Temporary Foreign Worker Program sanctions Alberta lodging company

The owners of Noralta Lodge Ltd. in Nisku, Alta., have been barred from using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for two years after an investigation found the company provided "false" or "misleading" information in support of their applications for foreign workers.

Noralta Lodge says it 'co-operated' with the 5-month audit

Employment Minister Jason Kenney says he overauled the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to send a clear signal to employers that abuse of the program will not be tolerated and that companies must redouble their efforts to hire Canadians first. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The federal government has barred a lodging company in Alberta's oilsands from using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for two years after an investigation found the employer provided "false" or "misleading" information in support of its applications for foreign workers.

The owners of Noralta Lodge Ltd. in Nisku, Alta., have been publicly "blacklisted" after the government revoked 19 applications for temporary foreign workers, CBC News has learned. The applications or labour market opinions are needed to prove the need to hire a foreign worker over a Canadian employee.

The applications for foreign workers were revoked because "the employer or group of employers provided false, misleading or inaccurate information in the context of the request for that opinion," says a notice quietly posted on the website for Employment and Social Development Canada on Nov. 4.

The names and addresses of five employers are currently on the government's so-called "blacklist" for those who have broken the rules or have been suspended from using the program.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney overhauled the program in June saying more stringent rules were needed to send a clear signal to employers that abuse of the program will not be tolerated and that companies must redouble their efforts to hire Canadians first.​

Foreign workers less than 6% of workforce

Noralta Lodge describes itself as a company with nine lodges that provides "five-star service" accommodation for "thousands of the hard-working men and women" in Alberta's oil and gas sector. 

Blaire McCalla, the communications manager for Noralta Lodge in Niksu, said the company found out about the result of a five-month audit on Wednesday in a letter from Kenney. The audit started in May.

In a telephone interview with CBC News, McCalla said the results of the audit "worry" them, as they "co-operated with the audit process."

McCalla said the 19 applications for foreign workers were for hospitality staff jobs, including kitchen, housekeeping, customer service, front desk and maintenance staff.

She said the company currently counts 560 employees who work in the nine lodges and only 33 of those are temporary foreign workers.

"We pride ourselves on being the first choice for quality accommodation for hundreds of companies across northern Alberta," the company website says.

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, who has called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ease the foreign worker rules because employers in his province are having a hard time filling jobs, said he didn't know about the sanctions against Noralta Lodge.

"I don't know the specifics," Prentice said on Thursday from Regina where he was meeting with Premiers Brad Wall and Christy Clark.

"I've clearly been of the view, right from the beginning, that the federal government should crack down on anyone who is abusing the TFW program and isn't living up to the terms of the conditions."

Kenney has said he has no intention of easing the rules and that the program and been "overused" in Alberta. 

Under the new reforms, the government promised a "more comprehensive and rigorous" screening process. The labour market opinions are now called labour market impact assessments.

Government officials said at the time of the reforms the program counted some 40 inspectors to conduct spot checks and investigate potential violations, but that it would hire 20 or so additional inspectors, bringing the total number of inspectors for the country to about 60 or more.

A discussion paper made public in October outlines proposals for stricter fines and a permanent ban on serious offenders who break the rules.

With files from CBC's Adrian Cheung


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