EDMONTON - Alberta Jobs Minister Kyle Fawcett says Ottawa's plan to reduce and cap the number of temporary foreign workers will harm Alberta — and by extension, the rest of Canada.
"We're very concerned about the impacts, particularly on a micro, macro and a regional economic level," Fawcett told reporters Friday.
Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced changes to the temporary foreign worker program that could cut the number of those workers in half by 2017.
Among the changes, medium and large-sized businesses will be allowed to have no more than 10 per cent of their staff made up of temporary foreign workers.
The contracts for low-wage workers will be reduced to one year from two. There will also be increased enforcement and higher fines for companies that break the rules.
Fawcett said he applauds the increased oversight, but said Ottawa can't adopt a "one-size-fits-all solution."
Alberta created more than 80 per cent of the jobs in the country last year and the new rules need to address the unique needs of each region, he said.
"The West is in a unique position compared to some of the provinces in the East, and just regionally in our province we've seen some huge differences between the ability to recruit and retain workers in some areas of the province as compared to others."
Alberta has the highest job vacancy rate in the nation, with many businesses already struggling to find workers, Fawcett said, adding Ottawa is removing one of the few tools his province has to fill jobs.
"We're going to be short 96,000 workers over the next decade," said Fawcett. "Our problem is not a temporary problem. It's a permanent problem.
"We want the federal government to sit down and have a conversation around how we address the permanent labour challenges in our province."
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