Harper's Most Dangerous Cabinet Minister
Date: Sunday, January 07 2007
The most important change in the Harper Cabinet shuffle, which was overlooked by the MSM, is the decision to put Monte Solberg in charge of HRDC. This is a logical step and a dangerous one for workers and the trade union movement in Canada.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Camrose or Calgary, Edson or Edmonton, ‘Help Wanted’ signs are everywhere,” Solberg said. “And you know, when it starts to affect our ability to go to Tim Horton’s and get a double-double, it ceases to be a laughing matter. It’s a serious issue.”
Solberg was in charge of liberalising Canada's temporary worker program under his Immmigration portfolio; now he can see it to its logical conclusion under HRDC. That means more flexibility for the employers in the oil patch to hire temporary workers for Alberta. Something they and the Alberta Government have been lobbying long and hard for.
"British Colombia, Alberta and Saskatchewan will benefit from a government program designed to ease regulations concerning foreign workers coming into Canada. Canada's new government has been listening to employers in Alberta and British Columbia, and they are truly having a hard time finding enough workers. The improvements we are announcing today are making it easier, faster, and less costly for employers to hire temporary foreign workers," said the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Monte Solberg."
Temporary workers are not allowed the same rights as other workers, including immigrant workers. They are subject to exploitation by the state and employers while being used to undermine wages and working conditions, through no fault of their own.
Already scandals around exploitation of Polish Workers in the oil patch have come to light.
Polish welders sue employers, college for $5.5 million
"A group of 30 Polish welders who say they were brought to work in Canada under false pretences are suing an energy services company, Lakeland College and three individuals for more than $5.5 million.
The lawsuit, filed in Edmonton's Court of Queen's Bench on Monday, makes two main claims:
- That the men believed they were being hired by Kihew Energy Services Ltd. to work in Alberta as full-time welders, not full-time students as their visas said.
- And that once here, they received inadequate pay for their work, earning $10 to $12 an hour from Kihew while four companies contracted with Kihew paid up to $28 an hour for their services.
The court action comes one month after Alberta's Auditor General raised questions around Lakeland College's involvement in the program where the college collected more than $200,000 in tuition from Kihew to educate students who attended virtually no classes.
Auditor General Fred Dunn said in his report on Lakeland's contracting practices that the former general manager and three people who reported to him also failed to follow the college's policy about who can issue letters to Citizenship and Immigration Canada verifying international student registration. As many as 158 letters were sent to the federal agency."
And while Solberg cracked down on 'illegal' workers in Canada, in particular Portuguese workers in Toronto's Construction industry, he did not declare a general amnesty as was done in the eighties, quite successfully, rather he deported them. In preparation to replace them with a formal temporary worker program.
"March 21, 2006 – Illegal workers in Toronto's underground economy are being deported as the new Conservative government abandons a Liberal amnesty plan, immigration lawyers and consultants say. Some families who have been in Canada five years or more are given less than two weeks to pack up and leave. Toronto's Portuguese community – with up to 15,000 undocumented members, working mainly in the booming construction industry – is especially concerned."
And our laws in Canada still allow for indentured servitude, a polite term for slavery, of some foreign temporary workers especially farm workers and nannies.
"Canada is one of the preferred countries of destination for Filipinos aiming to work and live abroad. But life for migrant workers and overseas Filipinos is not all that rosy in the “Land of the Free,” a motto coined and patented by Canada."
Monte's riding was the site of last years long ugly labour dispute between Tysons and its largely immigrant unionized workforce. A strike Monte didn't bother to comment on.
Placing Monte in charge of HRDC is a reward to the Alberta government and its Big Oil partners in an attempt to undermine the building trade unions in Alberta. It can only mean more confrontations between the Feds, Big Oil, the Alberta Government and the labour movement.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 8, 2007]