Testing the Boundaries of Employer-Driven Agricultural Migration: Privatization and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, 2002-2011

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Miller, Christopher




The recent growth of Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) parallels the international trend toward the revival of guestworker programs. This growth, however, is simply the most visible sign of a fundamental restructuring of the institutional framework that governs the program. This shift is rooted in a broader transformation of the political economy of the Canadian state that has resulted in a new form of migration control, one which embodies the logic and practices of neoliberalism - a paradigm revolving around the privatization and retrenchment of certain state functions, the globalization of markets, and the construction of economically-competitive individuals. In the context of the TFWP, this has resulted in an "offloading" of administrative functions from the federal government to third party actors, as well as the creation of a more employer-driven TFWP that is sensitive to businesses' demands for a flexible and reliable labour pool. This thesis employs a case study of the TFWP's agricultural components during the period of 2002 until 2011, drawing in large part on federal ministerial documentation obtained through the Access to Information Act. It questions why this era of increasing privatization reversed course and culminated in the creation of a new government program, the Agricultural Stream. The analysis pursued in this study indicates that while there are certain roles and functions concerning the recruitment of migrant labour that the Canadian state has undoubtedly vacated, it has nevertheless adopted a new, active role that involves mitigating the unintended consequences of privatized migration control as a means of supporting the continued viability of the TFWP. This effort drove the creation of Agricultural Stream, which replaced a legally-embattled "privatized" guestworker program developed by the International Organization for Migration on behalf of the Quebec growers' association FERME and the government of Guatemala. This countertrend should caution against conflating neoliberalism and privatization or accepting the two as necessarily harmonious, suggesting that movements towards privatization become vulnerable and subject to reversal should they pose complications for employers. This in turn stresses a reading of both the "ideal" and "practice" of neoliberalism as it concerns privatized migration control.


Political science




Carleton University

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Political Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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