Changes announced today by the government to the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program will add costs, delays and red tape for Canadian businesses.
Most companies using temporary foreign workers are small businesses that can’t afford to wait to find the appropriate workers and don’t have many options for training. Nor can they pay much higher wages to persuade Canadians to relocate.
The Temporary Foreign Workers Program is often the only way for small businesses to find the people they need. While they would much rather employ Canadians, or permanent immigrants, these businesses often have no choice but to look to temporary foreign workers to take jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.
Timing is also a major concern with these new changes. First, if this new process takes more time, employers may not be able to staff a project within a timeline. Delays may result in lost economic opportunities. Second, there is the timing associated with a training plan. Training for skilled and technical positions may take two years or longer, once a candidate has been identified. Many employers urgently need workers now.
The highest cost for today’s announcement will be imposed on SMEs, particularly in regions like Alberta (accounting for more than 40% of the total program in 2012) and Saskatchewan where labour is scarce and SMEs have little capacity for training. SMEs in highly competitive markets already have to pay a premium to attract workers, but the government’s changes may force them to pay even more.
What is being proposed by the government today is not in the interest of Canadian business. It’s disappointing to see Canadians underemployed, but it would be worse to see whole communities damaged because a key employer is forced to close or to move work outside of Canada to find the workers it needs.