December 20, 2022 By Andrew Snook
While there are many challenges that come with running a greenhouse operation, there are two issues that affect growers from coast to coast: rising energy costs and labour woes.
Although energy costs have certainly risen over the past three years (along with the costs of just about everything else), it is the shortage of labour that has really come into focus. While labour struggles were not uncommon before the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the past few years have placed a spotlight on the need for temporary foreign workers (TFWs), skilled labour and aggressive immigration policies to support Canada’s economy.
Immigration was down significantly in 2020 and 2021, as the federal government attempted to manage the spread of COVID-19. This has resulted in Canada experiencing one of its worst labour shortages in recent history.
In 2022, the country welcomed a record 405,000 new immigrants to try and offset those losses, while also announcing Canada’s 2023-2025 Immigration Levels Plan. This plan has set new record targets in each subsequent year with 465,000 new permanent residents in 2023; 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024; and 500,000 new permanent residents in 2025. The Government of Canada stated that there will be an increased focus on small towns and rural communities. The Feds also stated that it will be “using new features in the Express Entry system to welcome newcomers with the required skills and qualifications in sectors facing acute labour shortages such as, health care, manufacturing, building trades and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).”
This is good news. While the sector relies heavily on TFWs, there is also a need for skilled workers, and that need will only grow as operations continue to embrace automation and analytics. Labour will never be removed entirely from the sector, but the push to automate as many aspects of operations as possible to optimize efficiencies and reduce labour costs is happening. People with STEM skills and other skilled trades will be part of that solution.
But circling back to TFWs, what has the government done to assist growers in expediating the process of attracting more workers? Well, for one, it’s approving more workers through the TFW program.
According to The Globe and Mail’s recent article, “Employers are rushing to fill jobs with temporary foreign workers,” employers received approvals for approximately 45,200 positions through the TFW program. Of those approvals, more than 10,000 were for “general farm workers.” The total number of approvals was the largest for the TFW program in recent history (the article showed approved positions dating back to 2017).
Another way the government has been assisting the sector in attracting TFWs can be found on Employment and Social Development Canada’s website, which states that from Jan. 12, 2022 to June 30, 2023, it suspended its minimum advertising requirements for employers applying for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to hire TFWs in primary agriculture. Has this helped you resolve labour issues? Drop me a line, I’d love to know.
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