Mexican President Vincente Fox wants Canada to consider opening its doors to more unskilled Mexican workers to deal with a looming labour shortage.
Fox told The Globe and Mail in an exclusive interview that Canada should greatly expand its current temporary work program for agricultural workers from Mexico.
Canadian farms are allowed to recruit foreign workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, as long as they can’t find Canadians to harvest their crops.
Fox said he wants that agreement expanded to include plant nurseries, construction, restaurants services and golf courses to deal with labour shortages from Canada’s aging population.
He said Mexican workers should be able to sign up with Canadian employers for specific time periods. It’s not clear how long he is suggesting, but presumably it would be longer than for migrant farm workers.
About 7,000 Mexican workers came to farms in Ontario last year. Many of them worked in Leamington, Ont., where the Mexican government has now set up a consulate.
Fox granted the interview to The Globe ahead of a summit this week in Cancun with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President George Bush.
The Mexican president is already backing a large-scale “guest worker” program in the United States, where the immigrant issue has heated up over the past few days.
On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that clears the way for illegal aliens in the country to apply for U.S. citizenship without first having to return home.
It also approved a new temporary program allowing entry for 1.5 million workers seeking jobs in the agriculture industry
As well, the committee voted down proposed criminal penalties on immigrants to be found illegally in the country.
Over the weekend and on Monday, hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities demanding Congress abandon legislation passed in the House that would make being an undocumented immigrant a felony.