Some midway rides have been secured for this weekend's Chesterville Fair after Billy G Amusements pulled out, citing staffing problems because of issues with applications to Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker program.
Other midway companies, including Gable Bros. Shows, Crown Amusements and Bubble Bounce Inc., stepped up to help Chesterville at the last minute with nine pieces for all ages, including a mixture of inflatable and mechanical rides.
All-day bracelets will be available on site for $20, and any fair-goers who purchased advanced ride bracelets for the Billy G midway will receive full refunds, according to the Chesterville & District Agricultural Society.
Twice already this summer, the Mississauga-based Billy G Amusements has been a no-show at eastern Ontario fairs — first at Maxville in June and then at Almonte last weekend.
Company owner Bill Gordon concedes he is partly to blame for the string of cancellations, but said his biggest issue has been finding people willing to move around during the summer and set up and operate the rides.
Last year he said he had 14 temporary foreign workers on his payroll for six months to do the work
He applied again this past December but after an overhaul to the controversial program in June he had to reapply.
The revamped program barred employers from hiring foreign workers in regions where unemployment is high and included a more stringent screening process for employers to prove they need to hire a foreign worker over a Canadian one.
Gordon said the application is still in limbo.
"I went to five fairs the other day and I showed them everything I was doing and I said 'I can't do it,'" said Gordon.
Gordon said with the nomadic lifestyle of a carnie, local labour is unreliable.
"In Milton I hired 18 kids, trained them, one-on-one, and come Sunday I had five people," he said.
Other midway also having staffing issues
Randy Homeniuk, the owner and operator of Homeniuk Rides, said last year he hired 13 workers from Mexico through the Temporary Foreign Workers program to set up, operate and take down his rides for the 25 week season from May to October.
This summer he said he is also struggling to find workers.
"Sometimes we can't put up as much equipment as we like. We don't have the man power to assemble them and operate them safely," he said.
Both companies now say they may downsize operations.
A spokesperson for the Minister of Employment and Social Development said they can't comment on individual cases but said they are working with various industries to try and improve the program.