The federal government's changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program could be bad news for small businesses in Alberta, says a Calgary immigration lawyer.  

Ottawa announced on Monday that employers will no longer be allowed pay foreign employees up to 15 per cent less than the average wage.  

The Conservative government is also freezing a program that sped up the ability of companies to bring in workers.  

Evelyn Ackah, whose firm helps businesses navigate immigration law, said bigger firms will be at an advantage under the new rules.

"We're very blessed that this province is doing as well as it is, but with that comes the challenge of staffing. And for small businesses, you know, how do we compete with oil and gas companies that are offering things that small businesses can't offer."

Ackah said Ottawa’s new policies will drive up already high costs associated with recruiting workers, be they high- or low-skilled.

"I think some businesses may decide to close, at the end of the day it’s not worth it to continue to have staffing shortages," she said.

"We work for some restaurants that can never fill enough kitchen helper, server jobs."

According to the federal government, the changes are meant to ensure Canadians get first crack at job opportunities.