Liam Dolan

Chair of Restaurants Canada Liam Dolan says the temporary foreign workers program should be audited, not suspended. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The chair of Restaurants Canada is upset the federal government has suspended the temporary foreign worker program because of concerns raised at a few restaurants out West.

"We're just disappointed in how you can cut off one industry right at the knee caps," said Liam Dolan, who's also a Charlottetown restaurant owner. "It's no different than anything you do, any business or any programs of anything that's out there, you have to audit it."

The federal government made the decision to suspend the program late last week after concerns were raised at a few eating establishments in western Canada. The federal government said it won't reinstate the program until an investigation is completed.  

Dolan said only about two per cent of Canada's million-plus restaurant jobs are filled by temporary foreign staff.

"It's not fair that you had to penalize everybody," said Dolan.

Dolan said executives with Restaurant Canada, which he said represents 30,000 restaurants across Canada, are consulting with the federal Employment and Social Development Department. 

Dolan said he has used some of these workers at his restaurants because of struggles finding experienced cooks. He noted in November, he placed an advertisement on Kijiji and the government employment website for a cook. Dolan said he received 13 applications from locals. He said none had the level of experience he wanted, but he tried some of them out. Dolan said some quit and others he let go. He said this is the sort of situation where he'd turn to a temporary foreign worker. 

Dolan hopes a solution can be reached within the next two to three weeks, in time for restaurants to get ready for the busy summer period.