Five Things I hope Jason Kenney Brings to the HRSDC Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Meurrens LawImmigration Trends

On July 15, 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled his cabinet.  From an immigration perspective, the important changes are:

  • Steven Blaney replaces a retiring Vic Toews as the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
  • Chris Alexander replaces Jason Kenney as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
  • Jason Kenney replaces Diane Finley as the Minister of Employment and Social Development (formerly Human Resources and Skills Development Canada).

The Ministry of Employment and Social Development is a huge ministry, responsible for developing, managing, and delivering social programs and services.  In addition to overseeing the Labour Market Opinion aspect of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Minister Kenney will also be responsible for Employment Insurance,  the Canada Student Loans, the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, the national Homelessness Initiative, and more.  He will be managing the delivery of over $87-billion in programs and services, and will oversee approximately 24,000 employees.

In hindsight, Jason Kenney’s appointment to be Minister of Employment and Social Development is not that surprising.  On April 29, 2013, he gave a press conference regarding changes to the Labour Market Opinion program.  More recently, he gave Service Canada the power to issue what are in effect Ministerial Instructions, and he recently introduced regulatory amendments providing the Department with incredible powers to enforce foreign worker compliance.

As someone who interacts with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program on an almost daily basis, I have published below five things that I would like to see Minister Kenney change about the Labour Market Opinion process.  In making these requests I have taken into consideration the dual objectives of both protecting the Canadian labour market while ensuring that Canadian employers have flexibility to employ the people who they want.  I have also taken into consideration the needs of ensuring the Department runs efficiently and effectively.

  • Publish the Temporary Foreign Worker Manual (the “Manual“) and any Regional Reference Materials and Program Bulletins online in the same way that Citizenship and Immigration Canada publishes (most) of its manuals online.   What is currently online represents less than 1% of the Manual.  While some representatives (including me) are lucky enough to have obtained copies of the Manual and other internal guidelines through ATIP requests, most practitioners do not have these.  The result is that many employers submit applications which are guaranteed to fail, or are not as comprehensive as they can be.  This results in unnecessary refusals, and is a waste of resources.
  • Charge a (reasonable) fee for Labour Market Opinions, and use the money to hire more staff to process applications.  Before you introduce the fee, however, amend the Application for a Labour Market Opinion form(s) so that they clearly state at the top that applications will be refused if the prevailing wage rate and recruitment effort standards are not met (unless a variation applies).  Include in the forms links to those requirements.  To many people do not understand what those requirements are and that they are mandatory for most Labour Market Opinion applications.
  • Issue clear directives as to when Service Canada needs to be notified of a change in employment.  Employers currently have no idea what counts as an STS breach, and if they need to notify Service Canada of every raise, foreign worker business trip, change in duration of employment, over-time hour worked, and additional job duty added.  Service Canada has recently voiced concerns to the Canadian Bar Association that they are being bombarded with unnecessary updates from employers regarding individual employees.  At the same time, however, a Foreign Worker Officer reportedly raised STS concerns with an employer who transferred an American supervisor home because the supervisor had trained a Canadian to replace the foreign national.
  • At the same time, start enforcing compliance.  It is hard to believe that after two years not a single employer has been added to the Employer Blacklist.
  • For some reason, Service Canada recently removed the local Temporary Foreign Worker Program call centres.  The ability to contact the local offices (who generally could answer the phone within minutes) was great for getting urgent files expedited and material where it needed to be.  Instead, we are now being told that the call-centre people aren’t even in the same city as where applications are being submitted.  In the past year I have had LMO’s expedited for urgent mine repairs and for multi-million dollar contracts.  The local call centre staff were instrumental in getting this done.  As well, they often could amend a LMO in about five minutes.  We are now being told that this is no longer possible, and that formal applications need to be faxed in.  This is a tremendous waste of time and resources.

Finally, on a non-immigration note.. please don’t raise the amount that I have to pay towards the Canada Pension Plan.