The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) has had its limit increased by 775, bringing its number of nominees up to 1,500. This is good news for businesses in the province who say they have felt the hit of the labour shortage, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce said.
The program, designed by the provincial government, allows the province to identify potential skilled immigrant workers and fast-track them through the federal immigration program. After the reductions to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which removed about 12,000 workers from Saskatchewan’s work force, many feel this is a positive move.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction to allow Saskatchewan businesses to attract and retain the kind of workers that we need,” said Steve McLellan, CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce.
McLellan said the federal government’s decision to reduce the TFWP fundamentally gutted the program and had a negative impact on businesses in the province.
“It made the challenge of operating a business much more difficult, and unnecessarily I would argue, but that’s the federal government who have the authority to make those calls,” he said.
The reductions to the TFWP came as people argued employees were being treated poorly and the program was taking jobs from local workers. McLellan said that may have been the case in other jurisdictions, but Saskatchewan businesses have been clear about hiring locally first.
“It’s cheaper and easier. It’s cheaper in the sense that you don’t have to pay airfare over and settlement fees, you don’t have to wait for people to come,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to hire a local; the issue was those people were not available, they did not have the skills and did not have the capacity to, in often cases at least, be upscaled in order to meet the need of the businesses.”
He said the TFWP issue became a political hot potato and instead of solving the problems, the federal government functionally cancelled it.
The addition of 775 foreign workers, which will happen early next year, is definitely good news for businesses who are lacking employees, but McLellan would like to see the cap increased even more. He said the chamber of commerce wanted the cap at 6,000 well before the changes to the TFWP and now they think it should be 10,000, for the simple fact that the province needs workers.
“We need them because our economy is increasing at an incredibly positive rate and in order for our growth to continue, and for us to be able to contribute taxes and quality of life to individuals, we need more workers and we need a lot more people coming to Saskatchewan,” he said.
McLellan said jobs in every sector have been hurt by the labour shortage from hotel workers, service staff, labourers, welders, painters and mechanics.
“There isn’t a business in the province I would argue that isn’t directly or indirectly negatively impacted by the changes that the federal government has made in this past year. That’s why we’re so excited by the fact that they seem to be moving in a more positive direction now,” he said.
Despite claims foreign workers have been treated poorly he said research conducted, as well as discussions with Saskatchewan businesses, proves otherwise.
“We are thrilled to have these people, businesses are embracing them, other employees are embracing these workers in every sector. So all the media hype about how these people were mistreated is nowhere as true as the media might have you believe.”