“I am announcing an immediate moratorium on the food services sector’s access to the temporary foreign worker program,” Kenney said in a statement.
The ministry will not process any new or pending applications for temporary foreign workers from restaurant operators, and any unfilled positions tied to previous approval will be suspended.
“This moratorium will remain in effect until the completion of the ongoing review of the temporary foreign worker program,” he said.
A C.D. Howe Institute study released yesterday finds the program is ineffective and has contributed to joblessness in B.C. and Alberta.
The program grew from about 100,000 people in 2002 to as many as 338,000 now working across the country, according to the C.D. Howe report, which funds changes in the last 10 years made it easier to hire temporary foreign workers.
“These policy changes occurred even though there was little empirical evidence of shortages in many occupations,” wrote the report’s author, economist Dominique Gross. “When controlling for differences across provinces, I find that changes to the TFWP that eased hiring conditions accelerated the rise in unemployment rates in Alberta and British Columbia.”
One researcher said she doubted many of the Canadian companies accessing the program were seriously trying to find domestic workers.
“Instead of recruiting in India, you could recruit in some parts of rural Ontario, or among First Nations in western Canada,” said McMaster University’s Catherine Connelly, who was recently awarded a four-year grant to study the program. “If you look at unemployment rates among young Canadians or among people with disabilities — I really question some of the recruiting practices.”
The government announcement comes less than a day after McDonald’s Canada voluntarily suspended all current applications to the program as it investigates allegations that Canadians were denied jobs and foreigners brought in to fill open positions instead.
Tim Hortons has expanded oversight of the use of temporary foreign workers at its franchises and taken over two locations in Alberta and B.C. after employees claimed the owner of the two franchises took advantage of their status as temporary foreign workers to cheat them out of overtime pay.
Senior leaders at both companies have called the program “necessary” in labour scarce parts of the country.
RCMP and human rights investigations were ongoing into the accusations against Tim Hortons franchisee in Fernie, Alberta, but no charges have been laid.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney took the extraordinary step of banning restaurants from accessing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program this week.