Wawota, Sask. skpic

Gerald Duff runs 2nd Street Easts in Wakota, Sask., about 210 kilometres southeast of Regina. He says the oil patch pays high wages and it's tough to find a cook to work in his restaurants. (Google Maps)

The cancellation of the federal government's Temporary Foreign Workers program for the food industry is hitting one small-town Saskatchewan business hard. 

Gerald Duff runs a restaurant, 2nd Street Eats, in Wawota, a town of 700 in the oil patch, about 210 kilometres southeast of Regina.

He has struggled to hire a full-time cook because working in the oil industry is more attractive for people in the area.

Duff was weeks away from hiring a foreign worker from Albania — but says now that won't happen.

After concerns were raised in recent weeks about Canadian workers losing their jobs to temporary foreign workers in several provinces, Employment Minister Jason Kenney put the program on hold.

Duff said his prospective employee had already been waiting for months for her paperwork to get approved. 

"She just emailed me and says she doesn't understand why Canada needs help finding employees ... and they're making it difficult to come help," he said.

According to Duff, the labour pool in rural Saskatchewan just isn't the same as it is in larger cities. He said he put ads online for a new cook, but after five months, there were just three replies — and they didn't work out.

"I'm the only cook. So if I get sick or hurt for 'x' amount of days we could lose our business, 'cause we have to shut down and have no income coming in," Duff said.

Instead of scrapping the program, federal authorities should keep it going and then do a better job following up on the workers, he said.