TFW cap impacts labour shortage: Kobly

Think Alberta’s labour shortage is severe now? Wait until July 2016. That’s when the federal government’s cap on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers that a business can employ will have been ratcheted down to 10 per cent of its workforce — a reduction that, when combined with Alberta’s current labour shortfall of about 50,000 people, will leave a provincial deficit of 90,000 employees.

Think Alberta’s labour shortage is severe now? Wait until July 2016.

That’s when the federal government’s cap on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers that a business can employ will have been ratcheted down to 10 per cent of its workforce — a reduction that, when combined with Alberta’s current labour shortfall of about 50,000 people, will leave a provincial deficit of 90,000 employees.

Those are the numbers Ken Kobly tossed around on Wednesday, when the president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce spoke at a luncheon meeting of the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.

“The casualties are coming,” said Kobly of the likely impact on businesses.

He cited the results of a recent survey spearheaded by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, which found that 91 per cent of respondents felt they had exhausted every option to find Canadian workers. Fifty-eight per cent said it was likely that they would have to reduce their hours of operation, and 23 per cent said closure of their operations was likely.

Businesses are already being shuttered as a result of the labour shortage and the new restrictions placed on Canada’s temporary foreign worker program, said Kobly.

“Business owners are getting tired of working 14-, 16-hour shifts,” he said.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that while Alberta has an unemployment rate of 4.4 per cent — only about 0.5 percentage points above the level that economists consider full employment — the labour market is much different in other parts of the country.

“This issue is a regional issue,” said Kobly. “No different than the regional issue that Quebec has, and Quebec has control over their immigration policies.”

He accused federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney of overstating the number of temporary foreign workers in the country and understating the wage increases in Alberta’s food service industry.

“We don’t underpay in Alberta,” said Kobly. “The reality is we’re forced not to, simply because there’s a huge competitive labour market.”

Kobly also said it’s a myth that temporary foreign workers cost less than Canadians to employ. The price tag to recruit and bring in one foreign worker is between $11,000 and $14,000, he said.

“Given a choice, Alberta businesses would dearly love to hire Albertans first and Canadians, and only are going to guest workers as a very last measure.”

There are employers who have abused the system, acknowledged Kobly. But these could be addressed through increased enforcement rather than broad rule changes.

Other unwelcome changes to the temporary foreign worker program include big increases in the application and renewal fees, and penalties of up to $100,000, he said.

For its part, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce has been lobbying for an Alberta solution to the problem.

“Unless the federal government realizes that this is a regional issue and sends the cavalry, we’re going to have some issues in this province; huge issues,” said Kobly.

And those issues will impact more than just the businesses that rely on foreign labour.

“For those of you who don’t use temporary foreign workers, this issue is going to affect you too, because when we hit 90,000 job vacancies I can tell you that it’s going to affect your business as well.”

Kobly was later asked if he thought the temporary foreign worker program should serve as a path to Canadian citizenship.

“My personal opinion is if you’ve got a temporary foreign worker or guest worker who’s worked for two, three or even four years, and they’ve paid their taxes and stayed on the right side of the law and become part of their local community, they should be allowed to stay here.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Updated: SUV smashes through fences and deck in Anders

Driver taken to hospital after SUV veered off 30th Avenue into Anders

Art on Red Deer billboard a reminder of aboriginal women’s strength

Joane Cardinal-Schubert’s image is part of Resilience Project, shown from coast to coast

Red Deer’s new ‘equity co-ordinator’ will promote tolerance

Andrea Lacoursiere was hired by city with Alberta Human Rights funding

More bridge work this summer in Red Deer’s Coronation Park

The park’s north bridge is being rebuilt to ensure safety

Man badly injured in off-road vehicle collision on Saturday

Incident happened in Mountain View County about 10:50 p.m.

CFIA inspects after video shows pigs crammed into B.C. transport truck

The video shows pigs piled on top of one another in a transport truck on a “sweltering” hot day last week

Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber falls to Bryce Harper in Home Run Derby final

WASHINGTON — Nationals Park was eerily quiet late Monday when Kyle Schwarber… Continue reading

Lava crashes through roof of Hawaii tour boat, injuring 23

HONOLULU — An explosion caused by lava oozing into the ocean sent… Continue reading

Banff holds blessing ceremony with Indigenous elders before letting bison roam

BANFF, Alta. — Several Indigenous elders were flown by helicopter into the… Continue reading

Research expedition looks at unseen depths of Labrador Sea ecosystem

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Last summer, a team of scientists returned from… Continue reading

Protesters camped outside Saskatchewan legislature taking province to court

REGINA — Protesters camped outside the Saskatchewan legislature say they are taking… Continue reading

British PM accepts key amendments from hardline Brexiteers

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accepted amendments to… Continue reading

‘City of icebergs:’ Study says 100s of Arctic glaciers shrinking, disappearing

The statistics in her recently published paper say it all: hundreds of… Continue reading

U.S. hits back with WTO challenge against Canada’s retaliatory tariffs

OTTAWA — The United States fired back Monday at the Canadian government’s… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month