Sterling Peyton, president of the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce, is concerned about speculation that the federal government will make it more difficult to hire temporary foreign workers.

Peyton says temporary foreign workers are essential to the operation of many businesses in Labrador, and are actually some of the most long-term employees in the local economy.

After CBC News reported on stories last month about Canadians losing out on jobs to foreign workers and some foreign workers allegedly being mistreated, the government put a moratorium on the program while it was reviewed.

Peyton said these foreign workers are so crucial to the operation of some businesses in Labrador that without these workers, some businesses may not be able to stay open.

"A lot of these people that are temporary foreign workers stay around for a longer period of time, but it's only because we just can't find the Canadian citizens to fill the jobs. So until we can do it, we have to have the program."

New federal rules expected

CBC News has learned that during a closed-door meeting with labour groups on Thursday, federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney presented some likely reforms to the program to make it harder to hire temporary foreign workers.

There are two key aspects to the government's expected plan. It will make business owners pay temporary foreign workers more than Canadians, in an effort to encourage these businesses to hire local workers.

Additionally, the ability for a business to access temporary foreign workers will be linked to its region's unemployment rates. If a business is in an area with high unemployment, it will be less able to hire foreign workers.

Peyton said businesses in Labrador want to hire locally, but there are not enough local people applying for food and customer service level jobs.

Many business owners did not want to comment publicly until the changes became official.

However, some told CBC News they thought paying foreign workers more could be unfair to the Canadians they employ, or it would be too costly and hurt their businesses.

Others said it would not concern them because they already pay foreign workers more than required.