Restaurant association calls for lifting of freeze on temporary foreign workers

Teresa Wright
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Garth Whyte, president Restaurants Canada, is joined by Liam Dolan, chair, and other industry leaders from across Canada, during a press conference requesting an emergency meeting with Prince Minister Stephen Harper addressing a labour shortage in the food service industry.

Restaurants Canada wants an emergency meeting with the PM to discuss labour shortage crisis

The largest restaurant association in the country is calling for an immediate end to the moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the food service industry and wants an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Restaurants Canada says the labour shortage in the industry has reached a crisis level in some regions of the country as a result of the moratorium.

“It’s having a negative impact not only on our business owners, but on their employees as well,” said Garth Whyte, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada.

“We need the government to act now.”

The association, which represents over 30,000 members across the country, is holding meetings in Prince Edward Island this week.

Charlottetown restaurant owner and Restaurants Canada chair Liam Dolan said Tuesday board members from across the country identified the labour shortage crisis as the single most important issue affecting their businesses.

He said he is seeing an especially large shortage of cooks. 

“I’ve been in business for 31 years, and this is the worst I’ve seen a shortage of cooks in this province,” Dolan said.

“I’m open six days a week in the winter and seven days a week in the summer. And I’m seriously considering not opening on Sundays.”

This will affect everyone who works in his restaurant, including students he said.

The moratorium was imposed on the food and services sector about a month ago after national media stories emerged about employers in several provinces accused of hiring foreign workers over Canadians.

Complaints emerged that temporary foreign workers were being given more hours and more shifts for less pay than their Canadian counterparts.

Whyte said the federal government is penalizing the entire food service industry in Canada for abuses by a minority of restaurant owners.

“We want to be part of the solution,” he said.

“We think there could be tougher rules on those that abuse (the program). We are strongly against misusing this program."

Restaurants Canada has launched an online petition called ‘Protecting Canadian Jobs’ that has already gathered close to 3,000 signatures from business owners and employees.

It is calling for an emergency meeting with Harper to discuss the labour shortage crisis in the industry.

“We’re serious, this is important,” Whyte said.

“We need to meet with the prime minister and they need to take this ban off immediately.”



Organizations: Restaurants Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Island Girl
    May 28, 2014 - 12:15

    Let's just hold the phone here a minute. Foreign Workers, Foreign Workers??? What, are they from Mars. These Workers (from away) are here for a better life, to raise their children without fear, and for most, to live a good life. I have encountered these workers (from away) at many businesses around town, it is clear they are doing their best (at our Language) to do a good job and survive like the rest of us. they as well as all Canadian should be paid a fair wage. there should be no aid to employers to reduce their cost for any worker, if you can't afford to be in business don't be in Business. Bottom line. STOP looking to our government to bail you out, stop the steady bleed of tax payers money, please.

  • Ordinary Canadians Don't agree with you
    May 28, 2014 - 12:07

    Everybody in that picture are in the upper income level,they have problems with keeping line cooks or staff.....why because they pay poverty YOUR staff better.....if you have agood product and happy staff the public will come in the door.I don't think to many Canadians care if you meet the PM, the POPE or Joe Blow..... PAY better wages...TFW 's have been some of your members....I should say EXTORTED, criminally abusive.The FED Govt knows a decent salary... Meanwhile enjoy your stay here.

  • Fed up
    May 28, 2014 - 09:31

    Leave the freeze on!! Actually, make it stronger!! Our people are leaving PEI to find work out west....restaurants...and some retail stores...are filling their places with immigrants. Our people can't get work!! I often wonder what these places did BEFORE they were allowed to bring immigrants in. One fast food owner...they ALL fill their places with immigrants...manager said..."oh, without these immigrants, we would have to close!" Mmmm before all they brought people in...they were still not closed! They have to guarantee 40 hrs per week...or they won't come. Why not offer OUR folks 40 hrs a week?!? One new fast food promised 3 young people I know 15 hrs a week working to full time once trained. Hired an immigrant...who had actually been fired from another fast food place....made her supervisor. She threw tantrums, yelled at young people, said she was being bullied....owner fired the three comes two more friends of first immigrant! This is happening all has to be stopped!! There are NO JOBS for our own .... Ghiz wanting MORE?!? NO!!!

  • mike
    May 28, 2014 - 09:01

    There is no need to take in people to work in restaurants. We have many good cooks and servers in PEI and across Canada. The main issue is most places don't want to pay more then minimum wage. Pay more and you will get workers.

  • Let's Face It
    May 28, 2014 - 08:59

    Let's face it people , temporary foreign workers are necessary here in PEI & I expect the other Maritime Provinces are the same . The people in the Maritimes just DON'T want to work anymore . Cut it any way you want , it's a fact or these foreign workers wouldn't be here . I have heard it from employers that local workers will only stay until they get their required stamps & then the employer is left high & dry with product & no one to process it . This wasn't a problem before EI . This leads me to believe that EI in present form is the ruination of our Maritime working force .

    • Regular Joe
      Regular Joe
      May 28, 2014 - 19:37

      Right ,stop and think about that statement for a min. Your saying that workers working fulltime only work until they get enough hours for EI . Right people want to go on EI for 55% of their wage instead of work . If the business owners would pay a decent wage and give the staff full time work then this would not be an issue . What else can you expect from a worker if they are only getting 20 hours a wk at work ,which is not enough to cover expenses to get there .

  • Charles Foster
    Charles Foster
    May 28, 2014 - 08:45

    If these businesses truly believe in free market principles, such as supply and demand, then we don't need foreign workers. A labour shortage will cause an increase in wages which in turn will cause an increase in the supply of labour - problem solved. Importing foreign labour distorts the local wage market and has adverse effects on ALL workers in Canada.

    • fma
      May 28, 2014 - 09:44

      Pay a decent wage, and there will be little need for TFW's

  • don
    May 28, 2014 - 08:11

    Garth Whyte, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada. is the pres of the restaurant slavery group and the members are a part of it. shame on you. i call on all canadian born to boycott and restaurant that hires tfw. let them know that you are upset and force them to hire and train canadians. but that lady was fired after 20 plus years in the biz so they can replace her with a tfw that has NO past experience. and yet the ceo of the restaurants says they can't get workers in canada. talk about bull crap.

    • Observer from the East
      May 28, 2014 - 13:53

      don, I always like to look towards you and Garth Staples for well-informed, rational and completely non-partisan coverage of these stories. Thanks for all the great work...

  • SomeSense
    May 28, 2014 - 07:51

    They should definitely not lift the ban. If restaurants can't survive without these foreign workers then they should either fail or change their business practices so they can compete. Maybe raise your prices and also the wages you pay, maybe pay more without raising prices, I know it would be crazy to not make as much profit as possible. Maybe you should not open some days of the week. The bottom line is there are lots of Canadians looking for work and if your positions were decent they would be filled. No business should get a break hiring these foreign workers for non skilled positions and no position other than a real chef in a restaurant is a skilled one, certainly none at any fast food outlet or any server at a more upscale location.

  • Not that simple
    May 28, 2014 - 07:51

    There are more issues here than the TFW taking jobs. Locals won't work at them. Maybe it's the wage being offered - maybe it's not. Some of the work is back breaking/ locals aren't willing to work that hard. It's not all about cooks/ this article only talks about this one sector. One restaurant owner I know is frustrated because as soon as the 'local' gets their qualifying weeks they quit. A vicious circle has been cultivated in our society. Yes the TFW program was abused - but so was the EI program. Both programs serve a purpose. Put the necessary checks and balances in place and move on. For the posters on here bashing business owners- have you ever tried running a business of ANY kind??

    • pay attention
      May 28, 2014 - 12:32

      I guess you haven't heard that fewer and fewer Islanders (who don't live in Shea's riding) are able to get EI. People don't want these slave jobs because they don't get enough hours at it to survive. Singles might make it, but those with families never can. If these lairds want the peons to support them they must support us. Pay a living wage and give people some hope of feeding themselves or go out of business. If people are good enough to work here they are good enough to live here permanently. And if you patronize these slave keepers, you are part of the problem.

    • Charles Foster
      Charles Foster
      May 28, 2014 - 20:32

      Are you aware that once a foreign workers Canadian pay is converted into their local dollars many of these foreign workers from the Phillipines, Jamaica, etc are being paid the equivalent of $50 per hour. That, and not locals being lazy, is why they work so hard. I am sure if locals were offered $50 per hour they too would break their backs at these miserable jobs. (And yes, I have been running my own business for 15 years which is why, in part, I was able to realize the business element of this dynamic.)

  • Bob MacDonald
    May 28, 2014 - 06:55

    Restaurants can't find workers in Charlottetown?!?!?!? who in their right mind would ever believe such a thing. This is the same group that couldn't compete fairly with a small business selling french fries. What a crock. Meanwhile they are turning away college age kids that need money to pay for their education.

  • Quiet Observer
    May 28, 2014 - 06:35

    I have sympathy for these restaurant owners. They want to hire everyone at minimum wage or less (and yes, they pay less by not paying TFW for all hours they are there because they don't any better and are afraid to rock the boat and be sent home). Government of Canada, PLEASE stand up to this association so they will raise their rates of pay, even a little. It is simple supply and demand of the free marketplace, a marketplace that I guarantee you all these restaurant owners support. And I agree with the boycott approach - we can send our message with our dollars!

  • the island way
    May 28, 2014 - 05:05

    "pay your workers just enough so they cant afford to take a day off to find a better job"

  • kyle
    May 28, 2014 - 03:30

    If a business cannot pay Canadian wages, has to pay Haitian wages to stay viable, then it should be closed down and moved to Haiti. In a free market economy no firm or class of firms has the right to a pass on paying market wages. If you cannot find employees, raise the wages on offer and you will be flooded with willing Canadians. If you cannot make a profit, you do not belong in business. No more subsidies to losers. Inept employers should not be allowed to stay in business by depressing the free market wages of employees.

  • Cookie
    May 28, 2014 - 02:39

    Pay a decent wage and you will get a decent cook .I know people that went to Alberta for construction work who were chefs !!! Other people in the same year class went back to school to be trained as welders ! I don't go near these establishments out of respect for them . Harper finally got something right , now get them out of the oil patch !

  • True Canadian
    May 28, 2014 - 01:25

    My kids are out of school and are out of work and cannot get hired anywhere.. My wife was pushed out the door of her job by foreign workers paid with government assistance and less money!!!!!!! They have resumes all over Charlottetown and are willing to work at any place that will hire them but NO JOBS So my family and friends DO boycott restaurants and any other business that are full of foreign workers.. I have to work in Alberta to survive and my kids will too.... And because the pei government supports foreign workers taking OUR jobs I spend most of my money off island... So I plead with ALL islanders for the sake of our youths future BOYCOTT all these foreign worker whole family has been directly affected by this program and the whole pnp fiasco... So I say to ghiz thanks for supporting islanders by taking the work away from them.. It's no wonder pei is in the shape it's in with this spoiled kid as premier!!!!! Doesn't have a clue what he is doing to pei!!!!! It will take years to undo what has been done to pei's economy by this bunch........

    • no how you feel BUT
      May 28, 2014 - 12:15

      I can go out and get ajob tommorow in Chtn,Timmy's ,MacDonald's delivering papers,labour work landscaping, you name it....not the most classy places to work...but I am willing to work.I agree TFW are not did PNP affect you??I don't see where it took jobs away???GHIZ is no brain surgeon he is alocal politician taking advantage of his position in life..mind you handed to him on a platter.....but no matter who is in Prov power would be NO different....there are only so many positions called luck and determination....

  • Get real
    May 27, 2014 - 21:56

    Not nearly as much abuse of the foreign worker program as there is of the employment insurance or welfare programs!!! Islanders want there weeks and that's it, not one hour more. You can blame Mr Dolan all you like, I suggest that the complainers get off the dope and open your own business and find out what it's really like dealing with slackers.

    • Clueless
      May 28, 2014 - 08:19

      I have a business. You clearly do not. Typical low information crowd nonsense to say that welfare and EI are the problem. Clueless.

  • Jobless.
    May 27, 2014 - 21:32

    This program has been taken to extreme levels of abuse. Not that it was ever really necessary. I'm finding it harder to find work in the trades off Island now thanks to this TFW program. For the future of my children, and the future of the middle class, I've chose to boycott any establishment I walk into that is not manned buy current Canadian citizens, and I'd encourage everyone else to do the same. The rich are getting to rich for the services they're offering, they're not paying their employees enough, and it's getting to hard for the average person to get buy and support themselves.

  • john b pubbbb lic
    May 27, 2014 - 21:30

    MR. DOLAN thank you for driving wages down on pei no wonder our youth have to go to Alberta to make a living, Charlottetown should open a Pei pub with islander workers....This is one time the Harper gov made it right....By the way MR. DOLAN DID YOU GET ANY FREE PNP MONEY..............

    • oranges
      May 28, 2014 - 06:19

      Of course. He and of restaurants own this Government.

  • enough already
    May 27, 2014 - 21:18

    P.E.I. has an unemployment rate of about 20 % but we have to bring in workers to farm , work in the fishery and work in restaurants . something is very wrong. Why does the city give out so many stamps if workers are in such a short supply.

  • Mike M
    May 27, 2014 - 19:51

    Greed is in the air and the only new item on all these scrooges menus. If you cannot afford to pay a livable wage than you shouldn't be in business. Restaurants are a hard working atmosphere and their employees work damn hard. Maybe these business should have to post their profits or lack of to the public and than maybe allow them to shaft unknowing foreigners by applying for there help. Cmon this is sickening, some of these companies like MacDonald's and subway post multi billion yearly profits. Revolt Boycott!!!!

    May 27, 2014 - 18:32

    Good old PEI. Just like the PNP mess, take a government program and take it to new heights. Too bad were couldn't be such high achievers in other areas.

  • Gerry MacDonald
    May 27, 2014 - 18:30

    With respect to Mr. Dolan's comment about the shortage of cooks, I suspect he really means a shortage of cooks for lower wages.

    • don
      May 27, 2014 - 20:29

      he wants free workers so he can have a big profit. what gets me is they all whine about workers not having experience. tell me how many years did he have when he started working? he was trained same as a cook, chef, etc. they are so full of it. tell me mr know nothing how many temp workers has YEARS of knowledge working at a restaurant. you are all so full of it and the restaurant owners on PEI how many years have you got? i like to see your papers from a school showing you were trained for at least 4 years to sweep a floor? i HOPE YOU ARE ALL BOYCOTTED AND PICKET BY REAL CANADIANS. and all you really want is slaves.

  • Serious Reader
    May 27, 2014 - 17:53

    Garth Whyte you sound like a spoiled teenager/bully.I can almost picture you stomping your foot! Play by the rules buddy - if the TFW program had not been abused there wouldn't be a problem - would there? Can you say Greed? Put your kids/family to work and see how that works for you.

  • Johnny
    May 27, 2014 - 17:22

    So the same people who were abusing things by hiring foreign workers over local workers, which in turn caused the rules to change because of it are now complaining about it? Did they think locals were going to flock back to their restaurants on their hands and knees looking for a job after being passed over? You (restaurant owners) got what you deserved.

  • intobed
    May 27, 2014 - 16:34

    Maybe there is a shortage in PEI of experienced cooks willing to work at close to minimum wage for Liam Dolan.

  • What a star.
    May 27, 2014 - 16:19

    You are really endearing yourself to Islanders Liam. First your try to shut down you competition through legislating out food trucks and now you want to make sure Islanders don't get any work. Step down from this position Liam. You are in conflict of interest and you are not doing anything to benefit PEI or Island workers.

  • SlyFox
    May 27, 2014 - 16:09

    Oh no the citizens want a wage they can survive on,We can not have that,it would cut into the profits ,so bring in TFW who do not know the difference. If you have to resort to hiring TFW to make your business profitable then maybe the business should not be there. What ever happen to the option of the right to fail for a business?

  • apples
    May 27, 2014 - 16:06

    These are the same people who want a lower mininum wage as the waitor/waitress receive tips. Good for the Prime Minister. Please no change! These people are driven by GREED, as you can witness who is in the photo.

  • ruth
    May 27, 2014 - 16:02

    buh-huh-huh, - I hope they get the cold shoulder, the only reason we are seeing this is that they want to grab more profit, - shame on you all, - hire Canadians and pay them a living wage, - - and I agree, let's just stay away from those places until they come to heir senses. This attitude is particularly offensive considering the profit these people make, - having a Tim Horton franchise is like having your own private mint, ----

  • voter
    May 27, 2014 - 15:48

    temporary workers take money out of our system -- they take jobs that students and others want -- the business people who cannot afford to pay people a reasonable wage are freeloaders and shouldn't be pandered to by government - let them fail if they can't contribute to the Canadian JOB MARKET -- foreign workers help lower our standard of living by allowing these restaurant owners to do the same as MacDonalds did --

    • Charles Foster
      Charles Foster
      May 28, 2014 - 08:49


  • CT
    May 27, 2014 - 15:27

    What I find unbelievable is that Dolan, representing a province where people complain bout no jobs, says he cannot find enough people to cook to keep his restaurant open on Sundays. What about all the unemployed islanders "looking for work"? Too proud to be a cook? If I needed a job to support my kids I'd be slinging coffee or beer, or be behind a cash register. Anything to support my family. That PEI need TFW is a joke!!!!!

  • don
    May 27, 2014 - 15:04

    Whyte . i have a simple cure all real Canadians. BOYCOTT AND PICKET ALL RESTAURANTS THAT HIRES TFW's why should we buy from them when they will NOT hire us.

    • to don
      May 27, 2014 - 15:58

      Don, have you been refused employment as a cook in many restaurants in PEI? Why wouldn't they hire a REAL Canadian like you?