The changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program have been implemented for quite some time in Canada, and most of the country is having no problems with it. There are, however, a handful of ridings in the country that are struggling, and Kootenay Columbia is one of them.
“It is a significant problem in my riding,” said Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks during an open Let’s Do Lunch meeting in Golden last week.
Canada is as diverse at it is large, and Wilks says that having one uniform law blanketing the entire country just doesn’t work. A city with a workforce of millions to draw upon has very different issues than a town with a workforce of a couple thousand.
“The local population is already working. These are small pools of workers we’re talking about here,” he said.
The regulations changed in 2014 when Wilks says the program was taken advantage of by a few businesses. Now, several businesses in Golden are struggling to fill positions, particularly in the tourism industry where wages are not high enough to entice Canadian workers to move here.
“It’s hard to get by on $15-$20 and hour, and business owners are not going to be able to convince someone from Vancouver to move here for that,” said Wilks.
Wilks, local government, and the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce have been hearing complaints about the program here in Golden. Several months back, Howard Johnson hotel owner Pavi Khunkhun came forward saying his family (including his parents) were forced to clean rooms themselves because they could not find staff to do it. Khunkhun tried to find workers through the Temporary Foreign Worker program, but was denied after paying the non-refundable application fee.
“This program needs to recognize different demographics,” said Wilks. “It’s just not working here.”
The more opposition the program sees, the more likely it is that a change will be made. At a local level, Wilks suggests a petition sent to Ottawa would be the best course of action.