Temporary foreign worker changes bad for business

Published on June 23, 2014
Jordi Morgan is the Atlantic vice president for CFIB
Submitted photo

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.

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.