When word came down a few weeks ago that Prime Minister Trudeau was about to announce changes to his cabinet, I kept my fingers crossed that Minister Boissonnault wouldn’t be among the displaced since he had a good grasp on tourism issues and was dedicated to championing our sector’s recovery. Moreover, his other portfolio in finance was extremely helpful in finding support for many initiatives put forward by our industry.
For lobbyists like me, cabinet shuffles can be a giant pain in the butt, especially after spending countless hours educating and developing relationships with key ministers who finally understand our sector only to be punted to another portfolio. Alas, the long cycle of briefings, relationship building, and advocacy begins all over again.
At the same time, changes in cabinet can be advantageous, as is the case with Minister Boissonnault. After being shuffled from the Tourism and Finance portfolios to Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages, the minister was back in BC for the third time in just over a month announcing an adjustment to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFW) that Tourism HR Canada, go2HR, our national partners at TIAC, along with TIABC and its provincial counterparts, as well as other sectors have been calling for in recent years.
This week the feds launched the Recognized Employer Pilot (REP) to help to reduce the administrative burden and simplify the hiring process for repeat TFW employers who demonstrate a history of complying with program requirements.
As you are aware, most employers need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before they can submit a work permit application to hire a temporary foreign worker to confirm there is a need and prove that no Canadians or permanent residents are available to do the job. It also ensures that the employer’s job offer is legitimate and that the employer has complied with TFW requirements to protect workers.
To participate in REP, employers must have a minimum of three positive LMIAs for the same occupation over the past five years from a list of occupations that have been designated as in-shortage and supported.
Employers who become recognized will gain access to LMIA validity periods of up to 36 months, and if required simplified LMIA applications to hire additional workers in the future. While stage one for the agriculture sector begins in September, other industry sectors including tourism can start applying in January through until September 2024.
Employers who are expected to meet REP eligibility criteria will be proactively invited to apply using a dual-purpose LMIA application that contains a request for the application to be used to apply for recognized status under REP and for the LMIA at the same time.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will determine REP eligibility based on the employer’s history with the TFW Program. Should an employer not receive recognized status, they can still use the TFW program and have their LMIA’s assessed as per usual.
There is one additional wrinkle in BC that employers must contend with to hire a TFW if they’ve not done so previously…namely a certificate of registration issued by the province (unless using the Provincial Nominee or International Mobility programs). Unfortunately the certification process takes a minimum of three months.
Although the Recognized Employer Pilot is only for three years, it’s a positive development to help more tourism employers find the help they need to operate at full capacity. If successful, rest assured that TIABC and our sector partners here and across the country will push for a permanent recognized employer program for obvious reasons.
I have yet to meet the new tourism minister (Hon. Soraya Martinez Ferrada) who hails from Montreal but have reached out to connect soon. In the meantime, I’m counting on Minister Boissonnault (in his new role) to help BC’s tourism industry address its labour challenges given his knowledge of our sector, as well as the strong relationship he’s built with several tourism sector and business leaders in our province. In this case, shuffling Minister Boissonnault may be a good thing for our sector after all.