Federal Government Implements Major Overhaul of Temporary Foreign Worker Program

The Canadian government has introduced significant changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), aiming to recalibrate the balance between local and foreign labor in response to evolving labor market conditions. Starting May 1, employers will be required to undertake comprehensive recruitment efforts, including engaging asylum seekers with valid work permits, before seeking to fill positions through the TFWP via a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

In a bid to ensure the TFWP aligns more closely with current labor market realities, the government has announced a reduction in the validity of new LMIAs from 12 to 6 months and has also imposed stricter limitations on the proportion of temporary foreign workers employers can hire. Specifically, the cap for businesses identified in the 2022 Workforce Solutions Road Map under the low wage stream has been decreased from 30% to 20% of their workforce, though exemptions exist for sectors deemed critical, such as construction and health care.

These adjustments come in the wake of calls from various labor organizations, like the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), for tighter controls over the program to prevent its exploitation by employers seeking to pay lower wages. The government has also mandated annual wage reviews for temporary foreign workers to ensure they are paid prevailing wages, with an emphasis on preventing any decrease in compensation.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller emphasized the government’s broader strategy to moderate the intake of temporary residents, including setting a cap on temporary immigration, a historic move aimed at addressing housing shortages and the strain on essential services. This strategy reflects a shift towards a more sustainable approach to population growth, balancing the needs for economic growth and labor force development with the provision of adequate public services and housing.

By reining in the TFWP and planning a cap on temporary immigration, the Canadian government signals a significant policy shift towards prioritizing the employment of Canadian residents and asylum seekers with valid work permits. These measures are designed not only to foster a more self-reliant and sustainable workforce but also to alleviate pressure on housing and public services, marking a pivotal moment in Canada’s approach to labor market management and immigration policy.

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