Some foreign workers' stays extended to two years 

Minister says problem was brought home by Whistler visit

By Vivian Moreau

Some foreign workers will be allowed to stay in Canada up to 24 months, federal minister Monte Solberg announced today (Feb. 23) in Vancouver.

Up to now foreign workers hired through the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) initiative who work in B.C.’s service industry had to leave after 12 months. The LMO program involves businesses who have proven they have been unable to hire suitable staff in Canada and then appeal to the federal government in order to hire appropriate staff. Changes to the program do not affect foreign woker visa restrictions, in which workers are restricted to 12 months. The change to the LMO system is effective immediately, as are other improvements to the program, such as an online rather than mail-in application process for employers that will streamline the process, the minister said.

Solberg, previously the citizen and immigration minister, switched portfolios recently to human resources and social development but still shares responsibility for finding solutions to Canada’s lack of workers with his replacement, Diane Finley. In a telephone interview Solberg said the problem of understaffing was made abundantly clear to him in a visit to Whistler last fall.

“As we walked around Whistler and talked to store owners it was clear just how difficult it was to find and keep temporary workers,” Solberg said. “I’ve got to know friends in Whistler pretty well,” he added, “and they’ve been very persistent on this issue and it’s nice to be able to finally deliver on that commitment that we made when we first met about five months ago.”

Solberg said as a Western Canadian the changes have particular significance.

“It’s quite near and dear to my heart and many people in my own community (Medicine Hat) were in exactly the same boat as people in Whistler so it was great to be able to stay on the issue and work with Diane Finley to get the job done.”

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