Monday, June 02, 2014

Geoff Norquay - temporary foreign workers lobbyist

Dear CBC Power and Politics : The next time you invite Harper's former director of communications Geoff Norquay onto your Power Panel to reflect on the issues of the day, I think it's time you mentioned that from November 2012 until Sept 2013 he was a lobbyist for Tim Hortons to : 
"increase the number of foreign temporary workers allowed into Canada under the Foreign Temporary Worker's Program".  
Norquay lobbied both Citizenship and Immigration and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Tim Hortons isn't Norquay's only TFW lobbying gig [bold italics - mine]: 
Client name: Microsoft Canada 
Lobbyist name: Geoff Norquay, Consultant 
Initial registration start date: 2006-04-06 to present
Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada
  • Discussions with federal officials in the Departments of Employment and Social Development, Citizenship and Immigration, Industry Canada and Privy Council Office regarding the establishment of the British Columbia Excellence Centre to facilitate entry into Canada of foreign nationals to work in software development on a rotational basis under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.
And lo - last month Microsoft announced it would be launching a Canada Excellence Centre in Vancouver. The news about it up here was pretty much all jobs jobs jobs :

CBC : Microsoft Canada Excellence Centre to bring 400 jobs to Vancouver

Vancouver Sun : Microsoft to open new centre in Vancouver, 400 new jobs

HuffPo Microsoft Canada Announces Vancouver Centre, 400 Jobs

South of the border however the same story was about how Microsoft was moving here to access Canada's more open policy to bringing in temporary foreign workers, after the US limit was reached for the year :
Canada welcomes any highly skilled worker who has a job offer, and salaries for tech workers are about 10 percent to 15 percent lower than in the U.S.
Karen Jones, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, says her company applied for about twice the roughly 750 H-1B visas it received for 2015. “The U.S. laws clearly did not meet our needs,” she says. “We have to look to other places.” Microsoft will hire and train 400 software developers from around the world to work on mobile and cloud projects. Jones says Microsoft didn’t choose to expand in Vancouver “purely for immigration purposes, but immigration is a factor.”
OK, so a boost to the economy but not 400 Canadians jobs.
Yeah, I think we heard about this plan in 2007 :  Microsoft sings 'O Canada' amid immigration challenges
"Amid challenges getting enough foreign programmers admitted into the U.S., Microsoft plans this fall to open a development center in Canada.The new software development center will open somewhere in the Vancouver, British Columbia, area and will be "home to software developers from around the world," Microsoft said in a statement on Thursday.
"The Vancouver area is ... close to Microsoft's corporate offices in Redmond, Washington."
H/t Bill Curry at G&M for mention of Norquay/Microsoft connection : 
Businesses lobby to salvage foreign worker program
although the quote from the lobbyist registry appears to be cut off at the bottom of the story just before the words "under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program" 


Anonymous said...

Tim Powers also lobbied for TFWs on behalf of McDonald's:

Dana said...

My cynical suspicious mind tells me that the reason most national media don't report on this in much depth is because their IT departments and print shops are staffed by TFWs.

Alison said...

Anon : ... which, as it happens, is the last link in the post ;-)

Dana : Huh, I'll look it up.
Also their rollodexes for commentary on stories would be seriously pared down if they took out lobbyists. Plus - access.

Bringing in TFWs for highly skilled work is what the TFWP was designed for. What annoyed me about the Miscrosoft story was that the info in easily a dozen different stories was so obviously taken from a presskit. The quotes in them are all from the Canadian president of Microsoft who is also a registered lobbyist.

Kim said...

He is not alone.

Kim said...

Also, this. The comments are also instructive.

Also, I seem to recall a sort of Foreign Slave Worker weekend workshop held at a posh Victoria Hotel last year. I'll see if I can dig it up.

Kreditanstalt said...

And why shouldn't businesses be able to hire whomever they choose? You and I have the choice of buying foreign goods - even foreign investments - if we so choose.

No one has yet explained why Canadian labour needs protection but more efficient (less costly) foreign labour does not...

And how exactly does forcing employers to pay uneconomically-high wage bills help their profitability?

Canada already has DISMAL productivity levels and labour protectionism won't help.

We should be opening the borders both ways to both capital AND labour.

Alison said...

Gosh, Kreditanstalt, you make it sound like the free market is under attack here but that isn't what's going on, is it? Government has intervened on the side of business to enact legislation that ensures TFWs are legally indentured to the companies they work for. There's a credible argument to be made for "opening the borders both ways for both capital and labour" but corporate protectionism, corporate welfare paid by its workers, isn't that argument.

btw you do realize it's people we're talking about here, right?

Dana : re your theory. So far I've found the Toronto Star, Postmedia, and the G&M have all applied for and been granted approval for TFWs but I don't know in what capacity.

Kim : Thanks for those.
Laila, Norm, RossK - indispensable!
I seem to recall a sort of Foreign Slave Worker weekend workshop held at a posh Victoria Hotel last year.
This one? Scroll down for BC Government Labour Market and Immigration Division poster.

Kreditanstalt said...

Alison, you make a oood point. It's certainly not ideal and it's still authoritarian but that's what you get when you allow governments to control borders.

I would of course prefer completely open borders, no government-imposed minimum wages, freedom of hiring and firing, etc., but allowing more efficient labour to compete here even in this restrictive way is a small step in the right direction.

I worked for some years in SE Asia under similar constraints: my visa was contingent on my working for the outfit that hired me...which BTW didn't stop me working on the side! It's not an unusual arrangement by any means.

Alison said...

K : So what you are really advocating is worldwide corp control of people.

A "small step" to "more efficient labour"? I disagree.

A quarter of a million students will graduate from Canadian universities this year with an average debt of $27,000. Youth unemployment is running at just under 15% and while they compete with their parents for the same jobs, one in three between the ages of 25 and 29 are working low skill jobs completely unrelated to their degrees. We're talking civil engineers here. If their parents can afford to continue to support them, they have the option of working at an unpaid internship - 95% of which are operating illegal in Ontario because they convey no benefit to the intern while continuing to deepen unemployment.

Thing is - it doesn't have to be like this.
By contrast, Switzerland has only 2.8% youth unemployment with 40% of its students working in apprenticeships while they go to school that guarantee them jobs afterwards. If by 18 they want to switch back to academia, they can.

Someone should point this out to the Canadian Ministry of Education - oh wait, we don't have one in Canada. What we do have is a generation of young workers forced to compete with a third of a million TFWs, more than the number of uni grads last year.
This is a recipe for creating a future banana republic of bankrupt underemployed indentured citizens in a country of decreasing marketable skills.

Stats via TD economist Francis Fong and the 2014 documentary Generation Jobless.

Anonymous said...

Who has the Tim Hortons TFW lobbying file now?

Alison said...

Two from Calgary consultancy firm New West Public Affairs are listed as currently active in TFW lobbying of PMO, PCO, Senate, CIC, CBSA, ESDC, etc etc ... on behalf of Tim Hortons

1) CEO Robin Speer, who variously worked for Harper in opposition, Rob Anders, and Gerry Ritz a decade ago; VP at Canadian Renewable Fuels Ass. til 2009; Sask. Min of Health Chief of Staff May 2010 to May 2011.

2) Blaise Bohmer, formerly Dir. of Operations at Sask. Gov. Caucus Office til May 2013

Note no restriction on lobbying federal ministries here because 1 left long ago and 2's previous provincial public service doesn't count against fed lobbying.

Boris said...

Alison, it's not 300 000 TFWs young(and older!) Canadians have to compete for, it's every potential candidate for a TFW visa on the Earth who applies for one.

K: "Canadian labour productivity"? Why on Earth would anyone what to be productive at a job that doesn't pay and is no longer stable enough to to live on, let alone own a home and have a family? In the 18 months I lived in Canada after my second degree I was unable find skilled work that wasn't on a brutal zero-hours contract. I've worked in four countries, and I found the attitude of some Canadian employers toward their workers to be among worst I've experienced.

Alison said...

Boris : Alison, it's not 300 000 TFWs young(and older!) Canadians have to compete for, it's every potential candidate for a TFW visa on the Earth who applies for one.

You're right of course. I was thinking of Global Hire Placements ad directed at TFWs already in Canada :

"Attention Foreign Temporary Workers
Are you looking for an LMO employer?
I have access to 800 LMO jobs right now.
Also I have the complete list of ALL companies with LMOs in Canada
OVER 50,000 employers.
April 15, 2014"

Anonymous said...

Hey Alison, this story just got pushed forward with the NDP finally catching it on their radar:

thought you should know

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