Canadian Federation of Independent Business pushes for Canadian immigration to change Temporary Foreign Worker Program
OTTAWA – In a new report released earlier this month, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) urged the federal government to terminate its temporary foreign worker (TFW) program in favour of a special visa for entry-level foreign workers. The proposed visa is intended to help workers from abroad to pursue permanent residence in Canada. The CFIB hopes that the new program will redress the shortages of qualified labour currently faced by small businesses across the country.
Controversies surrounding current program
Over the past several months, the TFW program has garnered increasing controversy, leading to a series of unpopular reforms. Motivating these reforms are persistent claims that Canadian employers have frequently misused temporary foreign labour.
This past summer, reported abuses of the TFW program escalated, prompting the federal government to overhaul the program for the second time. The biggest complaints were launched at the food services industry, including Canadian fast food titan Tim Hortons. In April, the government effectively suspended restaurant franchises from using the program. The news sparked a huge outcry from the food services sector including public statements from Tim Hortons CEO Marc Caira.
The CFIB’s report further objects to the recent reforms, refuting the claims of abuses to the system. According to the document, “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.”
The report stresses that the businesses accessing the TFW program legitimately need it “as a last resort to find qualified workers” in the face of labour shortages.
Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the CFIB, corroborates the findings of the report, while acknowledging at least one problem that the TFW reforms were trying to address.
“One of the legitimate criticisms of the TFW program,” Kelly says, “is that it was often employing temporary workers to fill permanent labour market needs.”
As Kelly observes, small businesses would ultimately prefer to employ permanent labour.
“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.” Despite this prohibition, the Canadian economy realistically needs workers at all skill levels, according to Kelly.
Taking the “temporary” out of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
The CFIB’s report claims to offer a viable solution to the labour shortages that have been plaguing small businesses. Its proposed alternative to the TFW program would be called the “Introduction to Canada visa.” Under the terms of this visa, foreign workers employed in entry-level positions would be able to work in Canada for two years. The two-year period of employment would constitute a designated stage in the process of gaining permanent residency.
The report further recommends the following provisions:
- permitting current permanent residency applicants to stay in the country until processing is completed
- readjusting the $1000 fee recently imposed on employers for every foreign worker hired
- lowering the goal for the 10% cap on foreign workers
- greater flexibility for food services, hotels, and retailers.
The proposal also promotes Canadian labour. According to Kelly, any company that hires a foreign entry-level worker would be obligated to employ a Canadian worker at the same wage.
The CFIB’s report defends the proposed visa for “honouring Canada’s immigrant roots” — a sentiment echoed by Kelly.
“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,” Kelly says. “You shouldn’t need a PhD to live the Canadian dream.”