It’s time to have an adult conversation about the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been receiving some press lately, much of it negative. Who would think a program to bring workers from low-wage countries and/or with dicey political situations – one with oversight problems – might be subject to exploitation by Canadian employers. All to solve a problem that likely doesn’t exist.

[T]he Parliamentary Budget Officer reported that he could find little evidence of systemic or countrywide job shortages or skills mismatches

The latest involves a Victoria McDonald’s franchise. In a statement to the CBC, Dan Kelly, the President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, weighs in to protect the ethical reputation of Canada’s small businesses.

HAHA…I mean call Canadian workers unreliable and shifty.

Although Kelly said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the B.C. McDonald’s case, he said that, unfortunately, he does hear more and more from business owners that “temporary foreign workers are often their hardest working employees” who will “take every late shift or early morning shift that’s offered to them.”

They’re not going to take the day off because they have to take their dog to the vet. They’re going to show up to work on time, they’re going to work a full week without disappearing,” Kelly said.

“The strengths of some of the TFW workers, in terms of their work ethic is, it pains me to say this, but, sometimes it is better than that of their Canadian counterparts,” Kelly said.

It’s really hard to explain away just how contemptuous of Canadian workers the comment about “taking their dog to the vet” is [presumably you should allow your dog to die rather than miss a shift). It’s a moment of the mask slipping (and a somewhat ironic one at the that because in other “national conversations” the CFIB is full of praise for the work ethic of private sector workers vs. their public sector counterparts).

But what I really want to highlight this very brief part of Dan Kelly’s eloquence here:

I can tell you, anecdotally

You see, we have a government organization called Statistics Canada. And they keep detailed data on such things as absentee rates. Which, oddly, Dan Kelly doesn’t cite.

For example, the Days lost per worker in year for the Accommodation and food services sector is 7.6.

6.1 days for illness or disability. And 1.5 days for Personal or family responsibilities – you know, where you take your dog to the vet.

The inactivity rate – absent workers divided by total workers – is 3.

So one can sort of, kind of begin to discern why Dan Kelly wouldn’t mention any of this, and instead chose to rely on anecdote.

The second thing worth mentioning, from the CFIB’s own perspective, is just how bad the messaging is here. This group has long warned us of the need to “cut red tape” on “small business” or jobs might be at risk. But now we see these jobs might not be for you or me. Why would Canadians support cutting, for example, health & safety regulations for businesses that seemingly don’t want to employ them?

It’s a terrible own-goal. But, you know….

Kelly said it’s time to have an “adult conversation about the world of work” and that “we have to admit as Canadians that there are certain sectors of the economy and certain regions of the country where Canadians are not particularly excited about working.

Given the statistics on absenteeism and national unemployment rate, one wonders what he’s on about. Oddly, even Jason Kenny – yes, JASON KENNY – understands the solution1

“I have stood up in front of business groups and said that if employers want to keep complaining about a general skills shortage, then they should be reflecting that by increasing salaries, wages, benefits and investments in training,” [Kenny] said.

It’s time to have an adult conversation….about the CFIB. Who they are and what they really represent. Because it’s not you or me. Or even Canada.

1Although of course the Conservatives can screw that up too

Raising the ire of some critics is the Conservative government’s decision to drop the regulation that prevented employers — who had criminal convictions in human trafficking; sexually assaulting an employee, or causing the death of an employee — from applying for workers under the TFWP.