BlogCanada’s temporary foreign worker program is broken – Ministers need to take action!

15 January 2019

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If you are a business owner, odds are that one of the greatest challenges that you face is finding skilled and capable workers. Canada has experienced an ongoing shortage of workers in many sectors for over a decade and demographic projections indicate that this will continue for the foreseeable future. Engineers, IT professionals, commercial cleaners, and long-haul truck drivers are examples of occupations where there has been a longstanding shortage of workers. When there are no Canadians to fill job openings, employers often look to bring in workers from abroad through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). As Vancouver immigration lawyers, we have witnessed the delays in Canada’s TFWP. It is facing backlogs of 8 months or more and hampering employers’ ability to maintain or grow operations and stifling Canada’s economic growth. What is the reason for such delay?

Canada’s TFWP is delivered through a partnership between two federal government departments – Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). An employer must first apply to Service Canada (a branch of ESDC) for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Prior to submitting an application for an LMIA, an employer must advertise continuously for a minimum of 28 days in at least 3 sources of advertising to ensure that there are no Canadians available for the position. When submitting the LMIA application an employer must pay Service Canada an application fee of $1000 per worker – yes $1000 per worker. While the fees for these applications are taken at the time the application is received, applications languish for months before being considered. Current processing times for LMIA applications are taking 8 months or more – and that’s just the first step in the process!

In the event that an LMIA is issued, the next step is for the foreign worker to apply for a work permit. The issuance of the LMIA does not guarantee that a worker’s work permit application will be successful. Employers face the time consuming, paper intense and expensive LMIA process with the reality that they may not end up with a worker at the end of the process. And neither government department is held accountable as they manage two separate stages of the process that employers must contend with in order to try and fill labour shortages.

Canada’s jobless rate for December 2018 was 5.6 per cent. This is the lowest jobless rate ever since comparable employment statistics were established in 1976. Canada is experiencing an unprecedented level of high employment the corollary of which is that employers are experiencing correspondingly high labour shortages. It is simply unacceptable that employers should be expected to navigate an 8 to 10 month process to be able to fill a job vacancy. Clearly, Canada’s TFWP is broken.

Who oversees the Ministries responsible for delivering Canada’s TFWP? ESDC is headed by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development of Canada – Jean-Yves Duclos and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is Ahmed Hussen. Ministers Duclos and Hussen, Canada’s TFWP is clearly failing Canadian employers and the Canadian economy. A shortage of workers impedes economic growth. It is incumbent upon you as heads of these Ministries to ensure that employers are provided timely service in the processing of both their LMIA and employee’s work permit applications with clear, transparent guidelines.

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