Government of Alberta Announces Plan to Restrict Access To The Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Authors: Scott Bell, Kaitlin Ward, Jean Torrens

On June 29, 2020, the Government of Alberta announced its plan to reduce the occupations in which employers can hire temporary foreign workers under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program (the “TFWP”) as part of its larger Recovery Plan.

Further details on the Recovery Plan can be found in our Government of Alberta Announces Relaunch Grant and Recovery Plan blog.

Prior to COVID-19, the Government of Alberta had already identified 24 occupational categories under its TFWP “refusal to process list”.  If an Alberta employer sought to secure a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) in relation to one of those listed occupations, the application would be refused for processing. A full list of the original 24 restricted occupations can be found here.

As part of its Recovery Plan, the Government of Alberta intends to add dozens of additional occupational categories to the “refusal to process list,” further restricting access to the TFWP in Alberta.

The Government of Alberta’s purported intention for this action is to ensure there are more employment opportunities for Albertans. Although protecting Canadian employment is important, certain industries in Alberta that rely heavily on temporary foreign workers will be particularly impacted. Tourism, hospitality, outdoor adventure companies, and agricultural operations greatly rely on temporary foreign workers to fill positions that suffer regular labour shortages. Restricting access to the TFWP may be problematic for those business if common occupations are added to the “refusal to process” list.

The Government of Alberta indicated certain, specialized occupations with acute and proven labour shortages will be exempt from this new policy, and has indicated it will provide further information on included and exempted occupations in the coming weeks. We will provide updates on these issues as soon as the Government of Alberta releases further details of its plans.

If you are concerned about losing access to the TFWP, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our immigration or labour and employment team to discuss your options.