Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program: What we learned

by Angela Splinter

Last year, the federal government reached out to industries that are heavy users of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). They want to better understand the specific industry challenges and identify possible program improvements.

For the trucking industry, which brought in more than 1,500 workers in the TFWP last year, the struggle to find drivers and other workers is anything but short-term. The shortage of drivers who are Canadian citizens has limited the growth of many fleets and has broader implications for Canada’s economy.

And, the TFWP can help. As such, the federal government partnered with us on a series of roundtables across the country – a chance for fleets that have been using the TFWP for years to provide their feedback. Others came out to learn more about the program and how it might help them.

The roundtables resulted in a report that has been submitted to the TFWP. We made recommendations for immediate consideration that can support more efficient access and use of the program.

They include an expedited vetting process for reputable and trusted employers; suggested enhancements to the application process to better reflect the realities of the industry, including compensation and job advertising; as well as several processing improvements to support unique aspects of our industry.

We’re now waiting for the government to hopefully move quickly with these recommendations. Until then, here are some things we learned during our roundtables from employers who are working hard to improve recruitment and retention:

Review your recruitment, hiring, and onboarding
Fleets have learned that they need to respond quickly, if not immediately, to all applicants. Review your recruiting and hiring procedures to make sure you can process an applicant’s information and initiate a dialog quickly.

And, be efficient. Getting just one driver is a big investment of time and resources, and many are leaving no stone unturned. Assess where you are getting the best results and work to focus your efforts accordingly.

But don’t rush the onboarding. Fleets that are investing more with onboarding and effective coaching are seeing higher retention rates.

Assess your “leaves”
One fleet executive said that a driver exit is now being treated “like a major accident.” Address your “leaves” and determine where you can improve. Another proactive approach has many fleets forming “driver experience committees” to improve communication and collaboration among drivers, managers, and others within the company.

Review compensation
Many fleets are going beyond reviewing driver pay rates to focus on total compensation and address work-life balance concerns. Does your compensation package reflect the needs of your drivers? You don’t want to hear that it doesn’t during an exit interview.

Challenging times require competent managers who can innovate, stay calm, and ensure the bigger picture is not lost. And this is particularly important for fleets looking to the TFWP for drivers.

The program presents an extra layer of compliance requirements, as well as the specific human resources needs of workers who are: 1) temporary and 2) from another country.

These challenges require competent managers who can innovate, adapt, and keep sight of the fact that the TFWP should be mutually beneficial for the company and the foreign worker coming to Canada.

The Government of Canada’s website ( has more information about hiring a temporary worker through the TFWP, and we offer practical ideas about managing a diverse workforce at Something to consider as we wait for action.

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  • Finally, the govt. is looking to the industry again to fix the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Under the last govt., the fix was to make the program extremely difficult to access. The forms went from 4 pages to 17 pages. Service Canada telephone interviews with employers, to make a decision to approve or not, went from 10 minutes to an hour or more. Bonafide employers and foreign worker requests were treated with a lot of suspicion and hostility. Refusals were rendered for trivial reasons.
    Non-refundable application fees went from $275.00 per worker to $1000.00 per worker. Many employers, who were suffering through a critical labour shortage, lost thousands of dollars and got nothing in response to making foreign worker applications. I suggest that the industry give Service Canada encouragement for consulting with the industry to solve this problem. It’s not just the industry’s problem. The Federal Government shares the problem with us and has an important role in trying to solve it. Making the program more difficult solves nothing. It only gives the message that the shortage is not real and the industry should be stonewalled. In the upcoming election, pay attention to what is being said about the Temporary Foreign Worker program. Two of the major parties are moving to a crackdown again and blaming the industry for the problem. The Temporary Foreign Worker program is a hot potato and not understood by the general public. We already know that the last govt. could not handle it. For the first time ever, the program was plagued by public scandals and increasingly restrictive measures. The current change in approach is welcome and let them know it!

  • Please keep us updated on this important industry issue. Finally, they are headed in the right direction and willing to work with the industry to improve the situation. We need to recognize their positive efforts with the Minister to give them the incentive and resources to bring about improvement before the election takes over. An alternative govt. after the election may make it much more difficult to get a foreign truck driver.

  • Don’t agree! The reality is that wages are suppressed
    By bringing in foreign workers. If Angela, for example drove a truck for a few weeks she would realize good drivers are leaving the trucking industry because they can make similar wages and not be away from home.

  • Any company that uses a driver service and or incorporated truck drivers or temp foreign truck drivers will need to show reason why. Once they reach 10,000 hours in this class they would to set up a recorded line that the federal government can monitor. This should be reviewed by the Fed dept of labour before more than 5 permits be given to bring in offshore truck drivers and offshore mechanics in a 24 month period of time. The C. T.A knows that some of their members cheated truck drivers and owner_operators from offshore and has done very little to correct this practice The O.T.A. has been called by truck drivers and told the truck drivers to go away
    226 889 9299

    • Thank you for all the calls from drivers who worked for large companies more than 100 employees or 70 trucks that have been shortchange this information has been sent in . P.S. I got over 70 calls in 10 days from Truck drivers new to Canada

  • We don’t need any more stinking TFW and cheap labour in this country.

    What we need are companies paying more to attract and retain Canadian drivers.

    So take your TFW and driver shortage BS and shove it.

    The ONLY shortage is driver pay.

    • If you think labour is cheap in this country, try employing people yourself. Talk is cheap. You’re as good as your output.

  • I am a Canadian-born truck driver with over 1 year verifiable trucking experience (on e-logs) including 16 total years of being licensed, no accidents, very cheap to insure (my personal car insurance is less than 50 bucks a month), no tickets, no demerit points, clean MVR abstract, clean CVOR abstract, no criminal record, graduated from trucking college both in AZ and DZ programs, as well as graduated from a STEM course in engineering and a 3 year business course. In addition to no criminal record, I’ve been cleared through vulnerable sector screening which is more strict than a basic record check.

    You know what? I’ve been fired and replaced by TFW’s from every trucking company I worked for. One even lied on my ROE, wrote that I quit the company and tried to appeal my E.I. ruling, but I got E.I. benefits anyway because I had a letter of termination from them to prove that I did not voluntarily quit the job.

    I’ve been asked to fudge e-logs. Yes, if you think e-logs made it harder to fudge the logs, you’re dreaming. Under the bunk in the little side-door compartment on the driver’s side you’ll find a 40-pin parallel port cable that looks like it was from a 90’s dot matrix printer, unplug that thing, finish your trip, plug it back in and manually add your driving time to the empty e-log. I won’t do it, I absolutely refuse to do it, but these companies expect everyone to fudge their logs. Doesn’t matter if your logs are on paper, computer, or fairy dust. At least with paper logs, you can see if someone threw out the old log in the garbage can, but with e-logs, you can erase your tracks completely if you know how to manipulate SQL databases. Now you know why there are 6 IT people working in small trucking companies.

    I’m not against immigration. Actually, my father is from another country and I’m a first-generation Canadian. I feel like I’ve been discriminated against and tarnished by a lack of employment opportunities through no fault of my own, and constantly accused of job hopping, and all I want is to get a chance to work in my own country, without being forced to drive some piece of crap down the highway that will break the bank and the records when the weigh station pulls me in. Yes, people, worn out bearings are the worst kind of major defect. You expect me to drive a truck with worn out front wheel bearings? Really?

    It’s extremely unfair that the Canadian Border Services Agency is allowing these companies to bring in foreign workers by lying about not finding any available Canadians for the jobs. There are PLENTY of qualified Canadians to fill these jobs, and websites like this one spreading misinformation and lobbying government to expand the TFW program are destroying our country.

    • You are so right nobody should be able to bring in more than than 5 employees per year and show their O.T.R drivers are making 1.9 times minimum wage and overtime after 50 hours per week.