The first weekend in October started like every other weekend: my chair, an espresso, and TSN SportsCenter.
Then I picked up the Saturday Globe and Mail. The headline jumped off the page: “How an immigration scheme steers newcomers into Canadian trucking jobs — and puts lives at risk.”
The article, on the abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, was appalling.
The program is intended to allow carriers to hire temporary labor when qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents are not available. However, some idiots, predominantly in British Columbia, have figured out a way to abuse the system by making people pay for jobs and then put up with dangerous working conditions. The stories of lives lost and families destroyed were particularly disturbing.
After digesting this front-page news, here are my thoughts on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the people who abuse it.
Criminals, not truckers
My initial reaction to the article was that once again the underbelly of the industry has stolen the headlines and hurt our brand. But let’s be clear: Criminals, not truckers, are running this immigration scam. Human traffickers are using trucking as a means to sell the Canadian dream.
It’s an insult to anyone reading this magazine to call these scumbags “truckers”.
The article did remind me how easy it is to get a trucking licence. The federal government has to figure out a higher standard than “nothing” before allowing any Tom, Dick, or Lakhwinder to put people behind a wheel. The insurance industry can’t do it alone.
Industry needs it
We can’t allow this piece of bad press to taint the importance of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Without it, the industry can’t fill enough seats. Our 6.6% vacancy rate has doubled in the past three years. Maybe the Globe and Mail exposé could have given a little coverage to the compliant, responsible carriers using the program to help keep the economy moving.
You’re bound to have problems when the federal government is doling out the cash, but the provinces enforce this program. Efforts must be stepped up (maybe begun) to ensure this essential program doesn’t get shut down (as the Green Party would like) and to ensure participants are truckers and not immigration fraudsters. How does a legitimate carrier get more temporary permits than they have trucks?
They should also eliminate the red tape surrounding the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) required to prove there are not enough Canadian drivers in the region. Last I checked, Mr. Government, every region in the country needs truck drivers.
The fact that temporary workers are restricted to one employer is also problematic. It gives immigrants zero leverage. Their choice is, “Help my criminal enterprise, or here’s a ticket for the next boat home.”
Truckers or Canadians?
I’m still trying to understand if the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will produce career truck drivers and Canadian citizens. I’m sure there are immigrants who are only in the program to obtain permanent residency status. At the same time, I also worry that immigrant drivers will come to hate the job and leave the industry as soon as they can. We need better enforcement to prevent abuse and help immigrants see that driving a truck is a good way to make a living.
Speaking of foreign drivers, many of them have to take responsibility, too. Frankly, it’s hard to believe that anyone with $10,000 to pay an immigration consultant is completely oblivious to the possibility of a scam.
In the short term, the Globe article may have hurt the industry’s brand. But here’s hoping that it exposed how the Temporary Foreign Worker Program can be fixed so it can attract the quality drivers (and people) that Canada so badly needs.
Mike McCarron is the president of Left Lane Associates, a firm that creates total enterprise value for transportation companies and their owners. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 416-551-6651, or @AceMcC on Twitter.