WATCH: Foreign Worker Changes Impact Okanagan Ski Resorts
It is the second largest ski resort in B.C. and it attracts visitors and workers from all over the world.
But this year Big White says it’s got a big problem.
Every year the resort, like many others in Canada, relies heavily on highly skilled instructors from countries like Australia and New Zealand to teach visitors how to ski and snow board.
But this year because of changes to Canada’s temporary foreign worker program, hiring instructors from abroad comes at a cost of $1,000 per worker.
“We normally use 55 temporary worker ski instructors. These are dedicated ski and snow board professionals that we need to run our organization. We can’t afford the $55,000 it will cost this year,” says Michael J. Ballingall.
The senior Vice President of sales and marketing for Big White says the new head tax means more than half of those 55 foreign workers will not be hired back this coming season.
Unfortunately he says it’s a void that can’t be filled here at home either.
“The most important people need to understand Canada does not produce enough ski and snowboard instructors to utilize in ski industry. If there is a full time person that wants to work at Big White or any other resort in Western Canada that is a level three or four they have a full time job offer,” says Ballingall.
Ballingall says the foreign ski instructors are being lumped in with servers in fast food restaurants.
It was their employers who broke the rules prompting Ottawa to act and revamp the program for all foreign workers.
“This is not just a Big White story, this is a Silver Star story, there is Sun Peaks, Revelstoke, Fernie. We are all in this same boat together. This story will have a huge impact on Whistler Blackcomb,” says Ballingall.
The impact is already being felt at Big White.
Ballingall says he’s already lost four highly qualified instructors to American resorts because of the restrictions—and along with them, clients who have cancelled stays at Big White to follow those instructors.
“It has a huge financial impact not only to lift company but restaurants, spas, different activities. People are gone, those holiday makers are gone,” says Ballingall.