At a recent meeting attended by the premiers of Canada’s Western provinces and territories, the political leaders addressed the skilled labour shortage in Western Canada.
On July 9th and 10th, the Premier of Nunavut hosted the leaders of Canada’s four western provinces and three territories in Iqaluit to discuss a wide variety of issues unique to Western Canada. The meeting was attended by the premiers of Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Alberta, with the premiers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan participating remotely.
The labour market in the Western provinces and territories was discussed during the Western conference, and the leaders expressed concern over the restrictions on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program put in place by Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney.
In a communique issued at the conclusion of the conference, the labour shortage in the Western provinces was repeatedly highlighted. The release noted that “the need for skilled labour continues to increase in Western Canada. With a number of major projects either underway or in the development phase, existing labour shortages are only expected to deepen.” The major projects and developments mentioned by the premiers are expected to bring increased job opportunities to the region.
With the need for skilled labour and the growing job opportunities in Western Canada, the region seems a natural candidate for increasing levels of immigration to fill the labour needs. Recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFW) that make it more difficult for employers to hire foreign workers was a topic highlighted at the conference, with the political leaders coming out against Minister Kenney’s reforms to the program.
The premiers iterated the importance of foreign workers to their local economies, pointing out that “Western Canada has a strong economy and unique labour market needs that often make it necessary for employers to rely on foreign workers when qualified Canadians cannot be found.” They expressed concern about the repercussions of these reforms for both employers and their economies, noting that “limiting the ability to hire foreign workers to address critical labour shortages will unduly punish responsible employers in Western Canada, particularly those in smaller and remote communities where Canadian workers are not readily available.”
The communique made clear not only that Western Canadian politicians are in favour of both the use of temporary foreign workers and immigration, but also that the timing is excellent for individuals who are interested in immigrating to Canada. With the expected economic growth coming from this region of the Canada and the increasing number of job opportunities touted by the premiers in combination with the expected labour shortage, Canada’s Western provinces provide excellent prospects for Canadian immigration. The communique issued after the conference also recognized that “foreign workers often transition to permanent residency, such as through the Provincial and Territorial Nominee Programs, and become long-term contributors to the labour force.”
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