Reeds In The Wind: Politics & The TFWP – Plains Perspective

Date PublishedJuly 26, 2014
CompanyPlains Fabrication
Article AuthorTom McCaffery
Article TypeJuly 2014 Issue
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Reeds In The Wind: Politics & The TFWP – Plains Perspective

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I know we have spoken about foreign workers on more than one occasion. I do not want to focus on the need for the Temporary Foreign Workers Program or lack thereof. I would like to express my frustration with politicians who can’t seem to build solid legislation that is robust enough to withstand abuse. My take may seem a little basic, but if I try to cross the border without a passport, I may go to jail. If I try to import goods into the country using the wrong harmonized code, I may go to jail. If I do not pay my taxes, I may go to jail. Is this concept too much for The Honourable Jason Kenney or Chris Alexander to understand?

Jason Kenney is one of the most forward thinking, if not the most forward thinking politician whom I have ever met. I was so impressed that his government saw a need, listened to business, and then created one of the biggest changes in government in the past forty years when they created the TFWP. It was brave, it took guts, it was the right thing to do, and it was the first time I looked at our government as leaders. What they did flew in the face of slow government reaction to serious issues.

In business and in government great innovation and advancements always have growing pains. In business you power through because your money is locked into your decision. In politics I guess you don’t have to find a way to power through. When the problems happen you run and hide, you shut things down; you basically throw the baby out with the bath water. It is weak and reactionary, which are two things that do not make a good leader.

Plains Fabrication has used the foreign workers program. It was painful, overregulated, difficult to navigate, but it has provided us with two skilled tradespeople whom we couldn’t find at the time. They are both enrolled in the Alberta Nominee Program which will allow them to stay permanently in the country.

Plains Fabrication currently requires more skilled trades. We are working with a Canadian company to find welders from Ontario and British Columbia which should be an easy process, but because of poorly run systems by provincial politicians, finding a Canadian worker can be just as much of a mine field. Provincial regulations that apply to any trade are different in every province. Provincial regulation of a trade such as welding is so disjointed it is broken in more ways than the TFWP ever will be. I cannot hire a welder from Ontario because the Alberta regulations are different and the ticket in Ontario is not recognized in Alberta. A welder in Ontario has to come to Alberta and almost start his or her career over again in the same way a doctor from India coming to Canada has to start their schooling over. Do not let the politicians tell you this is not true. It is absolutely true, and if you want to stop by my shop I would be happy to sit down and show you.

Politicians are reeds in the wind. The wind is media reported public opinion. Leaders stand strong in the face of adversity and stand behind what they believe. When a problem arises they investigate and troubleshoot, they do not react. A leader will find the root cause of a problem before they make a decision.

I have a lot of respect for the Jason Kenney that built the TFWP program, and I know he is not the only person calling the shots on these decisions to continuously open and close this program. What I don’t have any respect for is the spineless way the government overreacts when a problem is found. If someone has truly broken the rules in these cases send them to jail. If a company wants to use the TFWP system to hire employees, make them sign a contract that expresses all abuse of the system will result in prosecution. Another option is to put some teeth into the contract if prosecution is not possible, then introduce heavy fines or hire more regulatory staff. I could keep rattling off options, but one of the options isn’t throwing in the towel.

To Jason and Chris I have a direct message: I have sat in rooms with both of you. I have offered help; I have offered advice; Plains has said it will be a representative for Industry; we offered to speak to the media; we extended these offers at any time and at no cost. Stop running around doing damage control; stop overreacting when there is a problem. By reacting in the way you have it makes it look like you have done something wrong. Here is a newsflash for you: you were right, you did the right thing, and you built something great. Unfortunately, you’ve now torn it all apart and you look like politicians rather than leaders.

There were representatives from major companies in our last meeting with some of the smartest people in the country. We offered to help in any way we could to make sure this program continued. Our companies offered free resources and consultation. I don’t think you truly understand how powerful an offer that was and I think it is a shame to see your good work so easily discarded.

Tom McCaffery General Manger Plans Fabrication

Tom McCaffery
General Manger
Plans Fabrication