The federal government’s decision to ban restaurants from its temporary foreign worker program has drawn local angst.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney issued the surprise moratorium Thursday, hours after the C.D. Howe Institute released a damning study into the program that concluded it had spurred joblessness in B.C. and Alberta.
The Tim Hortons location in Virden has been using the program to compensate for a shallow labour pool siphoned by western Manitoba’s oil industry for more than a year.
Franchisee Greg Crisanti, who voiced concern about the program stoppage, did not want to comment further when contacted by the Sun. But in a Twitter post yesterday, Crisanti said "Jason Kenny (sic) has just ruined my weekend!"
The restaurant employs more than 10 temporary foreign workers from Jamaica, Mexico and the Philippines.
In Brandon, the restaurant-specific halt on the program won’t have significant consequences, but Sandy Trudel, the city’s director of economic development, said she’s nonetheless concerned that a few cases of misuse have led to the program being shut down.
"It always is cause for concern when one or two instances of suspected abuse cause a knee-jerk response," she said, "so obviously I don’t like to see programs shut down in that kind of mode, because every area of the country has very different and unique labour needs.
"I don’t think it will be a significant detriment on our folks here in the city."
The smackdown to Canadian restaurants came despite Kenney’s insistence in recent weeks that only a small number of companies were abusing the program and his repeated vows to deal with those companies harshly, including with fraud charges if necessary.
The government will not process any new or pending applications for temporary foreign workers from restaurant operators, and any unfilled positions tied to previous approval will be suspended.
In 2009, a local Wendy’s restaurant was under government scrutiny after four immigrants apparently paid a $3,000 fee to get into Canada, a violation of the Manitoba Worker and Recruitment Protection Act, according to then-minister of immigration and labour Nancy Allen.
According to a CBC report at the time, the workers were orignally hired at a Regina Wendy’s through an Ontario recruiter who passed them to a Saskatchewan immigration consultant. The local restaurant owner made efforts to repay those costs, according to the news reports.
While Manitoba had recently passed legislation making it illegal to impose such fees, at the time Saskatchewan did not have such a law.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 26, 2014