Temporary foreign worker applications drop 74% since new reforms

The government's overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is proving to be successful, says Employment Minister Jason Kenney, whose department has recorded a 74 per cent drop in applications this July and August over the same period in 2012.

Employer applications to hire foreign workers plummet following program reform

Employment Minister Jason Kenney says the government's reforms were designed to ensure the Temporary Foreign Workers Program would only be used as a last resort by employers. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Applications for temporary foreign workers have dropped by three-quarters following the new rules introduced by the federal government in June, says Employment Minister Jason Kenney.

"We announced a fundamental sweep of reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program earlier this year to ensure that it is used as a last and limited resort and that Canadians always come first in the workforce.

"Since those reforms were announced we've seen a 75 per cent reduction in the number of applications in temporary foreign workers on the part of employers," Kenney said during question period on Tuesday.

Alexis Conrad, the director general for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, says the reforms are proving to be successful.

"The number of applications received in July and August 2014 is approximately 74 per cent lower than those received over the same time period in 2012," said Conrad in an email to CBC News.

The new rules require employers not to cut down the hours of Canadian workers or lay them off at work sites that employ temporary foreign workers.

"Applications that do not include this commitment will not be processed," Conrad said.

The new rules have received a cool reception from employers in Alberta and Nova Scotia who say they can't find Canadian workers to fill low-skilled jobs.

NDP employment critic Jinny Sims said that employers are still laying off Canadians in favour of temporary foreign workers, despite the new rules.

"Canadians are getting tired of this smoke-and-mirrors policy making. When is the minister going to fix this badly broken program and protect jobs for those living in Canada?" Sims said during question period.

As CBC News reported earlier this month, the federal government is investigating a large electrical contractor in Saskatchewan over allegations it laid off 58 Canadian electricians while keeping temporary foreign workers on the job.

Kenney said it is "illegal" for employers to lay off Canadians and replace them with temporary foreign workers.

The new rules also bar employers from hiring low-wage temporary foreign workers in regions where the unemployment rate is above six per cent, and will require employers to cap the number of foreign workers they hire at 10 per cent by 2016.