More changes to foreign working visas on the horizon 

Federal government names Whistler ‘ground zero’ for labour crisis

Whistler employers looking for staff take note: there will be more opportunities to hire foreign workers coming up in the near future.

Human Resources and Social Development Minister Monte Solberg said in an interview last week that the temporary foreign worker program (TFW) will be expanded within the next few weeks or months to allow more non-citizens to work in Canada. The program will open the fast-track visa application process to a wider range of job fields.

Solberg was not able to specify which job fields, but said that the expansion would cover more trades. He added that this is being done to tackle the huge labour shortage seen across the country.

Two months ago, the federal government launched the first round of changes to TFW by targeting the hospitality and tourism sectors. The pilot program sped up the visa application for workers under the TFW program from six months to as little as five days.

According to Solberg, this first round of changes was done directly with Whistler’s labour situation in mind.

“Whistler is ground zero for labour shortages, and having been there and talking to employers, you just see how desperate the situation is,” said Solberg.

“We targeted the tourism and hospitality sectors in the first round and made sure that we made it clear that we wanted to provide those tools to Whistler to help address their needs, not just for today, but also going into the Olympics,” he said.

He added that early conversations with Whistler employers prompted the federal government to help out the hospitality sector.

Solberg will spend the next few weeks meeting with different groups across Canada to get ideas on what other actions the government can take to tackle the labour crunch.

“It is a huge problem. As the population ages, we will need every person we can find who is able to get into the work force. And then we need to provide them with the skills to be successful,” he said.

Louise Lundy, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, said she is pleased with the progress the federal government has made so far.

The chamber has been vocal over the past year on the need to expand several visa programs, including lengthening the Australian working holiday visa from one year to two, an initiative which was also passed in September.

“I think we got our point across, and clearly government is listening, which is really quite exciting…. A lot of the issues that we lobbied on last year have been achieved, which is fantastic,” she said.

Lundy added that the next step for the chamber is to continue pressuring the government to extend the working holiday visa to more countries. Specifically, the chamber would like to see expansions to working holiday visas for the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan.

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