Quebec’s provincial government has warned that the province stands to suffer labour shortages and face business closures unless Ottawa reverses the recent changes made to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
The program was initially introduced to allow Canadian employers to hire foreign workers if suitably qualified workers were unavailable locally.
The latest changes – which came into effect in April – were drafted last June following reports of widespread abuse of the TFW program. As a result of the changes, businesses in certain job sectors are now prohibited from hiring TFWs in regions with an unemployment rate higher than six per cent.
Montreal, Laval, Sherbrooke and other regions in Quebec had a jobless rate of more than six per cent last year.
Quebec’s Immigration Minister, Kathleen Weil, has claimed that many Quebec businesses have complained that the new restrictions will make it difficult to fill job vacancies and could lead them to move their business elsewhere.
“Some of these businesses are telling us they will have to manufacture, transform, do what they do elsewhere,” she said.
Weil says that Quebec’s local workforce is in decline, and that immigrant workers are a necessity.
“The reality of the job market — and I don’t think they’re sensitive to this — we have an ageing, working-age population that’s on the decline. It’s not the case in other provinces and overall in Canada, but it is the case in Quebec,” Weil said.
“Our situation is that the shortage is going to get worse. Immigration, whether it’s temporary or permanent, is how we can solve that problem,” she added.
Quebec is pushing the federal government for a reprieve from some of the new rules.
“This is not the end of this exchange (with Ottawa). It can’t be,” she said. “It’s just so irrational that we would somehow hamper the development of our businesses, certain sectors, our regions and our economy.”
But federal Employment Minister, Pierre Poilievre, defended the changes, saying the reform was carried out to ensure that Quebecers are hired before foreign workers.
“Where there are a significant number of unemployed workers in Quebec, the Government believes that employers must do more to attract them,” he said.
According to the CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, Michel LeBlanc, the city’s IT sector will suffer because of the changes. Many IT companies rely on TFWs to fill short-term labour shortages and under the new rules, they will find it increasingly difficult to hire the workers they require.
“The risk is that we will probably eventually have to correct what the government is putting in place now. Meanwhile, companies are going to have more difficulty,” says LeBlanc. “And, in some cases, local workers are going to be deprived of a job because activities will be moved outside the country.”
The Manufacturers and Exporters of Quebec (MEQ) have also criticized the changes to the TFW program.
“Although the first sectors to be affected will probably be those of food-processing, retail and restoration, all manufacturers and exporting companies of Quebec will feel the effects,” the MEQ said in a statement.
According to a report by the CIBC, the number of non-permanent residents in Canada has more than doubled over the past decade. In total, there are almost 770,000 non-permanent residents in Canada – 450,000 more than there were 10 years ago – and they have a substantial impact on the housing market and consumer spending.
Almost 50 per cent of non-permanent residents are workers on contracts, and 38 per cent are students, while the rest fall in the humanitarian or refugee category.
Most of the 384,200 non-permanent workers are employed in middle-income professional jobs and expect to gain permanent resident status in Canada.
As a result, they provide a substantial boost to demand for rental properties, with some even buying property despite their temporary status. These non-permanent workers also contribute significantly to overall retail spending just like any other middle-income Canadians.
Most should be viewed as an important demographic force capable of influencing and potentially altering the trajectories of macro-economic variables such as housing activity and consumer spending according to a recent report prepared by CIBC.
Additionally, almost 95 per cent of these non-permanent workers are under the age of 45, making them an important part of the demographic of young workers that are vital for sustaining Canada’s ageing population.
The CIBC report highlights the powerful demographic and economic impact of non-permanent residents in British Columbia and Ontario. Between 2006 and 2013, there would have been a decline of 120,000 individuals in the 25 to 44 age segment of the population in Ontario if not for non-permanent residents, while B.C. saw all of its growth since 2006 in the 25 to 44 age group come through non-permanent residents.
The CIBC report underlines the important contribution non-permanent residents make to the Canadian economy, which the federal government should keep in mind when making policy decisions concerning TFWs.
“The main issue is to take into account the economic impact of such large numbers. The number is big enough to change the trajectory”, the report concludes. “The numbers are simply too large to ignore. Non-permanent residents is a major demographic force with significant macro-economic implications.”
Canada overhauled the temporary foreign workers program in 2014, placing restrictions on the number of TFWs that could be hired by a single employer, as well as limits on hiring TFWs in regions with high unemployment rates.
When a gunman stormed into a kosher supermarket in Paris, seizing hostages and killing four people, Julien Catan felt tremors all the way to Montreal. A Paris native, he had walked the streets around the Hyper-Cacher market thousands of times.
“What happened in January was a real shock, like never before,” Catan said in an interview. “I think the impact it had is very profound, and I think the Jewish community has taken a real hit.”
This latest murderous attack was aimed at shoppers buying groceries before the Sabbath, two days after an attack on the journalists of Charlie Hebdo. It came amid a surge in anti-Semitism that has Jews questioning how long they can remain in France. More than ever, Canada is seen as a safe haven, and leaders of Montreal’s Jewish community are only too happy to extend a welcoming hand.
The sight of heavily armed soldiers guarding Jewish schools is in stark contrast with the safety felt by North America’s Jewish communities.
Montreal Jewish organizations have recently created a task force in response to a steep increase in requests for information from French Jews interested in moving to Canada. Monique Lapointe, manager of immigration services for the social services agency Ometz, said her organization alone received 70 such requests in the three months since the January attacks, double what it would normally receive in a year. The task force is looking at how the community can smooth immigration from France, starting by helping potential immigrants navigate the bureaucracy and letting them know what services are available once they arrive.
Even though France’s Jews represent an attractive pool of potential immigrants for Quebec, the issue is delicate as they are not refugees, and the official line from the Jewish community is that asking the government to speed up an immigration process that usually takes two years has been ruled out.
Anti-Semitism saw a rise in France 10 years ago with assaults on Jewish children, anti-Semitic graffiti near Jewish schools and advice from rabbis not to wear Jewish symbols in public.
According to the latest annual report on anti-Semitism in France, compiled by the Jewish Community Security Service in conjunction with France’s Interior Ministry, anti-Semitic acts more than doubled in 2014, rising to 851 from 423 in 2013. Of the total, 241 were classified as violent acts while 610 were threats. While France’s roughly 500,000 Jews represent less than 1% of the population, they were the targets of 51% of all racist acts committed in 2014.
To counter the rise in hatred, last week Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced a 100-million Euros ($131-million) program to combat “racism and anti-Semitism” over the next three years.
Proposed changes would provide for stiffer penalties for hate speech. Jewish leaders welcome the effort but are pessimistic about the prospect of success.
Figures published in December showed that 7,000 French Jews left for Israel in 2014, more than double the number in 2013. Serge Benhaim, president of a Paris synagogue that came under attack last summer by participants in an anti-Israel March, estimated that another 3,000-5,000 left for other destinations.
Richard Prasquier, former president of France’s main Jewish organization, CRIF, said that while France is not an anti-Semitic country, it does not know how to handle an anti-Semitic wave originating from its growing Muslim population. He gave the example of the comedian Dieudonné, whose popularity only grows the more he is taken to task for his anti-Semitism.
“We are Democrats, but we know that democracy today does not have the proper tools to confront the rise of Islamist radicals and anti-Semitism,” Prasquier said. “We have trouble combating it.”
Laurent, a 30-year-old working in information technology in Montreal, moved from France last year with his wife. He said anti-Semitism was one factor among others that prompted them to leave. In Montreal he has been surprised by how open people are about their Judaism. “We feel we are flourishing with our Jewish identity, able to live it fully,” he said. Still, some old fears linger. He asked that his full name not be published in case co-workers or immigration officials judge him based on his faith.
Moshe Sebbag, rabbi at Paris’s Grande Synagogue, sees congregants leaving regularly, and after Israel, Canada is a popular destination.
“As rabbi of the Grande Synagogue, I have to tell Jews to stay, that it’s going to pass, but I understand why people are worried,” he said. And he has no doubt that if Canada were to shorten immigration delays and roll out the welcome mat in Jewish publications in France, many more French Jews would choose it as a destination.
On Thursday, Saadoun took part in the annual march through downtown Montreal marking Israel’s Independence Day, and said that such an event could never be held in Paris without heavy police protection for the marchers. In Montreal, he said, “We can express ourselves as Jews. We feel safe.”
Filipino Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has attempted to calm the fears of the thousands of Filipino temporary foreign workers (TFWs) employed in Canada by stating they will not face mass repatriation at the end of their four-year stay there.
“There is no such thing as ‘mass deportation’ contrary to some news reports about it,” the secretary said in a press release.
Baldoz said several workers will be exempt from the deadline, with many granted a reprieve by Canada in order to be able to gain permanent residency.
Introduced on 1st April 2011, the temporary foreign worker program allows low-skilled foreign workers to work in Canada for a period of up to four years, after which they would have to leave the country. However Baldoz said these rules wouldn’t apply to all TFWs.
According to Baldoz, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is set to exempt certain categories of workers from the four year cumulative duration regulation. Some of the categories include TFWs in managerial or professional occupations, TFWs who have applied for permanent residence and have received a CSQ (Certificat de selection du Quebec) or a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) certificate, and TFWs exempt from the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada also provides a one-year bridging work permit to qualifying temporary foreign workers facing the four-year cumulative duration limit, Baldoz said.
Additionally, any periods of more than one month spent overseas, or any authorised work breaks, such as parental leave or unpaid leave, would not be included in the cumulative four-year limit imposed on TFWs.
Emphasising that several options are available to TFWs to extend their stay in Canada, Filipino Labor Attaché Leonida Romulo said that CIC has implemented these measures to “assist people who are in most cases going to get their permanent residency anyway” by allowing them “to stay in Canada until that decision is made.”
Recent changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program are preventing employers from bringing in much needed low-skilled workers into Canada. While some believe this to be a positive development for economy in Canada, the shortage of low-skilled workers will have several detrimental consequences for Canadian businesses, in both the short and the long term.
First, the changes have created an additional operational burden for businesses in an already challenging economic environment. A report by the Canada West Foundation on the effects of the 2014 changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program highlights the significantly increased cost in terms of time, money, and bureaucratic process required to bring in low-skilled workers.
According to the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, it can cost companies between $200 and $1,000, mainly in advertising, to hire a Canadian worker who can then start working straight away. By way of contrast, under the new rules the cost of hiring a foreign worker has ballooned to anywhere between $11,055 to $14,605, with the government application fee alone being $1,000. And the new lengthy application and clearance processes means that it takes several months for TFWs to be allowed to commence employment after they have been hired.
Additionally, one of the changes puts businesses in an impossible situation. Starting July 1, 2016, not more than 10% of a company’s workforce can be temporary foreign workers, meaning Canadians will have to make up to 90% of a company’s work force. So in effect, in order to hire foreign workers an employer must first hire more Canadian workers. But the very reason employers seek to hire foreign workers in the first place is because they cannot find Canadian workers. When employers source the foreign market, the economy in Canada and the labour market in Canada must be given first consideration.
Furthermore, reducing the number of foreign workers allowed to work in low-skilled jobs does not necessarily mean there will be more jobs available for Canadians, as most labor shortages are in relatively remote locations where unemployment is low to begin with. With the high costs of accommodation and relocation involved to gain what is a typically low salary, most Canadians would choose to wait for better work opportunities closer to home rather than relocate.
In the medium-to-long term, the effects of the changes will be felt the most outside of the major cities, which to date have been the driver of Canada’s economic development. In the short term, the shortage of low-skilled workers will leave businesses understaffed, and the remaining workers will have to work longer hours to fill in the gaps. This in turn will lead to employee burnout, a decline in productivity, reduced hours of operation, and possibly even business closures.
The end result is that if Canada closes the door on low-skilled workers, as new figures show is taking place, it could potentially be opening itself up to economic stagnation, as well as the increasing use of illegal migrants to do work that absolutely needs to be done but for which no Canadian is available.
A far better option to the current system would be to allow less skilled people from other countries to come to Canada via an efficient immigration system to fulfil Canada’s employment requirements. And once they have contributed sufficiently and integrated in to the Canadian way of life, they should be allowed a clear path to becoming Canadian citizens. Current government policy however, favours a restrictive approach to temporary foreign workers.
Canadians looking to hire foreign workers as nannies are having to face unexplained delays due to changes introduced to the caregiver program. The problems are exacerbated by poor communication from federal agencies, with some recruitment agencies reporting that no applications have been processed in the past four months.
Canada’s Live-in Caregiver program was a part of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, and was widely used by Canadians to hire nannies and other caregivers. It would usually take up to 6-8 months to hire a caregiver, but the recent changes to the program have lead to further delays and confusion.
Under the new rules, foreign care workers are no longer required to live in the homes of their employers. Other changes to the application process were also introduced in a bid to encourage more Canadian applicants for these jobs, following claims that the program had “mutated” into a family-reunification scheme. Now any family that is interested in hiring a foreign caregiver is required to show that there were no Canadian applicants available for the said job by applying for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
Once the family gets an approval on the LMIA, they can then apply for a work permit to hire a foreign caregiver for the job.
According to one family applying, he spent four weeks trying to find a Canadian nanny, but didn’t get a single application for the job. He then applied for an LMIA – twice, after the first application was lost by the government agency responsible.
When queried about the delays, Employment and Social Development Canada claims that in February, 80 percent of all LMIA applications received were processed within 30 days. However they were unable to provide LMIA processing times for just the caregiver program.
Some believe the latest changes to the caregiver program were an ill-conceived knee-jerk reaction to problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary
The previous Caregiver program has a long history of controversy including exorbitant placement fees charged to both caregiver and family, excessive delays in processing, abuse of caregivers and an inflexible system. In 2014 new rules took effect which created two separate streams of permanent residence (Caring for children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs) and placed annual quotas on the numbers of caregivers who can apply for permanent residence under each stream at 2750 for a total of 5500.
Figures from Statistics Canada show a surprise increase in Canadian employment in March, with 28,700 new jobs created. Though better than expected, analysts say the figures are not entirely positive, as the jobs created were entirely part-time positions, and they masked a drop in full-time jobs.
According to the employment report, about 56,800 part-time jobs were added to the Canadian economy in the month of March, while 28,200 full-time positions were lost. The first quarter of the year saw Canada adding 69,100 part-time jobs alongside a loss of 6,100 full-time jobs. The jobless rate remained steady at 6.8% in March, though experts expect it to increase slightly to 6.9%.
By industry, the gain in jobs came mainly in the country’s services sector, with retail and wholesale trade leading the way with 19,800 new jobs. The natural resources sector added 6,300 positions after losing 26,000 jobs over the past two months.
The employment report backs up the Bank of Canada’s cautious approach in deciding if another rate cut is necessary.
The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) is struggling to attract investors to its program following the introduction of strict new regulations.
Reports indicate that the scheme failed to fulfil its 2014 quota by a significant margin, despite the application deadline being extended three times. The application window was initially set to be open for just 12 days last September but was eventually launched earlier this year and recently closed on March 20th.
This is in stark contrast to 2013, when the application window was open for just two weeks when it received 5,389 valid applications. The 2012 target of 2,700 applications was reached in under a month. But for 2014, the QIIP repeatedly failed to meet its quota of just 1,750 applicants.
Historically, the QIIP has been one of the world’s most successful immigrant investor programs. It has been especially popular with wealthy Chinese nationals who have dominated the scheme for several years. From 2002 to 2012, the QIIP brought a total of 54,640 investor immigrants to Canada, out of which 35,966 were wealthy Chinese nationals.
The sharp drop in applicants is being blamed on strict new rules and documentation requirements imposed by Quebec’s authorities last year, along with substantially higher application fees. Sources say Quebec’s authorities have raised the bar too high and will have to change their selection criteria to bring back investors from China. The mainland has a huge pool of rich would-be investor immigrants eager to migrate but who would not currently qualify under Quebec’s new rules.
Quebec announced last month that the 2015 QIIP application subscription period would operate for five months beginning August 31 through January 31, 2016. This in itself is a confirmation that Quebec has been forced to acknowledge the difficulty in applicants meeting program requirements.
According to a new report funded by The Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, Newfoundland and Labrador needs to focus on a lot more than oil if it wants to remain prosperous for future generations.
The report, authored by The Conference Board of Canada, says the province needs to be more competitive and includes several key recommendations in areas such as innovation, education, immigration, investment and government policy.
“Oil brought an economic boom to Newfoundland and Labrador, but that boom is ending, which means the province will not be able to rely as heavily on this industry to drive economic growth or fund government program spending. Focusing on improving the province’s competitive business environment will help mitigate some of the negative effects,” said Pedro Antunes, Deputy Chief Economist of The Conference Board of Canada.
The report, Achieving Sustainable Prosperity: Benchmarking the Competitiveness of Newfoundland and Labrador, compares the province’s competitive performance to its closest competitors in such areas as innovation, labour market, and the business environment.
Cynthia Crosbie of Crosbie Group Limited welcomes the push to attract more immigrants. Their company supplies offshore trade labour.
“To keep the workforce that are qualified and competent there is a huge challenge so to be able to bring in some new immigrants and train them into the way we perform roles is very critical,” said Crosbie
The report also recommends improving the tax system, reining in debt by cutting program spending, especially in public administration and investing in infrastructure.
“Infrastructure is an investment, it pays dividends for you. Where we’re spending is not on infrastructure it’s in programs and services. So once that money is spent and we’re using oil revenues to do that which won’t be there forever, that is unsustainable, according to the Conference Board.” said Richard Alexander of the Employers’ Council.