Red Deer City council has taken a stance on the Temporary Foreign Worker program and has voted in favour of sending an ‘extraordinary resolution’ to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.
The resolution, which asks the Alberta government and federal government to work together to develop short and long term strategies for the program, will be submitted to the AUMA convention which began on Monday and is scheduled to wrap up tomorrow in Calgary.
The council resolution comes as a result of the Canadian government issuing a moratorium this past spring on the Food Services Sector’s access to the Temporary Foreign Worker program after it was revealed that there were many instances of employers abusing the program. The moratorium had an immediate impact on businesses in Alberta where the unemployment rate is very low and the demand for a skilled labour force is high.
According to the council agenda, in response to the moratorium, the Alberta mid-sized cities jointly signed a letter on May 26th asking for the federal government to reinstate the Temporary Foreign Worker program due to its effect on the local economy and to make changes to the program to ensure workers in the program are fairly treated.
In June, the government announced changes to the entire Temporary Foreign Worker program to improve the accountability of it and to better protect workers. At the same time the changes have decreased the ability of businesses to access the labour force they need to continue to operate or build their businesses.
Earlier this month, Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney responded during Question Period that the number of applications to the Temporary Foreign Worker program has decreased by 75%.
Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said changes to the program are not good for the City or the province.
“With all do respect to Minister Kenney, the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program are not good for our City or for our province’s economic growth,” said Wyntjes. “According to statistics, roughly 80 per cent of the jobs created across Canada last year were here in Alberta and Alberta has the highest job vacancy rate between businesses – small and large – struggling to find workers. It is estimated that Alberta will be short some 96,000 workers in the next decade and the shortage for workers is not a temporary, but a permanent problem.”
She added there have been measures put in place in the new Temporary Foreign Worker program for higher penalties for businesses who break the rules.
“At the same time, I believe there should be recognition for employers who are acting in compliance and they should not be punished with a one-size, fits all approach for employees or for provinces,” said Wyntjes.
Mayor Tara Veer said she is proud of council for taking a stance on the issue.
“The resolution is a call to resolve abuses in the system without incurring a labour shortage for the law abiding. I think it’s important that we support this and convey that message provincially.”