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The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is not working effectively for any employer, according to many of our members. It has become almost unworkable, even for employers of high-skilled, high-wage employees. We continue to strongly pursue changes to ensure access to talent for employers in locations or sectors that cannot fill positions with Canadians.

On April 13, our Senior Vice President of Policy, Warren Everson, spoke at the Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Immigration Summit on the need to optimize the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Last June, the government’s changes to the TFW Program mainly targeted low-wage, low-skilled workers. Employers in Alberta and B.C. have been hit with two-thirds of the reductions in low-wage TFWs, according to a new Canada West Foundation report. As the report says, “it is not clear whether denying employers access to workers from abroad will help with local unemployment.”

The changes have also hit employers seeking high-wage, high-skilled workers. As our members have told us, there’s a chill permeating Service Canada where officers seem afraid to approve applications. The processing of labour market impact assessments, which are required for TFWs to request work permits, has ground to a snail’s pace.

It doesn’t serve anyone’s interests for employers to face big delays and uncertainty in bringing in people they need. If the government is serious about Canada’s global competitiveness, it will make its mind up – yes or no – quickly and then expedite processing for highly-skilled occupations.

“We all know the key to competitiveness is a skilled workforce. It is deeply distressing to see government processes acting to block these workers from our economy,” says Everson. “It’s time to push the reset button and simplify the process piece. Let’s make sure process does not overwhelm policy goals.”

The TFW Program is a short-term, labour market tool, but it should also be a more integrated part of Canada’s immigration strategy.

“If we care about how immigration supports our economic aspirations, we should care about whether the TFW program works,” says Everson.

For more information, please contact Sarah Anson-Cartwright, Director, Skills Policy.

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