Labour Studies Index

The Political Justification of Migrant Workers in Alberta, Canada

Document type Article
Author Barnetson, Bob
Author Foster, Jason
Journal Journal of International Migration and Integration
Volume 15
Date 2014 05 01
ISSN 1488-3473, 1874-6365
Pages 349-370

Abstract

Considering a series of oil-driven economic booms, the use of inter-provincial and international migrant labour has become an important part of labour market policy in the Canadian province of Alberta. The increased use of temporary foreign workers is controversial. Narrative analysis of legislators’ statements in the legislature and the press between 2000 and 2011 reveals the government using three narratives to justify policies encouraging greater use of foreign migrant workers: (1) labour shortages require migrant workers, (2) migrants do not threaten Canadian jobs and (3) migrants are not being exploited. Close scrutiny of each narrative demonstrates them to be largely invalid. This suggests a significant disconnect between the real and espoused reasons for the significant changes to labour market policy, changes that advantage employers and disadvantage both Canadian and foreign workers. The findings are relevant to understand the political dynamics of economically related migration.