Clark’s call for immigration powers ignores Ottawa’s termination of Canada – BC agreement

Premier Christy Clark’s call yesterday for greater provincial immigration powers seems to have overlooked Ottawa’s unilateral termination of the Canada-BC immigration agreement earlier this year. The people really in charge these days are individual employers who can increasingly tap temporary workers as a solution to labour force problems.

(As usual, Ottawa pitched the termination of the agreement as a sign of new investment in immigration services.)

In fact, Canada’s immigration policy is experiencing unprecedented turmoil as the Conservatives undertake a root and branch reform of immigration services to make them more employer-friendly.

That campaign suffered some setbacks during the past few weeks as reporters and trade unions forced a comprehensive review of the Temporary Foreign Workers program.

Attempts to bring Chinese coal miners in to run four BC mines have generated a storm of controversy and the e coli outbreak at XL Foods, which crippled the beef industry, has highlighted the pressures faced by temporary foreign workers when they want to blow the whistle on unsafe practices.

But the TFW program  is now more important, in terms of numbers of people admitted to Canada, than the regular immigration stream. It is tailored to meet the needs of individual employers and does not, in the case of lower-skilled workers, provide a clear route to permanent residency and citizenship.

Meanwhile, Ottawa has centralized western Canada’s Customs and Immigration Canada offices in Calgary, leaving no capacity to manage immigration services on the ground in BC. This, on top of Victoria’s wholesale reorganization of employment services, has left BC’s immigration settlement services in an upheaval, making 2012 a bleak year on every front.

More provincial control over immigration? A great idea, but are we talking immigration or a guest worker program?