(Recasts with announcement of changes)
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, June 20 Restaurants operated by
McDonald's Corp and others in Canada will face tough
restrictions on bringing in temporary foreign workers under
reforms announced by the government on Friday to address an
outcry over perceived abuses of the system.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney introduced the changes
after news reports said that foreign workers had displaced
Canadians working at some McDonald's outlets. The subsequent
backlash had spurred the government to suspend a program under
which restaurants could bring in any number of temporary foreign
The program had been designed to help provide labor for the
booming resource industry but ended up mushrooming in the
low-skill fast-food industry, raising questions about whether
this was good for the economy or fair to Canadians who could not
"Sometimes they don't bother calling young Canadians who
drop off their resumes, and that really ticks me off," Kenney
said of employers using the program.
Here are highlights of the changes he announced:
- Low-wage temporary foreign workers will be able to make up
no more than 10 percent of the work force of companies with 10
or more employees, as of mid-2016. In a transition period,
foreign employees will be frozen at 30 percent of a work force
or at current levels, whichever is less, and then at 20 percent
- In areas with an unemployment rate of 6 percent or more,
temporary foreign workers will not be allowed to fill the
lowest-wage, entry-level positions.
- The government fee per foreign worker will rise to C$1,000
($930) from C$275, for required "labor-market impact
assessments," which will now only be valid for one year instead
- Employers seeking to hire high-wage temporary foreign
workers will have to submit transition plans to demonstrate how
they will increase efforts to hire Canadians through higher
wages, training and/or more active recruitment.
One goal of the reforms is to shift the emphasis back to
bringing in higher-skilled foreign employees and not just as
many foreign workers for low-wage jobs as companies can hire.
"Countries in the western world that have based their
migration policies on large numbers of low-skilled people have
ended up regretting the economic consequences," Kenney told a
Asked about the example of meat-packing plants that are
unable to operate at full capacity because of labor shortages,
he responded: "Yes, we could expand our GDP and our economy
almost infinitely if we just opened up our borders to...an
infinite number of new people, but this is not a sensible
economic or immigration policy."
The new rules will cause problems for some restaurant
owners, he said, but he pointed to resource boom areas in
Western Australia and North Dakota, where, he said, restaurants
are operating without cheap foreign labor.
(Editing by Peter Galloway)