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MP Weiler eyes labour solutions to start second term

Career and Training Expo set for Nov. 9 and 10 in Whistler
labour Weiler Nov 2021
MP Patrick Weiler speaks at an event in Squamish on Wednesday, Oct. 27.

With a new federal cabinet now in place, Whistler’s MP Patrick Weiler is settling in for a second term, with regional transit, housing and action on climate on his personal work plan—but at the top of the list is addressing labour shortages in the riding.

It’s not a new issue in Whistler, but one that has been increasingly pronounced due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, as well as access to affordable housing and childcare, among other things, Weiler said.

Recent discussions with local business leaders have focused on getting more international workers—which typically make up about a third of the local labour force—back to the resort, he said.

“Some of the restrictions in international visitation for double-vaccinated travellers … that’s starting to open up, which is great,” Weiler said.

“Of course, it can’t come soon enough, as we’re now in the middle of the shoulder season.”

One of the initiatives Weiler is working on stretches back to at least 2015, when past Whistler Chamber CEO Val Litwin led an advocacy drive to secure accurate labour market data for Whistler.

At the time, Litwin argued Whistler, with its less than two-per-cent unemployment rate, should not be lumped in with the Lower Mainland region, which typically has a rate of over six per cent (for the purposes of accessing the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program).

Near the beginning of the pandemic, Employment and Social Development Canada, the branch of government responsible for the TFWP, limited applications to the program, and instituted a blanket six-per-cent unemployment rate across the country.

“Which we know in Whistler isn’t true,” said Brooke Finlay, partner and managing director at Whistler Immigration, who raised the issue in a recent meeting with Weiler.

In fact, accommodation and food sector businesses across the country are facing severe labour shortages, Finlay said.

“So what’s actually happening and the reality of the labour market isn’t reflected in the current TFWP directive, and that’s creating a lot of hardship for employers, specifically when it comes to back-of-house and kitchen, as well as housekeeping and room attendants—that’s a huge one,” she said.

Weiler said the government was “getting very close” to localizing the data prior to the pandemic, adding that active discussions are happening right now with Statistics Canada, “so that’s something I hope to be able to update on very, very soon.”

Helping the cause is the fact that the ministers in charge of the TFWP and Stats Canada (Carla Qualtrough and François-Philippe Champagne, respectively) did not change portfolios in the Oct. 26 cabinet shuffle, and won’t need to be brought up to speed on the current struggles, Weiler said.

“So I would say it will be pretty soon, because it’s really a matter of getting the data in place,” he said.

“It’s not a big policy change that needs to take place, [and] it’s not a particularly controversial one.”

Another issue raised by Finlay relates to “wildly inaccurate” estimated processing times on the International Experience Canada (IEC) website, which in some cases shows wait times of up 70 weeks or more when in reality applications are being processed in six to eight weeks.

Weiler noted that capacity has been added to IEC to enable faster application processing, and there is a Working Holiday Visa approval rate of more than 90 per cent, provided applicable quotas haven’t been met.

But “there are still challenges with the people travelling to and from certain countries,” he said, using New Zealand and Australia as two examples.

“It’s still very difficult to travel in and out of those two countries, which is going to continue to be a complication.”

The government is also working on a “trusted employer stream” and a municipal nominee program for the TFWP to speed up the process for employers, Weiler said, adding that he’s excited to work with Sean Fraser, Canada’s new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), on the new initiatives.

“He has the experience in Atlantic Canada with a similar pilot program that was made for that region that’s been very, very successful, and he’s an incredibly talented and articulate person,” Weiler said. 

“So I think he’s going to be very effective in being able to deliver on some of these new programs.”

There is also work underway at IRCC to modernize the global case management system to help speed up processes for employers, Weiler added.

“So as we’re getting through the pandemic, there aren’t going to be the same type of obstacles,” he said.  “We’re going to deal with the backlog as well as modernize the system going forward … I’m quite confident that we’re going to be able to get the type of international workforce in Whistler that I know is so, so critical for businesses.”

While the immigration initiatives now in the works likely won’t bear fruit before the upcoming winter, WorkBC and Whistler Personnel Solutions are hosting a “Career and Training Expo” at the Whistler Conference Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and Thursday, Nov. 10 to connect businesses and workers.

“It’s going to be a lot more than a traditional job fair actually—more of a ‘plan your best life’-type of an event for residents who are looking to build a life and career in Whistler,” said Whistler Personnel Solutions’ Jacki Bissillion, in an email.

“In addition to career coaches and businesses, we will also have reps from lots of colleges and training programs as well as experts from housing authority and immigration firms there to answer questions and help people figure out which career path is the best one for their long-term needs.”

Local workers, job seekers, high school students, seniors and others in the community will also have a chance to learn about how to build a lasting career with Whistler’s top employers; talk to reps from local schools, organizations and colleges who offer courses and training; find out about available funding for training and continued education; and meet with career coaches, discuss career pathways and get help with resumes and cover letters.

Attendees can also win door prizes at the event, and sign up for interviews and courses on the spot.

Local employers who are interested in participating in the event’s Career and Job Gallery—which will give them a chance to highlight their company and any open positions, as well as connect with potential employees—can find more info at

With just 50 spots available, employers are encouraged to reserve a spot ASAP.