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Alberta’s Refusal to Process Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs)

April 25, 2017

Alberta’s Refusal to Process Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs)

The Government of Alberta and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) jointly announced a new 24-month federal-provincial pilot project that they say will put Albertans “first in line” for available jobs.
Twenty-nine high-wage occupations in Alberta have now been placed on a “Refusal to Process” list under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. A full list of affected occupations, which significantly affect the construction and oilfield services sectors, is available here.  In addition, an Employer Liaison Service will be piloted over 24 months that they say will provide targeted and enhanced recruitment support to Alberta employers to hire Albertans rather than temporary foreign workers.
The refusals are being applied retroactively, meaning that Alberta employers who are waiting for the result of an LMIA application submitted for one of the 29 identified occupations before April 19, 2017 will be refused (not just those that applied after that date).
This announcement comes on the eve of the Federal Government’s highly anticipated changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which are in part expected to streamline and standardize the LMIA application process in certain industries to better serve applicants.  Under this pilot project, the majority of Alberta LMIAs will be refused processing, meaning that the upcoming Federal changes are unlikely to benefit most Alberta employers – even when they have a genuine need to fill labour gaps with foreign workers.
Some question whether the pilot project is necessary at all, because employers were already required to satisfy ESDC that employing a foreign worker will have a neutral or positive effect on the Canadian labour market before receiving LMIA approval.  In some cases, Alberta’s refusal to process LMIAs could result in fewer jobs for Albertans.  For example, LMIAs are sometimes approved because employing a foreign worker with a certain skillset or expertise will get a project off the ground, which then leads to job creation for Canadians on that same project.
It is too early to tell whether this pilot project will have its intended positive impact on the Province’s labour market during the current economic downturn.
If you have any questions about this topic or any other topics relating to workplace law, please contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.
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