The provincial government is investing $850,000 to help temporary foreign workers adjust to life in Alberta while reviewing the federal program's effectiveness, Alberta's labour boss said Friday.
Alberta's Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said the review will be done by Calgary-Mackay MLA Theresa Woo Paw, his parliamentary assistant.
Now is the time for the review, said Lukaszuk as the economic slowdown has lessened the demand for foreign workers, but that won't last.
"One doesn't really need a crystal ball to come to the conclusion that Canada and most western countries will be facing a severe and very acute labour shortage over several decades to come," he said."The fact of the matter is our natural population growth in this country is pretty well flat-lined at zero."
The money - on top of $1.4 million invested in 2009 - will go to social agencies in Calgary, Red Deer, Banff, Brooks, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray and Edmonton tasked with helping temporary foreign workers settle into life in Alberta, said Lukaszuk.
There are about 66,000 temporary workers in the province.
The Alberta Federation of Labour called for the Temporary Foreign Workers program to be scrapped, saying the money will do little to protect people from exploitation and abuse.
"We also know that many foreign workers have to pay illegal fees of thousands of dollars to recruitment agencies, are forced to work unpaid overtime and live in sub-standard housing with exorbitant rents, and are misled into thinking they will be able to apply for Canadian citizenship," said secretary treasurer Nancy Furlong.
But Lukaszuk said the provincial government has no plans to call for an end to the program.
Companies must first advertise a job in Canada and show there are no Canadians who can or want to do it before temporary foreign workers can be brought in, Lukaszuk said.
Calgary Sun, Tues Sept 7 2010
Byline: Dave Dormer