Foreign worker program benefits some N.B. businesses

Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program is working for many New Brunswick Business Council members, says the organization's president.

However, new policy needed to eliminate abuses, says business council president

Around 400 New Brunswick businesses have applied for the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program. It appears to have worked for some, but not others. 2:21

Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program is working for many New Brunswick Business Council members, says the organization's president.

Susan Holt says a number of companies are using it, even though their intention is not to hire someone temporarily.

She says it helps businesses keep jobs in New Brunswick, instead of moving the work elsewhere.

The program has come under fire in recent weeks, after reports of some companies taking advantage of foreign workers and others giving them preferential treatment.

"The original intent of the program was to support more seasonal, more point-in-time working needs, whether it was a few months for an agricultural season, that kind of thing," said Holt.

Immigration lawyer, Lee Cohen, says it could be time to scrap the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. (CBC)
"So there's been a shift in usage from the community that I work with, and there's been no policy program that they could use otherwise. That's leaving out a sector of the economy right now that is mid-wage, mid-skill level. We can't get them approved under a skilled-worker category, [and] they end up in the temporary foreign worker category."

Holt says the program should be tweaked to eliminate abuses, and a new policy created to drive community and economic development.

She says the council is working on recommendations for the federal government to improve a system she says just doesn't make sense for New Brunswick employers and their foreign employees.

But immigration lawyer Lee Cohen says it may be time to scrap the program.

"On the one hand, these temporary foreign workers seem to be important enough to be working in our country," said Cohen.

"There may be a need here to actually eradicate the temporary foreign worker program and replace it with permanent resident status."

400 businesses applied

Meanwhile, more details are emerging about some of the 400 New Brunswick businesses and organizations that applied to the program between 2010 and 2012.

CBC News called 21 of those companies.

Some, such as the Crowne Plaza in Fredericton, say they never followed through with plans. Others didn't succeed in their applications.

A few companies, such as Fredericton's Brewbakers, Cora, and CertaPro Painters, say they no longer have any foreign workers.

Ambulance New Brunswick said it had used the program for two individuals since its creation in 2007. A qualified foreign professional made the request of ANB, and it had a vacancy it was unable to fill through Canadian recruitment efforts.

Fredericton's York Care Centre hired between six and eight workers from the U.S. and the Philippines, when it says it couldn't find LPNs or nurses it needed in Canada.

And J.D. Irving-owned Kent Homes told CBC News that it explored the program as an option three years ago, but did not pursue it. The company decided to dedicate its efforts to working with local schools to set up an apprenticeship program.

The Horizon Health Network says it has used the program for fewer than 25 individuals since 2007, and that was only for foreign physicians.