August 10, 2020 By Western Agriculture Labour Initiative (WALI) (edited)
Last week, Carla Qualtrough, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced $58.6M to strengthen the Temporary Foreign Worker program. Few details were provided at the time of the announcement. Through calls with Minister Bibeau and government staff, the Western Agriculture Labour Initiative (WALI) has provided the following information:
Details to be determined on funding to “improve health and safety”
The federal government will be consulting with the provinces and industry regarding the $35M portion of the funding allocated to “improve health and safety”. While no details have been provided on what this will include or how it will be administered, WALI understands that the funds are intended for “immediate, short term issues”.
On “Imminent improvements to housing”
Comments attributed to Minister Qualtrough regarding “imminent improvements to housing” appear to have been misunderstood by the media. The Minister’s office has confirmed that they are engaging with the provinces (who are responsible for housing standards) and industry before any changes are made.
Housing changes could be costly
The government is aware that any significant changes to housing could be very costly and that government may need to assist employers.
Standards not yet clear
WALI’s understanding is that the primary issues being raised are improving worker privacy, livability and comfort levels. The details are not yet clear on what this means, what standards they are being compared to or what the objectives are.
Current housing forms will be accepted for 2021 LMIA applications
ESDC staff have confirmed that for LMIA applications now being completed for the 2021 season, current housing inspection forms will be accepted. Note that WALI is working with the B.C. government to see how the pre-occupancy inspection process will align with the provincial COVID inspections.
CHC starts working group to improve housing conditions
The Canadian Horticulture Council (CHC) has started a small working group that is in contact with ESDC to provide input on improving conditions in ways that do not negatively affect farm businesses. WALI is participating in this group and is committed to providing good housing for workers.
WALI thanks CHC for the work being done on this file.
Western Agriculture Labour Initiative (WALI) works with employers and governments to enable employers to find adequate domestic workers and continually improve working conditions for temporary workers. WALI is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BC Agriculture Council. For more information, visit walicanada.ca
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