Shortsighted: Killing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

By Al Pace | September 17, 2014

US and Canadian Immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk: I see that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is back in the news:

Applications for temporary foreign workers have dropped by three-quarters following the new rules introduced by the federal government in June, says Employment Minister Jason Kenney.

“We announced a fundamental sweep of reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program earlier this year to ensure that it is used as a last and limited resort and that Canadians always come first in the workforce.

“Since those reforms were announced we’ve seen a 75 per cent reduction in the number of applications in temporary foreign workers on the part of employers,” Kenney said during question period on Tuesday.

Alexis Conrad, the director general for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, says the reforms are proving to be successful.

“The number of applications received in July and August 2014 is approximately 74 per cent lower than those received over the same time period in 2012,” said Conrad in an email to CBC News.

If there is any reason to wonder why the number has dropped so sharply, attempting to file a foreign worker application will surely enlighten you. The new Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a brute. The monstrous effort required to complete it, and the effort the employer needs to do so, is out of whack with reality.
The government has felt the pressure from Canadian unions and disgruntled workers who would prefer that the TFWP be cancelled altogether. These workers see the program as handing out Canadian jobs to foreigners at the expense of Canadians who are lined up to take the jobs. I disagree.
To put it plainly, the LMIA system is like telling you that you can only vacation abroad if you can demonstrably prove there are no Canadian resorts that can serve your needs. The rationale is similar – why allow money to go overseas when there are Canadian resorts who need the business? Need a beach? We have beaches. Need a ski slope? See you in Whistler.
To use another example, it is like telling you that you cannot purchase goods outside Canada until you can demonstrably show that there are no such suppliers in Canada. After all, shouldn’t we protect Canadian suppliers? Let’s have you fill out a form proving you couldn’t find that toaster at the mall in Niagara Falls instead of in Buffalo.
For decades, temporary foreign workers have needed permission to come to work in Canada. The system was already vetting them well. But now we have almost completely restricted the rights of employers to engage who they want.
Let employers confirm that a) the foreign workers they want are bringing skills that are in short supply in their geographic area and b) that they could not find local talent after a reasonable effort.

This need not involve a massive blizzard of paperwork which eventually chokes the program to death. But that was probably the point of the policy change all along, wasn’t it?

Andy Semotiuk is a Canadian and US immigration lawyer with immigration law firm Pace Immigration. You can learn more about Andy at My Work Visa.