Western premiers say their provinces badly need temporary foreign workers

posted on July 10, 2014

By Lee-Anne Goodman, the Globe and Mail | Link to Article

By Lee-Anne Goodman, the Globe and Mail | Link to Article

Western provinces have a genuine, pressing need for skilled labour and the federal government’s recent overhaul of its temporary foreign worker program goes too far, the interim Alberta premier said Thursday.

“All of us agree that the changes are detrimental to our jurisdictions,” Dave Hancock said at the end of a brief western premiers’ conference hosted in Iqaluit, in the eastern Arctic, by Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna.

“We will continue to talk to federal government about that. But we also want to talk more broadly with the federal government … on immigration policy, on labour market policy.”

In the communique released at the end of their meeting, the western leaders chastised Ottawa on temporary workers.

“Limiting the ability to hire foreign workers to address critical labour shortages will unduly punish responsible employers in Western Canada, particularly those in smaller and remote communities where Canadian workers are not readily available,” they said.

(What is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program? Read The Globe’s easy explanation)

They added that the government’s overhaul of its immigration system must be “responsive to the diverse needs of western Canadian jurisdictions.”

A spokesperson for Employment Minister Jason Kenney defended the government’s changes to the foreign workers program.

“These comprehensive and balanced reforms restore the temporary foreign worker program to its original purpose, as a last and limited resource for employers when there are no qualified Canadians to fill available jobs,” Alexandra Fortier said in an email.

“Employers must redouble their efforts to recruit and train Canadians, and must do more to recruit traditionally under-represented Canadians such as new immigrants and Canadians with disabilities.”

The premiers also urged residents in their rural and remote communities to prepare to take advantage of increasing job opportunities from the ongoing energy boom.

They emphasized, however, “the shared role of employers, industry and government in skills development and on-the-job training to build capacity at the local level, particularly in aboriginal and northern communities.”

In Nunavut, however, such talk makes the Inuit uneasy.

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