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Blanket approach to temporary worker reductions a concern:PC leadership hopefuls

EDMONTON - The three candidates vying to be the next premier of Alberta say Ottawa's plan to reduce the number of temporary foreign workers won't work in the province.

Under the new rules unveiled by Employment Minister Jason Kenney on Friday, medium and large-sized companies will not be allowed to have more than 10 per cent temporary foreign workers by 2016.

Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jim Prentice says a "one-size fits all" plan isn't going to work for a province like Alberta, which he says is creating more than 80 per cent of the new jobs in Canada.

He says as he criss-crosses the province, labour shortages is the number one issue he is hearing about, from the oil and gas sector to agriculture and service industries.

Candidate Ric McIver says restaurant owners, tourism business owners and feedlot operators have told him their businesses will close and that Alberta full-time residents will then lose their jobs, too.

Thomas Lukaszuk, who was Alberta's jobs minister before entering the leadership race, says temporary foreign workers mean the difference between restaurants being open and closed on a Sunday night, or whether the coffee line wait is five minutes or 20.

"Those who spend too much time in Ottawa are evidently out of touch with average Albertans and small and medium-size businesses in Western Canada," Lukaszuk said in a social media post on Friday.

Lukaszuk and Prentice both noted that they support some of the changes, such as stiffer fines. But both also stressed Alberta's importance to the Canadian economy.

Voting for the leadership contest takes place in September, and the winner will become premier.

McIver said he would defend Alberta's interests if he is elected.

"As premier, I will be following up with my counterparts in the federal government to make sure Alberta's interests are known and advocated for," McIver said in a media statement. "Albertans can count on me to keep working for them on this vital issue."

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