‘Overwhelming interest’ in new immigration stream for Alberta’s hospitality industry: province

Click to play video: 'Concerns raised about new immigration stream benefiting Alberta’s hospitality industry'
Concerns raised about new immigration stream benefiting Alberta’s hospitality industry
WATCH: A new immigration stream aimed at temporary foreign workers went into effect this month in Alberta – designed to fill jobs in the hospitality sector. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, concerns are being raised about workers being exploited – Mar 22, 2024

The provincial government says there has been “overwhelming interest” in a new immigration stream benefiting Alberta’s hospitality industry since it started March 1.

The Alberta government wants to more than double the size of the tourism economy by 2035 and has given the industry its own dedicated immigration stream.

It’s aimed at temporary foreign workers who are already working in the tourism industry and want to stay in Canada permanently.

Temporary foreign workers will be eligible if they’ve worked in tourism and hospitality for at least six months and have a permanent job offer from an employer.

“I know that the intake was overwhelmed with applications in its first day, which to me suggests a lot of demand,” said Tracy Douglas-Blowers, president of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association.

“We also know there are a number of workers who came to Alberta either through the temporary foreign worker program or as Ukrainian evacuees who want to stay and continue to contribute to the hospitality industry, and employers who very much want to keep those people who have built up their skills and committed themselves to the industry,” Douglas-Blowers said.

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Questions remain about new rules around Temporary Foreign Workers

She says things are looking better when it comes to job vacancies.

“We’ve definitely seen an easing of the labour shortage that many of our members have been experiencing over the last few years, which is great news,” Douglas-Blowers said.

Jason Foster is an associate professor of human resources and labour relations at Athabasca University and director of Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta. Foster has concerns with the program.

He supports the idea of more avenues for temporary foreign workers to find permanent residency but he’s worried that the program increases workers’ vulnerability and dependency on their employers.

“Now, not only is their temporary residency dependent upon keeping their employer happy, now their hopes of being able to stay here permanently depend upon keeping their employer happy, and that is a situation that can make workers very vulnerable to mistreatment and exploitation,” Foster said.

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He says some employers take advantage of workers’ lack of knowledge of the system.

“There are employers that quite regularly will hang their work permit status or their potential to become permanent over their heads. We hear that a lot,” Foster said.

He suggests that governments need to create criteria that the workers can achieve independently of any specific employer so workers can reduce their reliance on a specific employer.

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Temporary foreign workers receive Canadian citizenship

The province says, with the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program Tourism and Hospitality Stream, a valid job offer from an eligible employer belonging to a sector association helps ensure the legitimacy of the business and job offer, contributing to fraud prevention measures.

“The program is committed to safeguarding against abuse and misuse, actively collaborating with federal and provincial/territorial counterparts. With overwhelming interest in the new stream, a staged intake process has been adopted to manage applications effectively, with subsequent stages to be announced soon,” said Muhammad Yaseen, minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism, in a statement to Global News.

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Temporary Foreign Worker changes in Alberta

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