Alberta should have own TFW program, says AUMA president

People frustrated with the federal government over changes to the temporary foreign worker program say Alberta should consider having its own program to address labour shortages.

Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced earlier this week he is seeking feedback on proposed changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The changes include phasing in a 10-per-cent cap on the number of low-wage workers coming in, banning their use in areas where unemployment is six per cent or higher and increasing processing fees and fines for those who abuse the program.

Helen Rice, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, said such rules are hurting the province.

“He’s going about it the wrong way,” Rice said of the changes Kenney wants to implement. “It’s hurting Alberta and hurting our ability to make a full impact to the Canadian economy.”

She also suggested the provinces be allowed to modify the Temporary Foreign Worker Program based on their own needs.

“[Kenney] needs to engage with each province to understand and identify their needs when it comes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and modify the program to support Alberta in responding to its unique workforce challenges,” Rice said.

“Giving provinces the ability and flexibility to modify program perimeter and allow for a regional or provincial approach would improve the effectiveness of the program,” she said.

Premier Jim Prentice said he would consider pitching a “made in Alberta” approach to tackling the province’s labour problems.

“It perhaps has some antecedence in terms of what Quebec was able to negotiate in 1991, as I recall, in terms of very specific measures that allowed their province to respond to their labour needs,” Prentice said.

Prentice plans to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harmer in a few weeks to discuss the province’s labour challenges, and the new rules for the temporary foreign worker program.

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