Mayors of small town Alberta have lambasted Ottawa’s changes to the temporary foreign worker program.
The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) said businesses rely on temporary foreign workers to fill the province’s labour shortages, and the federal government’s recent changes will restrict access to much-needed workers and jeopardize economic growth and development.
“The program needs to account for the unique employment needs of Alberta’s economy,” said Helen Rice, president of the association. “We agree the program should be strengthened, but the solution does not lie in inhibiting Alberta’s growth.”
Earlier this summer, employment minister Jason Kenney overhauled the program, making it more difficult for employers to hire temporary foreign workers and instead to ensure Canadians are considered first for jobs. For employers that violate the new rules, the federal government is considering lifetime bans and hefty fines.
But the AUMA said any reforms should instead focus on providing greater clarity on how employers can adequately demonstrate their inability to hire a Canadian worker and to implement changes to reduce the cost and time of its application process.
“We question why employers across Alberta are being penalized by restrictive changes when only a small percentage of employers are inappropriately using the program,” Rice added.
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