The Government of Canada took steps in 2013 and 2014 to restrict the immigration of foreign workers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Most of these restrictions are universal, not being focused on any one sector or any one trading partner, but the impact may be greatest on low-skill sectors and countries from which workers in these sectors emigrate.
As of July, 2013, all employers applying for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) are required to respond to additional questions on their use of temporary foreign workers to ensure that the TFWP is not used to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs. According to the government, 'This new measure was introduced as a result of concerns in spring 2013 about a situation where temporary foreign workers were alleged to be displacing Canadian workers whose positions were ultimately being transferred to another country.' In response to these concerns, the following questions were added to the LMIA application form:
- Will the entry of these temporary foreign workers lead to job losses, now or in the foreseeable future, for Canadians and/or permanent residents as a result of layoffs, outsourcing, offshoring or other factors related to utilizing temporary foreign workers?
- Is this job offer related to an activity, contract or a subcontract that will facilitate outsourcing or offshoring?
Again according to the Government, 'These questions help ensure that no Canadian workers are displaced as a result of outsourcing. Employers are also required to sign a declaration attesting that hiring temporary foreign workers will not result in outsourcing or offshoring.'
The Government followed up with further changes to the TFWP program and the LMIA process in 2014, taking actions that were variously entered into effect immediately or were phased in over time (see http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/foreign_workers/reform/timeline.shtml). Each of the following aspects of the overhaul would appear prima facie either to increase the burdens on applicants or otherwise to reduce the benefits for foreign workers and Canadian employers:
- Employers are required to provide additional information in the LMIA process, including the number of Canadians that applied for their available job, the number of Canadians the employer interviewed, and explain why those Canadians were not hired. Employers must now also attest they are aware of the rule that Canadians cannot be laid-off or have their hours reduced at a worksite that employs temporary foreign workers.
- Employment and Social Development Canada will refuse to process certain LMIA applications in the accommodation, food services and retail trade sectors. Specifically, any applications for positions that require little or no education or training will not be processed in economic regions with an unemployment rate at or above six percent.
- The TFWP is also refused to process any pending applications for low-wage positions as of June 20, 2014. This refusal to process applications is not applicable in Quebec.
- The duration of work permits set out in LMIAs is limited to a maximum of one year for all low-wage positions, rather than the two-year duration that existed previously. Employers of temporary foreign workers must reapply every year for an LMIA.
- The Government will reduce how long a temporary foreign worker in the low-wage stream can work in Canada. This measure will not apply to temporary foreign workers currently in Canada on valid work permits.
- Employers who want to hire temporary foreign workers in high-wage occupations will be required (with limited exceptions) to submit transition plans with their LMIA application to ensure that they are taking steps to reduce their reliance on temporary foreign workers over time.
- The LMIA fee was increased from $275 to $1,000 for every temporary foreign worker position requested by an employer.