Canada: home to cold weather and governments
Saturday, Apr 05, 2014 06:00 am
Canada and Mexico are in a standoff. Their relations seem as chilly as our never-ending winter, though there is more hope that this cold weather will soon pass. What is causing this frosty affair? Simply put, Canada refuses to remove visa restrictions that were placed upon Mexicans wishing to travel here.
There seems some irony in that last statement. As Canadians flock down to Mexico to escape our winter, why ever would Mexicans want to come to our unwelcoming clime? In essence, they have come here to seek a better life, a story not uncommon to many Canadians.
So, why is this a problem all of a sudden? The problem, according to the government, is that many were filing refugee claims, which then become a burdensome cost upon the government.
There seems some irony in this tale too, as the government has claimed we have a shortage of workers for our economy. At the same time as it placed visa restrictions on Mexicans entering Canada, this government launched a campaign to encourage skilled workers to emigrate here. Moreover, it expanded the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, bringing in workers to help fill those jobs that we, apparently, would not do.
These programs obviously come with their own costs, some administrative and some on how they impact our economy. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been abused by some employers, both in the exploitation of those workers, along with the displacement of Canadians from job opportunities. There was a mine in B.C. where the company sought to hire only Chinese miners. RBC laid off staff out east, after that staff trained foreign workers brought in to replace them. Most recently, here in Alberta, a company used cheaper foreign workers to outbid its competitors, securing a job that should have gone to Canadians.
The difference between a temporary foreign worker and a refugee or immigrant to Canada is, however, that we can send the foreign worker back when he or she no longer meets our needs. But why should Mexicans looking to immigrate to Canada be viewed as a negative thing in the eyes of our government? Maybe it should not be so.
NAFTA was signed 20 years ago, and though it never turned out to be the bonanza for Canada’s economy, leading it to lapse in importance, there is now talk both from the U.S. and Mexico of renegotiating it. There are opportunities for Canadian businesses down there, especially with oil and gas, as the Mexican government is willing to open those up. Manufacturing opportunities are also there, with the potential for them to out-compete Asia. And it is an open market for Canadian goods, one that should be groomed.
So, it does seem a little ironic, with a government that has unsuccessfully pursued trade agreements around the globe – South Korea being the only successful one – that this government seems willing to sabotage its relations with a trade partner over refugee claims when there is more at stake for Canada. Maybe this just speaks to how cold and standoffish our government has become.
John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.