Some Canmore business owners and tourism officials are cautiously optimistic about a new federal plan to allow tourism-related businesses to hire more temporary foreign workers than the current cap permits.
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Hotels, stores and restaurants throughout the Bow Valley have struggled to cope with a worker shortage for a long time.
Stricter rules added to the temporary foreign worker program (TFWP) last spring resulted in thousands of employees losing their work visas and being forced to leave Canada.
Donna Trautman, general manager of the Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge in Canmore, says her business is feeling the effect — business is brisk, but there are not enough local workers to hire.
"For housekeeping, it's really tough to find long-term employees from Canada that want to do this," she said. "We were thrilled when we first found out about the TFW program eight years ago."
Tourism officials say they are seeing similar shortages throughout the Bow Valley.
The new plan allows tourism-related businesses to hire more TFWs than the current cap of 20 per cent of their workforce.
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Canmore Business and Tourism president Andrew Nickerson calls that a good first step.
"I think it's going to take another month or so for us to truly hear what the impact has been, in terms of people being able to access it," he said.
The new rules say the new TFWs can only work here for six months.
Employers will have to pay a $1,000 fee for each worker.
Donna Trautman says those workers have been a big help in the past. She says her business is considering hiring more.
"It really filled the shortages, so we didn't sort of have these ups and downs constantly of retraining all the time," she said.