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Canada reviews Temporary Foreign Worker priorities

canadian foreign workers
Source: CFIB, Agri-business survey, Dec. 18, 2023–Feb. 7, 2024, n = 544. Question: In the last 12 months, has your agri-business hired foreign worker(s)? (Select one). Notes: 1. Respondents that selected ‘Don’t know/Unsure’ and ‘Not applicable’ are not displayed. 2. * Small sample size (<40).

TORONTO, June 12, 2024 /CNW/ – As Ottawa is looking to overhaul its Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, most agri-businesses (59%) say they would be in favour of a multi-employer work permit as an option, to enable employers to share a foreign worker, finds new research by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). However, the majority of agribusiness owners don’t support sectoral and/or regional work permits whether it’s under the current (59%) or a new program structure where a third party would recruit and dispatch a pool of foreign workers (50%), as they fear such permits could facilitate employee poaching and hinder retention.

“While government is reviewing its TFW program, it needs to consider the practical needs of agri-businesses and the future of Canada’s food security,” said Juliette Nicolaÿ, CFIB’s policy analyst. “Farmers are already struggling with chronic staffing shortages and when they turn to foreign labour, it’s only as a last resort because they can’t find anyone locally. That’s concerning given Canada’s ageing population and a perceived lack of interest among Canadian workers in a career in agriculture.”

CFIB data found that three in 10 agri-businesses hired foreign workers in 2023. The reliance on foreign workers is even more pronounced in certain regions, such as Quebec (51%), and sub-sectors characterized by labor intensive tasks, such as the fruits, vegetable and horticultural specialties (64%). According to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), among employers who hired TFWs, 92% said foreign workers helped them meet demand for their products or services, while 89% said that TFWs helped them stay in business. 

Myths surrounding TFWs

There are many misconceptions around the program such as that TFWs aren’t paid sufficient wages or they’re mistreated by their employers. In fact, most (85%) TFWs are paid the same wage as Canadians, and only 3.5% are paid less. The federal government also conducts regular inspections to ensure health and safety of foreign workers, with 94% of employers inspected found to be compliant on 26 different criteria, according to ESDC.

“While there may be isolated bad actors that should not be tolerated, agri-businesses highly value foreign workers, and they take time and effort to bring TFWs to Canada. They cover costs that go beyond wages like housing, transport, and health care. It is also common for farmers to have the same TFWs come back year after year. Some also sponsor foreign workers to become permanent residents,” said Francesca Basta, CFIB’s research analyst.

To improve the TFW program’s efficiency, the federal government should consider:

  • Reducing red tape associated with hiring TFWs, notably streamlining the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process
  • Allowing for the sharing or transferring foreign workers as an option (e.g., multi-employer work permit)
  • Indexing the housing deduction to inflation – it is currently $30, which does not reflect real housing prices
  • Allowing employers to match the wages offered by another employer with an LMIA in the same area to strengthen retention and curtail poaching. Provisions under the Employer Compliance Regime currently limit this.
  • Reimbursing the employer for the costs associated with the administration and enforcement of the compliance inspection, should the LMIA not be issued
  • Introducing a mechanism to compensate initial costs covered by the employer whose employee has been poached and streamlining access to new TFWs.

Read the full Harvesting a solution: Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) key to mitigating agricultural labour shortages report here.

About CFIB

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at