An apple farmer in Nova Scotia says he’ll have trouble harvesting his crop if new federal rules restrict his ability to hire temporary foreign workers.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced a number of changes Monday that will tighten the rules to fill job vacancies with employees from other countries.

Employers will now have to pay a fee for a labour market opinion, which is required for any operation that wants to hire abroad.

'I believe if we didn’t have them, we’d probably have to close down. That’s pretty simple'

—Ralph Stirling, apple farmer 

On Ralph Stirling’s farm in Grand Pre, just two out of forty apple pickers are from Canada.

"We just couldn’t get enough local people to do the job," he said. "We went to Newfoundland and got a lot of people from Newfoundland to come, but they got older and retired, and the young people are going out west."

Stirling started hiring foreign workers six years ago. Many farmers in the Annapolis Valley have done the same.

"It’s been a big success for us. We really enjoy having them."

Essential help

The farmers were all required to advertise jobs and prove that no Canadians were interested.

Stirling said he pays the foreign workers the same wage as locals. He also covers half their airfare and provides accommodations.

He said they’re essential to his operation during the harvesting season, and credits his foreign employees with saving his business.

"I believe if we didn’t have them, we’d probably have to close down. That’s pretty simple."

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter pins the problem on successive federal governments who have changed EI rules and forced rural seasonal workers to move.

"Doing things without understanding the dynamics of a particular labour force in a region is not the best way for a federal government to do programming for us at least," Dexter said.

Stirling said he’ll follow Canada’s new rules, but the added expenses will hurt his bottom line.

The federal government said it plans to do cross-country consultations to monitor the effects of the new rules.