Canadian Contractor

Alec Caldwell   

Are "illegal" immigrants squeezing the home renovation and home building industry in the GTA area?

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Let's push for amnesty for foreign construction workers, making them legal, so they can now pay into our social systems. We actually need them to contribute legitimately to our tax base, with our huge wave of baby boomers set to retire.

One veteran painting contractor I met with this week told me: “There are too many illegal immigrants now in the business.” After over 25 years of self-employment, he said he was getting “squeezed out.”

“How can any legitimate business compete against others working for $10 or less an hour,” he asked.

Legitimate businesses have running costs like vehicles, liability insurance, WSIB, health & safety requirements like WHMIS and Fall Protection training, taxes and the HST. This particular contractor told me that he believes the unions are involved in this situation, and he could be right.

Andy Manahan, of Universal Workers Union Local 183, said in an article in the Globe and Mail (way back in October 2006), in an article by Maria Jimenez, that he hoped that “Ottawa will not move to deport about 200,000 undocumented workers in Toronto, many of whom are keeping the construction sector afloat.”

Ottawa ruled out amnesty for those undocumented workers who were toiling in Canada’s underground economy at that time, saying it would not be fair to those who had applied legally and were waiting in line.

I ask you, how can we still have a situation like this in 2013, seven years after the problems were clearly identified?

Yet, we still do have this problem as clearly shown in the last few days in  a series articles in the Toronto Star by journalist Nicholas Keung. Keung is covering the protests against Harper’s “Refugee Reform Bill,” which is finally attempting to deal with the problems. Keung reported that in the City of Toronto there are anywhere between 100,000 to 250,000 undocumented immigrants right now and those numbers might get even higher in 2015, when four-year work permits for temporary foreign workers expire, potentially moving thousands more into the underground. In 2012, 340,000 foreigners were on work permits in Canada.  

So, how can legitimate contractors compete against these practices? Are some contractors using  these illegal immigrants, paying rock bottom hourly rates? Many of these immigrants work in fear of deportation, while these unscrupulous contractors or employment agencies profit. Illegals or undocumented workers don’t have OHIP and can’t go to doctors, nor can their children. They don’t pay into CPP. What about WSIB premiums, are these being paid? How about safety training under the Occupational Health & Safety Act to protect them and everyone else? Do they carry course completed certificates, as required under law?    

It’s time someone cleaned up this mess. Recently, I parked my vehicle outside a huge home off Bayview Ave in Toronto. There was a painter working outside on this home, without a vehicle in sight. When he saw me walking toward him, wearing a white hard hat and carrying a clipboard in my hand, I watched him quickly disappear around the corner of that home, abandoning his ladders, brushes, paint and more. It really looked like he was running away in fear and this was a sad situation.  

If our industry needs more people, let’s find them and make them legal. But it’s important to remember that there are also large numbers of applicants waiting to get in to Canada legally, just the way I had to wait. So this present situation is unjust and the blame is on our governments for this mess. Let’s fix this current situation and protect and improve everyone’s quality of life. Let’s push for amnesty for those who can prove they have made great contributions to Canada’s well-being and have been law-abiding. There are thousands of these potential workers and Canada will need every able-bodied person to support help pay into its systems in the years ahead, especially with the huge wave of baby boomers starting to retire.   

CARAHS is a not for profit association for self employed home renovators &  builders association
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11 Comments » for Are "illegal" immigrants squeezing the home renovation and home building industry in the GTA area?
  1. Selection of 4 replies to this article.

    (1) “We could easily accommodate another 270,000,000 immigrants by December 2013…
    The new bridge would then be optional as far as we’re concerned ;-)….

    It could create many jobs…
    We have abundant and, oil, resources in abundance…

    Only five immigration requirements:
    One: First 10 years no social services of any kind and/or “free” healthcare…
    Two: Ability to purchase a house or farm or production plant…
    Three: Possess a statistical chance of being and/or becoming a criminal 0%…
    Four: Speak fluent English, or speak fluent French…
    Five: High School Diploma…
    Says Peter M at the Toronto Entrepreneur Alliance LinkedIn group

    (2) Alec, I think you have addressed a real issue from a very respectful angle. We feel the same way about any unlicensed tradesmen performing work that requires a license; and many, if not most, of those are LEGAL citizens. I would venture to say this situation you describe is unfortunately not unique to your city, province, or country even. We witness it frequently. Aside from holding unscrupulous contractors more accountable for their unlawful hiring practices there is not much you can do. Don’t get me wrong, the “Biggest”national corporate guys are just as guilty as the local guys of this.

    Here’s another way to look at it though: perhaps we should all be more concerned with the conditions in the immigrants’ countries of origin that precipitated their need to come in the first place? North American governments seem all too willing to invest extreme amounts of capital to address inequity on the other side of the world yet turn a blind eye to what occurs in their proverbial back yard, (that is if they aren’t involved in it themselves). I also think (as you alluded to) that big corporations and unions are involved in the issue more than anyone wants to admit, perhaps instigating if not perpetuating the influx of ‘cheap’ labor. American & Canadian tradesmen alike all should be more vocal, and politically involved about helping these folks address the root cause of the problem, rather than the effect. Just my two cents; thanks for the post.
    David K. at the Electricians LinkedIn group

    (3) “I am so glad that this subject has come up! First of all, I have sponsored 4 Hispanics into our country and helped numerous others set up their own legal businesses so I am not a racist!
    However, the illegal ones who enter the contracting field need to understand that licenses and insurance and, YES, legal papers are needed to do work in this country! I am very tired of competing against people who charge soooo much less than we do because they don’t pay licensing, insurance, certifications, and other fees needed to stay in business! They undercut us legitimate contractors and most of the time, do work that is not to code and is inferior.
    Homeowners who hire them need to know the consequences. Work not done by professionals can be a safety hazard to the homeowners. If Code is not followed or understood, then these illegal contractors could potentially pose a danger to the homeowner. Imagine having a person re-wire your house that has never been to trade school, passed tests and hold a license! How dangerous can you get? They do not understand electricity, know codes, or have experience in the field.
    I have just as much competition from “illegal” contractors who come into our state from other states and do not pay into our state funds. They come from West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania without a license in Virginia. They have not passed the tests nor do they hold insurance liability for their work here.
    I certainly welcome people into our country who want to work hard, pay taxes, and do the right thing to have the privilege of being a citizen in our country. My grandparents did do that! But we have to educate the public of the dangers of hiring untrained, unskilled, unlicensed people to work for them. I think that is the first step”
    Says: Debra Weeks-A. at the Contractor Discussion Group. For Plumbers, Electricians, Remodelers, Roofers, HVAC, & Handyman

    (4) “what you should remember is the ILLEGAL part if they have no problem sneaking into your country what makes you think they will ever pay a fair share of the tax load ,Illegal should mean either you round them up and deport the worst and help the one’s that are willing to work and pay taxes ,or deport them all and let them try and return the legal way”

    • Terry says:

      Look they ( the owners of this country) want open boards and to eventually create the north american union , so most whats been said here has been repeted so so manytimes over last 30 yrs its Sickoning 1,000 000,000 cross the southern boarder anually and nothing has been done about it , so what makes you think you repetitive comments are ever going to change anything .. Its to to Late People look at the charts and the growth rates of these invaders and there infestation rapid population growth and Decline in Europiean Americans

  2. Comment from LinkedIn Group member

    “In a word, “yes”. We never think of Canada as having an illegal immigration problem, having one of our own. In both cases, I believe it is deliberately allowed if not encouraged by the powers that be. It drives down wages, pushes unemployment and expands welfare roles and programs. This is intended to make more people dependent on government; it is a way to control them. (us)”
    Says: William B. at the: Outdoor Woodworking LinkedIn group

  3. I myself have lost at least 3 jobs in the past before I started my business due to greedy employers cutting my job to hire cheaper illegals. It is a practice which needs to be nipped at it’s roots, stricter penalties imposed, stricter punishment to the offenders (on both sides) imposed, etc. But whether they’ve applied to be legal OR NOT.., they are STILL here illegally!

    I think maybe in those circumstances the government needs to come up with a monthly based amount that these people need to PAY or GO HOME and a time limit put on how long they can stay under such guidelines. That is not to say however, that it is “acceptable” to sneak in illegally and you’ll be placed on a government program. I’m saying do a country wide sweep over a 1 year period.., and after THAT.., NO MORE HANDOUTS…., PERIOD!!

    Better yet.., set up some internships in Mexico, or in other “offender” countries top where these folks could work for American companies first in THEIR OWN country. Then, as Michael B. stated above.., let them learn the language, etc., etc., submit the paperwork.., and WAIT their turn like they’re supposed to. But my PERSONAL OPINION IS…, we have so many OUT OF WORK AMERICANS it is LUDICRIS to bring in immigrants to fill these positions. People don’t want to pay what jobs are worth these days BECAUSE of this cheap undercutting labor practice, and I’m SICK OF IT! Rid the country of this infestation problem.., both here AND in Canada.., and folks will either pay a fair price, OR they’ll do without. On the same token.., there are also greedy contractors who are the whole REASON some contractors resorted to immigrant labor. Rid us of this problem.., ONLY THEN will things start to get back to normal.

    • Robert Koci says:

      Okay, there is an argument for Canadians losing jobs to recently landed immigrants. I think you have to take the big picture view here. Immigration is essential to the growth of our economy. Canadians are not replacing themselves at a fast enough rate and it’s very important that the population continue to increase rapidly to provide the market needed to sustain our economic activity. Also, immigrants frankly are doing jobs that we Canadians won’t do. Jobs that we consider not good enough for us. They are starter jobs essentially for people who come to this country to make a new life. There is nothing wrong with that.
      I say good for you for starting your own business. They people that “took” your jobs couldn’t do that. The pressure of their presence got you off your ass. Awesome. I’ll bet in 10 years, when you are running your own successful business and making good money, you’ll look back and thank them for giving you the push you needed.

  4. Dennis Bolen says:

    Big business and government love immigrants who come here and work for cheap. Canadians have to demand that we work to immediately deport all illegals who are caught working in the underground economy as well as severly punish those that employ them. We are heading to the point where we will slowly but surely eliminate a viable middle class. Many people hate unionized labor, but once they are eliminated by Big Business , and government, then we will all become bottom feeders , with the rich controlling everything and the rest of us working to survive period. No leisure, no hope. Back to the 30s.

    • Robert Koci says:

      If you think unions are going away any time soon in Canada, I think you are sorely mistaken. Big business, governments and unions are all cut from the same cloth anyway. It is not unions you need to defend. It’s small business. That is the real engine of a healthy economy.

      • Morgan says:

        Yup and if their were no illegal imagrants the money fluctuation would stay up because they wouldnt be taking canadian dollars outa our country to their families.

        What about my family. Dosnt make me need the government. Makes me disbeleave in them and what they are doing

  5. Questo says:

    ”Big business and government love immigrants who come here and work for cheap”

    What kind of immigrants are you referring? A lot of these come here for work are on short and long term working permits, allowed by the feds.

    They become illegal right after when they suppose to leave the Country when work permit is expired. Can be called aliens, not illegal immigrants, also there are landed immigrants, these are the ones come here in the legal status of immigration approved application. Furthermore there are those come in here in the refugee status, on all source of excuses, including religious oppressing.

    The government apparently knows where those enter the illegal status are, because they enter into a contract with the companies which they sign a working permit.

    I read in the other comment some idea, the national photo ID, health and career, in one card. This may in deed avoid the SIN cards without a photo to be reused.
    Maybe some dead people still working, LOL, for couple years, no income tax filling, then gone or using another dead one to work under.

    This will sent a lot of side collection agencies to the misery avenue. No need for them at all and their cronies. Companies will only take photo ID employees, costumers will ask for photo ID, in there will be the trades career.
    Those authorized in work permit could get Photo ID in different color, may do the trick. Of course, this may have to be freely accepted by the trades people and not violated the Canadian laws.

    No fees for any kind of trade, in special compulsory, trades people pay income tax on their hard work.

    If the number of aliens above on the blog are for real, that’s a big problem, for those looking for work, which are legal in here and those are Canadian citizens.
    a lot of people looking for work and can’t find it, in the other hand this unfairness going on. Who benefits behind the scenes?

  6. Morgan says:

    Woow. Im local no job sub contract legit buisness born and raised. Im going bankrupt foo to no work in 6 months even though i see people working

    If you think about it. Your loosing local talent and its worse than it says because the local people will stop working in the patch like me and all your local talent will be wasted

  7. Morgan says:

    How do you grow as an economy pushing locals outta work. Our economy would of been better long term for all citizens with the extra work. Besides we are selling all our natural resources away. Even the companies we have pumping out oil are american owend. Not even turning some canaidian into a big buisness its someone else beinifiting saying they need the oil out now bringing in other workers making me go bankrupt. Their should be a job for me

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