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Has the Canadian Government Killed The Temporary Foreign Workers Program and Saved Unemployed Canadians?

In June 2014, the Canadian government terminated the Labour Market Opinion program and replaced it with a Labour Market Information Application. Is this just the re-packaging of a program that the public seems to want to see ended, or is truly a changed process that will benefit Canadians?

The truth is, we have seen a major change that is beneficial for Canada’s unemployed, Human Resources departments, large employers of skilled workers and the government. The flip side is that this will be very difficult on restaurants and the hospitality industry, specifically franchisees and small business across the country.

Photo by Suat Eman at
Photo by Suat Eman at

Drastic changes

In 12 short months, the government has gone from asking employers to pay $0 to hire unlimited numbers of TFW by asking less than 6 questions about the company’s efforts to hire Canadians to a dramatic cost increase of $1000 per worker and dozens questions on hiring and training Canadians. This change is going to increase competition for low skilled workers, as tens of thousands were brought in every year and forced Human Resources to up their game on workforce planning and all businesses to become strategic about their human capital.

In the past, it was easier for some businesses to hire TFW over Canadians as they were cheaper, but not in the sense that most Canadians think. Government wage requirements and requirements to pay for plane tickets meant that Canadians seemed cheaper to hire than TFW.

The reality is that Canadians in many low-skilled industries such as restaurants leave their jobs and switch employers often.The cost of hiring and retraining workers several times a year takes up valuable management time and is one of the largest costs to businesses. When we compare the turnover costs of Canadians to a TFW on a 2-3 year work permit, it was an easy decision for many small employers.

The importance of strategy and planning

Employers like Starbucks have recruitment strategies, clear training paths, opportunities for advancement, benefits plans and stock options, even for low skilled workers. Compare this to some employers that have traditionally offered a wage, few training opportunities and no benefits, and then complained that they can’t find Canadians to fill their roles.

In this day and age, a plan to recruit, train and retain employees Canadians is essential, and I applaud the government for making changes that will force some employers to rethink the way they manage their human resources.

For large companies looking to employ skilled workers where high wages are paid, it makes sense to invest in workforce planning and to be able to develop HR metrics that deliver on Canadian recruitment targets. When the true supply of skilled workers like Instrument and Heavy Duty Mechanics, or Ironworkers and Pipefitters, is not enough to meet the demands of Canadian employers, then they can augment some of their training and development of Canadians with TFW from the UK.

The 10-day LMIA processing for highly paid, high skilled trades makes sense, even at $1,000 per application. This usually amounts to about 1% of the total annual costs of a skilled employee when one factors in benefits and payroll costs. These costs are also minuscule when compared to delays servicing clients, construction delays, downtime due to a lack of maintenance or having untrained people perform work that could compromise safety.

Canadian businesses must have access to the best talent in the world and we will get it through training Canadians first. Only when there are no other options should we consider secure access to skilled workers from around the globe.