Critics blast suspension of Temporary Foreign Worker Program for food sector

The owner of an Ottawa bakery says the federal government's attempt to prevent abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in the fast-food industry will have a wider negative impact on specialty workers in the restaurant sector.

Attempt to prevent abuses in fast-food industry will have wider effect on specialty workers: critics

Claude Bonnet is the owner of Moulin de Provence bakery in the ByWard Market. (CBC)

The owner of a ByWard Market bakery says the federal government's attempt to prevent abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in the fast-food industry will have a wider negative impact on specialty workers in the restaurant sector.

Claude Bonnet, owner of Moulin de Provence, said the decision for an immediate moratorium on the food sector's access to the program is a "big mistake" that will hurt small and specialized food services like his own. 

"I think it's too far," he said. "We're not all the bad apples … It's very drastic, too drastic."

Bonnet said his business needs bakers with experience to make specialty items but that it's "very difficult" to find workers locally. Under the moratorium, he can no longer apply to hire workers from France.
A baker decorates cookies at Moulin de Provence. (CBC)

Bonnet said he trains workers to make pastries, breads and other specialty items but it takes time.

"McDonald's is a fast-food business. You and me, we can cook at McDonald's in three days. In my profession, in my business, I need six to eight months to give the keys to the chef. You know, to run the operation," he said.

Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced the moratorium Thursday afternoon, following CBC's Go Public series of stories reporting how some franchisees at McDonald's were allegedly abusing the program.

Food service industry group criticizes 'broad-sweep approach'

Restaurants Canada said the majority of restaurant owners using the program follow the rules and that the "broad-sweep approach" to curb abuses will hurt the industry.

Joyce Reynolds, a vice-president with Restaurants Canada, said she has been working with the government to restore the integrity of the program.

"We are 100 per cent behind government investigations into any type of abuses to the program. The program is too important to allow misuse of the program to taint the entire program," she said.

The restaurant industry in Canada employs 1.1 million people, only two per cent of which are temporary foreign workers, Reynolds said.