09/25/2014 07:10 EDT | Updated 11/25/2014 05:59 EST

Alberta mayors frustrated over changes to temporary foreign worker program

EDMONTON - Mayors from small town Alberta say they are getting more and more frustrated with the federal government over changes it has made to the temporary foreign worker program.

Alberta Urban Municipalities Association president Helen Rice says federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney doesn't seem to get why businesspeople in the province are upset.

The group is holding its annual convention in Edmonton this week.

Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman says it's frustrating that the two members of the federal cabinet calling the shots on this, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Kenney, are both Albertans.

Ottawa is considering lifetime bans and heftier fines for employers who violate the rules on temporary foreign workers.

The federal government overhauled the program in June to ensure Canadians are first in line for jobs and making it more difficult for employers to hire temporary foreign workers.

"Hello? Are you listening to us out there? You know, this is a guy that federally represents Alberta. Like what part of this is hurting us does he not understand?" Rice said Thursday to applause.

Many mayors say businesses will have to close within a year, when the contracts for the current crop of workers runs out.

Kenney has said if provinces such as Alberta don't like Ottawa's crackdown on temporary foreign workers, they should be spending more federal transfer funds on vocational schools.

(CHED, The Canadian Press)