Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Agriculture Industry Concerned Over Federal Plan to Cut Temporary Immigration

The Canadian agriculture sector is expressing concerns over the federal government’s recent decision outlined in the 2024 federal budget to reduce “temporary immigration,” which may significantly impact the availability of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) crucial for farming and agricultural businesses.

According to the budget document, the government plans to decrease the percentage of temporary residents in Canada to five percent of the total population over the next three years. This reduction translates to approximately 600,000 fewer temporary residents than current figures.

Janet Krayden, a workforce specialist with the Canadian Mushroom Growers’ Association, criticized the government’s approach, stating it unfairly conflates TFWs with international students. “They’re lumping in primary agriculture, temporary foreign worker program usage, with the international student program. So, there’s two completely different programs,” Krayden explained. One program is managed by Immigration Canada and the other by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

The criticism follows remarks by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a housing announcement in March, where he linked the rise in temporary residents, now at 6.5 percent of the population, with increasing pressure on the rental market. “That’s why we’re turning the dial a little bit on temporary residents, whether it’s international students or temporary foreign workers, to make sure that they are a number that can be properly absorbed by our housing stocks,” Trudeau said.

However, Krayden pointed out the geographic and operational differences between international students and TFWs, noting that the latter group, numbering around 70,000 in agricultural sectors, primarily resides in sparsely populated areas. Many of these workers are provided with employer-paid housing that already exists, contrasting sharply with the urban living situations of over 807,000 international students.

The Canadian Mushroom Growers’ Association has expressed frustration over the lack of consultation and economic impact assessments on the proposed changes. “There’s been no economic impact assessment. There’s been no consultation with the provinces or Agriculture Canada on the impacts of what they’re doing,” Krayden said, questioning the timing of such measures amidst high food prices.

The Association is calling for a “full and thorough consultation with farmers and food processors, similar to what was conducted in 2017” before any decisions that could potentially affect TFWs in agriculture and agri-food processing are finalized.

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