New rules put damper on some

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The federal government often assembles one-size-fits-all solutions – and good reasons abound for this. At first glance, uniform regulations seem more fair, plus it makes application easier.

But as business owners across the country recently have criticized the feds over changes to the temporary foreign workers program, the Nova Scotia government has also stepped in to state the serious impact the tightened rules could have on the province’s industries – particularly those seasonal, or relating to fisheries and agriculture.

Provincial Labour Minister Kelly Regan plans to meet next week with federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney, with plans to point out the need for flexibility. The province wants to stress that fish plant owners, some restaurants and tourism operators will have a hard time finding staff under the new rules.

A key word here is seasonal, and doubtless employers and provincial leaders elsewhere will issue the same plea.

Fish-processing plants are indeed a prime example – and we need look no farther than Pictou County – of places that have relied on bringing employees in because, lack of jobs or not, the local work force shows insufficient interest.

Granted, the federal government needed to act on this issue, given instances and allegations of abuses by some companies. We have heard of cases where employers had used the system to undercut the minimum wage they’d have had to pay a Canadian citizen.

The revisions to the program would bar temporary foreign workers in areas where the unemployment rate is above six per cent. But as Regan points out, in this province that would mean everywhere but Halifax.

The federal government also wants to encourage businesses to hire Canadians first before looking elsewhere. That particular intention is commendable but, as noted, in practical terms it doesn’t always work that way.

We hope the federal government can take this concern in stride. This province’s industries have enough challenges.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Pictou County

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