In an effort to see out-of-work Albertans hired to fill vacant positions, Premier Jason Kenney’s UCP government will be asking the federal government to suspend large sections of its temporary foreign worker program for the next 12 months.
“It is extremely difficult to justify employers looking outside Alberta to bring people into a labour market in the midst of a crisis,” the premier said during a media briefing Monday afternoon.
The move is part of his government’s economic recovery plan, which also includes $10 billion in infrastructure spending and accelerating the province’s corporate tax cut.
According to the latest jobs numbers from Statistics Canada, more than 365,000 Albertans are unemployed.
More details are expected to be released in the coming weeks, but Kenney said the proposed suspension would affect the vast majority of occupational categories.
The premier’s plan is raising some concerns in Alberta’s restaurant industry.
“We certainly don’t want to see businesses shut down and Canadians be thrown out of work because they don’t have enough staff,” said Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada’s vice-president, for Western Canada.
While von Schellwitz agrees priority should be given to out-of-work Albertans, there are communities that simply don’t have enough people.
“There are certain instances — in certain communities, for certain occupations — where access to those local jobs just isn’t there,” von Schellwitz said.
According to Adrienne South, press secretary for the Minister of Labour and Immigration, temporary foreign workers currently working in Alberta would not be impacted by these changes, and some exemptions to the restrictions would be put in place, namely positions in the areas of caregiving, emergency response, hospitality in the mountain parks and agriculture.
As of December 2019, there were 10,188 temporary foreign workers in Alberta, 62 per cent of them were working in the service industry.