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Willow Creek MD reviews letter on temporary foreign workers

Municipalities across southern Alberta have heard about problems created by changes to the temporary foreign workers program, and are expressing those concerns to the federal government.
MD of Willow Creek council reviewed a letter Oct. 8 by Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Employment and Social Development and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.
“The mayors and reeves of southwest Alberta write to express a concern regarding manpower shortages in our region and to propose solutions which we hope you will seriously consider,” Spearman wrote. “We represent the City of Lethbridge and 36 towns and municipalities in the southwest corner of Alberta.
“In the current calendar year, we have seen job vacancies of approximately 500 per month,” Spearman added. “Local employers have experienced difficulties filling these jobs. At the same time, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is being administered in a manner that results in employees’ work permits expiring and not being renewed, thereby aggravating the problem.”
Spearman said municipal councils are informed on an ongoing basis of individual situations where temporary foreign workers are being forced to return to their countries of origin when their work permits expire.
“They do not want to leave, and their employers want them to stay,” Spearman added.
Spearman told the ministers while the mayors and reeves support and encourage hiring Canadians first, in a situation of manpower shortages, the non-renewal of work permits for those already here appears unnecessary and insensitive.
Spearman listed solutions to the shortage of skilled and unskilled workers proposed by the mayors and reeves:
• Provide incentives to compensate unemployed Canadians who come to work in Alberta from other provinces in Canada.
• Provide automatic renewal of work permits for temporary foreign workers currently in Alberta when their work permits expire.
• Significantly increase the annual immigration quota for Alberta in order to meet the current and projected demand for workers.
• Provide incentives and programs that support workplace training and employment for our Aboriginal population.
“The issue of manpower shortages in Alberta is one that requires immediate attention from our federal government,” Spearman wrote. “The Province of Alberta offers exceptional opportunities to Canadians and new immigrants. By way of this letter, we urge you to consider solutions and strategies that will be of assistance to our communities in our efforts to attract and retain much needed employees to support economic activity in our communities.”