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Moratorium lift a positive to foreign worker changes

Federal government announces new rules, procedures and fees for temporary foreign workers

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Friday, Jun 20, 2014 04:15 pm

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The moratorium on hiring temporary foreign workers to work in Canada’s fast food industry was lifted Friday as the federal government announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Lynda Moffat hadn’t had a chance to extensively review the changes when she was contacted on Friday afternoon.

She was pleased to hear the fast food industry moratorium on accessing the program had been lifted.

“That has been so awful on our businesses here,” Moffat said.

Chambers of commerce across the country have been forwarding opinions to Kenney about the changes their serious impacts, particularly in Alberta, she said.

When people abuse the law, they should be held accountable, Moffat said, but those who are abiding by the rules shouldn’t be made to suffer.

“In our opinion the entire Temporary Foreign Worker Program needs to be reviewed and reassessed,” Moffat said, noting it sounds like some changes have been made. She said she hopes the changes aren’t simply reactionary.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced what he called “important, fundamental and comprehensive reforms” during a press conference late Friday morning.

There will now be two different programs – the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the international mobility program.

Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program include a cap – by July 2016, employers will only be able to have 10 per cent of their workforce at a site be temporary foreign workers.

In places where the unemployment rate is six per cent or higher, applications to hire temporary foreign workers for food service, accommodation and retail industries will be denied.

The cumulative time workers can stay in Canada will be reduced. Labour market data will be enhanced.

Kenney said employers seeking to hire temporary foreign workers will have to provide information on how many Canadians applied and why they weren’t hired.

The penalties for any abuse of the program are being increased.

Kenney also announced the scope of inspections will be increased, and there will be a blacklist of employers who are suspected of abuse.

Fees are also going up – to apply have a labour market impact assessment for each temporary foreign worker position requested will go from $275 to $1,000.

“These reforms will ensure Canadians come first in the job market,” Kenney said.

Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber said he was disappointed and concerned with the results of the overhaul.

“The new rules are very, very strict,” he said.

Of particular concern is the 10 per cent cap that will be phased in.

“If you talk to the Tim Hortons or McDonalds’ franchisees in and around Edmonton and St. Albert, you will find they are way above that so they’re going to have to scale back,” he said.

The increased fees will serve as a deterrent he said, and the government is going to limit the number of temporary foreign workers who can come to Canada.

Rathgeber said between the new rules, quotas and fees “it’s going to make it much more difficult and much more expensive to access the program.”

“The bottom line in all of this is there’s going to be less temporary foreign workers in an overcharged Alberta economy where they’re desperately needed,” Rathgeber said.

The moratorium being lifted is “the one positive in a whole bunch of negatives,” he said.


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