Temporary foreign workers program faces federal review

February 17, 2016

By Rober Fife, Globe and Mail |

The Liberal government plans to launch a full-scale review of the controversial temporary foreign workers program.

MaryAnn Mihychuk, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, told The Globe and Mail she will ask a parliamentary committee for proposals to fix the program.

Reforms passed by the former Conservative government limit foreign workers to 10 per cent of a company’s work force in low-paying jobs, and prohibit employers from hiring them in regions of high unemployment. In most communities with an unemployment rate above 6 per cent, companies cannot qualify for the program.

“I think it is timely for a serious review of the whole program,” Ms. Mihychuk said in an interview. “We would like to put it forward to a House committee to review, and there are issues on this program from coast to coast to coast.”

A source said Liberal MPs from Atlantic Canada also want cabinet to exempt fish processing plants from the restrictions. Farm workers and live-in caretakers were exempted from the Conservatives’ reforms, but not seafood processors.

While the Liberals criticized the Conservative government’s handling of the program, the party did not propose reforms in its 2015 election platform.

All seats in Atlantic Canada went to Liberals, and MPs from the region are pressing hard for changes, saying the restrictions hurt seasonal businesses and the service sector.

Nova Scotia Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner, who is also Ms. Mihychuk’s parliamentary secretary, said the program needs to be overhauled to take into account the demands of seasonal businesses.

“Changes over the last couple of years have impacted seasonal industries. We still generate over 50 per cent of the regional GDP through seasonal industries. The work force is getting older. The out-migration is significant,” he said.

Yvonne Jones, the Liberal MP from Labrador, said the changes to the TFW program hurt her province’s tourism and fish processing industries, making it difficult to get seasonal labour.

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