Politics

CFIB wants temporary foreign worker program replaced by special visa

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is calling on Ottawa to replace its controversial temporary foreign worker program with a visa that would provide a path to permanent residence for entry-level employees from abroad.

Business group says employers would rather hire permanent workers

The CFIB's proposed new visa would give foreign workers in entry-level categories an opportunity to work with an employer for two years as a defined step towards permanent residency. (CBC)

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is calling on Ottawa to replace its controversial temporary foreign worker program with a visa that would provide a path to permanent residence for entry-level employees from abroad.

The organization says in a report released today it's proposing the Introduction to Canada Visa that would address labour shortages for small businesses.

CFIB president and CEO Dan Kelly says the temporary foreign worker program has been legitimately criticized for using TFWs to fill permanent labour market needs.

In an interview with CBC News, Kelly said the CFIB is urging government to ``build something that is on the rails of the permanent immigration system rather than the temporary one.``

He added that small businesses would much rather hire permanent workers, but the immigration system doesn't allow them to hire people with entry-level skills.

The Canadian economy needs workers at all skill levels, Kelly said, adding that addressing labour shortages is critical to small businesses.

“I want to challenge this assumption that if employers just raised wages, that all of a sudden this problem would go away,” Kelly said.

He gave the example of the grocery store or restaurant operating in a remote area where workers are attracted to highly paid natural resources jobs.

“There are lots of sectors of the economy where that is just not possible — the business would shut down because it’s not sustainable at that wage level, and secondly, even where they have increased their wages there are parts of the country and sectors of the economy that people are just not rushing to do for other reasons,” he said.

The CFIB's proposed new visa would give foreign workers in entry-level categories in areas with labour shortages an opportunity to work with an employer for two years as a defined step toward permanent residency.

Kelly also said that under the proposals any company seeking to hire an entry-level worker from abroad would have to employ a Canadian employee at the same wage.

He also said the CFIB proposal would include more protection for employees than the TFW program.

“If the employer is not meeting up to their commitments, then the employee would be able to change jobs but remain within the region or remain within the sector and find an employer that does meet their obligations,” Kelly said.

With files from CBC News

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