Ottawa is developing plans to quarantine incoming seasonal workers at no additional cost to farmers, federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced February 12.
The new protocols are under development following an announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that international passengers will face tighter entry requirements as of February 22.
Travellers landing at one of four designated airports for international flights will be required to isolate at their own expense for three days at a federally chosen hotel.
This is in addition to proof of testing negative for COVID-19 via one of 18 approved testing methods within 72 hours of arrival and a negative test on entry to Canada. (Ottawa has also said it reserves the right to designate specific providers of the tests.)
However, foreign farm workers can continue to their usual quarantine location until mid-March, Bibeau said. They’ll be given a test kit to be used prior to emerging from their 14-day mandatory quarantine.
The lag time gives Ottawa an opportunity to work out financial arrangements with the individual provinces. It will announce a new quarantine plan for arriving workers at that time.
Bibeau told Country Life in BC that Ottawa is budgeting $2,000 per worker, but this amount will vary by province. She indicated that Ottawa plans to cover quarantine costs that BC has been covering since last year.
According to the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, the province spent $15 million to cover the cost of housing, feeding and laundering clothes for incoming workers last year. This worked out to an average of $3,000 per worker.
The provincial support was in addition to a federal payment of $1,500 per foreign worker that farm employers could receive under the $50 million Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program launched in April 2020.
Consolidation of the supports could save both levels of government a combined total of $2,500 per worker.