a police investigator. The hon. member's problem with the bill is that it requires people to show a piece of ID to prove who they are. The NDP thinks that people should be able to vote without any ID. That is an extreme position and one that is widely rejected by Canadians. We will require ID so that we know who is voting.
    Mr. Speaker, even with its amendments, the government still refuses to budge on giving more powers to elections investigators. The former commissioner of Canada elections, William Corbett, was very clear in committee. He said that there was nothing in Bill C-23 that will enhance the ability of the commissioner to investigate alleged cases of fraud.
    Why is the minister content to have a commissioner of Canada Elections whose hands are tied behind his back? Why is he more concerned about protecting fraudsters than protecting the integrity of the election process?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I said it in French; I will say it in English. The Commissioner of Canada Elections has all the same investigative powers of a police force.
    Furthermore, we are increasing his power by making him independent. He will be independent from Elections Canada and housed in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
    However, the real objection of the NDP members is that they believe people should be allowed to vote without any ID whatsoever. We reject that. The fair elections act would require people to show ID demonstrating who they are, or they will not be able to vote.

[Translation]

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal tradition of bringing in temporary foreign workers lives on under the Conservative employment minister. Under the Liberals, more than 600 exotic dancers were allowed into Canada on the pretext that there was a shortage of qualified workers. Then, the Conservatives allowed some banks and McDonald's restaurants to replace Canadian employees with temporary foreign workers. Every time a new flaw in the program comes to light, the government promises in vain to remedy the situation. When will the Conservatives admit that an independent assessment is necessary?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question, particularly because she reminded the House that, under the Liberals, a temporary foreign worker program existed specifically to bring in exotic dancers. The Liberals issued 600 work permits for exotic dancers.
    Our government shut down that program. We protected foreign women and we are going to continue to safeguard the integrity of the immigration system. We did away with the Liberals' exotic dancer program.
    Mr. Speaker, the NDP has never lobbied for McDonald's restaurants or strip clubs.
    The number of temporary foreign workers has doubled under the Conservatives. The program, which was supposed to be used as a last resort, has become a way of driving wages down.
    The Conservatives have constantly made the rules more flexible by opening the program to unskilled workers and allowing employers to pay those workers less than Canadians. The C.D. Howe Institute has indicated that the program is partially responsible for the hike in the unemployment rate.
    When will the government launch an independent investigation?
    Mr. Speaker, we reviewed this policy and have already made changes to it, which has resulted in a drop in the number of temporary foreign worker applications.
    Perhaps the NDP should investigate their own policies since there is quite a bit of hypocrisy coming from the other side of the House. It is the NDP that requested labour market opinion exemptions for musicians and opposed the position of the Canadian musicians' union. It is the NDP that wanted to speed up the elimination of the program's checks and balances for the computer industry.
    The NDP's policies in this regard are not at all consistent.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is Conservative mismanagement that is taking away Canadians' jobs, not the opposition.
    In response to a written question asking for basic information on temporary foreign workers, the government refused even to say who applied for labour market opinions, who got them, or where. It claimed it would be too much work. No wonder this program is failing. Given the minister's failure to fix the program, will he now agree to do the right thing and launch an independent audit?
    Mr. Speaker, of course the Auditor General can audit whatever he deems appropriate.
    The reason why those names were not released is a small detail. It is called the Privacy Act. I know the New Democrats do not have any regard for the Privacy Act when it is inconvenient for them. They may want to suggest amendments to the Privacy Act to exempt the immigration act from it.
    This is an opportunity for me to recall that one of the many reforms this government has made to that program was shutting down the Liberal stripper program that issued hundreds of visas specifically and purposely to exotic dancers from abroad who faced degradation in Canada. We ended—
    Order. The hon. member for Newton—North Delta.
    Mr. Speaker, we are talking about Canadians losing jobs, but Conservative mismanagement is responsible for that. The government has had six years to fix this program, six years to make sure good jobs are not being taken from Canadians. However, the government has only made matters worse and failed Canadians and failed temporary foreign workers.
    Will the minister do the right thing, admit he was wrong, and immediately ask the Auditor General to launch an independent audit?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is not what the member said to me when she wanted me to bring a crane operator in to work for an employer in her constituency. That is not what the New Democrats said when they asked for an LMO exemption for foreign musicians coming to Canada, against the advice of the Canadian Federation of Musicians. That is not what the New Democrats said when they lobbied me to give an exemption for people coming into the computer gaming industry, because in one of their ridings a business wanted a sectoral exemption.
    Unlike the opposition, this government will ensure the integrity of this program. We will always ensure that Canadians come first, and we will address abuse and any distortion of the Canadian—
    Order. The hon. member for Markham—Unionville.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Employment and Social Development has been a party to the increase in temporary foreign workers for some years.
    When the CEO of McDonald's said that the minister gets it, he knew that the minister saw nothing wrong with McDonald's practices.
    When caught in the act, the minister changed his mind and is now criticizing employers for their practices, which he himself encouraged.
    Will he finally admit his mistakes?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, it was the previous Liberal government that created the stream for lower-skilled occupations in the temporary foreign worker program in 2002.

[English]

    Talking of hypocrisy, this one takes the cake over there. We just put a moratorium on the restaurant stream. I have a letter that was sent to our embassy in Beijing that said, “I understand that a first request [for a work permit] has...been denied, but I would like to ask that you consider seriously a new request” for a restaurant that this particular person used to frequent. Who wrote this? It was the hon. member for Papineau, the leader of the Liberal Party.
    Mr. Speaker, never mind that the low-skills program went from 4,300 under the Liberals to over 30,000 under the Conservatives; it is still the Liberals' fault. Never mind that the immigration processing times skyrocketed under the Conservatives' watch in 2007-12; they still say it is the Liberals' fault. Why does the minister not look in the mirror and admit to Canadians that this mess is a Conservative mess? It is his mess and nobody else's mess.
    Mr. Speaker, publicly, Liberals say it is a mess. Privately, they say the program is too tight. Publicly, they say we should shut it down. Privately, the Liberals and New Democrats come up to me and say that fish processing plants on the east coast could not function without access to the low stream of the TFW program. They tell me that farms across Canada would shut down if the motion before us today were adopted. Thousands of farms would be unable to operate this year.
    I have a question for the Liberal Party. Which opinion of theirs should I listen to: the public one here on the floor of the House, or the private one when they come over here and talk to me?
    Mr. Speaker, listening to anybody would be a good start. We know that this temporary foreign worker program under the Conservative government has grown by over 200,000 workers. We know that it equates to one in five jobs that have been created going to somebody other than a Canadian. The country has lost confidence in the government. Canadians do not trust Conservatives to run the program. They do not trust them to fix the program or certainly to undertake any kind of a study.
    Will the minister, on behalf of companies across this country and Canadian workers, at least ask the Auditor General to come in and do an urgent and immediate review of this program, please?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, of course, the Auditor General is always free to study whatever subject he determines, and we always co-operate with his office; but let us not forget that it was the Liberal government that created the low-skills stream of this program in 2002. All we have done since then is to tighten the rules. All of the business groups tell us that they think the rules are far too restrictive. Liberals tell me that, privately, including—and I will not embarrass this person because I am a nice guy—the Liberal MP who came over after yesterday's question period to complain about refusals in the temporary foreign worker program. Which Liberal opinion do I listen to?

[Translation]

The Budget

    Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer recently indicated that Conservative cuts are having a negative impact on our economy. By 2016, our GDP will be $9 billion lower than what it would have been without the cuts but, more importantly, 46,000 jobs could have been and will not be created. The Conservatives' cuts directly affect the less fortunate and Canadian families, and have been made just because they want to launch an election campaign without a deficit and hand out lots of election goodies.
    I would like to know when the Minister of Finance will stop putting the interests of his own party ahead of the interests of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, balanced budgets keep taxes low, inspire investor and consumer confidence, and are vital to job creation and economic growth. Unlike previous Liberal governments, we do not balance the budget at the expense of the provinces by reducing transfers. Unlike the NDP, we will not introduce new taxes, such as the $20 billion carbon tax on everything.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have had two weeks, and that is the best they can come up with.
    Reckless Conservatives cuts have hurt veterans, our environment, and our economy. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, in his latest report, said Conservative cuts are “...a drag on output and job creation”.
    Given this serious warning, why is the minister pushing ahead with the largest program cuts in 16 years?
    Mr. Speaker, our government and our policies are working well for Canadians. In fact, our economy is doing better than other G7 countries. Our debt is one-half that of the G7 average. Canadians are wealthier than they ever have been before—wealthier than Americans, wealthier than the British, wealthier than the Australians.
    This is a sound policy that is working for Canadians right across the country from coast to coast to coast.
    Mr. Speaker, middle-income Canadians have seen stagnant wages for more than 32 years under Conservative and Liberal policies.
    The latest Parliamentary Budget Officer report shows that reckless Conservative cuts will cost upward of 46,000 jobs to the Canadian economy. That is 46,000 Canadians, 46,000 people who will not see a paycheque because of choices the Conservatives have made. A string of Conservative budgets has killed more jobs than they have created.
    Will the minister at least promise to do no more harm in the next budget?
    Mr. Speaker, from the depths of the recession, we have created 1.1 million new jobs. Canadian wealth has never been greater. The median net worth of Canadians has increased by 45% since 2006, by over 80% since 1999, and there has been a 10% increase since 2005 in average income. Canadians have saved $3,400 in taxes since 2006.
    We are doing better than other developed countries and we will stick with a budget that works.
    Mr. Speaker, when the facts do not meet the ideology, the Conservatives ignore the facts, because the facts are that wages for middle-income Canadians have been stagnant for almost 32 years.
    The PBO report also shows that reckless Conservative cuts will cost the Canadian economy $9 billion. Canadian families are already struggling to get by with record high household debt, fact; stagnant wages, fact; and a rising gap in inequality in this country, fact.
    Canadians do not expect their government to do them more harm. Why is the minister choosing policies that give us less growth and fewer jobs?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite does not listen very well, and apparently he does not read very well either. He seems to have a bit of a problem with numbers.
    The fact is that Canadians are doing better than they ever have before. Net worth is up 80% since 1999. Net worth is up 44% since 2006. We are doing better than other countries.
    If we had followed the reckless advice of the NDP, we would now not be in a position to preserve our social programs and move on to a budget surplus next year.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, as the father of four, I am very concerned over the unusually high number of cases of measles reported in Canada this year. A number of these cases have recently been reported in my home province of Alberta. Measles is relatively rare in Canada, thanks to high immunization rates across our country, but more work clearly needs to be done.
    This week being National Immunization Awareness Week, can the Minister of Health update the House on our government's efforts to keep immunization rates in Canada high?
    Mr. Speaker, the truth is immunization saves lives. It is truly one of the miracles of modern science.
    We want Canadians to get immunized and we want to make sure they are immunizing their kids. To help Canadians keep track of their vaccinations and protect themselves and their families from preventable illnesses, we have launched a new tool, an app called ImmunizeCA. It is available for free on iTunes and Google Play, and we encourage Canadians to download it. It not only helps parents store and manage their families' vaccination records but also makes sure they never miss a vaccine and answers questions about illness outbreaks in their areas.
    I encourage all Canadians this week and going forward to make sure they get immunized and immunize their kids to protect them against preventable illnesses.

Food Safety

    Mr. Speaker, in the last budget, the government claimed that they were adding more food inspectors, but now we learn Conservatives are actually cutting back, leaving the city of Vancouver without a dedicated food inspection team. The people who make sure our food is safe are now warning us that our food safety system is being pushed beyond its limits. All Canadians should be able to put a meal on the table that they know is safe for their kids.
    When will the minister prioritize the safety for all Canadians and their children and put back those inspectors who are being cut from that department?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, Canada has without a doubt one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world, and in fact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency assures me that there have been no cuts to front-line food inspectors. Since 2006 there has been a net increase of over 750 inspectors, and economic action plan 2014 just recently committed to hiring even more inspectors. This is on top of the $500 million we have already invested. This brings almost $1 billion in new investment into the food safety system.
    As I said, we have one of the healthiest and safest food systems in the world and we are going to keep it that way.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians and the NDP welcome the hiring of more food inspectors. The problem is that this is not part of the Conservative government's plans.
    According to available documentation, the Food Inspection Agency has to reduce its budget by $35 million and fire 182 inspectors in the next two years.
    Canadians should not have to buy their groceries hoping not to end up with tainted food, just because the Conservatives want to have a balanced budget for the next election.
    Why is the minister eliminating inspector positions?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote the Leader of the Opposition himself shortly after economic action plan 2014 was announced. He said, “...there is good news in the budget with regard to food safety, including the hiring of 200 new food inspectors.” “A good idea” is what is quoted.
    The information the member is quoting is incorrect. CFIA reassures me that there have been no cuts of front-line food inspectors. In fact, we have invested a further $400 million in the latest budget for food inspection and food safety, including tougher penalties, enhanced controls, new meat labelling requirements, and, of course, more than 750 new inspectors.

  (1455)  

[Translation]

Government Advertising

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that these measures are not enough.
    It is sort of like the budget ads. When the Department of Finance carried out an online consultation with Canadians on how to balance the budget, the main response was to stop the economic action plan ads. What a failure. Even when asked for their general opinion on the economic action plan, most people no longer want to hear about the ads.
    Does the minister understand that those ads are a huge waste of money?
    Mr. Speaker, the economic action plan has helped and will continue to help and protect Canadians during the current global economic turmoil.
    The government's plan contains many measures focused on creating jobs and supporting economic growth. For the plan to be effective, it is still essential that Canadians know how to access those measures.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I guess the opinion of Canadians just does not matter to the government.
    When Finance Canada asked regular Canadians about balancing the budget, it received a huge response. The message from Canadians was crystal clear: dump the economic action plan ads, the same ads promoting programs not yet approved and that Advertising Standards Canada ruled were “misleading”. Instead of promising to stop this highly partisan use of government advertising, Finance Canada just decided to stop asking questions altogether.
    When will the Conservatives listen to Canadians and stop wasting money on these ads?
    Mr. Speaker, our government listens to Canadians. Canadians are concerned about jobs, low taxes, and economic growth. That is what we have accomplished for Canadians and that is what the economic action plan has done for Canada from coast to coast to coast. We will make sure Canadians know about it and know how to access our programs.

[Translation]

Champlain Bridge

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister met with Mr. Couillard last week. They surely talked about the important issue of tolls on the Champlain Bridge. We know, through their new finance ministers, that Quebec has shared its opposition to the toll.
    Could the Prime Minister tell us whether his government plans on listening to Quebec, reversing its decision and withdrawing the plan for tolls on the Champlain Bridge?
    Mr. Speaker, I give the same answers about the Champlain Bridge in private as I do in public.

[English]

    The reality is this. The government is building a new major local bridge in the city of Montreal. We are not doing this in any other part of the country. The only basis on which we can do that is with financial participation by the local people. That means if there is not a toll, there will not be a bridge, and that is fair to all Canadians.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, in March the Department of National Defence sent a letter to the families of fallen soldiers saying they had to pay their own way to the National Day of Honour. When I asked the minister about this in committee, he reversed course. He said that “...we can and will support those individuals”.
    It turns out he has broken his word. He has now off-loaded the cost to a charity, which is scrambling to raise funds to cover the expense.
    Why did the minister mislead the committee, the House, and, most importantly, the grieving families?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is completely wrong. Only the Liberal Party would be offended by private organizations and individuals wanting to help and support Canada's military and our veterans.
    I would ask the member to put aside her partisanship and come together with us and honour the sacrifice and courage of the Canadian military on May 9.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government was asked about contributing to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, a region torn apart by violence where over 600,000 people have been displaced already.
    The reply was stunning and offensive. The government suggested Canadian taxpayers would object to paying for our troops to help stop mass slaughter. I respectfully ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs to apologize for the offensive comments of his parliamentary secretary and to tell us and Canadians what his plans are to prevent a potential genocide in the Central African Republic.

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, Canada is deeply concerned by the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic and by reports that people are being targeted because of their religion.
    As a government, we have the responsibility and the duty to review our options thoroughly with our allies and make a determination that is in the interests of all Canadians.

[Translation]

    After the Rwandan genocide, the entire world said that the international community would act at the first sign of a potential genocide. However, the parliamentary secretary told us that this was not a good use of taxpayers' money.
    Canada could play an important role and give significant support to the UN's peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic. Will the parliamentary secretary take action?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is the ninth largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget, and it supports the United Nations, France, and the African Union efforts in this crisis.
    Canada continues to pull its weight in providing over $16 million in assistance to help meet the widespread humanitarian needs in the Central African Republic and $5 million to support efforts by the African Union and France to restore security in the country.
    We will continue to provide humanitarian and development assistance in the Central African Republic to help alleviate the country's worsening humanitarian crisis.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, organizations that support terrorism and masquerade as charitable organizations are a threat to the safety of Canadians.
    IRFAN Canada has been described as a group that demonizes Israel and glorifies martyrdom and religious jihad and that has used its resources to support Hamas. Its charitable status was revoked in 2011.
    Can the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness please update the House on what the government is doing to stop IRFAN from operating in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, the people from Don Valley West can be reassured, because today our government listed IRFAN Canada as a terrorist organization.
    Listing terrorists is an important tool in preventing horrific terrorist attacks from being carried out.

[Translation]

    When an entity is placed on the list, banks and financial institutions are required to freeze its assets, and no Canadians are allowed to have dealings with this entity.

[English]

    I count on all parties to stand with our government in supporting this security measure.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday when I asked about potential participation in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights replied as follows: “...who is going to pay to have all of these soldiers go out there? Is it Canadian taxpayers?
    My question to the parliamentary secretary is this: is cost the only consideration in the government's decision to decide whether or not it will participate in a peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic to prevent ethnic and religious cleansing? Is cost the only factor?
    Mr. Speaker, let me repeat. Canada is deeply concerned about the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic and about reports that people are being targeted because of their religion.
     To date, Canada has provided over $16 million in assistance to help meet the widespread humanitarian need and $5 million to support efforts by the African Union and France to restore security in the country. Canada is the ninth largest contributor to the United Nations peacekeeping budget and supports the efforts of the UN, France, and the African Union efforts in this crisis.

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, Jozsef Pusuma and his family came to Canada trying to escape the persecution they suffered in Hungary due to their human rights advocacy. Unfortunately, their lawyer botched the refugee hearing and key evidence was never presented. The Law Society has now made a finding of professional misconduct.
    Will the minister stand up for the right to due process and issue a temporary residence permit to the Pusuma family to allow them to stay in Canada while their applications are reconsidered?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, our government has been a leader in opposing anti-Semitic activities, wherever they take place around the world, and that is not going to change.
    Decisions in this case, like others involving our asylum system and refugees, were taken by the independent Immigration and Refugee Board. We have been following the case at the Law Society closely, and we will look at our options, just as we do in every case where the circumstances change and where there is a potential risk for those who are facing removal from Canada.

Finance

    Mr. Speaker, millions of Canadians made a great financial decision by electing this Conservative government. The choice paid off with $3,400 back to the typical family, the strongest economy in the G7, and middle-incomers that are among the wealthiest in the world.
    Can the Minister of State for Finance please tell this House about one of the steps the government is taking to protect consumers and ensure that Canadians have the skills they need to make solid financial decisions?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to enhancing financial literacy in Canada. We created the Task Force on Financial Literacy and provided new resources for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. We have also appointed a new financial literacy leader, Ms. Jane Rooney, to help ensure that Canadians of all ages can make solid financial decisions.
    I would encourage the Liberal leader to take advantage of these important initiatives. Perhaps he can learn about the tough decisions and the focus on priorities that are necessary to balance budgets.

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, last week, on Earth Day, Canadians were stunned to learn of a rush to downgrade the protection of humpback whales from “threatened” to a classification that no longer protects their critical habitat.
    The impact of tanker traffic on whale populations was a major concern during the northern gateway hearings. With the decision on this controversial pipeline project imminent, why are the Conservatives only eager to accept scientific recommendations on endangered species when pipelines stand to benefit?
    Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, we accept science all the time. We welcome this important science-based decision, as it demonstrates that the humpback whale population is growing.
    Let me be perfectly clear. Any suggestion that this decision was motivated by anything other than science is categorically false. This decision was made following a recommendation from a committee of experts. I should also point out that humpback whales continue to benefit from robust protections under the Fisheries Act and under the Species at Risk Act.

[Translation]

Air Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, Aéroports de Montréal, ADM, manages facilities that are of strategic importance to the economic development of the greater Montreal area. ADM manages billions of dollars' worth of contracts in a given five-year period. Security management is not supervised the same way there as it is in other sensitive facilities belonging to and controlled by the Canadian government.
    To ensure transparent, accountable and secure management with a high level of integrity, will the government subject ADM to a review by the Auditor General?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Aéroports de Montréal is operated by an association, which was set up a number of years ago to ensure that we had a market-based approach to our assets in transportation. In their ground lease they have a number of obligations to the Government of Canada and to the citizens of Canada, as well. They have been doing a great job fulfilling them.
    I am very proud of the work they do in Montreal, and I appreciate the comments the member made at the beginning, because they are a good success story.

Right Hon. Herb Gray

[Tributes]
    There have been discussions among representatives of all parties in the House, and I understand that we will now proceed to statements with respect to the death of our dear colleague, the Right Hon. Herb Gray.
    I will recognize the hon. member for Papineau first.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a dedicated parliamentarian, the Right Hon. Herb Gray, who passed away last week at the age of 82.

[Translation]

    Herb Gray had a long and brilliant career in the House. Having represented the people of Windsor West for nearly 40 years, he was one of the longest-serving MPs in Canadian history.
    He won 13 elections in a row, an achievement that attests to his commitment to the voters of his riding.

  (1510)  

[English]

    Mr. Gray was Canada's first Jewish cabinet minister, serving in 11 different portfolios and ultimately as deputy prime minister. He was an absolute force in question period, earning praise for his unflappable style.
    After he left politics in 2002, Mr. Gray served as Canadian chair of the International Joint Commission of Canada and the United States, and he was appointed to a three-year term as Carleton University's 10th chancellor.
    On a personal level, I will remember Herb Gray as a great family friend and a model politician within the Liberal Party. He was universally beloved, and his dedication to serving his country was apparent to all who had the privilege of meeting him. Fiercely devoted to both his Windsor West constituents and the Canadian people at large, Herb Gray was an exemplary public servant. His impact on Canadian parliamentary life will be felt for many years to come.

[Translation]

    During the Liberal leadership race in November 2012, we paid tribute to Herb Gray at the Château Laurier here in Ottawa. During the event, we celebrated his 50 years of public service and presented him with the Laurier Award for leadership.

[English]

    He was feted by three former primer ministers, and I fondly remember Herb Gray's infectious sense of humour on full display throughout the night.
    Speaking of his sense of humour, Herb Gray was almost equally known for his terrible handwriting. He once joked that the reason Jean Chrétien made him solicitor general was that his handwriting alone assured the security of his comments.
     Even while Mr. Gray was a quick-witted, storied public figure, he remained a most dedicated family man. He was a devoted husband to his wife, Sharon; a loving father to his children, Jonathan and Elizabeth; and a doting grandfather to eight grandchildren.

[Translation]

    Last Friday, we celebrated the life of Herb Gray during a very moving funeral service at his synagogue. Four former prime ministers were in attendance, which says a lot about his influence and impact on political life in Canada.
    As former prime minister Paul Martin said in his eulogy, Herb Gray was a distinguished man who never engaged in a personal attack on another member of Parliament.

[English]

    When I was speaking with his wife Sharon, we agreed that he would have been delighted with the accolades and tributes that have been shared in recent days, particularly in the news, for they have rightly focused on the importance Herb Gray placed on this institution, its traditions, and all those in it, regardless of their politics. Respect ran through everything he did.
    Very few people can say that they have witnessed five decades inside this historic chamber. It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Herb Gray, but it is with pride and admiration that we reflect on his long and distinguished life as one of Canada's greatest parliamentarians.
    On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our parliamentary caucus, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Sharon and to the entire family at this time. Herb, you are sorely missed.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to say a few words about our late departed friend and colleague, the Right Hon. Herb Gray. I remember hearing about him for the first time as a student at Queen's University in the political studies department, around 1972. He came out with the Gray report. This sparked a huge debate within university circles, and I am sure across the country, about the whole question of foreign investment in the country. Indeed, the Foreign Investment Review Agency owes its origins to that report that came out in 1972.
    When I became a member of Parliament in 1984, it was an honour for me to sit across the aisle from him. I soon learned that he was greatly respected by members on all sides of the House, and rightly so. He served with great dignity and politeness. My colleagues tell me he was affectionately known as the “Gray Fog”. That being said, he had considerable skill in question period. I remember when I returned in 2004, my colleague, the Hon. Jay Hill, said exactly that, that Herb had a way of calming down issues that, believe it or not, some opposition members wanted to strike up and have a little more publicity with.
    In fact, our Minister of Industry has said, “He caught every fastball we threw with his bare hand and smiled—first to our frustration, then to our rhetorical astonishment and respect”. That was his recollection of it. It would not be an overstatement to say that in his own quiet way he was one of the most effective parliamentarians of his generation.
    Herb Gray served in the House for almost 40 years. That is a remarkable feat for anyone who has participated in public office in our country. Only Sir Wilfrid Laurier and one other 19th century MP has served longer in the House. Again, he made good use of that. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, he had a number of portfolios, including of course solicitor general, deputy prime minister, and of course I remember him for almost a year as leader of the opposition.
    It is true to say that Herb Gray was a House of Commons man. Above all, however, he was a great Canadian, a man fully committed to our country and despite the sometimes intense partisan character of this chamber, he remained at all times a man of honour.
    One of our country's great governors general, John Buchan, had this to say about the life we lead here: “Public life is regarded as the crown of a career... Politics is still the greatest and the most honorable adventure”.
    For almost 40 years, Herb Gray embodied those words. His life and career were indeed an honourable adventure. Therefore, on behalf of the Prime Minister, the government and all the members of the Conservative Party, I extend our condolences to Sharon and their entire family.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, it was with great sadness that we all learned of the passing of a tremendous parliamentarian and Canadian last week, the Right Hon. Herb Gray.
    It has been my great honour to represent the same seat that he held for nearly 40 years. During his time here, my region enjoyed the great privilege of being represented in this place by a man of dignity, character and depth.
     Mr. Gray was one of a kind and served with a specific flair that could be described as understated, but nevertheless he commanded respect.
    The uniqueness of his career manifested concretely in many ways. He was the first Jewish cabinet minister in Canadian history. His nearly 40 years of service in the federal legislature makes him one of the longest serving MPs ever. He is among only a handful of Canadians who did not serve as prime minister to be afforded the honorific of Right Honourable.
    What is truly remarkable about his career is that he had the unquestioned respect of his colleagues across party lines. As a parliamentarian one of Mr. Gray's most defining attributes was his insistence to put his community at the centre of his work. Whether it was on the auto file, a critical industry in Windsor, or on development of our waterfront, Mr. Gray was there all the time. Even after he chose to leave electoral politics, he continued to remain engaged in the significant issues impacting our region, working to protect the Great Lakes as the chair of the International Joint Commission.
    Mr. Gray was a man of great intellect with an incredible and distinctive ability to engage his colleagues in the House. His performances in question period are legendary and affectionately earned him the nickname the "Gray Fog", an homage to his ability to reframe and rebuke opposition remarks and questions. I think he may be credited with inventing the term, “I reject the premise of the member's question”, a line we continue hear in this place on a regular basis.
    In Windsor, the Herb Gray legacy will live on for generations. We are already taking specific steps to tangibly commemorate his legacy with public art and infrastructure bearing his name, but his impact can be felt at a more personal level when we consider the number of citizens he impacted in the community. Whether it was inspiring people or constituents he assisted, he leaves behind an indelible mark in the social fabric of my community. With that, I want to thank all of his staff and volunteers for their service.
    To the family, his wife Sharon and children Jonathan and Elizabeth, along with the member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the New Democrats, and on behalf of this entire House, I want to offer my sincerest condolences and thank you for sharing Mr. Gray with us.
     As well, to friends and extended family of the Right Hon. Herb Gray, I want to thank you for supporting his tremendous service to the community we shared and the country we love.
    Obviously, I am very nervous doing this. It is out of genuine respect for a man that our community loved and misses.

  (1520)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Québécois would like to pay tribute to the memory of the former deputy prime minister and solicitor general, the hon. Herb Gray, who passed away last Monday. I had the honour of serving with him in the House for 18 years. He was a formidable parliamentarian who was always well prepared, respectful of his opponents, and extremely hard-working.
    The former member for Windsor West sat continuously in the House for 39 years, 6 months and 29 days. He holds the record for being the longest-serving MP in the House since Confederation. When he left, I jokingly told him that one day I would beat his record, and I have every intention of keeping that promise, inspired by his exemplary work in the House. He served as minister of 11 different departments. He was also leader of the official opposition and leader of the government.
    In short, Mr. Gray dedicated his life to serving his fellow citizens. Even after he retired from political life, he continued his public commitment, serving with the International Joint Commission and as chancellor of Carleton University.
    On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I extend our condolences to his family and loved ones, and I would like to take this opportunity to say that, regardless of our political affiliations in the House, we will all remember him as a great politician.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise in the House today to also say a few words in tribute to Herb Gray.

[English]

    I had the great honour of knowing and working with Herb Gray before I was in politics, in the political sense, at all. Herb Gray, as deputy prime minister, played a key role that many members here may not know in saving the Kyoto protocol when George Bush first became president of the United States.
    In the fall of 2000, the negotiations in The Hague broke down. The U.S. elections were still hanging in the balance and no one knew who would be the U.S. administration. As those negotiations broke down, they were resumed in the summer of 2001.
    The minister of environment of the day, David Anderson, had fallen and was unable to attend due to a serious injury. It was a sign of the priority of the issue and that which the government of the day regarded the issue that no less than the deputy prime minister went to The Hague to negotiate on behalf of Canada.
    For Herb Gray's efforts, and they were extraordinary, the organization with which I worked at the time, the Sierra Club Canada, gave him our highest award for someone in public life who served the environment. The award, by the way, Mr. Speaker, is in the name of your predecessor, John Fraser. It was the John Fraser Award for Environmental Achievement.
    We had a splendid dinner honouring Herb Gray. He delivered a witty and sage address. After he left Parliament in 2002 and went on to become the Canadian Commissioner to the International Joint Commission, which is another environmental post, I often went to visit him in his offices to discuss the Great Lakes.
    He never failed to take me to this wall and say “I had so many honours for my work in public life, but I want you to notice this, Elizabeth, I have only got two of my awards that I brought with me to this office”: the citation “Right Honourable Herb Gray”, such a rare citation to anyone who has not served as a Prime Minister of Canada, and the original print from Robert Bateman with the award, the John Fraser Award for Environmental Achievement to Herb Gray. He said, “I am prouder of this and for what I did on climate change than almost anything else in public life, because my grandchildren thanked me for it.”
    I will miss Herb Gray. He served his country but, in case any members did not know, he also served this planet.

  (1525)  

    I invite all members to rise and observe a moment of silence in memory of Herb Gray.
    [A moment of silence observed]

[Translation]

Privilege

Remarks by Minister of State for Democratic Reform  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, although I do not wish to delay the business of the House, I would like to revisit the issue raised yesterday in the House by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform in response to the question of privilege I raised on April 10.
    I raised that question of privilege based on the fact that the minister made misleading statements in the House. He said that there were multiple reports on the Elections Canada website of people using their voter information cards to vote multiple times.
    As you know, Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister responded to that question of privilege in the House, and I must say, I was troubled by his response, which was nothing more than an attempt to confuse the Canadian public even further on this issue, without offering any kind of real response.

[English]

    The minister of state decided to respond to my question of privilege by citing seven cases of people voting supposedly multiple times that led to compliance agreements in the 2011 election. I would argue that citing 7 cases of approximately 15 million voters is quite a weak argument to begin with. It gets worse.

[Translation]

    Only two of the cases cited by the minister were actually associated with voter information cards. What the minister did not mention was that these two cases were from the TV show Infoman. As we have said many times, these two examples cannot be used as the sole justification for banning the use of voter information cards, since they were taken from a comedy show. Furthermore, the problem is that the minister claims there are many cases, although he can only cite two, which were taken from Infoman.
    The minister himself stated that although the voters in question tried to vote a second time by using their voter information card, they were not able to vote. In fact, in both cases, the voters in question were told that they could not use their voter information card because their address had been crossed from the list and transferred to the second polling station they had tried to vote at.

[English]

    In addition, I would like to point to the fact that only three examples used by the minister even refer to the 2011 election. Two of the examples he used were from 2006 and two were from 2004.
    I also noticed that the minister avoided mentioning the names of the voters involved after his first three examples, without saying that the remaining four anonymous cases were not valid. This does raise some questions.
    I believe the minister's response to my question of privilege was nothing more than an attempt to confuse Canadians with a quite long-winded statement, citing very few cases, some of which were already well known and which did not address the issue at hand. Even if the two cases from Infoman, where people tried and failed to use voter information cards to vote, are counted, that does not count as regular reports, which, to bring back my original point, is what the minister claimed in the House. I believe the minister might have known that his confusion tactics might not work, which was why he offered us a second argument yesterday, which in my opinion is as flawed as the first.
    The minister claimed in his response that in his original statement he was making two separate points: (a) that there were regular reports of people receiving multiple cards; and (b) that there were regular reports of people voting multiple times. Thus, every case of people voting more than once would count as evidence of his original statement, but that is clearly not the case.
    What the minister originally said in the House was, “There are regular reports of people receiving multiple cards and using them to vote multiple times”.
    It is blatantly obvious, as evidenced by the use of the word “them” in the second clause of this statement, that the minister was not making two separate points. The question the minister was asked when he made this statement was specifically about voter information cards. He clearly claimed in response that there were regular reports of people using voter information cards to vote multiple times.
    Yesterday the Minister of State for Democratic Reform attempted to confuse the public and to throw mud on this whole issue instead of apologizing for what clearly appears to be misleading comments to the House. Canadians and the parliamentarians representing them deserve to be told the truth, especially by ministers and especially by the minister responsible for modifying Canada's electoral law.
    Mr. Speaker, we look forward to your ruling on this matter. I thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Minister of State for Democratic Reform.

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. This started as a question of privilege raised by my friend suggesting that the Minister of State for Democratic Reform had misled the House by citing that there were such cases and there was no basis to that. The Minister of State for Democratic Reform provided seven such examples that are publicly available on the Elections Canada website, without even going beyond that to what other cases may exist and be reported by people individually or in the media over the years; but just those.
    Now his response is that it was only a very few cases. Before it was that there were none. Now it is only a very few. Then he wants to debate the merits of it, and then he wants to debate the grammar of the Minister of State for Democratic Reform in so doing and to try to parse words. Clearly, we have gone far away from the question of privilege about misleading the House and we are entirely, 100%, foursquare in arguing the merits of the issue that is before the House in the legislation. All his comments could be best put in the category of debate, and they have no business being a question of privilege on misleading the House, and his points today make that abundantly clear.
    I thank both members for their contributions at this point, and I can assure the House that I will come back with a ruling in due course.

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker Program 

[Business of Supply]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
     Mr. Speaker, we have never heard “Infoman” mentioned in the House of Commons so much as in the last week. This is because of the Conservative Party's electoral “deform”.
    I am very proud to rise in the House today to speak to the NDP motion moved by my colleague from Newton—North Delta concerning the use of the temporary foreign worker program. In my opinion, the motion is perfectly reasonable and very clearly represents the concerns of the unemployed workers of this country.
    We should keep in mind that 1.4 million people are looking for work in Canada. That is a huge number. These people are shocked to see that, all too often, the hiring of temporary foreign workers prevents them from getting jobs. It is a very serious concern.
    The Conservative Party has shown blatant inaction in this matter. For years, the Conservatives have let the numbers skyrocket and have closed their eyes to requests that were unjustified and unjustifiable, even to their own eyes, depriving Quebeckers and Canadians of good jobs.
    This is why the NDP motion calls for a moratorium on the stream for lower-skilled occupations, but, above all, calls on the auditor general to conduct an urgent audit of the whole program. The whole program must be reviewed.
    The Minister of Employment may be surprised to hear me say this, and I can see him coming a mile away, but the temporary foreign worker program is necessary. We are not questioning the existence of the program, because it is part of what makes our economy tick.
    I represent a Montreal riding, but I come from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. I remember summers in my youth when I spent many hours under a burning sun picking strawberries and raspberries so that I could afford to buy myself certain things.
    Today, not enough people from the region are helping the farmers by doing jobs like that. We need people from outside to give us a hand during the summer. Clearly, farmers could not do without these workers. That is also true in other sectors.
    Let us not forget that the purpose of this program is to fill gaps in our labour market, to address labour shortages or labour training needs. We must be careful to ensure that bringing in a temporary foreign worker will never prevent a Canadian or Quebecker from getting work.
    The Conservatives' inaction has caused the dramatic situations we have seen in the media all because they quite simply washed their hands of the whole thing. Maybe they were just as happy to bring in cheap labour to put downward pressure on wages. They were so intent on getting cheap labour that budget 2012 provided for employers to pay temporary foreign workers 15% less for the same jobs and the same work. If that is not downward pressure on wages, then I do not know what is. This caused such an uproar that the Conservatives had to withdraw this measure, which fortunately was never applied.
    The second point I want to make today has to do with how temporary foreign workers are treated. We have to understand the situation they are in. The NDP thinks that we should better protect temporary foreign workers. If we really need these people, then we should make them Canadian citizens. Then they would have rights. As things stand, far too often these people are exploited and forced to pay for room and board. Some even end up in substandard or dangerous working situations.
    They almost never complain because that often causes them to be sent back to their country of origin and to lose their pay, which affects them and their families. We must ensure that these workers can organize, have rights and defend themselves. That is essential if we want to ensure respect for these people who deserve to work in safe conditions and receive a decent income, even though they are not yet Canadian citizens.

  (1535)  

    I am thinking about domestic workers who are hired as nannies or housekeepers and do not have the right to change employers during their time here. That leads to cases of serious abuse, harassment and molestation. The victim knows full well that she cannot change employers. If she decides to do so, her contract will be terminated and she will have to go home. I have often met with people from the Filipino domestic workers' association in Montreal. They have educated me about their reality. We need to keep this in mind when we are talking about the temporary foreign worker program.
    Some of the numbers are quite revealing. The number of people who have come here through this program increased considerably while the Liberals were in power. However, it has risen exponentially under the Conservatives.
    Between 2002 and 2012, the number of temporary immigrant workers in Canada more than tripled, increasing from approximately 100,000 to nearly 340,000. I doubt that labour market needs tripled between 2002 and 2012.
    It is really astounding. Since the Conservatives came to power, the number of immigrants who come as temporary workers has surpassed the number of economic immigrants who settle as permanent residents. We are bringing in more cheap labour, people who often take jobs away from Quebeckers and Canadians, instead of making people Canadian citizens when they apply as economic immigrants. The system is completely unbalanced.
    Under the Conservatives' reign, we have far too often seen labour market opinions get rubber-stamped. Anything and everything is given the green light. No one checks to make sure that there really is a shortage in a given place or region or that there really is a need for foreign temporary workers, without whom the work would not get done.
    I spoke about the agriculture sector earlier, but we are now seeing that the hotel and restaurant sector is starting to use the program, as is the banking sector. I was in British Columbia a few months ago. I met with people from a stage technicians union. They, too, had a problem because it was cheaper to hire the American stage technicians who were coming to work in Vancouver. Canadian workers were not being hired. This is a problem even in the arts and culture sector.
    During the first year under the Conservative watch, in 2006, the number of temporary foreign workers in lower-skilled job categories, at places like Tim Hortons and McDonald's, doubled over 2005. The following year, between 2006 and 2007, that number went up by 419%. In just one year, there was a jump of 419% in all lower-skilled occupations. Is there really no one in Canada, in Hamilton or Rimouski, who can serve coffee and doughnuts or sell fries and Big Macs at McDonald's?
    That is the question we have to ask ourselves. That is the question my colleague from British Columbia is asking us and the House through this motion. The Conservatives keep saying that they are going to take action and that this is unacceptable, but the cases are multiplying. There are more and more cases.
    Of all Canadian industries, the hotel and restaurant sector is the one with the highest number of labour market opinions. That is the authorization employers have to request from the department. In 2012, there were 44,740 positive labour market opinions, which is an increase of 926% over 2006. The consequences are very real.
    Let me just give the example of Sandy Nelson. She worked in a restaurant in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. She was a waitress for 28 years in that restaurant. She provided her services to the employer without ever being reprimanded or disciplined. She was a model worker who dedicated her entire career to the clients of the restaurant. Last week, we found out that she was replaced by a temporary foreign worker, even though she was there and doing her job.
    We have seen several examples in the mining sector, in British Columbia and Alberta. According to a study by the C.D. Howe Institute, if the temporary foreign worker program were not abused to such an extent in Alberta and British Columbia, the unemployment rate would drop by 4%. That is unbelievable.

  (1540)  

    I congratulate my colleague for this motion. I hope that all parliamentarians will stand up in the House to support Quebec and Canadian workers.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member would provide a fairly precise answer to a question I think many might be somewhat concerned about. We have recognized the valuable role that a well-functioning temporary worker program could actually play, in terms of contributing to Canada's prosperity. Nowhere is that more important that in an area such as agricultural community.
    Would the member give a clear indication whether the moratorium the NDP is referring to in the motion would, in any way, have an impact upon the agricultural community and if so, in what way?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to have to once again contradict the Minister of Employment and Social Development.
    I would first like to point out that the NDP believes that this program is necessary and that it should be kept. However, Canadian workers and temporary foreign workers who come to help us out as needed should not suffer because of the program. A moratorium would allow us to keep what we have. Accordingly, farmers who already have temporary foreign workers and who need them will continue to get them. There is no reason to worry.
    The NDP is acting responsibly and the moratorium will address current needs. However, at the same time, we will ask the auditor general to conduct a thorough audit of the entire program because this government is incapable of managing it.

  (1545)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is rather humorous to see that the member for the official opposition did not know how to answer the question about the implications of his party's motion. Let me explain it to him.
    It calls for a moratorium on the stream for lower-skilled occupations. The reasonable question from the member for Winnipeg North was whether this applies to agriculture, and the answer is, yes.
    The answer is that the NDP's policy would put a moratorium on the admission of workers from abroad coming to work in our agricultural industry, including both the seasonal agricultural workers program and the general agricultural workers stream, both of which are considered elements of the low-skilled streams in the TFWP. This would have the impact of, essentially, shutting down thousands of farms around Canada just as they are going into the agricultural season. The economic impact of that would be truly devastating in many parts of rural Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I believe that the minister would have more credibility if he were able to show us that he can tell the difference between the cancellation of the program and a moratorium. He is not making that distinction. Well, that is fine. We are nevertheless asking him to vote in favour of this motion.
    It is even more ironic given that he has completely suspended access of the food services industry to the temporary foreign worker program. Perhaps he favours farmers and could not care less about restaurant owners.
    He could have much more credibility. In fact, he boasted about the fact that he was given a blacklist of poor employers that use the temporary foreign worker program and it took him three years to write down the name of just one business that was abusing the program.
    I do not believe that the Conservative party, or this government, has any credibility when it comes to protecting Canadian workers.
    Mr. Speaker, we know that the Conservative government has really mismanaged this issue. However, the NDP has a number of proposals to help workers access the job market.
    Can my colleague comment on how the NDP would help Canadians access the job market? For example, can he talk about our proposal to create a tax credit for training young workers?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question, and I will give her a very good answer.
    Actually, everything that has to do with training workers, with apprenticeship, is part of the solutions that the NDP has put forward, especially for young people whose unemployment rate is much higher than the Canadian average.
    The NDP has also proposed a job creation tax credit for the small and medium-sized businesses that drive the economy in so many of our communities.
    Instead of bringing in people from other countries, such as foreign pilots in the air transportation industry, we need to invest in and train our own workers so that we do not have to bring people in from other countries. We need to train our fellow citizens so they can be qualified for the jobs that are available, and most importantly, we need to create new jobs.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this debate.
    Let me begin by defining terms because I find that there is fairly widespread confusion about what actually constitutes what we call the temporary foreign worker program. To be honest, I think it is a misnomer. When most people hear the words “temporary foreign worker program”, they tend, immediately and quite logically, to associate it with efforts by employers to apply to bring in workers from abroad at various skill levels. They particularly tend to associate it with low-skilled positions. However, we need to understand that, in fact, only 38% of the so-called temporary foreign workers who are admitted to Canada each year are attached to a labour market opinion.
    Let me explain for folks who may not understand what a labour market opinion, or LMO, is. This is the process that the government has long established, administered by Service Canada, to ensure that employers inviting someone to work from abroad have first made every reasonable effort to hire and recruit Canadians to do the work and that the employers have demonstrated to Service Canada that no Canadians are available or willing to do the work at what is called the prevailing regional wage rate. They have to satisfy various requirements with respect to advertising that have actually been lengthened due to one of our reforms last year. They have to advertise the position for eight weeks in various media at the prevailing regional wage rate.
    Let me be clear about that point, too. There is an urban legend that the temporary foreign worker program actually constitutes a systematic undercutting of Canadian wage rates when that is not true. In fact, employers cannot get permission through LMOs to invite workers from abroad unless, for eight weeks, they have advertised that position at the median wage for that occupational category in their regions. The median wage, by definition, means being paid more than about half the people in that particular occupation in that community because when an employer goes to hire, say, Canadians at a restaurant or any other business, they are typically starting at a starting wage and they will work up the pay grade with the passage of time. We do not allow employers applying for foreign workers to pay the starting wage or the minimum wage, per se, but, rather, the median wage in that occupational category, which is typically more than what many Canadians are getting paid even in the same workplace. Those are some of the safeguards that currently exist.
    If an employer can demonstrate that it advertised a position at that wage rate for eight weeks and made every reasonable effort to recruit Canadians, but did not receive any applications from qualified people willing to work, then Service Canada will, in principle, approve a labour market opinion and permit that employer to recruit someone from abroad to fill what apparently is a skills shortage in that occupation in that community.
    As I said, we have tightened up the rules around, for example, acquiring a longer period of employment. We ask more questions of the employers now to ensure that they really have made an effort to recruit from within Canada. We now charge employers a cost recovery fee of $275 for that labour market opinion application and starting shortly, we are going to initiate the obligation for applicants for labour market opinions to file what we are calling a transition plan to demonstrate to us how they plan to increase the percentage of workers on their site who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents and reduce their dependence or reliance on the temporary foreign worker program.
    As a result of those reforms that we have already implemented, we have seen a 30% reduction in the number of applications for LMOs in the low-skilled stream and a 20% reduction overall. We also, of course, suspended the accelerated labour market opinion process, which means the processing times are much longer. Many immigration practitioners, lawyers, and employers will complain bitterly about the length of time it takes to approve an LMO, which is evidence of the kind of rigour that I believe Service Canada is applying to these applications.

  (1550)  

    It is important, however, to recognize that what I just referred to alludes to the labour market opinion stream, which is really what most of us call the temporary foreign worker program. Just as a matter of interest, about 35% of the foreign nationals coming in through labour market opinion work permits are higher skilled; 26% are general lower-skilled workers and that would tend to include most of the people we are talking about, for example, in the service, restaurant, and accommodation industries; 8% come into the live-in caregiver program, so-called nannies; and 31% come through the seasonal agricultural worker program. I should point that some of the 26% of LMO linked foreign workers who are in the general low-skilled stream are going to farms as well in what we call the general agricultural stream.
    It is important to break these down because among the higher-skilled stream there are a lot of people in professions, scientific occupations, and technical positions and trades. It is quite shocking for most people to learn that four of the five source countries for the so-called temporary foreign worker program are the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and France, all highly developed and wealthy countries. The plurality of occupations in this element of the program are high skilled.
    I know that does not accord with most people's common understanding of the program. They tend to think it is primarily people from the developing world coming into low-skilled positions, and there is a lot of that, but in fact, the lion's share of so-called temporary foreign workers who are basically foreign nationals coming here on work permits are people coming from developed countries. Germany is in the top 10 as well. In the top 10 source countries, I believe 6 or 7 are highly developed G20 or G7 countries.
    For example, a university professor, let us say a scientist, who is on an exchange with a Canadian university is a temporary foreign worker. A lawyer from New York who is moving to Toronto for six months to work on a complex deal is a temporary foreign worker. This is entirely normal. I do not think it is terribly contentious. This kind of labour mobility we have facilitated has always existed, so that is just to put some context here.
    Now what about the other 62%? That is nearly two-thirds of what we call the flow or population of temporary foreign workers, do not come in with a labour market opinion. They come in typically through reciprocal agreements that we have to facilitate normal conventional mobility of people around the world. Let us not get trapped in a kind of parochialism or unintentional xenophobia in this debate. Let us remember we are a trading country and exporting country. We do not just export goods. We also export services and that means exporting Canadians who work around the world.
    There are something like 2.3 million Canadian citizens living more or less long-term abroad and hundreds of thousands of them are living on work permits in foreign countries, typically making very good incomes. For every Canadian who is a professor at Oxford, or a financial manager in Hong Kong, or who is perhaps an executive at a high tech company in the Silicon Valley, every one of those Canadians, unless they have obtained citizenship in that country, is working on a work permit. All of that would shut down, all of those hundreds of thousands of Canadians working around the world making typically very good incomes and helping in the export of Canadian services, they would all have to come home if we were to shut down the reciprocal agreements we have that facilitate labour mobility around the world.
    In that 62% of this program, we are talking about 133,000 entries in 2012, 29,000 were coming in under free trade agreements and agreements we have with provinces and territories that can exempt certain categories of foreign workers.

  (1555)  

    When we signed NAFTA in 1993, it included a labour mobility provision. Various occupations were given a certain quota of trilateral visas, so a Canadian lawyer who does a lot of work in Mexico and the States or an American physician who for some reason has a practice in all three countries can get a trilateral NAFTA visa to go to Mexico, to the United States, and to Canada. To be honest, I have never heard a complaint about this arrangement. This a normal, conventional part of facilitating high-skilled labour mobility.
     However, the single biggest chunk of this is actually in what we call International Experience Canada, a program based on a number of bilateral reciprocal agreements we have with other jurisdictions, primarily visa-exempt countries that we consider low risk from an immigration integrity point of view. About 59,000 people, or basically a quarter of the total population of the so-called temporary foreign workers, came into Canada under that stream.
    I hear some people—not many, but some—saying, “What are you doing by allowing these foreigners to come in and take jobs from our young people?” The point is that these are reciprocal programs, so right now there are thousands of young Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35 working in Australia. Tens of thousands altogether are working in countries like Australia, New Zealand, France, the United Kingdom, and around the world. If we were to freeze or suspend or shut down this International Experience Canada program, all of those nice young Canadians' reciprocal agreements would be shut down and they would have to get on a plane and come back here to Canada. I really do not think that in 2014, with a global economy that is increasingly sophisticated, we would want that to happen.
    By the way, I would argue that there is an advantage to us as a country in having a limited, reasonable number of bright young people from around the world coming here and getting to know Canada, working here for a few months and becoming interested in and attached to this country. A small number of them might go on to become permanent residents, and that is great. All of them probably will have a future connection to Canada, which would likely be to our commercial and economic advantage. That is a quarter of the whole population of temporary foreign workers.
    I make this point and set this context because the entire debate, perhaps understandably, has a tendency to focus just on a relatively small number of problematic cases. I will turn my attention to that aspect, because we do not want to ignore the problematic issues that may exist in the program. That is why we have been working on tightening up the program and reforming it. It is why we reduced the number of LMO applications. It is why we have been working on a package that I intend to announce in the next few weeks as a further tightening of the program. It is because we want to ensure that on the one hand we facilitate legitimate conventional global labour mobility and address real skills gaps that may exist in certain regions in Canada, but that on the other hand we prevent any distortions of the Canadian labour market and any abuse of the program.
    That is the objective. I hope that in this debate we can identify some common principles. I would advocate that the principle be that we are an open, confident trading country, not one characterized by xenophobia and parochialism. We want to facilitate legitimate movement of people; obviously we do not want to do it in a way that ends up distorting our labour market or displacing Canadians, but we do want to open up those opportunities for Canadians to work around the world. That is exactly what we are trying to do.
    One of the issues that has come up here in the debate was a suggestion that we increase pathways to permanent residency for foreign nationals who are here on work permits. I have happy news for the House: we have already done exactly that. In fact, we have increased by several hundred per cent the number of so-called temporary foreign workers who are now obtaining permanent residency in Canada.

  (1600)  

    We did this as a government primarily by massively expanding, by about eightfold, something called the provincial nominee programs. These are programs we have with nine provinces. Quebec, of course, has its own immigration selection process. The nine provinces outside of Quebec collectively get to select about 45,000 permanent residents. The vast majority of those 45,000 permanent residents are actually already in Canada on a work permit, so they have demonstrated that they are good workers and they are filling the skills gap. If they want to stay in Canada and the employer likes them and wants to carry them on, they apply for permanent residency.
    We also created something called the Canadian experience class, which should have been done a long time ago. We opened this program in 2008, and now we get about 12,000 or 15,000 permanent residents a year through that program. These are higher-skilled foreign workers and foreign students who have done at least 12 years of work in Canada, and they can now get permanent residency.
    In addition to that, the live-in caregiver program is a pathway to permanent residency. As well, a growing number of foreign nationals on work permits in Canada apply for other immigration programs, so altogether about 60,000 people who are here on work permits become permanent residents.
    This is perhaps a bit of a news flash to some people, because the number used to be about 5,000 a decade ago. There has been a huge growth. That is a positive thing. People can come to see if they like Canada and see if they can get through the winter. If they are working gainfully and enjoy the country and then want to stay and settle and maybe even invite their families over, if they qualify for one of these streams, they can do so.
    The point is, however, that not every temporary resident on a work permit wants to stay permanently. The biggest stream is the youth mobility program, which is made up mostly of those Aussies and Kiwis who come and work at our ski hills in Whistler and whatnot. They work part time. They may coach skiing or they may work in the service industry at one of our ski resorts. They are on a walkabout in their gap year, and most of them really do not want to stay permanently in a cold country like Canada. They want to get back to the Gold Coast. Let us not be so presumptuous as to assume that every one of these particularly higher-skilled people from developed countries who constitute the plurality of participants in the program actually wants to stay.
    Finally, let me address the very legitimate concern that the NDP raises today about abuse and distortions in the labour market.
    First, this is a complex issue. The aggregate labour market information is very clear. We are not facing and do not have a general labour shortage in Canada, but there is enormous data to suggest that there are skills gaps in certain sectors and regions. If we live in Toronto or Montreal, maybe that just does not have the ring of truth to it, but I would invite those people to go and talk to employers in, for example, the fast-growing communities of much of western Canada, which are at full employment and where young people can find high-paying jobs without any difficulty at all, leaving a lot of the essentially lower-paying positions in the service industry without adequate staff. That is also true in the agricultural sector.
    I get this everywhere I go. I get it from the St. John's Board of Trade. I get it from the employers in Labrador. I get it from parts of northern Quebec where the mining is. I get it from the computer programming industry in Montreal. I get it from the information technology industry in the Kitchener-Waterloo corridor. I get it from the food processing industry in many parts of the country, and not just for the food service industry but also for skilled trades in certain areas, such as northern Alberta. Every major business group in the country says this is an issue. We cannot ignore it. We do not want to go into denial.
    That said, if and when we see abuses, we are taking and will take serious action. The blacklist is now up and running. We have added employers to it that cannot use that program in the future. I have put those really abusive employers on notice that I intend to refer evidence of fraud in their LMO applications to the CBSA for criminal investigations.
    We were concerned with the growing number of reports of abuse, particularly in the food services sector. I think the vast majority of employers there are honest people who want to abide by the rules, but I do think there has been some slippage. It is hard to put a precise figure on it, but it is enough to be very concerning, which is why I announced a moratorium last week on the temporary foreign worker program in the food services sector pending the outcome of our review.
     This demonstrates how serious we are, and again I would invite constructive ideas from all members as to how we can strike the right balance to be an open country, benefit from the talents of others from around the world, and ensure reciprocal movement of Canadians, yet also avoid distortion of our labour market, displacement of Canadians, or abuse of the program.

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, having heard the minister give us a history and explanation of the different types of temporary foreign worker programs, I want to let him know that I certainly understand the different streams. What I want to stipulate again is that our motion here does not cover the category known as the seasonal agricultural worker program. In no way was it meant to capture that program. At the same time, I heard the minister saying that recently he has heard of some egregious abuses of this program by some people.
    I want to ask him a really simple question today about the LMOs that are given out by his department. Here we are in Victoria, where we have not just one but 26 fast food outlets that were granted LMOs in an area where the youth unemployment rate for entry level jobs is at 15%.
    Having that information and having the information on HD Mining, RBC, and the ironworkers, is it not time for an independent audit? Then let us sit down together and build a program that will really serve all Canadians.

  (1610)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her thoughtful points and reasonable question. I agree with her observation about the situation that we learned about with the McDonald's franchises in Victoria. As I said publicly, I really have to question why there would be a demonstrable shortage of food service workers at that level in an urban area with a youth unemployment rate of 14%.
    I could perhaps understand it in remote rural communities with super-hot labour markets and full employment where young people could easily get $30-an-hour jobs, but I am concerned about that situation. That is exactly why I put in place the moratorium on that sector. It is also why I called the presidency of McDonald's Canada to express my very grave concern about the practices that we learned of.
    In terms of an audit, the whole program is partly based on audits. We do spot checks. Highly trained public servants go in and do spot checks. We now have new legislative authority, which I forgot to mention, that came into effect last December and allows Service Canada to go to work sites unannounced, pull up the paperwork, do the interviews, and dig down to see where there might be instances of abuse. It is my intention to add further to those audit powers of Service Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the minister for one thing, which is giving a speech to give the impression that everything is just hunky-dory when in fact we are in the middle of a huge political mess, perhaps the biggest of his career.
    With regard to the doubling of the temporary foreign workers, even the C.D. Howe Institute has said that it has added to joblessness. We have all of these revelations from McDonald's and others that it has been totally inappropriately administered. Yes, the minister is tightening that policy, but it is only in response to past loosening, which generated this huge growth.
    When we impose a moratorium, it is a last resort. It is like a huge sledgehammer being brought down on everybody. The good apples and the bad apples both get hurt. Why did the minister not, over the past years, take a more surgical approach that would have weeded out the bad apples without allowing the system to get to this point of crisis, whereby so many legitimate, law-abiding businesses are also hurt by his sledgehammer approach?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not accept the premise of the question. It is a matter of objective fact that it was the previous Liberal government, in 2002, of which I believe he was a member, that introduced what is called the general low-skilled stream, which seems to be the subject of most of the criticism now. The administration of the program was so lax that the Liberals actually had what became known as the Liberal stripper program. Six hundred work permits a year were issued to exotic dancers. That was the Liberal idea of how to run the temporary foreign worker program—
    An hon. member: You supported it.
    Hon. Jason Kenney: No, we shut it down, Mr. Speaker. We passed legislation and regulations. It is over. It is done.
    In terms of the growth in the number of foreign nationals on work permits in Canada, let us look at the part that is being criticized most. The part that is being criticized most is the general low-skilled stream. That includes service workers, in most cases. In 2006, 6,500 people were admitted, and last year it was 20,000, so that is up by 14,000. That is significant, but it is not by the hundreds per cent.
    Most of the growth was in areas like the free trade agreements, going from 16,000 people to 25,000; and reciprocal agreements, going from 34,000 people to 63,000. Reciprocal agreements allow Canadians to work abroad, and there are short-term visas that allow young people to come to Canada to learn about our country. Spouses and common-law partners doubled from 6,300 to 12,000. Those are university professors and lawyers. A high-skilled temporary foreign worker comes here, and she gets to ensure that her husband gets a work permit while he is in Canada. These are where we have seen the largest growth, in research and studies. The member for Markham—Unionville is an academic. I am sure he is pleased to know that the number of foreign researchers contributing at our universities has tripled from 4,000 to 11,000.
    Let us look at this based on the facts and not on the myths.

  (1615)  

    Mr. Speaker, the minister has done an excellent job on a very difficult file.
     I would like to ask the minister how he calculates the demand for temporary foreign workers, in light of our diverse economy and the growth in some sectors that are just booming, especially in the context of commodities and other specific types of manufacturing and so on. It seems positive that we have temporary foreign workers helping our economy grow while we are taking decisive action on those few employers that abuse the system.
    Mr. Speaker, I know the member speaks to the particular local context, because there are many communities in southern Manitoba that are at full employment. Without any access to this program, they would have to radically reduce their operations, lay Canadians off, and in some places, shut their doors. One example of that would be the Maple Leaf pork processing plant in Brandon, Manitoba, but there are many others. I was in Winnipeg on the weekend hearing from employers about these issues.
    What we are trying to say is that where there are clearly bona fide skill and labour shortages, where there are jobs that Canadians just are not applying for, even though the wage rate is reasonably high, there should be limited access to this option as a last resort. However, we need tension in the system, and that is really what we are trying to get to here. We need tension so that employers do not think first about applying for people from abroad but think first about raising their wage rates; increasing their investments in training; recruiting energetically among under-represented groups in the labour force, including young Canadians, aboriginal Canadians, disabled Canadians, and newer immigrants; and recruiting in regions in Canada with high unemployment. When employers are looking at options one to ten, the first three options should be raising wages, investing in training, and recruiting Canadians. Only if none of those things have worked should they have limited access to this program.
    After a transition plan is put into effect, they will have to file with their labour market opinion application evidence of how they are going to recruit more Canadians so that they can be less dependent on the TFW program.
    I will be blunt. There are some employers who have become too used to this program, partly because they think it enhances their productivity. These workers tend to be very reliable, but we do not want them to end up displacing Canadians, intentionally or otherwise. That is why we will be making additional reforms to the program.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard.
    I am pleased to speak to the motion of the member for Newton—North Delta today. This motion deals with the challenges we are facing with regard to the temporary foreign worker program, which has made the headlines a lot recently, particularly last week with the story about McDonald's and the rather harsh comments made by the company's CEO.
    As the official opposition's youth critic, I have a unique perspective on this situation. The Standing Committee on Finance is wrapping up its study of youth unemployment, an issue that is related to the motion before us. I will come back to that in a moment.
    To begin, it is important to talk about the content of today's motion. We have heard many Conservative members, including the minister, bragging about the program and talking about all of the areas where there is a need for skilled workers. In his speech, the minister listed the various industries that need these workers and that could benefit from this program.
    Our motion deals primarily with low-skilled occupations, which is a specific area. We do not want the program to be cancelled. We simply want a moratorium to be imposed. That would give parliamentarians and especially the Auditor General—and this brings me to the second point of the motion—to examine the program and get to the bottom of the problems raised in cases that have been in the media recently but that have been going on for months or even years.
    Despite the government's supposed willingness to improve this program, this motion provides an opportunity to get an independent opinion from the Auditor General and an actual report from an independent office, rather than listening to the government's rhetoric and relying on its good faith. This will enable us, as parliamentarians and legislators, to improve this program. We do not want to do away with the program, but there are some major problems with it that will require serious solutions.
    Of all the low-skilled areas of work, the most commonly cited examples involved jobs in the fast-food industry. That is especially troubling because, temporary foreign worker program aside, there is another problem, not with youth unemployment but rather with youth underemployment.
    According to a Statistics Canada report released two weeks ago, just over a decade ago, most young people working in fast food, at McDonald's and Tim Hortons, for example, and in similar areas, had a high school education or less. Now the majority of young people working in these areas are overqualified. Most have post-secondary education, often at a high level. Some have university degrees.
    The problem—which has been raised at the Standing Committee on Finance— is that these young people are not counted as part of the statistics on youth unemployment. They are working, so the government boasts about job creation, but they are obviously working in fields for which they are far too overqualified and they are not meeting needs elsewhere.
    I think that members from all the parties agree that the purpose of the temporary foreign worker program should be to bring people here and allow them to make a positive contribution to our communities and our economy, as they do when it comes to employment. We are always more than happy to come up with the best ways to bring people here.

  (1620)  

    Nonetheless, we want them to come here to do specialized work, where there is truly a labour shortage, and not to fill jobs where there might be an adverse effect on the entire population working in that area.
    For example, consider the downward pressure on salaries that is going to affect those same young people I was just talking about. This is not just about getting laid off. These young people are fighting to get a certain number of hours of work in these jobs. As such, they might not necessarily be let go, but their employer will take away a significant number of hours and give them to temporary foreign workers instead, especially in that industry.
    The reality is grim. With this motion, we are calling for a moratorium. Essentially, we want to press “pause”. We want to take this opportunity to ask an independent authority to study the issue. The government's words rarely or never seem to lead to real action. Now we will have a report to show how we can fix this program to be sure that its real objectives, objectives that benefit all Canadians, are met.
    Let us look at the positive aspect of the program and talk about the skills shortage. It is interesting, because this also shows another aspect of the problem, which is the government's management of this file. We have heard a lot about the famous—or infamous—Kijiji economy, when data was created on Kijiji and other places. Jokes aside, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that these data regarding the skills shortage are inadequate. This is nothing new. It has been around for some time now.
    I want to get back to the study on youth unemployment, which we talked about in 2012 and even before that in 2011. This issue was raised in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. We were studying the fact that all of the authorities and even the public service were saying that there was a big problem with the collection of workforce data. It was necessary to improve the analysis of the population's skills and the realities of the job market. The committee, including the Conservative members, decided to recommend that the government look at ways to improve its data collection, to find out how to get better information to understand the realities of the job market.
    All parties agree that the job market is going through a considerable transformation. When we look at this entire situation, it is very disturbing to see that the government does not even have access to accurate information. Once again, this is yet another reason to ask the Auditor General to look into this issue. At the risk of repeating myself, an independent authority must examine the temporary foreign worker program.
    It is important to point out that this is not an irresponsible proposal. As my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie put it so well earlier today, it is important to distinguish between “cancellation” and “moratorium”.
    As I said earlier in my speech, all members of this House agree that we want Canada to be a welcoming country. We want to allow people from other countries who have very specialized, specific skills to come here and help build our communities, improve our economy and fill the gaps in the labour market. However, this must be done in an harmonious, balanced way, which is clearly not the case.
    Even though these problems may not be widespread, as the minister claims, there is no reason for the Conservatives to refuse an investigation by the Auditor General. This will simply prove that these are isolated problems and it will be even easier to solve them, as we hope to do with our motion.
    I am very pleased to support the motion and I invite my colleagues across the aisle to do the same.

  (1625)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the deputy leader of the Liberal Party clearly indicated that we believe that Canada's Auditor General needs to be brought into the situation. We have expressed that to the Auditor General. We hope that sort of expression of interest in having the Auditor General engaged on this file would be somewhat unanimous here inside the House, because we believe in the importance of the program and Canadians getting that first opportunity for employment. That is the way in which the program was designed.
    There is a second component or another issue in relation to the motion the NDP is proposing, and I would like clarification. Could the member specifically indicate if the motion would have an impact in any way on temporary foreign workers who would be used in our agricultural communities? It is a very important question. I am wondering if he can give a clear indication as to whether or not the NDP motion has any impact on temporary foreign workers for our agricultural communities.

  (1630)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the answer is quite simple: no. He is talking about a different program. Earlier today I heard my colleague from Newton—North Delta, the NDP critic in this area, clarify the same thing for the minister. We are really talking about low-skilled occupations. A specific program is being assessed. The program we are talking about is not the same one.
    I think it is important to revisit the argument that I often raised in my speech, specifically that regardless of the sectors that will be affected by the matter before us today, we do not want anything to be cancelled. We would like a moratorium until the government figures out how to properly manage this file and the Auditor General has time to examine the issue, as the motion indicates. We could then make the necessary changes to the motion. The program could therefore remain positive, without creating all the major problems that have been raised recently but that we have known about for some time.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there was no answer in that response, so let me respond to the question from the member for Winnipeg North again. When I last answered, he had left the House, which is unusual. I thought he lived here.
    The answer is that the NDP motion calls for an immediate moratorium on the stream for lower-skilled occupations.
    I am the minister and I can certify that the agricultural streams are considered lower skilled, so it is clear that the impact of the motion would be to suspend both the seasonal agriculture worker program and the general agricultural worker stream, which is a subset of the general lower-skilled worker stream.
    Perhaps that is not the NDP's intention. I take the member for Newton—North Delta at her word that it was not, apparently, the intention. Perhaps the NDP would like to amend this, because I know the member for Newton—North Delta knows very well that there are a lot of farmers in the Fraser Valley who will be paying her a visit this weekend if in fact she calls for shutting down their berry farms. Therefore, let us have a friendly amendment to the motion.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is not asking that we shut down farms in her region. The problem we are dealing with today was caused by the government's mismanagement. We have to ask for a moratorium so that an independent authority, specifically the Auditor General, can examine the issue. Had the government put its foot down, as they say, instead of waiting for the media to break the story, as in the case of McDonald's, we could have already fixed the problems instead of always blaming the Liberals, although they, too, must answer for their mismanagement of the program.
    The bottom line is that we are asking for a moratorium, and not the cancellation of the program, so that the Auditor General has the time to review it. It is unfortunate that the Conservatives have pushed us to this point. One would think that a government that claims to be a good manager would have better managed this program.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the opposition motion.
    First of all, this motion calls for all parties in the house to recognize that there have been abuses of the temporary foreign worker program, and I believe that everyone can admit that. It is not just the media that have been talking about this. Abuses have been noted for a number of years and this is not really a point of debate.
    The motion also calls for action to be taken—real action, this time—in response to the repetitive abuses of recent years. I will talk about how the Conservative government has tried to fix the problems with its own program, which it then changed, creating the problems we see today.
    First of all, the motion asks the government to impose an immediate moratorium on the stream for lower-skilled occupations. Why impose a moratorium? I explained why earlier. We have waited too long. The government has tried to close the loopholes one measure at a time where it could, knowing that various problems have been going on for years. However, with the scandals that are in the news right now, the government can no longer continue to say that it is going to take action and that it is going to put a small band-aid on a hemorrhaging wound hoping that people will forget about it until the next scandal occurs. The government really needs to stop doing that.
    Secondly, the motion proposes asking the Auditor General to conduct an in-depth audit to determine the shortcomings of the existing program so that solutions can be implemented. Once again, I am not talking about Band-Aid solutions, but real solutions that will address the real problems created by this program.
    I think this motion is extremely worthwhile. It responds to the existing temporary foreign worker crisis, and I would be very interested in seeing all of the parties rise in the House to call for serious action to be taken against the abuse of this program.
    I would like to provide clarification on a point that has often been raised by my Conservative colleagues. The NDP is not opposed to temporary foreign workers, far from it. I would like to talk about a case in my riding where the need for temporary foreign workers is quite real.

  (1635)  

[English]

    I want to talk about the Murugan Temple.
    This temple was built by incredibly hard-working Tamil people in my community. Many years ago, they had a dream and they collected a lot of money to build a temple for their community. They bought the land and built it one step at a time. They invited an engineer from their home country to make sure the temple would be a source of pride for the community. Indeed, it has an incredibly unique architecture that we can see from the highway. It is a beautiful temple, and I wish members could see it for themselves.
    This temple is a cornerstone of our community now and serves a very large Tamil community in the West Island. It is a beautiful building that hosts a lot of festivals. One of the most popular festivals at the temple hosts thousands of people during the summertime, not only from my community or the West Island but from all across Canada and even from other countries. That is how important this temple is.
    Today, people in the community are waiting to welcome a priest to the temple to continue their mission and to continue to serve the Tamil community's spiritual needs. However, the government refused the priest's first application submission, and they are still waiting for an answer on the second application.
    Yes, I do recognize that people can come to Canada, work on a temporary basis, and serve a real need in a community. I know that well. Therefore, I continue to ask the minister, and other ministers involved in this file, to answer the community's request. This job cannot be fulfilled by anyone in Canada. The community needs someone with specific knowledge to help it continue to grow on a spiritual level.

[Translation]

    That being said, just because we need temporary foreign workers does not mean that the program should continue to go on the way it is. As I said earlier, there are serious problems with the program. As the critic for citizenship and immigration, I would like to talk about this issue from a perspective that may be a little different than what we have heard so far in this debate.
    In fact, I would like to talk about a study conducted by Ms. Bloemraad from the University of California, who looked at the success Canada has experienced with its immigration system and its pluralistic approach. Ms. Bloemraad is an immigration expert who has studied Canada's immigration system and its success at length. As this researcher said, compared to a number of European countries and our neighbour, the United States, Canada's immigration programs have been very successful because new immigrants to the country integrate and contribute fully to the economy. In general, Canadians see immigration as a very positive way to build Canada, which is not always the case in other countries.
    Why is Canada so successful? The researcher mentions several factors. I do not have time to get into all of them, but one of the things she mentions is this:

  (1640)  

[English]

    The focus on permanent, rather than temporary, migration has also been critical, since it gives both immigrants and the receiving society a stake in promoting favorable long-term outcomes. Supportive institutions and policies are thus an important part of the story.

[Translation]

    In summary, she says that it is very important to give immigrants the opportunity to come in as permanent residents, or to ensure they know, once they are here as temporary workers, that they have the opportunity to become permanent residents and, eventually, Canadian citizens. This is important in the way that Canadians view immigrants, and it motivates newcomers to get involved and become invested in the communities that welcome them. For us here in Canada, this is an important factor in the success of our immigration system.
    Historically, Canada has taken in relatively few temporary foreign workers, accepting many more skilled workers in the economic class; these workers came to the country to meet a labour need but were able to settle here. We found that an impressive number of those people applied for citizenship, as compared to the situation in many other countries; they also became involved politically. We have seen their children and their children's children achieve enormous success academically and economically. Why? Because these newcomers were welcomed by Canadian society. They saw a future in Canada and they wanted to become involved in building the wonderful country that is Canada.
    However, in recent years, we have unfortunately seen a turnaround in these immigration policies, specifically under the Conservatives. What we found, actually, is that the percentage of temporary foreign workers has soared. I have some figures here. From 2002 to 2012, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has more than tripled. In fact, we now accept many more temporary foreign workers than economic class immigrants as permanent residents, so we can see a change in Canada's policy and we have reason to fear the impact on Canada's success in the economic integration of immigrants.
    Now, if the number of temporary foreign immigrants has risen so much over these many years, we may well wonder whether there was such a significant increase in the number of jobs that Canadians can no longer fill them. If we had seen that for a year or two, followed by a decline, that might have been another thing. However, that is not the case. What we are actually seeing is an alternative solution to welcoming economic class immigrants on a permanent basis, and that is to give out visas. It is difficult to say why. However, it is certainly not an appealing solution. Ms. Bloemraad's research into the matter at the University of California gives us a good deal of very interesting food for thought.
    With that, I look forward to questions from my colleagues.
    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the member was completely wrong about the last point she made in her speech.
    She presented a myth, a falsehood that we bring in more temporary foreign workers than permanent residents. That is the opposite of the truth. Every year, we bring in about 260,000 new permanent residents. Permanent residents are people who can eventually become citizens. On average, we bring in about 200,000 temporary foreign workers. That number is much lower than the number of permanent residents.
    I see this all the time. The left would have us believe that the Conservative government has slashed the number of permanent residents in its immigration program and replaced them with temporary residents. That is not true. It is the opposite of true. I would like the member to set the record straight. She has to acknowledge that most temporary foreign workers by far are here for a few months, that many of them are from developed nations and that they are not seeking permanent residency in Canada.

  (1645)  

    Mr. Speaker, I agree with some of the things my colleague said. It is true that not all temporary foreign workers want to become permanent residents. I agree with that. However, the important thing is to offer it to those who want it so that they, in turn, can invest themselves in Canadian society.
    As for the numbers, that is strange, because the researcher I quoted earlier said this:

[English]

...the recent ballooning of temporary visas heralds a new and alarming trend that could upset the pro-immigrant consensus in Canada.

[Translation]

    She then provides some numbers. In 2001, 186,788 people held temporary work permits in Canada; by 2010 this number stood at 432,682. That is a significant increase.
    Did I say that there are more temporary foreign workers than permanent residents? No, that is not what I meant to say. What I said was that there is a difference between the number of new economic workers and the number of new temporary foreign workers.
    There are other permanent residents who are sponsored as spouses, parents or children. However, when it comes to meeting Canada's economic needs, we can see that temporary foreign workers are being given priority more and more often.
    Is that really the solution we are looking for? Is that really the path that Canada wants to go down? I would say no, and I am not the only one.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, out of concern, based on discussions or comments both from the Minister of Employment and Social Development and others, including some of the New Democratic members of Parliament, with regard to the agricultural industry, I am wondering if the NDP would be open to a friendly amendment that would make it explicitly clear that temporary foreign workers in the agricultural industry would not be affected by the motion that it is putting forward today. Given what has taken place and how the government seems to be so sure, would New Democrats support a friendly amendment that would make it crystal clear?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his proposal. It would certainly be interesting to look at, considering that our critic, who sponsored today's opposition motion, said that agricultural workers were not targeted because they are in a different category than temporary foreign workers. It is something to look at more closely. We need to make sure that it is clear.
    It is important that we keep certain numbers in mind. This program needs to undergo fundamental change. That is exactly what the motion aims to do.
    The Auditor General spoke about these problems in 2009. Since then, the Conservatives have told us that they are fixing the problems, but we are still talking about the scandal today. We therefore cannot trust the Conservatives when they tell us not to worry because they have hastily thrown something together to address the issue. They have been saying that for years and we can see that it is not working.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to this motion on behalf of the Liberal Party.
     I would like to deal with the question of this huge mess that has been created in the area of temporary foreign workers: first, how we got into this mess, what the Conservative government did to make the number of temporary foreign workers double; second, why this doubling is a bad thing.
     I will talk about why it is bad. It is because it changes our fundamental concept of immigration away from being a country of citizen immigrants and toward being a country of temporary worker immigrants, which Canadians do not want. Second, it is wrong because it costs Canadians jobs. Third, it is wrong because it leads to some exploitation of these temporary foreign workers.
    Before I get onto those core points as to why it is damaging, let us just ask this question. How come, over the period of the current government, we got up to 214,000 temporary foreign workers entering the country in 2012 and a stock of some 335,000 such workers in this country in the most recent year? That is a doubling from before. The Conservatives keep talking about tightening, but before they tightened they had to loosen or we would not have doubled those numbers. The government does not let us in on all its secrets of exactly how it loosened, but it had to have loosened up the system or we would not have doubled that number.
    We have at least three points coming from the minister's speech.
    First, he talked about how we are so strict on wages that now we go by the median wage. However, we all know that not so long ago temporary foreign workers could have below average wages. Initially, some time ago, the Conservatives loosened by allowing workers to come in at below Canadian wages and now they take pride in tightening, bringing it back to the median. One of the reasons why more came here in the first place was because employers were, according to the law, allowed to pay lower wages.
    The second point the minister made is that employers were now annoyed because they no longer had access to this accelerated labour market opinion, implying there used to be just that, an accelerated labour market opinion. Until recently, when the Conservatives began their tightening, they had loosened to allow these accelerated labour market opinions which meant that employers had access to a quick and easy way to import these temporary foreign workers.
    The third point I would make has to do with the attitude of the government. We all know that famous quote from the president of McDonald's, that the minister gets it, and that might have been the straw that broke the camel's back that caused him to bring in this moratorium. However, clearly what the president of McDonald's had in mind was that the minister was onside with the corporate rationale for bringing in all these temporary foreign workers at the expense of Canadians. Whatever was going through the minister's mind, the members of the corporate sector at least had the impression that he was okay with it. Certainly, he had been the minister for many years and he had seen this explosion of temporary foreign workers over the years, and until very recently he did not appear to have done anything to stop it.
    We do not have a full explanation because the Conservatives do not give us the information. However, we certainly know that awhile ago they had some accelerated process to get a labour market opinion that was favourable. They allowed workers in at lower wages, and the government, through the minister, certainly gave the impression to members of corporate Canada that they could go gung-ho to bring in all these temporary foreign workers.
    Now that the crisis has hit them, they are being virtuous and tightening up the things that they have already loosened. However, if they are trying to explain why we doubled those numbers and why we got to where we are, we have to look at those loosening measures that they took over a number of years, because do not forget that this explosion of temporary foreign workers has occurred not just in recent months or years, but over the last seven or eight years when the current government has been in office. That is how, technically, they loosened to the point that this explosive growth in temporary foreign workers occurred.

  (1650)  

    Why is that explosive growth in temporary foreign workers damaging to the Canadian economy? Here I want to go through the three points I mentioned. First of all, I think the vast majority of Canadians, and certainly we in the Liberal Party, are very attached to a nation-building view of immigration where immigrants come in permanently with their families, get a job, have children, ultimately become citizens, and become Canadians like all of us. That is how this country has treated immigration for decades. I hope that is how we will always treat immigration.
    The other way to do it is like in some European countries where they bring in temporary guest workers. They are not citizens, they are in brought in to do a specific job maybe for a year or maybe for two years, they come in and they are shipped out.
    The minister a few minutes ago said they were not shifting away from permanent immigration to temporary foreign workers. In a sense he is right because the number of permanent residents who came in was 265,000, but the number of temporary foreign workers was 214,000. Temporary foreign workers are 75% of the permanent immigrants. If we went back eight years that would not be 75%, it would be maybe 30%. We have certainly had an explosive growth of temporary foreign worker intake, relatively stable permanent immigration so that the temporary foreign workers as a per cent of the permanent immigrants has been escalating sharply under the government's watch.
    We object to that because we think that is changing the fundamental nature of this country's immigration under the Conservatives' watch in a way that is gradual and subtle enough that not many Canadians will notice. While it is true that some of these temporary foreign workers are offered a pathway to citizenship or permanent residence as the minister stated, the proportion is not very big or else we would have seen the immigration numbers go up as well as the number of temporary foreign workers go up. We have not. We have seen an explosion of temporary foreign workers' stability in permanent immigration.
    Let me make a caveat. We are not opposed to temporary foreign workers. We are in favour of temporary foreign workers in those sectors, in those parts of the country where employers, after searching diligently and paying decent wages, cannot find Canadians to do the job. For example, one person in my constituency runs restaurants with specialized food and employs Canadians, but he can only find people outside of the country who can cook this specialized food. We think he should be able to bring those people in and that will allow his restaurants, which are otherwise staffed by Canadians, to function. If they are not allowed in, which they may not be under the government's moratorium, then the restaurants might have to shut down and that would be most unfortunate. We favour a limited number of temporary foreign workers, but not the explosion that the minister has produced.
    The first problem is distorting the nature of our immigration and the second problem is jobs for Canadians. I hardly have to even mention this because we have seen it so much on television, from a bank, to a restaurant, to the C.D. Howe Institute which is hardly run by a horde of socialists, their studies show that this has had a substantial positive impact on Canadian unemployment. The minister again talks out of both sides of his mouth because in one breath he says the median wage is very high, they have to come in at the median wage and in the next breath he is lecturing the private sector to pay higher wages. He cannot have it both ways. Wages have been quite stagnant in this country and part of that has been due to this explosion of temporary foreign workers.
     C.D. Howe and others have shown that this has had a negative effect on Canadians getting jobs, so that is not how the system is supposed to work. When Canadians see these extreme stories of Canadians who have worked for a restaurant for 20-plus years having to train temporary foreign workers who will then take their own jobs against their will, that resonates with Canadians. It is clearly wrong, but it is something that the government has been allowing to happen with a wink and a nod, if not with open approval.

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    The third part of the issue is that there has been some exploitation of temporary foreign workers that has been reported in the media. I am not sure of the amount, but certainly there are stories of some restaurants—for example, McDonald's—that apparently require foreign workers to sleep in company houses and accept reduced wages. I am not sure of the truth of that, but certainly there are those allegations.
    To recapitulate, the government has deliberately, through a policy of easing—only recently followed by tightening—permitted an explosion of temporary foreign workers. This has had negative effects for Canada: one, it has distorted our immigration away from permanent immigrants toward temporary workers; two, it has created employment problems for Canadians; and three, it has led to a certa