Ottawa’s crackdown on temporary foreign workers could create an avalanche of trouble for a North Okanagan ski resort.
The federal government is tightening up the rules regarding bringing in workers from outside of Canada and the processing fee is jumping from $275 to $1,000 per application.
“It’s an issue for us but it’s also an issue right across the ski industry,” said Ken Derpak, Silver Star Mountain Resort managing director.
Last winter, Silver Star hired 15 temporary foreign workers, primarily as ski and snowboard instructors. Many of them, including from Australia and New Zealand, are required to have level three and four certification.
“The inventory for them locally isn’t the same,” said Derpak, adding that a shortage of trained Canadian instructors means foreign talent is needed to meet consumer demand.
“Because of the cyclical nature of the business, we’ve always used the temporary foreign worker program to compliment Canadian workers.”
Based on last season’s employment figures, the new $1,000 processing fee could have a financial impact on Silver Star Mountain Resort.
“It’s a hit for us,” said Derpak. “We’d love to have 20 of them (foreign workers) this year but at $20,000, it’s not viable.”
Derpak questions why the federal government is making the rules more onerous when there is a case to be made for foreign workers to support the ski industry and the Canadian economy.
“It allows us to grow our business,” he said of the temporary foreign worker program.
The program came under fire recently because some restaurants across the country may have broken federal rules.
“There’s been a reaction from the government to deal with alleged abuses in other industries and have done a blanket approach,” said Derpak.
“They are penalizing those who have been using the program responsibly.”
Colin Mayes, Okanagan-Shuswap MP, is aware of the concerns coming from the ski industry about the changes to the temporary foreign worker program.
“It’s too bad just a few who bring in temporary foreign workers abuse the program and don’t put Canadians first,” he said.
“But that has motivated the government to clamp down. We’re trying to make sure they make every attempt to hire Canadians for these positions.”
When asked about the apparent shortage of Canadian ski instructors, Mayes said, “There must be a balance between the free job market and meeting a lack of skilled people.”
Mayes has been discussing the ski industry’s concerns with other MPs who represent areas with ski resorts.
“We are working with the (labour) minister to ensure that program is fair to those folks,” he said.
“I can’t say what the outcome will be.”