Temporary foreign worker changes raise concerns among business leaders

posted on August 15, 2014

By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald | Link to Article

By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald | Link to Article

CALGARY – The vast majority of Calgary business leaders think that the federal government’s recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program will make it more difficult to get labour to meet Alberta’s needs.

The latest PwC Business and Consumer Confidence Index found that 77 per cent felt that strongly.

It also found that 47 per cent of Alberta consumers responded the same way as the city’s business leaders.

“With new legislation in place for the Temporary Foreign Worker program, there is potential to employ more Canadians, but in turn, it runs the risk of creating a loss in the labour that we need,” said Ian Gunn, Private Company Services Senior Partner at PwC.

The report indicated that Calgary business confidence in the economy has decreased after being steady for the first half of the year.

In fact, business confidence has decreased by 3.5 per cent since May as confidence in future interest rates has fallen by 3.8 per cent, by 1.5 per cent in future business conditions and by 0.7 per cent in current business conditions. The biggest declines are the business community’s confidence in future unemployment (4.7 per cent) and fiscal conditions (6.6 per cent).

Gunn said confidence was on an upward trend in the spring and a few factors could be dampening the overall optimistic outlook.

“It’s still positive but (the decline in July) may just be the continual slow process with respect to certain of the big things that are on the horizon still not moving like the pipeline debate still out there,” said Gunn, adding another factor could be the current uncertainty of who will become the next Premier of Alberta.

The report said consumer confidence in the province decreased slightly in July after being steady for the first half of the year, with the exception of the buying of major household items index which has seen a slight increase of 0.9 per cent since May.

Calgary business leaders, with the Chamber of Commerce, were surveyed through an online questionnaire. At total of 141 businesses responded. A total of 900 Albertans were interviewed by phone for the consumer section of the report.

In a recent survey, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce found that 21 per cent of respondents said finding qualified staff is the biggest issue affecting Calgary business overall and 23 per cent said it was the biggest issue facing their own company.

A recent report by the Fraser Institute said Ottawa’s recent decision to tighten restrictions on the Temporary Foreign Worker program will place added strain on the Canadian labour market.

Another recent report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that 42 per cent of entrepreneurs in Alberta said the shortage of skilled labour was limiting sales or production growth, up four points from June, and 17 points higher than any other business constraint.

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