Michelle Rempel, minister for Western Economic Diversification, sits down with Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire on Monday. The two met with local business leaders and addressed changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Sweeping reform of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program shouldn’t impact one of Brandon’s largest employers, according to Western Economic Diversification Minister Michelle Rempel and Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire.
Rempel was in Brandon yesterday, meeting with local stakeholders about jobs and the economy.
Sitting with Rempel to his left after meeting with business leaders at the Trails West Inn, Maguire said Maple Leaf Foods is already compliant with the new changes.
"Maple Leaf has indicated to us that they are under 10 per cent now," he said, referring to changes that will mean that no more than 10 per cent of an employer’s workforce can be made up of temporary foreign workers.
Hylife Foods, in Neepawa, will also meet the new requirements.
That’s because the majority of workers at both hog slaughtering plants are in the country through other programs, the majority seeking long-term residency and eventual citizenship.
Getting to the 10 per cent threshold will be phased in to allow other businesses time to adjust to the new rules.
The biggest pushback from the new regulations has come from the service industry, according to Maguire.
"(The service industry) was attacking this program and so they might have to make some adjustments," Maguire said, "but if you’re under 10 employees, it doesn’t matter."
The moratorium has been lifted in Manitoba in all sectors because the provincial unemployment rate is under six per cent. In other provinces, where unemployment rates are higher than six per cent, the program cannot be accessed by the accommodation, food service and retail sectors.
Rempel said the government has been looking into the program since 2012.
"We knew there were some issues surrounding (the program)," she said.
In Alberta, where she is the MP for Calgary Centre-North, Rempel said employers were starting to take advantage of the program.
"We began to see that this program was actually having a downward wage pressure and some businesses were building their business model around this," she said. "That’s not sustainable, and we knew there had to be changes."
Increases in fees to employers who use the program will be used to hire more inspectors, she said.
Fines for abusing the program are also being increased and more funds will be allocated to collect data to ensure the program is effective.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 24, 2014