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IEC quota increase may alleviate Banff’s labour shortage

Banff is the most-visited national park in Canada, attracting more than 4 million visitors each year. Leaders in the local tourism industry say they rely on International Experience Canada workers to operate. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Banff is the most-visited national park in Canada, attracting more than 4 million visitors each year. Leaders in the local tourism industry say they rely on International Experience Canada workers to operate.

Photo: (Helen Pike/CBC)

RCI

Nearly 90,000 foreign exchange workers will be allowed into Canada next year

The federal government is opening the door for 15,000 more foreign exchange workers to enter Canada next year, and that's welcome news for the general manager of the Mount Norquay Ski Resort in Banff National Park. 

We're feeling the pinch still in finding new employees, said Andre Quenneville. Luckily, we've been able to hire some International Experience Canada workers this year, and that's helping us out. But we certainly need more.

In Banff on Wednesday, federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced that the International Experience Canada (IEC) program is expanding to allow 15,000 more applicants to enter the country next year — an increase of 20 per cent. 

He explained that the change would allow nearly 90,000 foreign exchange workers to fill labour gaps, adding that it'll have a "major impact" on the tourism industry.

We're going to make sure you continue to have access to the labour you need, not just to stay open as we continue to see visitors coming back, but to thrive going forward, Fraser told Banff tourism industry officials at an afternoon news conference. 

Sean Fraser, the federal immigration minister, says the expansion of the International Experience Canada program will be a major benefit to Canada's tourism industry and its need for seasonal workers.

Sean Fraser, the federal immigration minister, says the expansion of the International Experience Canada program will be a major benefit to Canada's tourism industry and its need for seasonal workers.

Photo: La Presse canadienne / Adrian Wyld

Keeping workers in Canada 

While the expansion of the IEC program will likely bolster the tourism sector, some in the industry say more will need to be done to keep workers in the country, as IEC candidates are allowed to stay only up to two years. 

Karli Fleury, of the Banff and Lake Louise Hospitality Association, hopes the federal government will consider other tools, such as giving visa holders more time in the country so they might consider permanent residency. 

This is an opportunity for people to make our destination, our industry, their home, she said, adding Banff is experiencing a housing crisis and labour shortages across the board.

According to Fleury, at least a third of the local industry's workforce has historically come from the IEC program and other temporary foreign worker initiatives.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of those workers had to leave Canada, and only now are their numbers starting to replenish. 

We know through our recruitment efforts that there are so many young workers around the world that want to come to Canada, Fleury said. So to increase those [IEC] quotas will be a huge benefit to our destination and destinations across the country. 

Potential IEC candidates will be able to apply for the program on Jan. 9. Applicants can be seasonal workers, who will receive open work permits, or young professionals or those seeking internships, both of which will receive employer-specific permits. 

The IEC program allows young people from 36 countries and foreign territories to work and travel in Canada. The reciprocal arrangement also allows Canadians to work and travel abroad.

Jonathon Sharp (new window) · CBC News · 

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