Canada is “clinging” to its Temporary Foreign Worker Program by “its fingernails,” the senior vice president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce warned, saying public and government attitudes towards the program are putting the Canadian economy at risk.
“Canadians still need to keep taking a little breath here and gain a bit of perspective,” Warren Everson said, noting the past two years there has been a “public feeding frenzy” on the program.
“The main thing here is that the Canadian economy needs to compete effectively. We have said for years that competitiveness in our economy is directly related to the skilled workforce that we can put in the hands of our employers,” he explained.
“It is very, very destressing to see government processes that are, at the moment, delaying the entry of those workers into our economy.”
Everson was speaking as part of a three-member panel on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program at the Conference Board of Canada’s annual immigration summit in Ottawa.
The federal government overhauled the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in June 2014 in light of mounting public criticism after a handful of businesses were accused of abusing the program. Among the changes were higher processing fees, now set at $1,000 per worker, and a cap on the number of low-skilled foreign workers that companies were allowed to employ at a time.
While most of the government’s changes were targeted at low-skilled workers, which has had serious consequences for industries like agriculture, Everson said the reinvention of the TFWP program has hurt skilled workers too.
Since that overhaul, Everson said Service Canada seems “hesitant” to approve any of the necessary paperwork needed to bring in temporary foreign workers – known as Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA).
LMIA’s are used by Employment and Social Development Canada to asses whether bringing in a foreign worker will have a negative impact on the Canadian workforce.
Processing of applications, which can be up to 14-pages long, he said, “is slow and getting slower,” and employers have problems reaching Service Canada to check on their applications, Everson noted. In the past there was an appeal process, there was someone with whom employers could go over applications and where employers could “make their case.”
Now, there’s no one to talk to, Everson said.
Service Canada and Canadian Border Services Agency employees also need “improved training” on the needs and challenges currently facing the Canadian workforce, he said.
He also underscored the question of keeping these foreign workers as permanent residents as a “critical issue.”
Provincial nominee programs are overwhelmed with applications, he said, noting British Columbia has frozen applications until July because of the backlog. In Alberta, the backlog in applications is estimated to be about 10,000.
Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca