Quebec Paves the Way for Increased Foreign Workers in 2023

Canada's immigration landscape, particularly in Quebec, is undergoing a transformation as the province endeavors to welcome more temporary foreign workers, particularly in sectors like retail, food processing, hospitality, and restaurants.

Following extensive discussions with labor market stakeholders, Quebec has introduced an expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), adding over 30 new occupations eligible for streamlined processing.

On November 2, Jean Boulet, Quebec's Minister of Labour and Acting Minister of Immigration, unveiled an updated list of vocations that qualify for expedited processing within the TFWP. This development comes in the wake of a collaborative process that unfolded in August, resulting in an agreement between Quebec and the federal government. The accord, one of four stipulations, aimed to broaden the scope of streamlined processing to encompass lower-skilled vocations, as defined by Quebec. By accommodating these additional eligible occupations under the TFWP's enhanced, adaptable regulations, the program aligns more closely with Quebec's prevailing economic demands.

Sectors such as retail, food services, lodging, and processing are focal points of these reforms, reflecting a concerted effort to simplify the engagement of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) within these industries.

Expressing satisfaction with the consensus reached through deliberations on industries and vocations earmarked by the Quebec government for reform, Boulet remarked, "Strong agreement emerged from discussions about the industries and professions designated by the Quebec government for the implementation of these reforms, all of which are targeted towards simplifying the employment of temporary foreign workers (TFWs)."

Furthermore, Quebec revealed its intention to exempt numerous other low-skilled or unskilled occupations, including roles such as cashiers, front-counter attendants, and cleaning staff, from the advertising requirement. The forthcoming changes also encompass raising the threshold for foreign workers in a corporation, from 10% to 20%, in certain economic sectors.

The proposal has been submitted to the federal government, with an agreement expected to materialize "within weeks," according to official sources.

This announcement has been eagerly anticipated by Quebec's business community, which perceives it as a pivotal response to the ongoing labor challenge. Businesses are urging swift action from the federal government to initiate the overseas recruitment process, a move deemed vital to accessing the much-needed talent pool.

Despite the forward strides resulting from these reforms, some entities advocate for more comprehensive program changes. Karl Blackburn, President and CEO of the Quebec Employers Council, articulated, "The adjustments announced on November 2 will substantially enhance the usage and accessibility of the TFWP, but the next step is a full assessment of this federal program to modify it to the present environment."

The labor shortage predicament in Quebec has adversely impacted numerous industries, a challenge that predates the pandemic but has been exacerbated since. Stakeholders emphasize the imperative of augmenting immigration as a cornerstone of the solution.

For months, Quebec has advocated for heightened flexibility under the TFWP to facilitate the hiring of additional temporary foreign workers and simplify the application process for positions demanding lower-skilled workers.

The existing procedure for hiring such employees, despite being a necessity, can be complex and time-consuming. In many instances, positions necessitate advertising, with Labor Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) and intricate paperwork obligatory for work permit applications, both at provincial and federal levels.

Minister Boulet, in an interview with Le Devoir, described these changes as "one of the alternatives" to address labor shortages, underscoring that while not an exhaustive remedy, it is a pivotal move to empower businesses to substantially expand their workforce.

If ratified by the federal government, these new measures would be effective until December 2023.

The ongoing situation

The unfolding evolution of Quebec's immigration strategy in 2023 demonstrates the province's proactive stance in addressing its pressing labor demands. The emphasis on streamlined processing for a diverse range of vocations within the Temporary Foreign Worker Program reflects a concerted effort to bridge skill gaps within pivotal sectors. By broadening the scope of eligible occupations, Quebec endeavors to harness the potential of foreign workers to contribute to its economic growth.

The decision to focus on industries like retail, food services, lodging, and processing attests to the acute need for manpower in these fields. As these sectors play a critical role in Quebec's economy, the infusion of skilled foreign workers could alleviate the strain on existing labor resources. Moreover, the strategic exemption of certain low-skilled or unskilled roles from advertising requirements underscores Quebec's commitment to a more flexible and efficient hiring process.

The pursuit of an agreement with the federal government signifies a collaborative approach toward policy implementation. The anticipation of a swift agreement underscores the urgency of addressing labor shortages promptly. Businesses, which have long grappled with workforce deficits, now have a renewed sense of hope that their staffing needs will be met with greater ease and efficiency.

However, amidst these positive strides, some stakeholders advocate for a broader assessment of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. As industries evolve and labor dynamics change, it becomes imperative to fine-tune immigration pathways to cater to the present environment. This perspective highlights the need for an agile approach that not only addresses immediate concerns but also takes into account the long-term requirements of the labor market.

Quebec's ongoing efforts to attract foreign workers through a streamlined process exhibit its commitment to proactive and responsive governance. By striving to align immigration policies with the needs of its industries, the province positions itself as an attractive destination for both businesses and skilled individuals seeking professional opportunities. As these reforms take shape, Quebec's economic landscape stands poised to benefit from the contributions of a diverse and dynamic workforce, reinforcing its status as a province that values innovation, growth, and progress.