Two federal policies are putting a damper on Canadian business, says the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which wants open sky agreements for air travel and a rethink of changes made to the temporary foreign worker program.
At the chamber's annual general meeting, which wrapped up today (September 30), chambers of commerce across Canada joined in calling on the Stephen Harper Conservative government to adopt an open skies policy with respect to air travel.
It also calls on Ottawa to undo changes it made to the temporary foreign worker program – changes the BC Chamber of Commerce says has made the program costly and "unusable" to many Canadian businesses.
"Canada's business community has come together to say: 'Mr. Harper, Canada's restrictive air policy and gutted temporary foreign worker program are hurting Canada's businesses,'" said BC Chamber of Commerce CEO Winter.
"When Canada's business community, from coast to coast to coast, calls for change, you know these issues matter."
In a move aimed at protecting Canadian workers, the federal government amended the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) program that allows employers to bring in skilled foreign workers on a temporary basis when there is a shortage of skilled Canadian workers.
Under the recent changes, employers who apply for an accelerated LMO are now required to include plans for replacing those temporary workers with Canadian workers. That is increasing costs and causing delays, the chamber says.
"Program changes announced in April are already hitting B.C. companies, causing hiring delays, and making the program unusable for many small businesses," Winter said. "When business leaders from across Canada backed our policy, it confirmed that Canada as a whole is feeling this fallout as well."
As for liberalizing Canada's air travel policies, Canada already has bilateral blue skies agreements with certain countries and carriers. Typically, they place limits on things like frequency of flights, capacity and ownership.
But they are too restrictive, the Chamber argues. It wants an open skies policy that would be more market-drive and competitive.
"From B.C.'s perspective, with an export-oriented economy and a big tourism industry, we need a more competitive air policy to allow both goods and people to travel at competitive prices," Winter said. "But this isn't just a B.C. issue. When Chambers across the country backed our policy, it was clear that businesses across Canada want progress on air access."