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August 16, 2006

CCA calls for speed up of residency program

TORONTO

The Temporary Worker Program needs to lengthen the list of allowable occupations to include more construction trades, requests the Canadian Construction Association.

Statistics have led to an increase in an unprecedented demand for labour within the construction industry

“The problem we see with it is that oftentimes, the occupancy classifications used by the government to bring in people often disfavours construction workers in favour of say, more skilled workers,” said Jeff Morrison, director of Government and Public Affairs with the CCA.

From April 2004 to March 2005, the number of foreign workers arriving in Canada for labour was 2,322. From April 2005 to March 2006, the number was 4,936.

“I think that’s reflective of the strength of the industry in that time period, where over the past two years or so, the industry has been booming, and that has resulted in some labour shortage problems,” said Morrison.

“So clearly, some contractors are using this program, but we still think some changes can be made so that the process can be sped up.”

Currently, the temporary foreign program does allow companies to bring in foreign labour when they can no longer find qualified Canadians.

“We’ve been asking for changes, for example, they put more eligible trades on the list of occupations that come in under that program, so more foreign construction workers can use that to come into Canada,” Morrison said.

To the CCA, it is more about speeding up the approval process to get workers into Canada. The process takes three to four months to approve any number of foreign workers, as opposed to Australia’s, which takes three days.

“When you’re trying to bring someone in on a temporary basis, and having to wait three or four months, you are defeating the purpose a little bit, especially in the seasonal industry like construction.”

Three main concerns have arisen from the demand for more labour: the strength of the construction industry; convincing younger Canadians to enter the industry and several policy issues hindering the process of acquiring workers.

“The fact is most parents, teachers and guidance counsellors still see construction as a dirty industry or an occupation of last resort and are therefore not pushing it or recommending it,” noted Morrison.

“The federal government has to be more proactive in using its embassies, its contacts to actively search out foreign construction workers that can come.”

Meantime, the Canadian Bar Association says the program is not meeting the needs of labour-hungry employers. The association, which includes 800 immigration lawyers, reports that the program makes employers provide worker housing, pay return airfare, and doesn’t let workers bring families or eventually apply for landed immigrant status.

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