Federal government reverses changes to temporary foreign worker program

The temporary foreign worker program came under fire after a mining company brought in Chinese workers for a planned coal mine near Tumbler Ridge, and the Royal Bank replaced some Canadian staff with foreign workers.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenny says employers will no longer have flexibility to set the wages for foreign labour, calling a halt to what was known as the 15 per cent rule. That rule allowed businesses to pay foreign workers up to 15 per cent below median wages, if that’s what they were paying Canadians.


The Conservatives are also calling a temporary halt to a program that fast-tracked the ability of some companies to bring in workers from outside Canada through what’s known as an accelerated labour market opinion. The two changes are part of a broader overhaul of the temporary workers program that also includes stricter rules for applications, new fees for employers who apply and a promise of stricter enforcement.

Now, B.C. labour and business leaders have sharply differing views of the move to tighten up the rules for the program. B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair calls the changes public window dressing that will do nothing to help protect the jobs of Canadian workers, while still allowing the exploitation of foreign workers.

However, the Surrey Board of Trade says while many employers want to use Canadians, they can’t find qualified staff so they turn to foreign workers, and the changes will add red tape and delays to the process, which could result in lost economic opportunities.