August 4, 2014 9:50 pm

Foreign worker crackdown to affect local mountains

VANCOUVER — Ottawa’s crackdown on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program could be affecting the local mountains this winter.

Resorts such as Whistler rely on international ski and snowboard instructors because not enough Canadians apply for the positions, they say. But now, the higher fees and stricter rules means it will cost employers up to three times more to import the skilled ski labour.

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“We have about 1,200 ski instructors here at Whistler Blackcomb, the largest ski school in Canada – one of the largest in North America. And we just can’t find enough Canadians at that level to deal with our international clientele,” Dave Brownlie, Whistler Blackcomb Chief Executive Officer, told Global News.

The resort is responsible for $1.3 billion GDP in the province, but that’s in jeopardy of diminishing since Ottawa has tripled the head tax to $1,000 per year on foreign workers. The resort requires 90 international instructors, and they say the rule change has already cost the operator $4 million.

“It’s unfortunate that some abuses (happened) by a few businesses in a different sector, well let’s deal with that, let’s not whitewash this whole thing and put all our businesses at a disadvantage who are, quite frankly, using the program very effectively,” said Brownlie, referring to abuses in the fast food industry, which helped sparked the reform.

At Kelown’a Big White Ski Resort, the number of international instructors has been scaled back from 55 to 35. “In the ski industry, it’s crippling us. It will cost our industry half a million dollars in visa expenses alone. That’s no one’s budgeted item; we don’t have that type of money,” Big White Ski Resort Vice President Michael Ballingall told Global News.

–With files from Brian Coxford.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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