From 1 April 2015, a change to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program could see some migrant workers refused work permits. The change should be scrapped because it would force an exodus of foreign workers from B.C., says an advocate.
On April 1, 2011, the federal government introduced legislation known as the “four in and four out” rule, limiting how long some temporary foreign workers could work in Canada to four years. The first temporary foreign workers to whom the rule applies could reach their four-year limit on April 1, 2015.
After that, they must wait another four years, either outside Canada or in Canada as a visitor or student, before they can be granted a fresh work permit. Previously, temporary foreign workers who came to Canada under the low-skilled stream could reapply to continue working for their Canadian employer.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has made an exception for TFWs approaching their four-year limit in Alberta, offering a bridging permit if they applied for permanent residency under the Provincial Nominee Program by July 1, 2014. Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney has said Ottawa is willing to extend similar measures to other provinces.
CIC lists several situations in which workers may be exempt from the four year rule including:
- Management and professional workers, including spouses and dependants
- Workers exempt due to international agreements, Canadian interests, self-support, humanitarian reasons
- Workers doing jobs which do not require a work permit
- Permanent resident applicants who have received a positive selection decision or approval in principle
- Provincial nominees applying for an employer-specific work permit
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
The effect of this policy will substantially add to the numbers of undocumented immigrants in Canada. There are currently approximately 150,000-200,000 undocumented illegal immigrants in Canada.
On April 1, 2015, the Canadian government will launch a new industry. Citizenship and Immigration Canada will begin manufacturing “illegal immigrants.”
Four years ago, on April 1, 2011, the Conservative cabinet passed a regulation known as the “4-in, 4-out” rule, requiring all temporary foreign workers who have been in the country for four years or longer to leave, and remain outside Canada for at least four years. As of April 1, then, those still here will be classified as illegal.
In theory, a temporary foreign worker can apply to transition to permanent resident status within those four years in Canada, but in practice, those designated as “low wage” will generally not qualify for this. A few provinces including Manitoba and Alberta have used their limited scope of authority to nominate “low-wage” workers for permanent resident status, but the number of cases in which this has occurred are small.
So by April 1, 2015, all temporary foreign workers who arrived on or before April 1, 2011 are expected to leave the country. Some, however, are expected to remain living and working in Canada without legal status. We know this because that is what has happened from the mid-1940s to the present, in every country in the world that has run a mass guest-worker regime.
This is what any competent Citizenship and Immigration bureaucrat knew and probably told the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in 2006, when the government decided to dramatically expand and under-regulate the temporary foreign worker program, and again in 2011 when the government instituted the “4-in, 4-out” rule.
Temporary foreign workers overstay their visas and go underground for various reasons. Their families abroad may depend on their remittances to subsist. They may have been exploited by rapacious “recruiters” and/or unscrupulous employers. Returning home empty-handed and possibly indebted is not only stigmatizing, it can be dangerous.
Some workers may even have felt at home in Canada, gradually becoming potential members of the society where they live, work and pay taxes. Some Canadians may consider the government’s guest-worker regime to be misguided and believe it should not continue. But terminating it will not resolve the dilemma of those temporary foreign workers who are already here and who are the targets of the “4-in, 4-out” rule.
It is common knowledge that some sectors of the U.S. economy have become dependent on undocumented workers, of which there are an estimated 11 million. Some employers find them a desirable work force precisely because their deportability ensures that they will “work hard and work scared.” These employers are also known to wield their political influence accordingly.
Migrants without legal status are also easy targets for vilification. The slide from “illegal immigrant” to “criminal” in popular discourse is easy. A government that is looking to supplement the bogus refugee, the marriage fraudster and the foreign terrorist with a new category of bad immigrant and a new excuse to get tough on non-citizens might find it convenient to add “illegal immigrants” to the roster. The government’s role in illegalizing these migrants may escape notice.
On March 31, temporary foreign workers will go to bed as lawfully employed, hard-working, tax-paying residents of Canada, and wake up the next day as illegal immigrants.
Source: National Post
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
Illegal immigrants who are currently employed in Canada could be given temporary work permits by the Canadian government. Those who remain in good standing could apply for permanent residence after a period of 12 to 24 months.
Almost a quarter of Canada’s illegal immigrants could make use of such a scheme and bring in significant tax revenue. This could represent some $150 million in direct annual taxes and ER contributions in the first year alone. Plus, these individuals would eventually be able to sponsor their immediate family members and this would further increase income taxes, ER payroll taxes and HST consumption tax expenditures far beyond the income tax revenues.
After allowing flexibility to Canadian universities in the temporary foreign worker rules, the federal government is now being pressed by the video game industry for some concessions in the required conditions for hiring foreign workers, arguing that the restrictions are hurting their businesses.
Canada’s video game industry employs more than 17,000 people. The industry’s wages are said to be higher than average and 40% or more of their employees hold a university degree, implying that a large number of their work force belong to “highly-skilled” category. “We should not be treated the same as some other industries that bring in low-skilled workers. We are at the cutting edge of what’s being done. People that we bring in are highly skilled, they are some of the best in the world and we fight for them. The more hurdles we have, the more chance we have of losing them to some of the companies in Asia,” says Martin Carrier, studio head at Warner Bros. Games Montréal.
According to the video game firms, the new rules depict the mistrust of the government towards employers and will make it difficult for them to hire highly-skilled foreign workers, who are critical to their business. “There has to be a level of trust … knowing that we invest a lot of money to bring outsiders into the country. We’ve done our due diligence and if we are going to put thousands of dollars behind a person just to move them here, it’s a worthwhile hire and we should not be facing additional hurdles from the administrative side,” says Carrier.
There are approximately 70 Canadian academic programs where game developers learn their skills. However, gaming companies argue that despite their efforts to hire local game developers from Canadian academic institutions, their industry still suffered from an unemployment rate of under 3%, making it necessary for them to hire foreign specialists. “Of the new entry-level people we hire, we know that 97% are Canadians or from Canadian universities. The issue starts at the intermediate or senior realm,” says Jayson Hilchie, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada.
French multinational company Ubisoft started its branch in Toronto after its Montreal branch grew to 3,000 employees. Ubisoft says that for certain projects, they need to hire from abroad, with almost a third of their employees being foreign hires. Ubisoft has also been offering co-op programs, in which they send their new employees overseas to get international experience. “We depend on more senior people to come here and train more junior people … If someone takes too much time to bring on board, we have to decline the work,” says Alex Parizeau, managing director of Ubisoft Toronto.
According to a parliamentary report of last year, the time and resources spent in foreign hiring had increased after the government shut down the fast-track immigration routes and told employers to prove they had made sufficient efforts to hire Canadian workers before starting to look abroad. The new rules require companies that offer median provincial wage or more to submit a plan on how they would transfer these positions to Canadian workers. In addition more stringent conditions have been imposed on companies that transfer workers with specialized skills and knowledge from abroad.
However, Mary Sorrenti, a vice-president at Game Pill believes that the new immigration rules will encourage the gaming industry to provide an opportunity to new graduates “to jump ahead in their careers”.
“Even though the traditional experience may not be that strong, a lot of these students started programming at a very young age. … Near term we have to look at creative solutions,” she said.
Even the gaming companies agree that they prefer to have Canadian employees as they are less expensive to hire and more likely to stay. “Recruiting and relocating of highly skilled workers is extremely expensive and procedures are long and arduous,” says Deirdre Ayre, studio head of Other Ocean. However, it’s the skills shortage that has led the industry to hire from abroad, and complicating the hiring procedures was not going to help. “There is no time for complicated processes or people will simply go elsewhere,” she says.
Due to one-time bridging measures quietly rolled out this week, only a small fraction of temporary foreign workers in Alberta will qualify for an extended stay in Canada, the federal government says.
A lack of clarity is causing heightened anxiety among the thousands of vulnerable workers that want to find a solution before the looming April 1 deadline to leave the country. The new measures are the result of an agreement between the federal government and the province of Alberta. They are meant to help temporary foreign workers who are trying to transition to permanent residency but risk having their work permits expire before their applications are processed.
Under the terms of the agreement, temporary foreign workers who have a work permit set to expire in 2015 but are currently caught up in the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program’s queue applications may be eligible for a one-time, one-year bridging work permit.
The federal government will also provide a one-time exemption to these workers that will keep them from being counted under rules imposed last June requiring employers to ensure no more than 10 per cent of their workforce is made up of low-wage TFWs. However, even though the new measures have been praised by business groups, others are calling for more information about the number of permits that will be offered and what type of workers will receive them.
Neither the provincial government nor the federal government has made any kind of public announcement about the new measures,
More than 86,000 temporary foreign workers are working in Alberta and according to estimates “several thousand” will see their permits expire on April 1. This is when a four-year work duration limit put in place by the federal government in 2011 comes into effect.
Making matters worse is the fact the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program, a popular option for temporary foreign workers looking to transition to permanent residency, has seen a glut of applicants in recent months. Current processing times for applications now range between 1 to 2 years, meaning many workers could find themselves still in the queue by the time their permits expire.
The government estimates approximately 1,000 foreign workers could be eligible for a bridging permit under the terms of the new agreement, but that doesn’t mean 1,000 permits will be awarded.
A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada said the federal government expects “only a small fraction” of the TFWs in Alberta will ultimately receive a bridging permit.
A worrying possibility is that the government may award the bulk of the permits to engineers, doctors, and other highly skilled individuals in the queue, leaving out lower-skilled food service and hotel industry workers.
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said he believes the new measures are meant to placate business owners who have been complaining since June 2014, when the federal government imposed restrictions on the use of the temporary foreign worker program.
Ottawa has been contacted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business to replace its controversial temporary foreign worker program with a visa that would allow entry-level employees from abroad to take up permanent residence.
A report released today says the organization is proposing the Introduction to Canada Visa that would address labour shortages for small businesses.
Dan Kelly, CFIB president and CEO says the temporary foreign worker program has been criticized for using TFWs to fill permanent labour market needs adding that small businesses would much rather hire permanent workers, but the immigration system doesn’t allow them to hire people with entry-level skills. The Canadian economy needs workers at all skill levels, Kelly says.
This new visa would allow foreign workers in entry-level categories to work with an employer for two years, forming a key step towards permanent residency.
Source: HR Reporter
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. With apologies to Charles Dickens and his Tale of Two Cities, that line could easily describe Canada’s current labour market.
Poor headlines and public perception around the Temporary Foreign Worker Program led Ottawa to announce plans, back in June, to crack down on abusers and overhaul the program. Among the changes included a shift to using wage levels rather than National Occupation Codes (NOC) as the main criteria for determining low-wage versus high-wage work — the logic being that wages constitute a more accurate reflection of occupational skill level and local labour market conditions.
The Labour Market Impact Assessment Fee was increased from $275 to $1,000 and the proportion of foreign workers an employer could use is now capped at 10 per cent of the employer’s work force. Applications will be refused for low-wage, lower-skill occupations in economic regions with an unemployment rate of six per cent or higher.
Late last month, the federal government posted a discussion paper on the Employment and Social Development website stating that employers who flout the new rules could face a permanent ban on hiring them. Other penalties include one-, five- and 10-year bans on applying for foreign workers. Proposed fines range from $500 to a maximum of $100,000.
Alberta has 68,000 temporary foreign workers and the premier said Ottawa’s tweaking is already hitting home.
In B.C., Premier Christy Clark called the changes “tragically misdirected.” Her province is on the cusp of a huge expansion in the liquefied natural gas industry, something that will require a lot of labour to get rolling. In a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, she put the spotlight on one of the uglier sides of the objections swirling around temporary foreign workers — a general opposition to immigration.
For its part, Ottawa isn’t budging. It has made it clear it has no plans to back away from the recent changes.
Source: HR Reporter
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
This is a clear case where the government manages the immigration portfolio largely as a political tool rather than devising meaningful policies to address Canada’s real labour market needs. In 2012 this government implemented new policies under the TFWP permitting employers to pay foreign workers 90% of the prevailing wage rate. Now fast forward 2 years and the government suddenly turns 360 degrees and imposes restrictive measures that more than offsets previous requirements while holding orchestrated media productions to trumpet how tough they are in “protecting” Canadian hires. During this period Canada’s unemployment rate has fallen from 7.5% to 6.5%.
The federal government is considering lifetime bans and heftier fines for employers found to have violated its new regulations on temporary foreign workers. In a discussion paper posted overnight on the Employment and Social Development website, the government proposes permanent bans in addition to expanding penalties to include one-, five- and 10-year moratoriums that would forbid businesses from applying for temporary foreign workers.
Currently there are only two-year bans imposed on companies that have broken the rules. The names of the banned employers would be made public, the proposals state. There are currently four companies listed on the government’s so-called TFW public blacklist, with no new additions since early June, three weeks before Employment Minister Jason Kenney unveiled his crackdown on the program.
In efforts to deliver on that overhaul, the feds are also now proposing minimum fines of $500 to a maximum of $100,000 for serious violations- in particular those that have resulted in a significant financial benefit to an employer. The length of the ban would depend upon the type of violation, the employer’s history of compliance, the severity of the violation and the size of the business, the paper states.
The government is asking stakeholders for their input into the proposals. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 16. Stakeholders and critics say they’re puzzled by the proposals, wondering why the government hasn’t been taking such measures for years. Western premiers, including Alberta’s newly elected Jim Prentice, have complained that the government’s overhaul has been too onerous. Prentice is a former federal cabinet colleague of Kenney’s.
The western leaders say their provinces are grappling with low unemployment rates and facing genuine shortages of skilled labour, requiring temporary foreign workers to fill the void.
Jinny Sims, the NDP’s employment critic, also questioned why the government hadn’t been imposing such penalties for years. She also raised concerns about enforcing the tougher rules.
The government is also proposing penalizing employers even if their failure to comply was unintentional — for example, an accounting error that results in a temporary foreign worker being underpaid.
The feds say they’ll want to start assessing the circumstances surrounding a company’s non-compliance when determining the amount of the fine or the length of the ban “so there is still an incentive for the employer to take corrective action.”
Source: CTV News
Employment Minister Jason Kenney says there’s been a significant decrease in applications for temporary foreign workers since the government announced an overhaul of the troubled program earlier this year.
His department says that the number of applications received in July and August was 74% lower than during the same time period in 2012, before the crackdown.
New rules introduced in June aim to make it more difficult for employers to hire temporary foreign workers, requiring them to meet strict criteria to ensure Canadians are first in line for jobs.
Some employers say the new rules are too onerous and produce problems in areas of the country with low unemployment.
Source: National Post
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
The new changes announced by Minister Kenney, the former immigration minister, are being implemented to function as an industrial lockout of foreign workers in many industries across Canada.
The Harper government may have been the main responsible for the messy situation of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, but it is now overhauling the scheme. Employment Minister Jason Kenney introduced changes to the rules and promises to dramatically scale back parts of the program most open to abuse.
The program of temporary farm workers will remain as many in agriculture are dependent on it. The live-in caregiver program is under review. But there is going to be a cut in the stream that allows employers to bring in low-skill workers to perform low-wage jobs, usually in service industries.
Several countries rely on foreign workers to do the unpleasant work for them, Qatar being the most extreme example. In Qatar, the labour force made up of foreign workers can never become citizens and face abuse and exploitation. Qatar is therefore not a model to emulate.
The model for Canada should be … Canada. For decades this country has had the developed world’s near-highest levels of legal immigration. Those immigrants are able to become Canadians relatively quickly and enjoy all legal rights of citizens.
There are economic arguments both for and against a program that brings in cheap, temporary foreign labour. One case in favour has been made by the food service industry in Western Canada, where labour markets are tight and without cheap foreign labour, the restaurant wages will rise, causing your steak to cost more.
Mr. Kenney’s argument is that higher wages aren’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly in a growing economy, and especially for those who might be earning those wages.
The Temporary Foreign Worker program in Western Canada has had exactly that effect. Median wages in Alberta have grown at far above the rate of inflation since 2006, however over the same period, wages in the food service sector, which relies heavily on the TFW program, have barely changed.
Free markets are dynamic systems, sending out price signals that cause both workers and employers to make constant adjustments. So if there are more higher-paying jobs in Alberta, then Canadians outside Alberta will have an incentive to move there. Alberta, along with Saskatchewan, is pulling in high levels of both immigrants and interprovincial migrants. The two provinces have thus the country’s lowest levels of unemployment.
Mr. Kenney feels that Western Canadian employers in food service and accommodation, will respond by raising wages and by actively recruiting new workers from untapped pools.
Canada has prospered by being an immigration friendly country. Temporary foreign workers are tied to their employers like indentured servants, and constantly under threat of losing their right to work. Canadians in the work force, including immigrants, don’t suffer from those disabilities. Canada needs more citizens, fewer guests.
Source: The Globe and Mail
Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s response to recent policy studies and negative media coverage has cast a shroud of economic doom over Canada’s very successful temporary foreign worker (“TFW”) program. Mr. Kenney has raised the processing cost for potential employers and limited the geographical scope of the unskilled portion of the program to areas with less than 6 per cent unemployment. Other unspecified changes also loom for the live-in caregiver program. These efforts to curtail the TFW program underestimates the economic benefits derived from TFW’s, including the less skilled, while overstating the costs imposed by their presence.
For any immigration program to be economically successful, net economic benefits should flow to the welcoming country from the increased presence of migrants. Labour market policy interventions can result in benefit for some economic actors and not for others. A policy intervention can be judged a success if the aggregate gains outweigh the losses. Those individuals who suffer the costs of a policy change can be compensated by the realized economic gains. It is therefore not necessary to curtail an economically successful labour market policy such as Canada’s TFW program when a portion of these benefits can be redistributed to offset any losses incurred by a minority of Canadian residents.
Canada’s TFW program has a long, successful history and, unlike elsewhere, has not produced a legacy of undocumented workers. Two categories of lower-skilled TFW workers that impose no costs on resident Canadians who in turn enjoy substantial benefits, are seasonal agricultural workers and live-in caregivers. Restaurant and hospitality TFWs, mostly in Alberta, also generate significant economic activity that is of net benefit to resident Canadians. Wisely, Mr. Kenney has left the historically successful seasonal agricultural worker program alone. However, he has promised a review of the equally successful live-in caregiver program and as noted has incorrectly restrained the hiring of restaurant TFWs in areas with lower unemployment rates.
Each of these lower-skill TFWs produce a service and/or a good that, in their absence, may never have been produced. Agricultural workers have been instrumental in the development of a robust, export-oriented wine industry in Ontario and British Columbia. Live-in caregivers benefit many Canadian families, since few Canadians are involved in this service and the family employer is then able to enter the Canadian labour market. The presence of these two types of TFWs produces economic benefits such as faster industry sector growth and increased government tax revenue.
Canada in 2014 has the world’s most comprehensive TFW program for which the economic and employment benefits to Canadians far outweigh the costs. The costs have usually been associated with isolated instances of Canadians denied jobs in industries that use the program. The policy solution to these negative effects is new government regulations that financially penalize employers guilty of this abuse.
Source: The Globe And Mail