Jeremy Harrison

Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan Minister of Immigration, said the federal changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program do not look good for the province. (CBC)

Business and political leaders in Saskatchewan are not happy with new rules for the federal government's controversial Temporary Foreign Worker program, announced Friday.

The program has been the subject of intense scrutiny after it was revealed that some employers were using it as a source of inexpensive labour.

The reforms to the program, however, are not getting universal praise.

"This is a gross over-reaction to a handful of negative stories," Marilyn Braun-Pollon, a vice-president for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement released Friday. "Thousands of businesses that are unable to attract a sufficient number of Canadian workers are losing a critical lifeline. It will likely lead to business closures and, ironically, lost jobs for Canadian workers."

Saskatchewan's Immigration Minister said he is disappointed with the changes, which include caps on how many workers a company can hire under the program — if their business is eligible to use it. Jeremy Harrison said it appears many Saskatchewan firms will not be allowed to use the program.

"We were hoping that there would be a recognition of local labour market conditions, which we haven't seen," Harrison said. "We're still going through the fine details, in terms of all the details of the announcement, but in the overall we're quite disappointed with this."

Harrison said he will contact the federal government and try to get it to recognize Saskatchewan's need for thousands of workers.

Leaders from Saskatchewan's labour sector were also critical of the changes, arguing the federal government has ignored a more fundamental issue when it comes to immigration and jobs.

"Though we’re certainly pleased that the government finally recognizes that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program cannot be allowed to continue in its current form, we are disappointed more fundamental problems are not being addressed," Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president, Larry Hubich, said Friday. "No amount of tinkering with the program can change the fact that conferring a ‘temporary’ status upon migrant working people needlessly exposes them to exploitation and abuse. Instead of ‘temporary’ workers, we should be developing a more robust program for full, pro-active immigration."