During the month of March, Citizenship and Immigration Canada released its “Economic Action Plan” for the present year. As the country’s immigration budget, the plan includes numerous measures that will be put into force during this fiscal year. Among the proposed changes is the government’s reform of the much debated Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
Throughout the year 2012, more than 200,000 temporary foreign workers came to the country to work for various companies in a wide range of fields. The high number of admitted foreign that year reflected CIC’s effort to offset Canada’s severe labour shortages in industries such as health care, IT services, and natural resources. The government stated with great concern that approximately 30% of Canadian businesses were in dire need of skilled workers to keep up with their industry’s economic growth and high retirement rates.
However, while the Government of Canada is well aware of these worrisome shortages, it has aimed at ensuring that the country’s intake of skilled foreign labour does not affect negatively the job prospects of the country’s citizens and permanent residents. A series of reforms to the TFWP will then be made in order to ensure that these individuals receive priority when it comes to jobs.
Notable among such measures is the provision of funds to ensure that Canadian employers undertake more exhaustive recruitment efforts to hire Canadians before making these positions available to temporary foreign workers. As a result, while Canadian employers are presently obliged to advertise a job opening for a minimum of two weeks before making it available to foreign skilled workers, the Economic Action Plan now prescribes an increase in the length and reach of this advertising.
Secondly, the government will now assist Canadian employers that have a proven need for temporary foreign workers find venues to transition to using Canadian workforce over time.
Thirdly, the Economic Action Plan prescribes the introduction of user fees for employers who resort to applying for a Labor Market Opinion, which is, in most cases, a mandatory step for hiring a temporary skilled worker. At present, the Labour Market Opinion is made available to employers at no cost.
The Economic Action Plan’s proposed measures gain further legitimacy in the wake of recent scandals on the part of various Canadian companies, most notably the RBC, which have been accused of giving preference to temporary foreign workers, hindering the job prospects of Canadian citizens. In response to the recent scandals, Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his concern about the growing misuse of the temporary foreign workers program on the part of such employers. Speaking to reporters in Calgary, Harper said that this immigration program must only be used to fill “absolute and acute” labour shortages temporarily, and that further reforms will be drafted “in very short order” to ensure the correct use of the program.
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