The Dryden Observer

Your Source for Dryden News

EDITORIAL: The migrants of the second Depression

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

I’ve never really been the kind of person that gets too riled up over immigration, but I find it fascinating how the arguments are evolving in Canada.

It’s somewhat entertaining that the kind of bitter, cane-waving muttering over immigrants, rooted in cultural intolerance and indicative of old men, has seemed to have freed itself from its roots in conservatism to become a bi-partisan beef.

These days we’re yelling at a Conservative government for nurturing the kinds of conditions in society that most Conservatives don’t like — unless of course they happen to be in need of inexpensive labour.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has become a remarkable phenomenon in Canada, one that is far more noticeable the further West you drive from Dryden.

I’ve come to see its presence as a symptom of a system out of balance.

Driving through the new Wild West of oil-rich Saskatchewan and Alberta as I did this summer, you can see the effects of resource development that has descended with haste upon regions that did not have the infrastructure to accommodate such rapid change. Housing is in desperately short supply, driving up the cost of living for anyone who wants to occupy space in that place.

In Regina, enterprising homeowners are enraging their neighbours by converting their homes into ‘rooming houses’ to accommodate oil and gas workers or potash miners.

This kind of high-rent environment where truly gainful employment becomes a necessity and minimum-wage jobs simply aren’t a viable option for most Canadians is where the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) thrives.

Last year over 213,000 Temporary Foreign Workers were employed in Canada — twice as many as in the year 2000. Interestingly, our youth unemployment rate is at a record 13 per cent.

This begs the question, are Canadian youth less inclined to seek work? Or, are the jobs harder to find because of the role that TFWP is now playing in the service sector?

The obvious close-to-home example of this dilemma is our neighbouring community Red Lake where the cost of living is presenting no small challenge for our sister paper The Northern Sun News in recruiting a qualified reporter from in or outside the community, even at a wage that’s is above the industry standard.

In the midst of a mining boom, the Red Lake of today may be a glimpse into the future of Dryden or Northwestern Ontario should the proposed mining projects at Treasury Metals and the Ring of Fire move ahead.

What will the nature of the employees that staff this forecasted mining boom of the future be? Will they live, pay taxes and raise their children in our communities? Or will they fly-in and fly-out from all corners of the country every two or three weeks — taking their paychecks with them. What effect does that have on a community, not just financially, but culturally?

Depression/recession era employers would like us all to be so flexible, to ride the rails like hobos of the 1930s looking for the next paycheck to send back to our families. It’s not all that different from what’s happening today in the drive-thrus of cities across Canada.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.