St. Albert by night. My lord! What would we do if the local McDonald’s wasn’t open at 3 a.m.! Below: Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber.

St. ALBERT, Alberta

I have a challenge for Edmonton-St. Albert Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber, the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce and all the other hysterics wailing about the disaster wrought by the federal government when it imposed some modest limitations on the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, some of which don’t apply to Alberta anyway.

Show me one – just one! – Alberta company that’s had to go out of business because of a shortage of TFWs.

Mr. Rathgeber and the local chamber here in the Edmonton bedroom community of St. Albert were in full flight last week about the horrors that await us if the TFW spigot isn’t turned back to full, posthaste.

“The situation is actually worse than I thought,” a horrified Mr. Rathgeber told the credulous local twice-weekly after his audience before the local Chamber of Horrors, I mean Commerce, which the paper indicated was a private get-together at which the horrified Chamber men and maids could spin their horrifying yarns without interruptions or questions from the unwashed, which would be horrifying, I presume.

Mr. Rathgeber, an Independent MP who not so long ago resigned from the federal Conservative caucus in Ottawa, says he has decided to run again under no party banner. To do so, he has apparently hit upon the strategy of campaigning to the right of the Harper Conservatives. This is hard to do at the best of times, but on the issue of TFWs, he seems to be succeeding. And it sure beats going out and door knocking, which both of his Conservative challengers have been doing.

Why, said Mr. Rathgeber, the possibilities of an insufficient supply of foreign indentured labourers are simply appalling: “It is quite conceivable, and they told me I could tell you, both Tim Hortons and McDonald’s may not be able to operate any of their stores 24/7,” our MP told the local rag.

I’m just going to pause to give readers an opportunity to get the breath back and get back up from the floor after thinking about that one. Good gosh, does he mean we won’t be able to go out for coffee at 3 a.m.! In a town where the last of the liquor stores closes at 2? How will the people driving through on their way Fox Creek and Fort McMurray sober up?

It only gets worse from here. Among the other frightening consequences of a TFW shortage enumerated by Mr. Rathgeber, with a hearty Hear! Hear! from the spokesperson for the local Chamber are the following:

  • Local restaurant owners may put off plans to expand. (The MP explained: “They can’t staff the stores they have, why do they want to build another one?”)
  • Canadian employees, already reviled by Mr. Rathgeber and the Chamber’s members as shiftless and lazy, may get even crankier! (“They get overworked and frustrated – and leave,” explained the local paper.)
  • If fast food restaurants aren’t open as many hours, they’ll buy fewer supplies – and, get this, according to Mr. Rathgeber they actually do buy some supplies locally! I confess I have no idea how many all-beef patties our three local McDonald’ses sell between midnight and 7 a.m., but I’m betting it’s not all that many.
  • And the piece de la resistance, “philanthropic donations from local franchisees might go down as their profits dwindle.”

Readers will be getting the hint by now – even before I get to the likely story that local businesses will have to start laying off Canadian employees if they can’t have their TFWs – that your blogger is not all that shaken by the dire possibilities enumerated by our local MP.

Indeed, the only moment Mr. Rathgeber found himself in the vicinity of the real story, it’s said here, was when he suggested, again in the words of the local paper, that “in some high volume, low-margin industries, raising wages could have a dramatic impact.”

Exactly! Without Ottawa interfering in the local labour market to keep wages as low as possible, the Alberta fast-food industry faces the appalling prospect of having to pay its employees something approaching a living wage. And after them, who’s next? Wal-Mart?

Worse, they’ll have to put up with uppity Canadian employees, who are well known for standing up for their rights, even complaining to Alberta’s toothless Employment Standards branch!

The possibilities are endless, and to Mr. Rathgeber and the Chamber, apparently endlessly horrifying.

But bottom line – and this is the truly horrifying part – if they start to pay a living wage, their profits might have to decline a little. Either that, or we’d have to pay a few cents more for our coffee.

One thing that won’t happen, though, is that any Alberta business will ever have to close because of a shortage of TFWs.

A lousy business plan? Maybe. A wrong guess about what the market wants? Quite possibly.

But a shortage of indentured labour from abroad? If that’s going to kill your business, you need to be in another business.

I’ll say it again: No Alberta business has ever failed because of a shortage of TFWs and no Alberta business ever will.

I challenge Mr. Rathgeber and the local Chamber – and all the other conservative MPs and all their local chambers – to name just one shuttered Alberta business that even makes that claim. Then we can actually look at the facts of the case.

In the mean time, the big threats are no Big Macs at 3 a.m., crabby waitrons and a dip in philanthropic donations?


This post also appears on

Join the Conversation


  1. More of the same old ‘sky is falling talk’. Would someone please call Chicken Little?

    I recall similar dire prognostications during the 1997 referendum campaign on the voluntary tax programme known as VLTs. All those bar owners claimed they would be out of business if their share of the voluntary tax know as VLT revenue was cut off. They conveniently ignored the fact that they ran their businesses for years prior to the introduction of VLTs on already high margin alcohol and food served up by minimum wage earners that the patrons are socially conditioned to subsidize the earnings of said low wage earners to the ultimate benefit of the owners of the bar.

    Colour me cynical.

  2. And how exactly would Albertans be worse if by not having access to low cost healthy food like McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s?

  3. My goodness how far low these politicians go to serve their corporate leaders. It is astounding. Mr. Rathgeber last name should change to MacDonald.
    Dominating their employees with threats of losing their jobs and consequently having to go back to where they came from is the weapon they are now addicted to – that is the real problem. Having people that do WHATEVER they want is the objective here. It means a captive cheap workforce. Furthermore, and outside the fast food industry, they now bring in foreign employees and house them in what resembles our chicken industry cages for absurd amounts of money for a bed. Is a bed, not a room. So here is the deal – they pay them as low as they can, then they get 80% back on housing rent. So in reality they pay them as much as they would have if these employees were back where they came from. Great Deal and the Federal and Provincial governments and politicians like Mr. Rat, pretend this is all the price of competition and it is all in the market interest.
    I know what I would exactly do to these people if I had the power to actually make any difference.

  4. Cudos to u sir A very excellent blog all of the same things I’ve been preaching to FB pages Canadians against and Canadians bouycotting businesss. Excellent. After being in the tourism bussiness ( not industry) (industry would be a living wage not subject to holidays or 6 month cycles of tourism. ) for 25 yrs I preached to the chambers of comerrece that tourism was bogus. It’s not full time but cyclic and u can’t make a living wage

  5. We all DO have the power to do something. The first and biggest problem is that people will not all stand together. The second problem is that you are taking on every company and politics is a bought and paid for service paid for by corporations.
    It takes time… lots and lots of time and every man, woman and child to stand together and tell the government that they were elected to help US!

  6. The simple solution to TFW in St. Albert ………. have a rule the TFWs must live in the community they work. Does St. Albert have a TFW friendly neighbourhood?? Didn’t think so.

  7. One major change to turn this around. Give all employees a decent wage and benefits along with full time work, not like I have seen and heard of (15-20 hrs a week and minimum wage with no benefits) and these companies would get all the Canadian employes they nee. problem solved.

  8. From what I can glean from a brief wade through the inter-swamps, is that our man of courage, Jason Kenney, is about to use the pathetic whining of human traffickers like this Rathgeber (conservative giant among apostate market fundamentalists) to justify targeted exemptions. His goal is to ensure that fairness is maintained for the champions of capitalism and that the fragile economic miracle wrought by the invisible hand of the market (when USS Harper isn’t using it to flail at Justin Trudeau, or himself) is not impeded by the naivete of the uncanadians who point to the rising unemployment in the Edmonton area or the falling bottom hourly wages in Fort McMoney as indicators of some need for a rethink on whether post modern slavery is a great new and pure market force.

  9. Where are all these high powered government union folk? Why aren’t they unionizing the staff at fast food restaurants? I suppose they are on vacation or enjoying some of that 1.25 sick days per months when duty calls.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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