Ottawa has done away with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program’s four-year cumulative duration rule.
Officials announced in late December the rule will no longer apply to temporary foreign workers in Canada, effective immediately. The cumulative duration rule, known as the "four-in, four-out" rule, was put in place in April 2011, limiting work for some temporary foreign workers in Canada to four years, who then became ineligible to work in Canada for the next four years.
"We think it's quite positive," said Bill Ferreira, vice-president of government relations and public affairs for the Canadian Construction Association (CCA), of the recent decision.
He added that while the CCA will still wait and see what the changes look like, they are excited the government is looking to create a pathway.
For those temporary foreign workers who do not currently have access, the government stated it is committed to further developing pathways to permanent residency so that eligible applicants are able to more fully contribute to Canadian society. Work on this issue continues.
As part of the government's efforts to ensure Canadians have first access to job opportunities, low-wage employers, where appropriate, will be required to advertise to more than one and up to four under-represented groups in the workforce — youth, people with disabilities, indigenous people and newcomers. Employers will be advised when these changes are to come into effect.
"I don't think it will impact the construction industry at all," said Tom Sigurdson, head of the BC Building Trades.
"There are very few projects that last four years. I have no knowledge of a construction worker ever coming in for a four-year period."
The government will maintain the cap on the proportion of low-wage temporary foreign workers that can be employed at a given worksite at 20 per cent for employers who accessed the program prior to June 20, 2014, and at 10 per cent for new users of the program after that date.
The exemption on the cap for seasonal industries seeking temporary foreign workers for up to 180 days during the 2017 calendar year will be extended until Dec. 31, 2017.
These early actions are in line with recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA), which undertook a study of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
The government will table a full response to the standing committee's recommendations in the new year.
"In many ways, the four-year rule put a great deal of uncertainty and instability on both temporary workers and employers," said John McCallum, federal minister of immigration, in a release.
"We had the sense that it was an unnecessary burden on applicants and employers and also on officers who process applications. The HUMA hearings confirmed it. We believe this important recommendation from the committee requires rapid action, which we are taking today."
The standing committee began its review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in May 2016 and tabled its report, outlining its recommendations, in the House of Commons on Sept. 19.
The government will respond to the committee's report within 120 days and bring forward its plan to improve and change the program, the release continues.
As part of its Fall Economic Statement, the government announced the Global Skills Strategy to support growth and innovation and create more opportunities for Canadians by providing timely and predictable access to global talent.