Labour shortages are stalling small business recovery: A temporary boost to the Temporary Foreign Worker program can offer relief

Toronto, March 2, 2022 – The federal government should temporarily open the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program to all jobs, in all sectors and in all regions to address the immediate shortage of labour within Canada, urges the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Shortages of skilled (45 per cent) and unskilled and semiskilled (36 per cent) workers were the top two factors limiting small businesses’ sales and growth in CFIB’s latest Business Barometer survey.

“Small businesses were already reporting labour shortages before the pandemic. The lockdowns and shifts in the labour market brought on by COVID have only exacerbated the situation and made it more difficult for businesses to find staff,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly. “Small businesses will not be able to recover if they cannot find the people they need to get their products and services to market. A significant temporary boost to the TFW program for all industries and skill levels, together with a pathway to permanent residency for temporary workers, would be a big help to small businesses.”

CFIB’s recent report, Labour shortages are back with a vengeance, found that 55 per cent of businesses could not find all the staff they need. Businesses in social services and hospitality are the most likely to report that their employees have changed industries due to the pandemic, leaving large vacuums that are difficult to fill. While only 16 per cent of small businesses reported using the TFW program to deal with labour shortages, those that were able to use it reported a high level of success compared to other measures (52 per cent). 

Expanding the TFW program temporarily will allow more workers to enter into Canada, addressing these dramatic shifts, and give more options for businesses to stabilize their labour needs while Canada’s economy recovers. CFIB has written a letter to Minister Fraser calling on the government to make the following changes to the TFW program to help address the shortage of labour within Canada:

  • Improve and simplify the processes for the TFW Program and permanent immigration system to bring foreign workers to Canada faster.
  • Open the TFW program to all types of jobs and all sectors, regardless of the prevailing regional unemployment rate as a temporary measure to address immediate labour shortages caused by the pandemic.
  • Temporarily waive employer fees for small business owners seeking to use the TFW program.
  • Ensure that job-seekers match the demands in the job market found within Canada to create a good fit between immigrants and the positions they are coming in to fill.

“Small businesses have been doing all they can to attract workers, including increasing wages, but we need the government to be creative during these unprecedented times to help small businesses with their recovery. Adopting policies that better connect job seekers to employers and being flexible and acting quickly to the changing circumstances that business owners face is an important start,” added Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice-President of National Affairs at CFIB.

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB
About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 95,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at