OTTAWA - Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney says the controversial temporary foreign workers program should not be used to drive wages down or to fill lower-skilled jobs.

The central banker told a Commons committee that even at the higher-skill levels, the program should only be used to fill gaps until employers have sufficient time to train Canadians to fill the work.

Carney says a government review of the program is also looking at the same objectives.

There are some shortages of some skilled trades, he says, but he also notes that Canada has one of the most flexible labour markets among advanced countries.

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  • 45: Teck Resources

    Thousands of Canadian employers use temporary foreign workers. The Alberta Federation of Labour recently obtained a list of more than 4,000 companies that have used the “fast-track” process since it came into existence a year ago, in April, 2012. We took that list and combined it with the Globe and Mail’s list of largest Canadian employers to find out which of them are using the “fast-track” process. Of the 50 largest Canadian employers, The Huffington Post was able to confirm that at least 18 of them were on the AFL’s list.

  • 41: Shaw Communications

  • 38: Sun Life

  • 36: BlackBerry

  • 30: Maple Leaf Foods

  • 27: Air Canada

  • 25: Canadian Tire

  • 24: Manulife

  • 22: Rona

  • 21: Rogers Communications

  • 19: Sears

  • 14: Bank of Montreal

  • 11: BCE Inc.

  • 10: Thomson Reuters

  • 8: Bombardier

  • 6: Scotiabank

  • 5: TD Bank

  • 3: Loblaws

  • Other notable employers in Canada using the temporary foreign workers:

  • Lululemon

  • Hudson's Bay Co.

  • Bank of Canada

  • Shoppers Drug Mart

  • Walmart

  • Fairmont Hotels

  • Telus

  • Enbridge

  • Sobeys

  • CN Rail

  • Porter Airlines

  • Tim Hortons

  • SNC-Lavalin

  • CP Rail

  • TransCanada

  • McDonald's

  • Suncor

  • Talisman Energy

If there is a shortage of workers to fill unskilled, low-paying jobs, he says it's important that over a reasonable time the market and wages adjust rather than try to solve the problem by bringing in foreign workers.

In other testimony, Carney says it is quite likely that interest rates will remain at current historically low levels for some time.

He says the banks considers three factors in its decisions about interest rates, and all currently point to the trendsetting policy rate remaining at one per cent.

Carney says unused capacity in the economy remains high, inflationary pressures are low and household debt is stabilizing.

Still, Carney says the government and the bank need to be vigilant that the housing market and mortgage accumulation does not re-heat because if there is a shock, that could have a severe impact on the economy.