Created some 40 years ago, the temporary foreign worker program was originally designed to fill short-term shortages of highly-skilled individuals in Canada.
The program was later expanded to include different occupations, including those classified as lower-skilled. This meant that workers required no more than high school or two years of job-specific training to qualify.
In 2006, the federal Conservatives expanded the list of occupations that qualified for the low-skill pilot project and increased the speed of processing applications.
In April 2012, the government introduced the accelerated labour market opinion (ALMO). This only applied to high-skilled workers and those employers that had been issued a regular labour market opinion in the previous two years.
Companies must always apply to the government for permission to bring in temporary foreign workers through requesting a labour market opinion (LMO). The main criteria for a regular LMO is that the company posted the jobs but that these positions could not be filled with workers already in Canada.
By the end of 2012, there were more than 340,000 workers in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program residing in Canada. The majority of these workers were located in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
In response to public anger over abuses of the program, the Conservative government announced reforms in the 2013 federal budget.
These included the elimination of the ability to pay ALMO workers 15 per cent less than the recognized market rate, a temporary suspension of ALMO, the introduction of a requirement that the workers speak French or English, and an onus on companies to provide a transition plan to hire Canadian workers.
In June 2014, Labour Minister Jason Kenney announced yet again reforms to the program. Under the new rules, companies won't be allowed to have more than 10 per cent of their work force comprised of temporary foreign workers by 2016.
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 that low-wage workers can stay in Canada will also be reduced from two years to one year. Labour market data will be enhanced.
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