Recent changes to Temporary Foreign Worker Program will hurt SMEs!

The government recently announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). These changes will make it even more difficult for certain small businesses to fill their labour needs. The changes are:

  • Eliminating the 15% wage flexibility;
  • Temporarily suspending the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion process;
  • increase the Government’s authority to suspend and revoke work permits and Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) if the program is being misused;
  • Adding questions to employer LMO applications regarding  outsourcing;
  • Forcing employers who rely on temporary foreign workers have a “firm plan” in place to transition to a Canadian workforce over time; (details to be confirmed)
  • Introduce fees of $275 per position (non-refundable) for employers for the processing of LMOs and increase the fees for work permits; and
  • Identifying English and French as the only languages that can be used as a job requirement, except in certain circumstances.

The government has made it even more costly and time consuming for our members to fill job vacancies via the TFWP, even though the government itself admitted, in the speech when the reforms were originally announced, that the need for skilled workers by businesses is exceptionally high in certain areas and sectors.

This is a political decision, but the practical impact on small businesses, especially those in rural areas, will be massive. We have already had discussions with the government on our disappointment in the decision, and will look to make changes so that those businesses that legitimately use the program to fill labour shortages are not negatively affected.

This will add more restrictions and red tape to the program could do serious harm to Canada’s small businesses, our economy and our communities.

Please see our letter to Ministers Diane Finley and Jason Kenney on the changes and how they affect small business.

At a minimum, the federal government should:

  • Reverse the changes it intends to make to the TFW program, or at least focus them on companies that abuse the system
  • Put a limit on any new application fees to avoid burdening SMEs who have little choice but to utilize the program
  • Create more pathways to permanent residency for temporary foreign workers at all skills levels.
  • Create a TFW stream specifically for workers in the hospitality, retail or service sectors.

On the temporary foreign worker program and its importance to small businesses

While the notion of Canadian jobs being outsourced to foreign workers makes for a catchy news headline, the truth is that recent stories have very little to do with the TFWP, and worse,  this debate has taken away from the fundamental reality that the program is essential to the survival of many small businesses.  

Some small employers utilize the program when they’ve done everything they can to recruit locally. Before a business owner can hire a foreign worker, they have to:

  • Advertise across Canada (including now through the EI system);
  • Have the proposed wages for the foreign worker approved by the federal government;
  • Pay for return airfare;
  • Assist with finding accommodation and often pay recruiting fees (perhaps $5-10K per worker);

The program is costly and time consuming. If a small business owner is able to find workers in Canada willing, able and qualified to fill their vacant positions, why would they go to all the expense and delays associated with hiring a foreign worker?

CFIB created a TFWP storybook that shows the need of for many small businesses to have access to foreign workers. We highly encourage you take a look at the importance of these workers to their businesses and communities.

The plain truth is there aren’t enough Canadians to fill all our labour needs. The TFWP fills that gap, and small businesses need access to the program.

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