PEI: Answers needed on cause of worker shortage

Employment Minister Jason Kenney is asking a legitimate question. The minister has made it plain he doesn’t understand why a province with double-digit unemployment had to bring in temporary foreign workers to staff fish processing plants.

At first blush, it doesn’t make any sense – most processing plants are in rural areas and the highest unemployment levels tend to be in rural areas. Why can’t processors attract workers?

So far, the minister has received little in the way of answers. Both the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association and the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association are predicting severe labour shortages in fish plants across the Island next spring now that processors are no longer able to bring in temporary foreign workers.

For them, this is no theoretical exercise. Several processors were forced to implement boat quotas last spring, after a shortage of workers backed up production lines. Many within the industry are worried this might just be the tip of the iceberg, predicting labour shortages of up to 25 per cent next spring…

I am very far from being an expert on this. But I have a theory. The TFWs are from third world countries, are familiar with extreme poverty and willing to work hard for low wages.

Canadian citizens have more options: like unemployment insurance and welfare. They also have more expectations: like being able to afford a house and family.

It is almost like slavery was legal and we were asking why employers preferred slaves to citizens.

And of course many of the TFWs opt to become citizens, and their children will then be like any other citizen. So the whole system depends on continuing to bring in these indentured servants.

We made do without foreign workers for a very long time – almost a hundred years – and I see no reason not to just call the whole thing off and force employers to pay higher wages. That may drive up costs but I would rather pay more than be inundated with third worlders to keep to this quasi-slave system going.

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