Hudak not sorry for 'foreign worker' comments

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak isn't sorry for using the term "foreign workers" to describe new Canadians who would stand to benefit from a Liberal business tax credit proposal but is now using gentler language to frame the issue.
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, shown here with cutouts depicting two forestry workers, continued his attack Monday on the Liberal immigrant tax credit pledge. (Genevieve Tomney/CBC)

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak isn't sorry for using the term "foreign workers" to describe new Canadians who would stand to benefit from a Liberal business tax credit proposal but is now using gentler language to frame the issue.

Speaking Monday morning at a news conference in Mississauga, Hudak called the Liberal pledge an "affirmative action scheme" but did not call the would-be beneficiaries "foreign workers" as he did repeatedly over the last week.

"We have a comprehensive jobs program to make Ontario the leader in job creation for everyone," Hudak said.

"[Liberal Leader] Dalton McGuinty? He has a $10,000 affirmative action scheme that will favour one worker over another. That will divide Ontarians. I reject that."

When asked by a reporter if he was wrong to use the "foreign workers" term in the first place, Hudak replied McGuinty was wrong to introduce the tax credit.

McGuinty 'should apologize'

"You know I think that Dalton McGuinty should apologize to the 500,000 unemployed men and women today who are pounding the pavement now looking for a job," he said.

Hudak staged his morning news conference with cardboard cutouts of two Ontario forestry workers looking for jobs. One of the men depicted on the cutouts he referred to as Bob from Pennsylvania, who has lived in Ontario less than five years.

Under the Liberal plan, Bob would get a job over Jim, who is from Ontario, Hudak said.

Hudak's comments come one day after McGuinty demanded he apologize for his attacks. McGuinty repeated that demand while speaking to reporters at a Mississauga factory.

"I believe that Mr. Hudak is out of step with our values. I believe that in Ontario there's no 'us' and 'them,' there's just us," he said. "I think he's crossed a line. I believe he needs to admit to that. And I think what he needs to do is to apologize to those Ontarians — those Canadian citizens — that he attacked.

Small eligibility window

The $10,000 tax credit would offset training costs for up to one year for new Canadian citizens who have been here five years or less and are in professions such as architecture, accounting or engineering.

The cost of the program is pegged at just $12 million and would help only a relative few — the Liberals estimate up to 1,200 people a year — but it is one of the most talked-about issues of the campaign thus far.

The Liberals on Sunday made it clear the proposal is directed at Canadian citizens, though because of the at least four years and seven months it takes to get citizenship, the cap of five years or less for this program does make it quite restrictive.

Richmond Hill candidate Vic Gupta said Sunday Hudak first used the "foreign workers" term when fewer details were known about the Liberal plan.

"We were responding to the policy as it was first announced," Gupta said. "No matter how the Liberals try to spin it, this is an affirmative action plan that helps some and doesn't help others."

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With files from The Canadian Press