Minister Fawcett responds to changes to federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Kyle Fawcett is concerned that federal changes hurt Alberta’s and Canada’s economy, and issued the following statement:
“We are comfortable with changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) that tighten the program’s administration. But introducing caps and using the province’s median wage to differentiate low-skill occupations, and reducing the length of time workers can stay is simply bad economic policy for Alberta. Today’s announcement from the federal government is disappointing on a number of levels.
“Today’s changes to the TFWP could have a lasting and negative impact on our province. And with Alberta’s economy set to lead the country in growth again this year, any challenges in our economy have an impact right across the country.
“Alberta’s position has always been that available jobs must go to Canadians first. However, Alberta has a unique labour market. Our unemployment rate sits at 4.6%, the second lowest in Canada and well below the national rate of 7%. Although Alberta accounts for roughly one-tenth of Canada’s population, more than 80 per cent of the jobs created across the country in the last year were created here. So while our economic engine runs strong, Alberta has the highest job vacancy rate in the country and many businesses, large and small, struggle to find enough workers.
“We recognize that some concerns about the TFWP are valid. Alberta’s position is clear: the rules of the TFWP must be enforced, and we have offered to work with the federal government to strengthen compliance measures for employers. While we support many of the enforcement actions being taken today, we note that they are required because the rules were not being adequately enforced by the federal government in the first place.
“Separately, we recognize that employers need to demonstrate that TFWs are actually needed, and we support a fair application process. But introducing hiring caps does not address that issue. As a result, companies may go through an expensive and rigorous process to demonstrate that they actually need foreign workers, only to be denied the opportunity to hire them.
“Unfortunately, the changes announced today are a one-size-fits-all solution, and only compound the labour challenges faced by many Alberta businesses. The federal TFWP has been valuable during periods of strong economic growth.
“Alberta is committed to building a permanent workforce to keep pace with our growth. This includes training Albertans who want to work, attracting Canadians to our booming job opportunities, and welcoming immigrants from around the world. Even with all of this, Alberta will be short 96,000 workers over the next decade. Our labour pressures are significant and permanent. The TFWP helps temporarily fill short-term needs, so tightening this program further exacerbates the larger challenge.
“Today’s changes are a fundamental re-organization of the TFWP and have the potential to create even more pressure on Alberta's already tight labour market. These changes overlook the on-the-ground realities faced by Alberta small businesspeople each and every day in communities across this province.”