Taking the “temporary” out of the TFW program

CFIB proposes permanent solutions to chronic labour shortages

IMPORTANT UPDATE: CFIB and other major business associations have come together to call for action on the lack of options for employers who are facing acute and systemic labour shortages, particularly in entry-level positions. Please read the open letter sent to federal Ministers Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander on changes that need to be made to the TFW Program and the general shortage of labour issue.

Toronto, December 1, 2014 – In a new report released today, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) calls for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to be replaced with a stronger solution to address permanent labour shortages. Geared towards entry-level workers, CFIB’s proposed Introduction to Canada Visa would simultaneously address critical shortages for small businesses while providing a clear path to permanent residence for foreign workers.  

“Canada was built by people who decided to take a chance, come here, and work hard to make a new life for themselves and their families,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly. “The Introduction to Canada Visa would open up those opportunities once again. You shouldn’t need a PhD to live the Canadian Dream.”

Myths, misconceptions and endless controversy around the TFWP brought on ill-advised changes, which have cut off a vital lifeline for many employers and largely barred from the program employers in the restaurant, retail and hotel sectors in much of the country. With small businesses desperate for relief, the Introduction to Canada Visa is one solution – outlined in CFIB’s new report – that makes sense for employers while honouring Canada’s immigrant roots.

“One of the legitimate criticisms of the TFW program is that it was often employing temporary workers to fill permanent labour market needs,” added Kelly. “Given the massive cost of turn-over, small businesses would much rather hire someone who is not temporary, but the permanent immigration system largely prohibits anyone with more junior skill sets. We need workers at all skill levels, including for entry-level jobs, and that need isn’t going away.”

CFIB’s proposed new visa would give foreign workers in entry-level categories an opportunity to work with an employer for two years as a defined step towards permanent residency. Other features include:

  • Employer must have 1 Canadian employee at same wage rate to have 1 Intro Visa
  • Ability to switch employers, not sectors or regions, if commitments not kept
  • Strict national and provincial enforcement

The report also challenges the assumptions that employers are somehow using foreign workers as a source of cheap labour. In fact, almost 70 per cent of small business owners who have used the TFWP say it costs them more than hiring Canadian workers.

In addition to the Introduction to Canada Visa, the report recommends other options, including allowing current applicants for permanent residency to stay until processing is complete, recalibrating the new $1,000 fee, allowing more flexibility for restaurants, retailers and hotels, and dropping the target for a 10% workforce cap on foreign workers. 

Read the full report, Taking the Temporary Out of the TFW Program.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Dan Kelly, contact Al Maggi at 416-222-8022 or almag@cfib.ca

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.

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