Yukon takes over temporary foreign worker program

The Yukon government has taken over a program for temporary foreign workers. Now, companies can hire up to 50 foreigners, provided they don't stay more than a year.

Companies can hire up to 50 foreigners if they prove they could not find Canadians

The Yukon government has taken over the temporary foreign worker program from the federal government.

It's a one-year pilot project which business people had been asking for as they wanted a faster way to bring temporary workers to the territory.

Hundreds of foreign workers have already come under the existing Yukon-run nominee program.

The new program will let companies hire up to 50 foreigners, provided the foreign employees don't stay for more than a year.

Some in industry think it's a good policy, while others think the numbers are too high.

Yukon Federation of Labour President Vikki Quocksister said that on some level, every job given to a temporary foreign worker is one less job available to a Canadian

"I think that is an extremely high number. We still have a large unemployment rate in Yukon," she said.

The unemployment rate is just over four per cent, which is half the national average.

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce President Rick Karp said the policy fills a need for specialized workers.

"If you're looking at the mining sector, then you're looking at specific skilled workers if you're looking at skilled trades, we're short," he said.

When this policy was drafted, a big focus was on mining. But with the industry slowing down, Chamber of Mines President Mike Kokiw said the problem isn't too few workers, it's not enough jobs.

"We are looking at a slump in the season, so with people being laid off we are looking for an extra work pool," he said.

To qualify for the temporary foreign worker program, companies must demonstrate they have been unsuccessful in finding Canadian workers.