A special message from Dan Kelly to small business owners regarding changes to TFWP

Members and small business owners, 

On Friday, June 20th, the federal government announced massive changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). 

Summary of TFWP changes: 

1. Complete ban for most positions in restaurants, hotels and retail in most regions of Canada (where unemployment is above 6%). The ban includes:

  • Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers
  • Cleaning staff
  • Cashiers, clerks
  • Security staff

2. Other “low wage” jobs will be defined as those paying under the provincial median wage (approx. $20 per hour in most regions).

3.  A non-refundable fee of $1,000 per position just to apply (the money is lost if the position is not approved). This applies to both low and high wage TFWs, other than seasonal agriculture.

4. Employers of low wage workers will be allowed to have a maximum of 10% of the workforce as TFWs (other than for firms under 10 workers).  This will be phased in for current TFW employers over the next two years.

5. Work permits for both low and high wage TFWs will be reduced from 2 years to 1 year. Low wage TFWs will be required to return home after a maximum of 24 months.

6. Massive new paperwork requirements to document every application, every interview and reasons for every rejected candidate.

7. Still no national pathway to permanent residency for lower-skilled TFWs.

Note: High wage jobs (above the provincial median wage), seasonal agricultural workers and live-in caregivers are exempt from several of these provisions. High wage jobs will require the $1,000 non-refundable application fee and will be subject to a 1-year maximum with a transition plan for the employer to move to an all-Canadian workforce. These changes do not currently apply in Quebec, but the federal government is working with the province to expand this across the country.

We expected them to take a sledgehammer to the program, and instead they drove a bulldozer right through it. We regard this as a gross over-reaction to a handful of negative stories, many of which have been exaggerated heavily by unions desperate to go after small and medium-sized firms, particularly quick service restaurants. 

CFIB members strongly support stiff penalties for those caught abusing the program or mistreating Canadian employees or TFWs, but these changes convict all employers, barring many who have followed all of the rules from even applying. 

The changes single out the restaurant, hotel and retail sectors, permanently closing off their access to the program for most positions in most parts of Canada. For those who still have access, costs will go way up – a $1,000 non-refundable fee for each TFW position – and paperwork requirements will become even more onerous. 

The federal government has failed to grasp some basic realities faced by employers of lower-skilled staff. There is no line-up of unemployed Canadians clamouring for these jobs, and the minister’s insistence that employers simply need to pay more shows a lack of understanding of the razor-thin margins and the impact on consumer prices and demand. Also, despite media stories to the contrary, business owners know the cost of employing a TFW is significantly higher than hiring a locally available worker. 

CFIB has been widely recognized as the loudest voice fighting to protect the program, and despite this terrible decision, we will continue to fight.  We will be actively lobbying for: 

  • a special foreign worker program for restaurants, hotels, retail outlets and other employers of lower-skilled occupations, to meet their unique needs; and
  • a pathway to permanent residence for all TFWs, regardless of skill level.

This is in addition to other CFIB work to address the growing shortage of labour across Canada.

CFIB is also ready to support affected businesses that need help navigating the new program. Call our Business Counsellors at 1-888-234-2232. 

We know that only a small portion of our members need to use the TFWP, but we are all threatened when a government takes action that completely disregards the legitimate needs of small business.

We are currently working on our plans to push back against these changes.  In the meantime, please contact your Member of Parliament to let him or her know the impact this decision will have on your business. 

Thank you.

Dan Kelly
President, CEO and Chair