Changes Made to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program

HRSDC Minister Diane Finley speaking in the House of Commons last September. New rules and increased fees for work permit applications were announced by Finley and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on Monday (Government of Canada)

Amid controversy and criticism over a series of incidents involving temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in recent months, including a story that emerged last month of Canadian workers losing their jobs to foreign workers at the Royal Canadian Bank, the federal government has announced several immediate and upcoming changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

These changes are:

  • An employer is required to guarantee to pay a TFW prevailing wages for that foreign worker to be eligible for a work permit, effective immediately. The rule allowing companies to pay TFWs 15 percent less than prevailing wages for high-skilled positions, and 5 percent less for low skilled ones has been repealed.

  • The Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) has been suspended, effective immediately.

  • The federal government is seeking the authority to suspend a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) if new information emerges showing that it negatively affects the Canadian economy and Canadian workers, and revoke work permits that were authorized by that LMO.

  • Fees employers pay for work permit and LMO applications will increase so that a portion of the cost of processing them will no longer have to be paid out of general taxes.

  • Job requirements for positions that use TFWs can only have English or French as required languages, unless an employer receives a special exemption after having shown Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) why the foreign language is necessary for the position.

The new rules attempt to close some of the major loopholes that critics have identified in the program that they say allow Canadian companies to use foreign workers instead of available Canadian workers.

The changes were jointly announced by HRSDC Minister Diane Finley and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on Monday.

Nova Scotia Looking to Increase Immigration to Province

Halifax harbour at night. Nova Scotia’s premier is hoping to boost the province’s economy by inviting more skilled immigrants to the province and encouraging them to settle

Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s Maritime provinces, is seeking to increase the number of skilled immigrants that settle in the province, according to a new provincial strategy announced earlier this year.

The Maritimes region of Canada, which includes Nova Scotia, has suffered from chronic economic malaise over the last two decades, with the highest unemployment rates, the fastest aging population, and the lowest population growth rates of any region in the country.

Attracting skilled immigrants is seen as one way to address the critical skills shortage facing the region and reversing the looming population contraction.

Immigrant worker controversy

The use of immigrants and temporary foreign workers by the Maritime provinces to meet labour shortages has met some controversy however, as the region has the largest pool of unemployed workers in the country relative to its population.

Reforms by the federal government to the Employment Insurance system in 2012 were designed in part to reduce the reliance of seasonal workers in resource sectors in the Maritimes on EI for the portion of the year when they’re off work, in order to encourage more of the region’s population to work year round.

Still, the governments of the Maritime provinces continue to insist that skilled immigrants are an important tool for alleviating their demographic problems and bringing economic vitality to the region.

Nova Scotia Nominee Program

Nova Scotia has been pressing the federal government in recent years to increase the number of immigrants it allows it to nominate annually through the Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP), and as a result has seen its cap increase by 200 nominees, to a total of 700, in 2012.

The increase in its cap is not as fast as the provincial government would like, so it has been looking for ways to maximize the number of nominations it has available to it.

In a strategy announcement published in late February, the Nova Scotia government said that the international graduate stream of the NSNP would be eliminated, and foreign graduates seeking to apply for permanent residency through it would be redirected to the post-graduate stream of the federal Canadian Experience Class (CEC).

The province says this will allow it to nominate more skilled workers using the spots freed up by moving the foreign graduate nominees to the federal program, and increase the total number of immigrants it invites to the province.

The Nova Scotia government also notes that skilled worker nominees are more likely to bring their families to Canada with them, thereby further increasing the population boost that the redirection of international graduates to the CEC will provide to the province.

Immigration Pushes Canadian Province’s Population Growth to 40 Year High

Cold winters have historically discouraged Canadian immigrants from settling in Manitoba, but a path to permanent residence through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program has increased the number of immigrants arriving in Manitoba and led to its largest population increase in 40 years this year

The population of Manitoba, a province in Canada’s prairie region, increased by 16,227 people over the last 12 months, which is the most in 40 years, according to the Manitoba provincial government.

The arrival of 15,199 immigrants to Manitoba over the last 12 months, the highest number since 1946, was the main reason for this year’s record population increase.

Many of the immigrants arrived through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP), which allows temporary residents with six months of work experience in Manitoba to qualify for nomination by the provincial government for permanent residence, subject to meeting official language proficiency requirements for semi-skilled workers.

Manitoba has historically drawn a low percentage of total Canadian immigrants due to its frigid winters and lack of any coastal cities, which tend to be favoured over inland cities.

To reverse this trend, the Manitoba government has been requesting that Citizenship and Immigration Canada increase the cap on the number of immigrants the province can nominate through its provincial nominee program from the current 5,000, to 20,000 by 2016.

Taxes Up 1,787% For Canadians Since 1961

The tax bill of the average Canadian family has grown at a faster rate than expenditures on basic necessities since 1961 (The Canadian Consumer Tax Index 2013)

Two Canadian economists say taxes are rising faster than wages for typical Canadians, and that the average Canadian family now pays a greater share of their income in taxes than on basic necessities.

The report, by Milagros Palacios and Charles Lammam, was released as part of the 2013 edition of the Canadian Consumer Tax Index.

The index tracks the total tax bill of the average Canadian family from 1961 to 2012, and finds that while taxes to all levels of government have increased 1,787 percent since the beginning of the period, spending on shelter, clothing and food increased by only 1,290 percent, 607 percent, and 578 percent, respectively, over the same period.

The average Canadian family now spends 42.7 percent of their income on taxes, and 36.9 percent on basic necessities. In contrast, the average family spent 56.5 percent of their income on necessities, and only 33.5 percent on taxes in 1961.

The report authors are also concerned that the current tax bill does not capture the full tax obligations being placed on Canadians, as many provincial governments, as well as the federal government, are funding their spending with deficits, which will need to be paid for with future taxes.

The Canadian government has made significant efforts to control the growth in government deficits over the last two decades. Facing a large fiscal deficit and growing debt in the 1990s, the federal government under then Prime Minister Jean Chretien reduced its spending by 10 percent from 1995 to 1997.

These efforts led to total government spending levels declining from 53 percent of GDP in 1992, to 43 percent of GDP in 1998, and the federal deficit being eliminated by 1997.

The decline, in the 1990s, in the share of Canada’s GDP made up by government spending is credited by some economists for the improvement in wage growth in recent years, as Canadians saw average wages increase by 10 percent in the 13 years from 1998 to 2011, compared to a gain of only 4 percent in the 17 year period from 1981 to 1998.

Immigration Canada Releases Two New Videos for Newcomers

The Your First Two Weeks in Canada video is one of two videos released by Citizenship and Immigration Canada on Friday to provide orientation to newcomers to Canada (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) on Friday introduced two videos to help new immigrants to Canada prepare for life in their new country.

The first video, entitled Before Arriving in Canada, explains what immigrants can do before they arrive to Canada to settle in Canada and find a good job more quickly. Suggestions include:

  • if English or French ability is limited, improving language skills
  • gather all important documents, like birth certificates and dental records, and bring them to Canada
  • getting certified translations of important documents
  • preparing for accommodations before leaving for Canada

The second video, Your First Two Weeks in Canada, includes explanations on what immigrants can expect at the airport when arriving in Canada, how newcomers can use immigrant-serving organizations to get assistance and information, and what government documents they need to apply for upon their arrival.

The videos can be seen below:

Before Arriving in Canada

Your First Two Weeks in Canada

Federal Court Rules Against Immigration Hopefuls in Skilled Worker Backlog

Justice Donald Rennie ruled that the federal government was within its rights to eliminate Federal Skilled Worker Program applications affecting approximately 280,000 people last year (

A federal court on Thursday ruled that the Canadian government was within its rights when it threw out the backlog of applications for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) that were filed before February 27, 2008.

Presiding judge, Justice Donald Rennie, said that “section 87.4 [of Bill C-38] is valid legislation, compliant with the rule of law, the Bill of Rights and the Charter.”

He addressed the fact that the legislation had caused would-be immigrants in the queue anguish:

“The applicants have waited in the queue for many years only to find the entrance door closed. They see the termination of their hope for a new life in Canada to be an unfair, arbitrary and unnecessary measure.”

But maintained that the applications were “terminated by operation of law” and that the court did not have the jurisdiction to overturn the legislation.

Lorne Waldman, a lawyer who represents the 1,400 people who are suing the federal government to force it to process their applications, said he would recommend to his clients to appeal Justice Rennie’s decision, which they have 15 days to do.

Federal Skilled Worker Occupation List Released

Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced 24 occupations that will eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) today released the list of 24 occupations that will be eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) when it launches next month on May 4th.

Furthermore, four organizations designated to provide Educational Credential Assessments (ECAs) for applicants who studied outside of Canada.

The eligible occupations are:

  • Engineering managers
  • Financial and investment analysts
  • Geoscientists and oceanographers
  • Civil engineers
  • Mechanical engineers
  • Chemical engineers
  • Mining engineers
  • Geological engineers
  • Petroleum engineers
  • Aerospace engineers
  • Computer engineers (except software engineers/designers)
  • Land surveyors
  • Computer programmers and interactive media developers
  • Industrial instrument technicians and mechanics
  • Inspectors in public and environmental health and occupational health and safety
  • Audiologists and speech-language pathologists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Medical laboratory technologists
  • Medical laboratory technicians and pathologists’ assistants
  • Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists
  • Medical radiation technologists
  • Medical sonographers
  • Cardiology technicians and electrophysiological diagnostic technologists, n.e.c. (not elsewhere classified)

The organizations designated to provide ECAs are:

  • Comparative Education Service: University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies
  • International Credential Assessment Service of Canada
  • World Education Services
  • Medical Council of Canada

Moreover, CIC announced a 5,000 cap for new FSWP applications, and a sub-cap of 300 applications for each eligible occupation.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the new applications would take one year to process:

“As a result of the actions taken by the Government to deal with the massive backlogs and unacceptably long wait times, FSW applications will be processed in approximately one year.”

“We will not be able to remain competitive and attract the skilled immigrants we need if we allow backlogs and wait times to grow again. That’s why we are capping application intake and focusing on specific occupations that are experiencing labour shortages in Canada. This will also help us transition nicely into the just-in-time immigration system of the future,” Kenney added.

Conf Board of Canada Says Immigrants Diversify Economic Growth

Saskatoon’s famous Broadway bridge at night. A recent Conference Board of Canada report finds that for each additional 481 immigrants in Saskatchewan, there was an increase of $30 million in imports and $41 million in exports at the provincial level (Jay Van Doornum)

A new report by the influential Conference Board of Canada finds that immigration contributes to diversifying trade in provinces. The study looked at the relationship between immigration in the province of Saskatchewan, and the countries which Saskatchewan traded with.

It found that in Saskatchewan, having resident immigrants from a particular country was linked, at the provincial level, to more goods being exported to and imported from that country.

The study’s author believes that there are two ways through which immigrants affect trade: their preferences for native-country products leads to more imports, particularly from their native country, and their contacts in their native country, as well as their knowledge of that country, leads to both an increase in imports and in exports between their adopted country and their native one.

Looking at trade data from the years 2007 to 2011, the researcher found that “Saskatchewan is more likely to import goods from countries that have an increased immigrant presence in the province, regardless of the relative wealth, presence of a trade office, distance, or language spoken in that country”.

The analysis found that a 1 percent increase in the immigrant population is correlated with a 0.32 percent increase in the value of imported goods and a 0.36 percent increase in the value of exported goods.

The report proposes increasing immigration to create stronger trade links with the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and other countries outside North America, in order to diversify the sources of Canada’s economic growth and increase trade.

Furor Over Use of Temporary Foreign Workers at Canadian Bank

The Royal Bank of Canada promised to find new positions for all of the Canadian workers who lost their jobs as a result of being replaced by temporary foreign workers

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) got in trouble with the public last week when several ex-workers came forward alleging they had been replaced by temporary foreign workers.

This week, RBC apologized for the decisions that led to the use of foreign workers in place of Canadians and vowed to rectify the situation.

The incident has sparked an outpouring of long-harboured criticism for the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, which has grown by about 300% since a decade ago, to over 300,000 temporary foreign workers currently residing in Canada.

The federal government took measures to reduce the reliance of Canadian businesses on temporary foreign workers in 2011, by creating a four year limit on the number of years that a foreign national can live in Canada cumulatively as a temporary foreign worker.

That rule change will see its first major repercussion on April 1st, 2015, as hundreds of thousands of long-time temporary foreign workers will for the first time reach their life-time limit on time they can spend in Canada, and be unable to renew their work permits.

It’s expected that Canada will see a major problem with illegal immigration, as those foreign workers over-stay their work permits and continue living and working in Canada illegally.

The objective behind the rule change was to prevent a situation where Canadian businesses use the TFW program to meet their long-term labour needs, and limit its use to what it was designed for: allowing employers to fill pressing labour shortages temporarily until a permanent Canadian solution could be found.

Ontario to Increase Spending on Settlement Programs

The Ontario legislature, pictured above. Ontario’s provincial government has announced increased funding for immigrant-serving organizations in the province in an effort to help new immigrants find employment and adjust to life in Canada

The government of Ontario, Canada’s largest province, announced more funding for settlement services for immigrants on Friday.

The funds will be provided to the Newcomer Settlement Program, which supports 98 organizations that the provincial government says help 80,000 newcomers settle and find jobs in the province.

The Ontario government has been seeking to find ways to help immigrants improve their employment situation and income after findings showed Ontario has one of the largest income and unemployment gaps between new immigrants and the general population in Canada.

Increasing access to settlement services was one of the targets included in the province’s recently published immigration strategy.

Since 2003, the Ontario government has increased funding to settlement programs by nearly 80 percent. Nearly 40 percent of Canada’s immigrants settle in Ontario.