Local factors that contribute to a labour shortage in Golden are the combination of tourism industry wages, seasonal work, and the lack of affordable housing.
One past solution to labour shortages was the employment of temporary workers from other countries. The federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program was successful in resort communities, but it is no longer an option.
A role of town council is to lobby other levels of government. This fall, council members went to the Union of B.C. Municipalities and requested that the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology write a letter to his federal counterpart requesting reinstatement of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. We also asked that he look at the Provincial Nominee Program to help alleviate the problem.
I have been hearing that the housing shortage is perceived as a serious problem. town council can support affordable housing by appropriate zoning, bylaws, and legislation. We can encourage developers and non-profit organizations to build more residences to alleviate shortages.
Last week, I expanded on how town council can support businesses. The same incentives, having good infrastructure, recreational opportunities, and just being a great place to be, will attract workers and provide a solution to the employee shortage.
A 2013 B.C. Resort Community Labour Market Strategic Analysis reported a projected 14,000 full-time equivalent labour deficit for hospitality and tourism positions by 2020. This labour shortage is not new, it is not a surprise, and it is not going away anytime soon. It is not local or regional, it is international.
Recruitment isn’t the only challenge facing employers in resort municipalities. Inadequate housing, transportation, childcare, the stress of working in an understaffed business, and the typical high cost of living all influence employee retention.
Without intervention the situation will only get worse.
Community stakeholders with an interest in developing strategies to address our local labour shortage need to step forward and work together.
What can business organizations do? Create business recruitment and retention tools, lobby government to reinstate foreign worker programs, provide relevant training opportunities, lobby for increased minimum wage.
What can employers do? Offer fair wages and schedules, provide incentives i.e. ski passes, pay bonuses for staying the term, be creative in providing staff housing.
What can council do? Council can be part of the community discussions and potentially align with our community partners, in appropriate ways, to support initiatives that address labour shortages and the contributing factors.
Jim de Bolebec
Very interesting question.
Town has no control over wages, rental rates, house prices. It does set property taxes, utility rates, and regulations on secondary suites and Airbnb requirements for secondary suites could be revisited to see if some changes could be made to create more affordable rentals while still meeting all codes. Town could also see what options are available in government grants through provincial and federal granting programs. Affordable housing does have an impact on labour availability and is a problem throughout the province and Canada as a whole.
Then there is transportation. BC Transit would like to see public transit operating in all communities the size of Golden. Having transit opens the door to options such as HandyDART and subsidized taxi fares which are provided through BC Transit with only a nominal cost to the Town.
The Town has little input into the problem. It can create a friendly community to work in, provide a favourable place to establish a new business, or improve upon an established one.
While this is an issue that affects the community, it is one where council has very little control over. We can ensure that the appropriate zoning exists to support the necessary housing, be it single family, multi-family, apartments, or alternate types. I am committed to doing my part to resolve this issue.
We met with the Minister of Jobs, Trade, and Technology, the Honourable Bruce Ralston, at UBCM in Whistler in September. He, as well as the provincial government, are well aware of the issue. They are working with the federal government to explore options that are available. I am hopeful there will soon be programs available to assist communities to resolve this issue.
If you would like to discuss this or anything else, please contact me.
When it comes to things like labour shortages, we automatically start looking to programs from upper levels of government such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. When the programs or policies sit with upper levels of government we turn to an advocacy role where we advocate when we meet with provincial MLAs and ministry staff, as well as though our associations such as AKBLG and UBCM.
This question also directs some attention to the lack of long-term rental accommodation in our community, and we are not the only community experiencing this. From a local government perspective we do not have the capacity nor the desire we be large scale landlords, that much is certain. A solution to this requires either higher levels of government or private business to invest in housing options for rentals, the good news is we have seen some interest in this area. Ways that we can support this would be creating a development friendly environment with staff at the ready to assist in the process. We need to make our process straight forward with no surprises for developers and investors who have interest in creating rental housing. Make it development friendly and the development will come.
Labour shortages are increasing across Canada. To address this problem the province is focusing on skills training and the federal government is being urged to look at solutions involving changes in immigration. The largest and most visible shortages are in the tourism and hospitality sectors with a common factor being the cost and availability of housing. When your pay is low and the work is part time or seasonal it makes it difficult to find decent housing. If you can’t find or afford decent housing you can be motivated to look at different work or even a different place to live.
The town has started to do something to make more housing available for people who want to live and work in Golden. Earlier this year they decided how they wanted to regulate and restrict short term rentals (Airbnb) in Golden. The intent, and hopefully the effect, of these regulations will be to make more housing available for Golden residents and for those who want to live in Golden. But the town must finish this job by passing the required bylaw so that the policies they have decided on take effect.
After the town regulates short term rentals I don’t know what else the town can do but if I get on council I will certainly be interested in hearing suggestions.
Over the past several years I have worked with dozens of communities across western Canada. This has taken me from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, throughout the Okanagan, around the Kootenays, across the Peace and the North, and up into the Yukon. There is not a single community (not a one) among these dozens, that has failed to report concerns around labour shortage and employee demand. This tells me that what we are experiencing is not a locally focused phenomenon. It is fundamentally being experienced at a larger scale. As council, our role is to set policy which helps establish the built and regulatory environment in which business can survive. With sound infrastructure, lively rec and cultural programming, and a plethora of community amenities, we set our selves up to be livable and attract and retain workforce. Aside from that, councils’ job is advocating at the provincial and federal level for programs such as the TFWP or PNP that bring in international working folks. Municipal recruitment programs elsewhere have proven a universal flop as funding resources are inadequate. I remain an articulate advocate on the towns behalf and an ongoing core service champion.