Temporary foreign worker changes bad for business

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The changes announced include the complete exclusion from the program of the hotel, restaurant and retail sectors in regions considered to have 'high unemployment'. This applies to the vast majority of the Atlantic region, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Jordi Morgan is the Atlantic vice president for CFIB

Two prominent business organizations say the changes to the temporary foreign worker program announced by Ottawa on Friday will negatively impact many Island and regional businesses.

The Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce has sent a message to Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, and the other Island MPs, calling for an immediate end to the moratorium on foreign workers in the food services sector.

The chamber asked that the unique labour market needs of each region of the country be recognized in any future changes to the temporary foreign worker program.

“Our fears that additional industry sectors would be impacted in Minister’s (Jason) Kenney’s overhaul of the program have been realized,” chamber president Quentin Bevan said Monday.

The changes announced on Friday extended the moratorium on temporary foreign workers to include the accommodations and retail trade sectors. Because the Island’s unemployment rate is over six per cent, additional sectors will be impacted, including landscaping services, janitors, and various other “low” skilled industries, says the chamber.

“We are very concerned about the impact these changes will have on Island businesses who face chronic challenges securing the labour force to run their operations and rely on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to fill the gap.” said Bevan. “At a minimum there should be a transition period to allow businesses to adjust. The phase in of the cap over three years is simply not adequate as a transition strategy.”

He says by imposing a four-fold increase in the cost of a Labour Market Opinion (LMO), now called a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), the federal government is essentially shutting the program down for many small businesses.

Over the past several months the Chamber held a number of roundtable meetings with member businesses to discuss their labour market issues. Many employers expressed challenges in hiring individuals who are prepared and ready to work and have resorted to the temporary foreign worker program to maintain their operations, said Bevan.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) agrees the changes to the program will mean hardship for small business in Atlantic Canada.’

 “This is a deeply troubling over-reaction by the federal government at a time when we are already seeing some sectors of the Atlantic economy are already suffering from crippling labour and skills shortages,” Jordi Morgan, the Atlantic vice president for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said in a news release Monday.

 “It’s shocking that a government that until now has been supportive of small business is oblivious to the damage this move will do to fish processors, hospitality providers, quick service restaurants and other vulnerable businesses this region.”

 Erin McGrath-Gaudet, CFIB director for Prince Edward Island, says there has been a troubling mischaracterization that the temporary foreign worker program is somehow a cheap and easy source of workers. She says that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“Between fees, recruitment, wages and other financial obligations within the program, not to mention the considerable paperwork and a lengthy bureaucratic process in order to even be approved, it is foolish to think that small business owners would prefer to go through the TFW program than to access local workers,“ said Erin McGrath-Gaudet.


Organizations: Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • don
    June 26, 2014 - 20:38

    Jordi Morgan. you seem to think you are smart but tell me how did these business make it all these years before the tfw's came to Canada? take McDonald they have been open for many years and no tfw, or the coffee shops,fish plants etc. i would like you o go to the counties you want the tfw from and see how the business treat you if they will hire you? all you guys wants is cheap slaves that will take orders or else. so i guess you should be called Jordi Morgan the head slave master. you want tfw but will not hire Canadians and do not give me the bull that you need trained workers and you know on the job training is best. but you want Canadians to buy from you well i hope every Canadian boycotts every business that hires tfw. and after they close up they will not be missed.

  • J
    June 26, 2014 - 16:38

    We'll said pei, Islanders are lazy, they only want to work long enough to get EI.

  • Chris
    June 26, 2014 - 13:13

    I laud the Minister's changes to hiring of foreign workers. The only thing businesses and Chamber members are afraid of is that they will have to now offer a fare wage to entice locals to work for them. Naturalized Canadians need the jobs don't bring foreign workers to take away their jobs because its cheap and better for your bottom line!

  • Joe Smelt
    June 24, 2014 - 21:37

    Everybody, vote with your feet! I am done eating at Subway. Simply put, if you won't hire my kid, why should I eat in your restaurant? Why should I stay in your Hotel? It is the only real pressure we can apply to these businesses and business owners. Make an effort to patronize those businesses that hire your neighbours and friends. Only when the greedy business owner profits go down will they really notice.

    • don
      June 25, 2014 - 06:04

      i agree with you fully. now if all canadians young and old stops buying at places that has or wants to hire tfw. send them a message that we will NOT stand for this crap. lots of them was in business before tfw and found workers. when they start hurting in the pocket books called profits they will start hiring CANADIANS. and if some closes so be it. we were here before they opened and will be here after they close. i would like these owners to go to the counties where they want there slaves to come from and see if the governments and stores hire them? look at it this way you want your kids to find work well put up or shut up boycott these want o be slave owners.

  • roma
    June 24, 2014 - 12:09

    I give the Harper government full credit for listening and making changes. This program was started under the liberals and expanded under the Conservatives due to its success. Now that it is exposed as fraudulent, it is being changed. Thank you Mr.Kenny. Now tell companies to start training young people and work to better society as a whole. They have not pulled their weight. Then start taxes the daylights out of the CEOs that take home millions every year, it is not a reasonable arrangement in a democratic society, - there should be a more equal sharing of the wealth.

  • JP
    June 24, 2014 - 08:25

    People may want to be careful what they wish for. The Feds are now going to require businesses to keep track of all the applicants they get when they advertise and why they weren't hired. For a lot of these lower-end jobs, people are just trying to look like they are looking for work for their EI so if you aren't showing up for interviews or at jobs you were offered there is now a record!

  • w kennedy
    June 24, 2014 - 02:03

    Strange no posting in paper for fish plant workers?

  • Joe Blow
    June 24, 2014 - 00:14

    In Canada and in PEI...we need to look after the people we have here right now. We need to make sure that current Canadians have jobs and are able to have an income to provide for their families. Its time we forget about making businesses and CEO's millions or billions of dollars of profit. Every year companies are setting records for profits, but yet we are all forced to pay more for products while we are forces to work for less.....or even worse, lose our jobs while foreign workers come to Canada and handed everything including our jobs because companies can pay them less and keep the extra money for themselves. Its not right!!! Its not Canadian either. We need to start looking after ourselves first. Free trade is killing Canada. It might be making some businessmen rich, but it is destroying our country bit by bit! Time for it to stop. Stop exporting all of our products to other countries while we are forced to import their garbage at ridiculous prices. No need for foreign workers while there are record numbers of people unemployed.

  • Joe Doe
    June 23, 2014 - 21:18


  • Truth Hurts
    June 23, 2014 - 21:08

    PEI If what you say regarding your attempt to get people to apply for $15 per hour employment, list the name of your company and contact address so that the unemployed or under paid people can immediately apply. I will be quite interested to see if you are for real or just spouting hot air.

  • Peter Llewellyn
    June 23, 2014 - 19:55

    Interesting comment from the independant business rep, she should do the math and see what would happen if they applied the cost of TFW to an increased wage to attract local workers. The use of TFWs, WILL hurt the economy of PEI by maintaining low wages and the loss of these wages as they are taken back to a foreign country to buy products. Business on PEI had better get better at what they are doing so they can pay a wage which will allow them to produce their products. Better management would be a good start, more innovation and less whining would also help. Brings to my mind an acronym The captain of a navy ship I served on used Captain (N) Hightsman HMCS HURON 1974 used to sign on the bottom of his written orders, "G.O.Y.A". or Get off your Ass.-----and get it done!!!

    • JP
      June 24, 2014 - 08:37

      Wow! I had never thought of that before. Because, as a business owner, I have never, ever considered that the best way to try to keep my workers here rather then them going out west for more money might be to give them more money. I haven't ever used TFWs but I will say for every business owner I know, we always do our best to compete on wages and I cannot ever imagine that I would say "I can't get someone local for $12. I guess I'll pay $15 to hire someone from another country." I'd always pay the $15 to a local before I'd go that route.

  • pei
    June 23, 2014 - 18:59

    you guys are crazy here. I have been trying to get workers for the last couple months and not min. wage either and cannot get one person. people don't want to work here just get stuff for free. makes me sick. I have been offering $15 an hour even cash if they want. nope not one person. call it what you want but I call it entitlement or lazy. bring all the foreign workers in you can and cut off the welfare and ei to those who refuse to work.

    • Islander
      June 23, 2014 - 23:35

      Curious, where are you offering $15 an hour?

    • easterner
      June 24, 2014 - 03:18

      hi pei...if your still looking i have someone avalible.....128 st charles rd

    • W Smith
      June 27, 2014 - 11:58

      Could it be you are such a bad employer that they wants to work for you at any price? If not, why don't you post your job offer here in the comments?

  • greed
    June 23, 2014 - 18:27

    It should be in the interest of businesses to use local workers first and foremost, - both from an economic point of view as well as a social responsible point. Even wealthy people can take please in being surrounded by people who do not suffer hardship and the scourge of that. These same workers are the customers of these businesses for ALL their needs, they may even be contributing tax . TFWs take their money and leave. Regarding the list of inconveniences of applying for foreign workers, obviously it must be well worth it, judging from the popularity of, and up-roar from businesses over the changes to, the program.

  • reality
    June 23, 2014 - 17:18

    businesses quite often won't even give people fulltime work -maybe 20 hours or less so that they are not required to give full time benefits -- entrepreneurs often are greedy ,selfish -------and often very arrogant ---

  • dan harding
    June 23, 2014 - 16:54

    My family experienced what the tfw has done for her work. She worked at subway for years full time making 35 to 45 hrs a week and we survived not too badly as we had my income also which was better wages. Then the owner of cows and subway took alot of these tfw from Phillipines and my wife's hours were cut back to 8 a week. We couldn't survive on that. So we moved on but this is the reality of tfw. I know alot of you say that can't be so but my wife and 3 others at her store in Cornwall were cut back. The employer kept them on as the tfw can't replace them but in reality they were. Forcing my wife and the others to seek more meaningful employment.

    June 23, 2014 - 15:18

    Canadian Federation of Independent Business.........read the comments the message is the same your wages are terrible ..pay better money..give some benefits....the money you use to bring them over and process them could be used to increase wages....crying poor mouth is not working and the Federal Govt knows that..You want TFW so you do not have to do the above.IF you paid half-decent ..the locals would be flocking to your door.....Your not getting any sympathy from the public......

  • ExpatIslander
    June 23, 2014 - 14:00

    Of course Islanders are not willing to work for minimum wage but here's the thing.. the TFWs are actually making much more than an Islander working for the same wage because they earn Canadian wages but spend them in countries with much, much lower costs of living. In other words their paltry wages made here can support them and their families for months at a level considerably higher than their fellow countrymen. It's not so different than islanders working in Fort Mac and sending the wages home to pay the mortgage and buy a new truck.

    • Charles Foster
      Charles Foster
      June 23, 2014 - 17:02

      You hit the nail on the head. Canadian minimum wage equals about $50/hour in Jamaica or the Phillipines. I'm sure lots of Maritimers would take on many of the miserable back-breaking jobs TFW's do if they too were paid $50/hour.

  • don
    June 23, 2014 - 12:48

    well if these workers are better then Canadians then let them buy your products and you do not need canadians to keep your fat pay cheques going. but i ask you one question how the hell did you and the rest of the slave masters keep in business before tfw? tell us if you can tell the truth? what ticks me off is if you hire CANADIANS then train them. or close up shop and move to where the tfw are from and see how you are treated. i'm sure we will not miss traders to Canada. you want big profits from canadians buying at your stores etc but yet you stab us in the back.

  • Jack Sprat
    June 23, 2014 - 12:35

    Pay a living wage, and people who live here will take the job. The employers you refer to aren't willing to do this

  • Let Them Eat Cake
    June 23, 2014 - 12:12

    Let's clear up one repeating fallacy. There is no shortage of workers. If banking execs. and lawyers were being paid minimum wage, there would be a shortage of banking execs. and lawyers. Increase wages to survivable standards and positions will be filled. The insatiable greed at the top is the real problem. There is no need to trade in your luxury SUV every year.

  • Shawn
    June 23, 2014 - 12:00

    These employers shared their concerns over hiring. They claim they can't hire anyone because no one applies for the jobs. The whole argument is invalid when you put that into context. What they don't admit is the consistent lowering of employee's wages. Thus fewer people will apply because the companies are not willing to provide a living wage. The foreign worker program is not supposed to be used as a sole means for hiring, its meant as either a temporary measure or as a means to help with citizenship. Yet these companies will hire a foreign worker just so they do not have to pay a proper living wage. These business owners, etc hide behind logical fallacies and outright lies, hoping the public won't notice.

  • Observer from the East
    June 23, 2014 - 11:58

    I'm sure there will be people on here who will be ranting on about "lazy people exploiting the system" by drawing EI. Let's take a common sense look at this. Why would anybody work at a wage they can't live off when they could draw EI and make just as much (or in some cases, a little more)? It doesn't make sense I wouldn't call them lazy, but smart. If we want less TFWs and less people on EI, as a society, we have to start paying a liveable wage. $10/hr doesn't cut it. Businesses may gripe, but that is the reality.

    • Dick
      June 24, 2014 - 07:12

      "Smart, not Lazy". you hit the head on the nail

  • Observer from the East
    June 23, 2014 - 11:54

    Perhaps I'm oversimplifying things here a bit, but if we raised wages to a level were people could actually live off them, would there be near as much need for TFWs as there is now?

  • Island worker
    June 23, 2014 - 11:17

    Maybe if small/medium size business wants to pay a decent wage, then they should not have a problem hiring locally. People will work any job as long as they pay is worth it.

  • voter
    June 23, 2014 - 11:00

    if you cannot play the game why do you think people should help you make a profit subsidized by foreign workers --- if you are not able to run a business without government help go work as an employee of a business that can stand on its own -no welfare from foreigners !!or move to a foreign country where you can get cheap labour !!!