Beef industry braces for foreign worker policy changes
Producers worry tighter rules, higher fees will make it harder to find labourers
Some Alberta beef producers say they might not be able to find the help they need after the federal government tightens regulations for foreign workers.
Ottawa announced last month it will make it more difficult and more expensive for companies to turn to the temporary foreign worker program to fill job vacancies in Canada.
"It's hard to find young Canadians that want to work in rural Alberta," said Craig Ference, who operates a 3,500-head cattle ranch near the Saskatchewan border.
Despite offering wages of up to $25 per hour, he said he can't attract enough employees.
New restrictions and delays being added to the foreign worker program will make things tougher, he said.
"If the process gets delayed, like it's going to now … it might take eight months, so by the time the person comes, well it's too late, you've got to do something else to get the crop in or to get the cattle calved," he said.
Rich Smith, the executive director of Alberta Beef Producers, said not being able to hire foreign workers will hurt beef producers and packing plants.
"And some operations would have to reduce their size or reduce their operations. Some of them might not be even able to continue to operate if they weren't able to get the workers they needed," he said.
The Alberta Beef Producers has joined with other industry groups to see how the federal changes might affect their members, Smith said.
According to Ference, hiring foreign workers isn’t about saving money. "We're just hiring them to try and find people," he said.
"So I don't mind paying them. I pay them more than Canadians because we're getting very skilled people, [they] work hard and they're dedicated and they're loyal."
Ference said he might have to scale back his operation because of Ottawa’s new policies.