Conservative MP Larry Maguire (background left) sits beside Bay of Quinte riding Conservative candidate Tim Durkin as farmers describe problems they experience bringing in seasonal foreign workers at a meeting at Huff Estates Winery Wednesday, December 5, 2018. (Photo/Quinte News)
There are three thing local farmers, especially greenhouse, vineyard and orchard operators, know for sure.
One, their businesses can’t survive without seasonal workers.
Two, those workers have to come from outside of Canada as local people will not do the work.
And three, the current system needs to be streamlined to take less time and paperwork to bring in foreign labour.
Those were the main points made by a group of about 10 Prince Edward County greenhouse, vineyard and orchard operators to a Conservative MP touring
the country looking for ways to better integrate seasonal and foreign workers into the Canadian economy.
Larry Maguire, MP for Brandon-Souris and a lifetime farmer, was the guest of Bay of Quinte riding Conservative candidate Tim Durkin at Huff Estates Winery.
Local farmers described having apply up to six months ahead of time for seasonal workers and dealing with an avalanche of paperwork, much of it redundant.
They complained that there was no flexibility in the system to allow for extensions of worker contracts because of an early or late season caused by unpredictable
They were unimpressed by rude federal government employees inspecting their operations while having little to no knowledge about agriculture.
And all of them said there had to be a way to allow local farmers to share workers painlessly, something that isn’t happening at the current time.
Some crops are ready to harvest earlier than others in the same area so temporarily boosting the labour on one farm by borrowing from another makes sense
to vineyard, greenhouse, and orchard owners.
In answer to some of the concerns Maguire said his party would allow for a “trusted employer program”. Under such a scheme, a farm owner that always applied for seasonal foreign workers and used the same ones each season for a minimum of five years would no longer have to go through the cumbersome application process for each employee.
Sharing workers among those so-called “trusted employers” would also be made easy to do.
Right now, about 80 percent of farm operators applying for seasonal workers would be eligible for the proposed “Trusted Employer Program” if it were to come into effect.
And Maguire said his party would cut the time to be approved or not approved after applying for seasonal workers to four weeks from the current four to six months.
Maguire said it was imperative that the systems in place to bring in foreign seasonal workers be streamlined or Canada would never be able to come close to realizing its potential in agriculture.
The fact-finding tour continues.