Rules Eased For Hiring Foreign Workers

Rules eased for hiring foreign workers (updated 2:36 p.m.)
List of 170 occupations will shave three weeks from application process

Sarah ODonnell,
Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Conservative government will make it easier for Alberta businesses struggling with labour shortages to hire temporary workers from other countries, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Monte Solberg said today.

He said companies in Alberta and British Columbia seeking workers for a broad list of 170 jobs will no longer have to advertise as extensively for Canadian workers to convince the federal government of the need for outside help. The occupations range from physicist to food counter attendant.

The list of 170 occupations is available at

It doesnt matter whether youre in Camrose or Calgary, Edson or Edmonton, Help Wanted signs are everywhere, Solberg said. And you know, when it starts to affect our ability to go to Tim Hortons and get a double-double, it ceases to be a laughing matter.

Temporary foreign workers, once largely used by the construction industry looking for skilled tradespeople, are now being recruited by seemingly every sector of the economy, including the service industry.

Service Canada, a branch of the federal government which handled applications for about 20,000 temporary foreign workers in Alberta last year, expects to receive about 40,000 by the end of 2006. Canada accepted almost 100,000 temporary workers in 2005.

To bring a worker into Canada, a company must first get approval from Service Canada, a branch of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. That means they have to prove there are no Canadian workers available to do the job.

Businesses that receive favourable opinions must then apply to Citizenship and Immigration for work permits. The length of those work permits varies from one year to three, depending on the job.

In the past, businesses have been required to advertise for a month across the country to prove there are no available workers.
Now, for jobs that are on the list of hot commodities, that requirement is replaced by one week of advertising on the federal Job Bank or proof of other ongoing recruitment methods.

That should carve up to three weeks off an application process that typically takes 13 to 17 weeks, Solbeg said.

The exact list of occupations under pressure will be maintained on a regional basis.

As of today, only Alberta and B.C. are covered by the list. But Solberg said other provinces facing workers shortages in certain sectors might also be interested in a tailored list.

Alberta is facing a shortage of 100,000 workers within the next 10 years. Solbeg said B.C. is making similar predictions. Yet many businesses have complained in the past year about the lengths they must go to in order to prove to the federal government that they face a shortage in their field.

Lina Heath, vice-president of operations for Eveline Charles Salons & Spas, said her company is interested in hiring workers from outside Canada, but to date has been thwarted by the complex process.

This is a relief that the process will be simpler, Heath said.

But labour leaders raised concerns about growing use of temporary labour.

Workplace writer Sarah ODonnell will have more on Solbergs announcement in Thursdays Journal.