02/03/2015 09:20 EST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 EDT

Tories Quietly Give Alberta A Foreign Worker Crackdown Exemption


OTTAWA - Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney says Ottawa is willing to extend to other provinces the measures it has given Alberta for some of its temporary foreign workers.

In a letter to Conservative MPs last week, Kenney says the federal government is giving a one-time exemption to temporary foreign workers in Alberta from being counted under the cap on low-wage workers, provided they meet strict criteria.

Kenney says this will allow employers to apply for renewed Labour Market Impact Assessments while their existing temporary foreign workers pursue permanent immigration.

As well, Kenney says in the letter that Citizenship and Immigration Canada will provide a one-year bridging work permit to TFWs who are subject to the four-year limit.

The letter says this should provide some relief to employers who have TFWs that have already applied for immigration and are in the queue waiting for their applications to be assessed.

The Alberta Federation of Labour says the Conservative government has caved in to pressure from low-wage employers who want to hold on to "exploitable" temporary foreign workers for a longer period of time.

"Last June, the Harper government promised to limit the number of TFWs that low-wage employers could use. But now, they’ve quietly broken their promise and changed the rules," AFL president Gil McGowan said in a news release Tuesday.

McGowan said this new plan from the Harper government is “cynical, sneaky and mean-spirited” because they have tried to dress it up as an act of kindness to the thousands of TFWs who face the prospect of deportation as soon as April 1.

April 1 is the deadline for workers under the program who have been in Alberta since 2011 or earlier to leave the country in accordance with the new Labour Market Impact Assessment criteria.

“The sad truth is that most of the low-skill TFWs in question will never qualify for permanent residency under the federal government’s Express Entry program because it has a point system that gives preference to workers with high skills and high levels of education,” McGowan said.

But Kenney said that the measures are not exemptions to the TFW program.

"So this is a little tweak to assist people who are in most cases probably going to get permanent residency anyway. It just allows them to stay in Canada until that decision is made," Kenney said to reporters after Question Period Tuesday.

"If other provinces have a similar circumstance where they have a backlog in their immigration program and they have a similar concern, we're willing to extend the same policy to them in principle."

Kenney said Alberta had the largest problem because they had a large backlog in their nominee program for immigration.

The federal government introduced new rules in June to limit the number of foreign workers that large- and medium-sized companies are permitted to hire. The changes are aimed at ensuring Canadians are first in line for jobs.

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