The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

Canada’s labour market impact assessment is too unpredictable

November 29 2018 29 November 2018

 

The CBA’s Immigration Law Section is taking the federal review of the standards and fees associated with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Labour Market Impact Assessment Process as an opportunity to reiterate its arguments that the process does not serve the interests of employers – and can have a negative impact on the employment of Canadians.

There are knock-on effects when obstacles are placed in the way of prospective employers who want to bring in foreign workers, the Section says. If a meatpacking operation can’t bring in workers for processing jobs where there is a shortage of workers in Canada, for example, that could mean direct and indirect losses in related industries such as transportation, marketing, trade, etc.

“(A)s a result of the inability to hire necessary foreign workers, many employers refuse contracts and pass on growth opportunities that would benefit the Canadian economy,” the Section says in its letter to Employment and Social Development Canada. “Instead of creating more Canadian jobs through growth, these jobs are often exported to other countries, resulting in economic loss for Canada.”

Since the 2014 overhaul of the program, the Section says, the government has failed to adhere to the objectives of the LMIA program, and the test set out in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations – that the employment of foreign workers should have a neutral or positive effect on the labour market, and that reasonable efforts have been made to hire domestically.

“Decisions are often made that do not reflect the Regulations and are contrary to good common sense,” the Section writes. “The redesigned LMIA process treats all employers as potential violators, with no recognition of trusted employers. The intense scrutiny of every application results in processing delays and program inefficiencies.”

The Section is calling for improved training for Employment Contact Centre agents so that they better understand the TFW program, and that they be given the authority to expedite processing when requests are urgent. It also suggests that Service Canada should be required to adhere to “clearly established timely and efficient service standards.”

Noting that the unpredictable and lengthy approval process often means that an employer has to initiate a new application within months of filling a position, the Section also notes LMIAs should support two- and three-year permits, as the current one-year limit  is “not efficient, and place(s) unnecessary strain on all parties to the process.”

The Section notes that processing styles and adjudication are often inconsistent within the same office, let alone across the country. Other issues include applications being rejected for minor deficiencies, additional requirements not included on the website being imposed, and officers displaying a lack of civility when dealing with employers and counsel.

Oh, and it costs too much.

“In our opinion, processing fees are too high for the current level of service … We recommend against introducing premium processing fees at this time and suggest that the primary focus be on making critical process improvements to the TFWP.”

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