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TFW program backlash complicating food-processing labour shortage: industry group

FILE - In this March 29, 2012, file photo a worker sorts cuts of beef that are used in the manufacturing process of lean finely textured beef.
FILE - In this March 29, 2012, file photo a worker sorts cuts of beef that are used in the manufacturing process of lean finely textured beef. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

EDMONTON — Officials say the backlash against the temporary foreign worker program has made Ottawa leery of finding a new way for the food-processing sector to get the people it needs to fill vacant jobs.

Mark Chambers is with an industry group that has presented a plan to the federal government on how it should deal with a labour shortage.

It calls for a new program to make it easier to hire foreign workers who would become permanent residents of Canada and ultimately citizens.

READ MORE: Jason Kenney under fire as controversy rages over temporary foreign workers 

Chambers says the idea is a political hot potato because Ottawa wants the industry to hire Canadians to fill vacant jobs in slaughter and processing plants in rural areas.

He says the problem is that Canadians just don’t want the jobs.

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READ MORE: Who hires temporary foreign workers? You’d be surprised 

The meat industry estimates it is currently short about one thousand workers and the situation will get worse in July when the federal government is to cap the number of new foreign workers that companies can hire at 20 per cent.

The Canadian Meat Council says the shortage is jeopardizing the industry at a time when government is working to bolster agriculture.

The industry group hopes to meet with federal officials this summer.