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Quebec deplores new temporary foreign worker rules

Posted on May 8, 2015
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Quebec cabinet ministers warned the province could lose jobs unless Ottawa backs down on recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Quebec had asked the federal government to delay the reform until they could reach a compromise, but new restrictions on hiring temporary foreign workers came into effect Thursday.

The program allows employers who can’t find qualified workers locally to recruit them abroad. Last June, after media reported that some employers abused the program, the federal government tightened the rules.

In some job sectors, including retail, businesses can no longer hire a temporary foreign worker in a region where the unemployment rate is above six per cent. Montreal, Laval, Sherbrooke and many other regions’ jobless rate was higher than that last year.

Many Quebec businesses have complained that the new restrictions will make it harder for them to find the workers they need, Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Kathleen Weil said.

They have also told her the new rules could lead them to move some of their activities south of the border.

To make matters worse, while the western provinces and Ontario benefit from a growing workforce, Quebec’s is in decline, she told the Montreal Gazette.

“Our situation is that the shortage is going to get worse,” she said. “Immigration, whether it’s temporary or permanent, is how we can solve that problem.”

Quebec is still pressing the federal government to relax some of the new rules. “This is not the end of this exchange (with Ottawa). It can’t be,” she said. “It’s just so irrational that we would somehow hamper the development of our businesses, certain sectors, our regions and our economy.”

The office of federal Employment Minister, Pierre Poilievre, said the point of the reform is to ensure that Quebecers are hired before foreign workers.

“Where there are a significant number of unemployed workers in Quebec, the Government believes that employers must do more to attract them,” he said in a statement.

Michel LeBlanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, said the city’s IT sector, including video game developers, could suffer because of the reform. Many IT companies hire temporary foreign workers to fill short-term labour shortages during production spurts, he said.

Now, “either these companies won’t have access to the workers they want and will be out of step with the needs of the market, or they will move their production activities to other places outside of Quebec, probably outside Canada,” he explained.

The changes could also make it more difficult for companies in the tourism industry to hire lower-skilled, seasonal workers, he said.

“The risk is that we will probably eventually have to correct what the government is putting in place now. Meanwhile, companies are going to have more difficulty,” he explained. “And, in some cases, local workers are going to be deprived of a job because activities will be moved outside the country.”

The Manufacturers and Exporters of Quebec have also spoken out against the changes to the program.

“Although the first sectors to be affected will probably be those of food-processing, retail and restoration, all manufacturers and exporting companies of Quebec will feel the effects,” the MEQ said in a statement Thursday.

François Daigle, the vice-president of professional services and training at an information security consulting firm in Laval, said the new restrictions could cause him a headache.

Over the last four years, his company, Okiok, has hired four temporary foreign workers because local job applicants didn’t have the necessary expertise.

If he can’t keep those workers on because of the new restrictions, then his company could no longer invest in job training as it does now, he said.

“I invest all the time in the employees I have. So when I hire, I don’t hire for six months, I hire for 10 years,” he said. “If you tell me I can have a temporary foreign worker for six months, a year but I have to get rid of them in a year that really won’t work for me.”

Quebec deplores new temporary foreign worker rules

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