P.E.I. farmers hoping for a normal season as more temporary foreign workers arrive
'We feel like it's very safe'
Temporary foreign workers are starting to arrive on P.E.I. for the agricultural season and farmers are less anxious than they were this time last year about whether they'll have enough help.
Last year, producers were short roughly 100 workers, says Robert Godfrey, executive director of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture. In an average year, about 400 workers are brought in to help agriculture producers.
The federation said that this year, a system is in place to safely have workers here in the province and that P.E.I. will "be back to a more normal year in terms of numbers."
Godfrey said the goal is to have foreign workers fly directly from their country of origin on charter flights to Halifax, where the P.E.I. government will arrange transportation to the Brudenell resort for a 14-day isolation.
Accommodations, meals and wages will be cost-shared (by way of rebate) by the employer, the province and Ottawa.
I would say that P.E.I. has probably led the country in terms of being very proactive with a centralized location.— Robert Godfrey
Also, workers must complete a COVID-19 test before they board the aircraft for Canada, complete another test when they land in the country and then complete a test on day one and another on day 10 — provided they were negative all the way through — before they're able to leave and go to the farm.
"We're focused on keeping Islanders safe, but we're also focused on keeping the labourers that are on those farms all year-round safe as well," he said. "We feel like it's very safe."
If workers do land in Montreal or Toronto, though, they may be subject to a three-day isolation there. Godfrey said they are working with the federal government and the province to allow workers to bypass to P.E.I. to self-isolate here instead.
"I would say that P.E.I. has probably led the country in terms of being very proactive with a centralized location … where you've got all your temporary workers — whether they're going to a seafood plant or a farm — where you have a provincial nurse on staff that's there to monitor for symptoms," Godfrey said.
The federation is still awaiting confirmation on how temporary foreign workers can be vaccinated on P.E.I., as the province has removed the requirement for an Island health card.
Godfrey said the federation's understanding is that foreign workers can book an appointment just like any Island resident.
The province's Department of Health told CBC News that "it is preferred that any non-residents visiting with approval in any of these categories be vaccinated prior to arrival in P.E.I."
However, a spokesperson said, "every person in Canada is entitled to getting the vaccine and P.E.I. will have sufficient supply for all who need it here."
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With files from Kerry Campbell