During a leadership race, one might expect candidates to disagree on a range of issues, but sometimes candidates might actually agree.
One issue that the three candidates for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta agree on is the recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program that the federal government announced late last month will not work for the province of Alberta.
Jim Prentice, the perceived frontrunner of the race, said that program announced by Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander would not be suitable for the province, and an agreement between Ottawa and the province, with provincial input, would be the only way forward.
“My position on the program changes that the minister of Employment and the minister of Citizenship and Immigration rolled out last month will not be workable in the province of Alberta. They are going to have to craft a specific agreement between the province of Alberta and the national government on this issue,” Prentice said.
“That agreement will have to deal with employment and immigration issues in order to meet the demand of the Alberta economy.”
The reason Prentice said he believes the program needs to be rehashed at a provincial level is because of the growth that is taking place in the province. “The specific problem with it is that Alberta is growing at three times the national growth rate. Take for example last year where Alberta accounted for eight out of 10 new jobs that were created in Canada,” he said.
“Our circumstances in Alberta are unique, and we are going to need to have employment policies and immigration policies that reflect the need for the Alberta economy.”
Thomas Lukazsuk, former minister of Skills Trades and Jobs, a portfolio that looked after the TFW program on a provincial level, said Alberta needs a program similar to the one that is currently in place in Quebec.
“When I sat on the federal, provincial, territory minister meetings, and observed what autonomy Quebec has and see that it’s not bound by many of the federal regulations, then I believe Alberta should be in the same position as Quebec, not better not worse, but the same position. If it works for Quebec, I’m sure a provincial program would work for Alberta as well.”
Former minister of Infrastructure Ric McIver said that the next premier has to make decisions that are in the best interest of the whole province and not just one part of the province
“As leader of a province or someone who wants to be leader of a province, one must make decisions in the best interest of the whole province. My first instinct when Kenney and Alexander announced the changes was to go talk to the people who would be effected by these changes.
“I did that, and what I have determined by talking to the people who it’s going to effect is that while this legislation may be well intended, and might be good for other parts of the Canada, it’s not good for Alberta.”
McIver said that as premier he would request meetings with Ottawa officials at the highest level to let Alberta’s frustrations be known.
“As premier I would take this up with federal government at the highest levels and make sure that they know that the interests of the people and businesses of Alberta have to be taken seriously. And frankly ask the federal government if Alberta can take over the program, for its own interest,” McIver said.
He added that the program must find interests that work for provinces like “Alberta, and by not doing that would be irresponsible.
“If the program is good for other provinces, and not for the province of Alberta, then we must find another solution which would work in the best interest of Alberta,” he said.
“To not do so would be irresponsible. And there will be business that will close, there will be livelihoods at stake, and as premier I would make it a priority to defend the interests of the people of Alberta.”