Editorial: Albertan-first hiring program a no-brainer

Giving Albertans first crack at jobs ahead of temporary foreign workers is the idea behind a two-year pilot project announced Wednesday by the provincial and federal governments.

This program is a no-brainer

Who could object to a program encouraging employers to hire skilled Alberta workers in 29 trades hit hard by job losses during a seemingly unrelenting downturn? The employer liaison service — the first of its kind in Canada — will use data on workers in those jobs to determine if there are Albertans already available for work. The list includes civil and mechanical engineers, machinists, electricians, plumbers and carpenters.

The premise sounds sensible and laudable: If a business applies for temporary foreign workers who specialize in carpentry, for example, the application may be denied if there are Albertan carpenters looking for work. The business will then be matched up with a liaison officer who will connect the firm with local jobless.

Under standard procedures, a company requesting temporary foreign workers would file an application and complete a labour market assessment to back up their claim. Now if the application falls under one of the 29 jobs, the process would be halted and the business directed to the unemployed workers.

The Alberta Federation of Labour was predictably quick to applaud the project. It has long condemned the temporary foreign worker program as a way for business to drive down wages and working conditions.

Other observers, such as Edmonton Riverbend Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux, give the two governments backhanded praise, suggesting it’s the first real effort from the two levels of government to give unemployed Albertans a helping hand after supporting a carbon tax they say only stifles job creation and drives away investment.

The very need for such a program, however, raises a troubling question: Given the province’s 8.4-per-cent unemployment rate, are there …read more

Source:: Edmonton Journal

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