Tweak program to work better

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At this very moment, someone in Canada is trying to evade his taxes.

Someone is also, at precisely this time, collecting Employment Insurance premiums while working for a buddy on the side.

And someone is faking an injury so they can collect Workers’ Compensation and have an extra-long holiday.

If the federal government’s treatment of the temporary foreign worker (TWF) program sets a precedent, then everyone in Canada should be forced to pay a tax evasion levy when filing their taxes, everyone in Canada should have their EI premiums cranked by 20 per cent to compensate for the deadbeats who have no business collecting it, and everyone in Canada should have to submit to a lie-detector test if they want to use the Workers’ Compensation program.

Only a lunatic, of course, would think the above suggestions are reasonable.

Our federal government, however, has used this loony logic to punish all businesses that use the TFW program. In the process, the Stephen Harper Conservatives are creating the semblance of a police state.

Over the past two months, the St. Albert Gazette has had an extremely tough time trying to get local business owners to talk about the TFW program and its difficulties, stretching back to April when the federal government placed a moratorium on parts of said program.

Business owners are afraid to talk. Many franchisees have had a gag order slapped on them from corporate office. Why? Do they fear reprisal from our federal government? Do they fear they’ll be singled out and made an example of? Who can blame them, after witnessing Tory henchman Jason Kenney wield the axe to the program?

Last spring accusations were hurled against some McDonald’s franchises that allegedly weren’t treating temporary foreign workers properly. Employment Minister Kenney’s knee-jerk reaction was to crack down on the entire food service industry and impose a moratorium on the TFW program – punishing all for the actions of a few.

Kenney used the opportunity to politicize the program, pandering to the voter-rich east where the economy lags and unemployment is higher than it is in Alberta. “Hire Canadians first” became the mantra. In order to do so, Kenney suggested that businesses raise their wages, which would entice more Canadians to apply for the jobs – government logic at its best, but for private business in labour-short Alberta, it’s utterly unrealistic.

Thankfully, one business owner in St. Albert finally agreed to talk to the Gazette if anonymity was granted, something the St. Albert Gazette doesn’t do very often. The anonymous business owner was afraid of backlash for speaking out, but should be commended for coming forward. Speaking out gives the Gazette’s readership an insight into the plight many business owners face in Alberta.

The TFW program may have its flaws, as does Canada’s tax code, but it should be tweaked to work better, not pounded into oblivion.

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St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.