Shortage of workers in Alberta: Find a better solution than TFWP says Calgary economist

WATCH ABOVE: Carolyn Kury de Castillo explains why one Calgary economist says consumers will have to pay the price for the shortage of labour. 

CALGARY- The head of Calgary’s economic development says there needs to be a better solution to deal with the shortage of workers in Alberta than the current foreign temporary workers program.

There are now calls for the federal government to allow Alberta to have its own program to suit our needs.

One Calgary economist says consumers will have to pay the price for the shortage of labour, which means that cup of coffee you buy to start your day, might get more expensive.

According to economist Todd Hirsch, Alberta employers who can’t find enough unskilled workers at their restaurants and hotels are just going to have to deal with it by increasing salaries.

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“This is the way the market is going to have to work it out. Higher wages for those unskilled workers get passed on through higher prices for consumers,” Hirsch said.

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“I think this is the way the market works itself out and there is going to be resistance to that and I think a lot of those small operators are going to face some real challenges,” Hirsch said. “I wouldn’t want to suggest for a second that it’s going to be easy especially for some of the smaller ones that maybe don’t have the same pricing power that maybe larger companies have.

“I think it’s a serious issue and I think a lot of the small operators are going to face some challenges.”

But Bruce Graham, from Calgary Economic Development says groups like them are demanding a “made in Alberta” solution to our province’s labour demands, saying the current foreign temporary workers program doesn’t fit Alberta’s unique challenges.

“It means recognition that what’s happening in all parts of the country are not the same,” Graham said.

In June the federal government introduced new rules to limit the number of foreign workers companies can hire, aimed at ensuring “Canadians” are first in line for jobs. John McCallum, liberal immigration critic told a Calgary immigration forum, the foreign workers program is hostile to Alberta.

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“Not every region, not every industry is the same so there has to be some flexibility in the administration of this program,” McCallum said.

This week the Alberta Federation of Labour claims the workers program has kept wages down in the fast food industry and is now doing the same the same is happening to skilled trade jobs.

The labour group is suggesting changes that would ensure companies have an apprenticeship program before they can bring in foreign workers and any company paying less than the prevailing wage should be banned from the program.

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