The last 5 years have seen unemployment rates grow substantially in both the United States and Europe.  Governments in these jurisdictions have accordingly taken several steps to reduce the flow of foreigners into local labour markets.  Canada stands out as an exception to the general rule, where it continues to facilitate the entry of foreigners to Canada’s labour market. 

The Federal Government has in recent years worked both on its own and in collaboration with various provinces across Canada to aid in the entry of foreign workers to Canada.  A good example is the Alberta-Canada Temporary Foreign Worker Program Pilot Project which is aimed at addressing existing and forecast labour shortages in Alberta, particularly in the skilled trades.  The Federal Government took this initiative following consultations with Alberta employers and review of its own labour market forecast to identify potential shortages. 

The pilot project was originally launched on June 1, 2011 and applied to Steamfitters and Pipefitters. The project allowed employers to hire individuals with this qualification into Canada without the requirement for a Labour Market Opinion (“LMO”). An LMO is normally a prerequisite to an approval of a work permit. The document requires that employers demonstrate that they have made sufficient efforts to hire a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and that no such individual is readily available prior to requesting that a foreigner be provided a permit.

The pilot project represents in essence two major changes: (1) It did away with the requirement for an LMO and (2) It allows an individual who is subject to a work permit to move between employers without the requirement for a further opinion from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (“HRSDC”).

Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism on July 16th of this year announced an expansion to the program. It has specifically been expanded to cover a series of additional occupations including Welders, Estimators, Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanics, Carpenters, Ironworkers, Millwrights, and Industrial Mechanics.

The announcement makes it clear that the Federal Government is determined to continue to grow the number of foreign workers in Canada in order to respond to ongoing labour needs. The trend is clearest when one looks at the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada, which now consistently exceeds the number of permanent residents allowed into Canada each year. Given these programs, not only will the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada continue to grow, but the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is likely to become an increasingly important doorway to permanent residency.