Changes to the temporary foreign worker program as put forth by Employment Minister Jason Kenney are drawing severe criticism from Maritime labour ministers who are concerned that lobster and seafood industry will be dramatically affected.
The ministers draw a comparison of the fishery to the agriculture industry, which is allowed to employ the temporary workers. It is being argued that like agriculture, certain fisheries have a harvest time and their work force is aging and from rural communities that are becoming increasingly depopulated.
According to Mr. Kenney’s changes, fish processing plants can have “up to 30 per cent of their work force at a work site comprised of temporary foreign workers and have three years to transition.”
Next week, Mr Kenney will meet his provincial counterparts from across the country in Charlottetown. “I haven’t found a minister anywhere in Canada who is happy with it,” said PEI’s Innovation Minister Allen Roach, who will play host. About two hours have been set aside to question Mr. Kenney about his controversial plan.
In Alberta a Conservative MP is calling for an exemption for the province, which depends on temporary foreign workers due to labour shortages.
“In talking to a lot of seafood processors. They are having difficulty attracting younger people who are choosing to [do] other things,” Mr. Roach said.
Some fish plants rely on more than 30% of temporary foreign workers, who come mostly from Japan and the Philippines.
Last year, PEI had the highest lobster landings in history at 28.7 million pounds, and a value of $91.3-million.
Nova Scotia’s Labour Minister Kelly Regan is also calling for flexibility from Mr. Kenney.
“Our concern is there may be some fish plants that have great difficulty in getting in the harvest and dealing with it quickly if they are not able to have temporary foreign workers,” says Ms. Regan.
Source: The Globe and Mail