This past week, the Government announced significant changes to many classifications within the temporary foreign worker program (TFWP). Reaction to these changes has been diverse and includes comments that range from suggesting the changes do not go far enough to suggestions the changes in many cases are so significant that they amount to the phasing out of the program. As is often the case in areas of complex regulation, there is some misunderstanding in that some aspects of the program have been far more significantly changed than others. There are also unique considerations that apply in some classifications that do not apply in others. The limited space in this report does not make it possible to itemize all of the changes; however I will pass on a few examples based on questions that are commonly asked.
One of the larger questions that in some quarters is also a debate, is the question: are changes to the temporary foreign worker program required? I have certainly heard from some employers who have expressed views on the importance of the TFWP, however I have also met with unemployed workers and families of unemployed workers unable to secure a job. By the numbers the total use of the TFW program was just over 48,500 temporary foreign workers in 2002 and has grown every year since up to 2009 where the program peaked at just over 142,000 foreign workers and as of 2013 is close to 127,000. For a further breakdown of the 2013 numbers close to 17,000 were live in caregivers, close to 28,000 were in the seasonal agricultural worker program combined with a further 40,000 workers in other low skilled labour categories. In total low skilled TFW program use accounted for roughly 85,000 workers compared to just under 42,000 temporary foreign workers in the high skilled categories.
What changes are being proposed under the new regulations? Some categories, such as the live in caregiver program will remain unchanged however for other programs the former labour market opinion (LMO) will now be expanded into a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The LMIA process requires an employer to submit how many Canadians applied for the job in question, in turn how many Canadians applicants were interviewed, and the reasons why those Canadians were not hired. In addition employers are also required to acknowledge new rules that prohibit Canadians from being laid-off or having hours reduced at a worksite employing temporary foreign workers. Other changes to the TFW program include a 10% cap limit on the number of TFW workers that an employer can use as a percentage of the workforce. Existing employers currently over this limit will be granted a transition period to adjust. Another change in the TFW program is that certain classifications of employment will be subject to local unemployment rates as part of the TFW application process. There are a number of conditions that apply however if the annual unemployment rate is over 6% in a specific region for a job classification the employer may be prevented from accessing the TFW program. For employers who are successful in receiving approval for using a temporary foreign worker in the low wage categories the duration of the permit will be one year shortened from the existing 2 year expiry date.
This report is only a brief summary of some of the many changes to the temporary foreign worker program. Many of the changes not mentioned in this report are specific and unique to various employers within our local economies. For the past week I have been hearing from many business owners over these changes. It should also be pointed out that the application fee for an LMIA is now set at $1,000 compared to $250 for the former LMO. These are significant increases for many business owners who do use the program although these new fees are established to recover the administrative costs of operating the temporary foreign worker program so that it is funded by those who use the TFW program and not subsidized by taxpayers or other businesses who do not use the program. I welcome your comments on this or any issue before the House of Commons. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.