Cover Photo from Alberta Government / Flickr

For Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) worried about their status during the pandemic, Alberta’s Minister of Labour and Immigration, Jason Copping wants to assure everyone that immigration remains a key part of the province’s recovery plan.

On November 1, changes were announced affecting the TFW program as part of Alberta’s “Prioritizing jobs for Albertans” plan. Dozens of occupational categories were added to the “refusal to process” list which removed a number of occupations eligible for application through the TFW program.

The changes will impact 475 occupations in sectors such as accommodation and food services, retail trade, transportation, construction and professional, scientific and technical services. However, there are some exemptions.

“It’s not an all out stop [on TFWs],” says Copping. “We recognize that there are a number of occupations whereby there is ongoing demand and we can’t meet the demand.”

These exemptions include 27 occupations in sectors like health care, agriculture, technology and emergency response.

According to Copping, the reduction of eligible jobs for TFWs have been implemented to benefit newcomers and TFWs who are already in the province as well as Albertans as a whole.

The pandemic closing businesses, on top of a worldwide recession and a significant drop in energy prices have had significant impacts on the province’s economy. The Alberta government is managing unemployment rates and focusing on helping those laid off during the downturn.

“We’re doing this to slow down the inflow and match it with the demand for newcomers,” says Copping. “And it’s also for all Albertans in terms of their ability to find work and get back to work as quickly as possible.”

For TFWs and newcomers who are already in the province, these changes should help those who have recently lost their jobs by giving them a chance to work in sectors that need employees.

“I recognize some who are hoping to come longer or come earlier to Alberta – This may slow down the process,” says Copping. “These are temporary measures and they’re designed to make sure we can match supply with demand and getting many people here now working as soon as possible.”

TFWs who are already in the province and have applied for or are in the process of permanent residency can seek exemptions. The programs are intended to move them into the occupations in demand.

These changes to the TFW program are viewed as a short-term measure. Copping says it will depend on the economy and how quickly the province can recover. In the meantime the government will review the list on a quarterly basis to ensure supply matches demand.

Copping understands there is trepidation around changes to the TFW program, but states that the government is not going to eliminate the TFW program even in the depth of the recession.

Instead the government is focused on solutions to build the province’s economy and some of the recent announcements also include support for international entrepreneurs and foreign graduates who will play an important role in creating and filling more jobs.

“We see newcomers and immigration as a key way to foster growth within the Alberta economy,” says Copping. “Immigration is a cornerstone of our economic recovery plan.”