Cutting off your nose (Editorial)

Canada can't afford to deport skilled workers
By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/10/2006

With a revenue windfall at budget time, Ontario decided to put some sorely needed funds into improving infrastructure in the province. March’s budget includes $1.2 billion for repairing roads and adding on to Toronto’s subway system — construction projects that will improve the commute in one of North America’s most congested cities, while boosting the economy. Unfortunately, the same week Ontario announced infrastructure funding, Ottawa was busy deporting Portuguese construction workers needed to do the work.

There are as many as 15,000 Portuguese labourers working illegally in Toronto, and the federal government has begun deporting people. A commonly held myth in many European nations is that it is easy to work and stay in Canada without documentation — and Europeans without papers have been an important part of the construction industry’s labour pool. But letting them jump ahead of others in the immigration queue is unfair, so the Conservative government is sticking to its deportation plan, despite the protests of unions and employers alike who fear the loss of skilled labourers.

The Conservative government says it isn’t launching a new push to remove people, merely enforcing the same laws the previous Liberal government did. But immigration advocates had been expecting the Liberals to introduce an amnesty plan for the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people working illegally in Canada — something the Conservatives say is not in the offing.