TFWP up for discussion at national chamber AGM 

Whistler Chamber refocuses advocacy efforts in wake of election

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - REFOCUSING Whistler Chamber CEO Val Litwin said temporary foreign workers were a recurring topic of discussion at the national chamber AGM.
  • File photo
  • REFOCUSING Whistler Chamber CEO Val Litwin said temporary foreign workers were a recurring topic of discussion at the national chamber AGM.

Being scheduled for just two days before Canada's federal election, there was much discussion of the immediate future at the 2015 Canadian Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting on Oct. 17 and 18 in Ottawa.

"There was lots of talk around the election, and specifically working with a new government," said Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Val Litwin, who represented Whistler at the AGM.

"Certainly from the Whistler perspective we're excited to work closely with Pamela Goldsmith-Jones and the Liberal government to further some of these issues."

But of course, there was plenty of talk about the long-term picture as well, specifically in regards to Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

"There were three resolutions that hit the floor on that particular visa stream, and we made sure to chime in and make sure the Whistler and mountain community perspective was heard and understood," Litwin said.

The three resolutions — asking the federal government to address issues in foreign worker programs, provide support for transition in the seafood processing industry and make significant changes to the TFWP — were passed.

They will now go to the chamber's policy committee where they will be wrapped into one policy.

Among the changes the national chamber will now advocate for are easier processing of TFW applications for high-demand jobs and a better understanding of the different labour markets in Canada.

"It was an encouraging result for sure, and a sanity check in that we're not the only community," Litwin said.

"There's literally dozens of communities coast to coast that are suffering or experiencing the negative effects of those changes two summers ago."

Another resolution of interest to Whistler is the idea to offer GST rebates to Americans visiting Canada.

The resolution proposes a three-year pilot project that would make international road travellers eligible for a rebate of five per cent GST on goods exported from Canada.

"This is a terrifically sound policy," Litwin said. "We know that when things are more affordable here American tourists are going to come here and spend more, so this is definitely a win for tourism."

In a more general sense, Litwin said he was encouraged by the increase in green technology or sustainability resolutions to hit the floor this year.

"There seems to be a rising awareness that there is more to a healthy economy than just oil and gas and pipelines," he said. "That there is time and energy and resources that should be invested into sustainable technologies and biotech and some of these areas."

And while the Whistler chamber has dedicated countless hours to lobbying Canada's former government in regards to the TFWP, Litwin said it remains to be seen if the transition will stunt the process.

"Maybe we're pushed back, or maybe we're farther ahead than we think," he said. "I think this Liberal government has already demonstrated its willingness to be in much more intimate conversation with Canadians and to be a better listener than the previous government, so I take this as a positive sign."

Litwin and the Whistler chamber won't know exactly who to direct their advocacy efforts towards until Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau announces his cabinet on Nov. 4.

"With all the diligent work Pamela Goldsmith-Jones has been doing in the corridor to get her head wrapped around some of these issues, I think she'll be very up to speed," Litwin said.

"We expect to have a very strong advocate and teammate in Pam."



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