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Feds’ ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to shut down Temporary Foreign Workers Program hits home

BY LINDSAY BRISCOE

The federal government’s recent decision to place a moratorium on the food service industry’s access to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program will have ramifications for locals who use the program to staff their businesses.

“Having the ability to hire temporary foreign workers has really helped us fill positions that we were unable to fill locally,” said Cindi Lumgair, owner of Balmertown Food Fair and Sobeys, in an e-mail. “We always try to hire local first but many times we have advertised positions and received zero applications. Having TFWs has improved our ability to expand and grow our business particularly in the Balmertown location.

“If we were to lose all of our TFWs it would be very difficult to continue to operate the Balmertown location with the existing store hours. Cut backs would have to be made, thus reducing our ability to run our business effectively and successfully.”

Right now Lumgair says they’re not going to lose any of their five TFWs, but by fall she’ll be applying to renew one of their Labour Market Opinions (pre-approval to hire or re-hire a TFW), and she’s not sure what’s going to happen.

Red Lake Tim Hortons Manager, Ron Parks, employs a number of TFWs. He did say his location will be impacted but was not able to comment further. The Tim Hortons media relations department directed The Northern Sun News to press releases on its website.

“At Tim Hortons we have a 50-year history of hiring Canadians first. With more than 90,000 Canadian team members in our system, of many different cultural backgrounds, our restaurant owners are one of the country’s largest employers of Canadians,” reads one of the releases.

“We have invested millions of dollars recently to open new restaurants, creating thousands of direct additional jobs for Canadians as well as hundreds of spin-off jobs in construction, maintenance and other industries. Complementing our Canadian staffing in markets with critical labour shortages with select use of Temporary Foreign Workers has enabled us to continue those investments that create Canadian jobs.

Tim Hortons has a strong track record in responsibly using this program. In a few isolated incidents where that has not been the case, we have acted to remove those franchisees from our system.”

Lumgair explains it’s not easy to hire a TFW and there are strict guidelines businesses must follow in order to be eligible to use the program.

“I believe this is a knee-jerk response from our government and is entirely unfair to those that are following the rules to the letter,” she adds.

Red Lake Mayor, Phil Vinet says a good deal of the success the Red Lake area has had over the years is because it’s welcomed foreigners. He’s disappointed the government decided to suspend the program all together.

“We’re in a primary resource business – mainly gold mining. It’s no secret that it pays a lot of money compared to the service sector. So, when you have high employment in the primary resource business, it leaves little left the service sector. So our service sector is clawing and scratching to get workers,” Vinet said.

“What happens if we have another food sector industry show up on our doorstep? How are they going to be able to staff themselves if there’s no available program?” he added.

“Minister Kenney should be spending some energy chasing those rogue operators; chasing those that are abusing the system. Let the good ones carry on. Let them succeed. Let the community succeed.”

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