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Chamber of Commerce wants fixes to foreign worker program

KELOWNA (NEWS1130) – The BC Chamber of Commerce says companies have been heavily impacted by changes to a program that allows employers to hire foreigners for short-term work.

That’s why the chamber is hoping the Canadian Chamber of Commerce will adopt a resolution to lobby Ottawa to reverse those changes. Members of the Canadian Chambers of Commerce are gathering in Kelowna this weekend, for their annual general meeting.

The federal government made changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program earlier this year, when it appeared foreigners were getting jobs Canadians could have filled.

Among other things, it suspended the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion, which fast-tracked the permits for some foreign employees, plus it imposed a new $275 fee for every employee application.

“Many of the industries, like tourism and construction, are starting to cut back their requests for employees in the program. They’re finding it’s costing them a lot of money,” says BC Chamber of Commerce CEO John Winter.

He points out the construction industry, which is dealing with a trades-skill shortage, needs to fill positions quickly, to meet project deadlines.

“We can go back several years, when we had a shortage of rebar workers, who worked in the cement business building framing structures. BC didn’t have a lot of skilled people in that area. So these foreign workers came in and did the work,” he says, emphasizing that these workers then trained locals, who are now filling those vacancies.

He points out the agricultural and tourism sectors also rely heavily on foreign workers.