Federal government tightens temporary foreign worker program
By STAFF REPORTConstruction Skills Development
The federal government has announced sweeping legislative, regulatory and administrative changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
The changes will see stricter conditions and increased costs put in place when it comes to hiring temporary foreign workers––a move designed to steer employers towards hiring Canadians workers before looking elsewhere.
The overhaul of this program involves replacing wage flexibility with the prevailing wage, increasing the cost to employers for Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) and increasing fees for work permits. This also ensures English and French are the only languages used in the job requirement, and increases the government’s power to suspend and revoke work permits and LMOs if the program is being misused.
Other notable changes include: ensuring employers using temporary foreign workers have a program in place for switching to Canadian workers over time, temporarily suspending the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion process and adding questions to LMOs applications to make sure the program is not outsourcing Canadian jobs.
The announcement by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley comes on the heels of a recent review of the program.
Kenney said the purpose of the review and subsequent changes is to bring the program up to speed with what it was designed to do in the first place––fill acute labour shortages on a temporary basis.
“These reforms will require that greater efforts be made to recruit and train Canadians to fill available job opportunities when they become available,” said Kenney, in a media release.
Finley agrees, saying the goal of the program is to help fill “genuine and acute” labour needs while ensuring Canadian workers are not being displaced.
“Canada is experiencing significant skills shortages in many sectors and regions, and Canadians must always have first crack at job opportunities when they become available,” she said.
Michael Atkinson, president of the Canadian Construction Association, acknowledges the program is a stopgap solution, but is concerned the changes will be detrimental to the construction industry’s ability to keep pace with rising demand for its services across the country.
“The cost of recruiting and employing temporary foreign workers in the construction sector makes this an option of last resort, but a necessary tool for the industry in terms of meeting industry demands,” he said.
Atkinson explained it takes a minimum of four years for a person to complete their training in most construction sector skilled trades and the temporary foreign worker program has allowed the industry to keep up with growth while domestic workers are in training.
“Simply asking employers to spend more time looking for non-existent workers in Canada before their use of temporary foreign workers is not only short-sighted, but could have disastrous economic consequences,” he said.