Overhaul of Temp. Foreign Worker Program Will Hurt Trucking

OTTAWA, ON- The changes the Canadian government has announced to the Temporary Foreign Work Program will likely mean more parked trucks.

Jean-Marc Picard, the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA)’s executive director said: “The Conference Board of Canada released a document in 2013 highlighting the driver shortage that we are facing today as well as what to expect in 2020. Up to 33,000 drivers will be needed for our industry by 2020 and you can certainly review that number now because of the Temporary Foreign Program being almost inaccessible.”

Employment Minister Jason Kenney told CBC Radio Saturday that he’s phasing out the “low-skilled stream” of the program after having considered shutting it down completely.

“We seriously looked at saying what every other developed country does: no general low-skilled temporary foreign workers stream,” Kenney said. “We came to the conclusion that the economic costs in general and the adjustment costs for particular businesses would be too extreme.”

Here are some of the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program:

  • More inspections: one in four employers will be inspected each year. The government said it will hire about 20 more inspectors, bringing the number to about 60.
  • Higher fees: the application fee employers must pay per worker will go from $275 to $1,000, effective immediately.
  • Hefty fines of up to $100,000 for employers who abuse the program will roll out in the fall.
  • More funding for the Canada Border Services Agency to pursue more criminal investigations.
  • Posting the names of employers who receive permission to hire foreign workers.
  • Making public the number of positions approved through the program on a quarterly basis.
  • Reducing the amount of time a temporary foreign worker can be employed in Canada, to two years from four.

Picard commented: “Our members are extremely concerned about this situation. The program worked well for our industry and now they have no idea where and how they will find drivers to move the goods of their customers.”

“Every  company hauling  commercial  goods  today is looking  for  drivers;  it  is  a well-documented  fact  that  the industry  has a  shortage of drivers.  This has just amplified the situation and it will change the landscape of our industry in Atlantic Canada,” Picard said.

By 2016, Kenney said, “The government could decide to… eliminate the low-skilled stream [of the program], but we’re trying to do this in a prudent way where the adjustment costs are moderate and we don’t just end up causing devastation for thousands of businesses.”

Picard said that “efforts are being taken across Canada to attract drivers” and that in Atlantic Canada, APTA is working to promote the industry, remove barriers,  make  funding  accessible,  but need trucking to be recognized as a skilled trade.

“We are at a critical point in time for our industry because the average age of drivers is increasing every year,” Picard said.

“The trucking industry would prefer hiring qualified Canadians as truck drivers; it is not in any trucking company’s business plan to grow their businesses using Temporary Foreign Workers.  It is expensive and many barriers exist, so companies that use the program only do so when they have exhausted their ability to attract qualified Canadians,” he added.

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