BC is awaiting details of federal plans to develop mandatory requirements for seasonal worker accommodations provided by farmers as well as a stronger inspection regime.
The initiative of Employment and Social Development Canada was announced July 31 by Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion minister and Delta MP Carla Qualtrough and federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.
It will be backed by $58.6 million in government funding, the majority of which — $35 million – serves as an extension of the $50 million provided earlier this year to cover costs associated with the mandatory 14-day quarantine for incoming foreign workers.
The funding also includes $16.2 million to strengthen inspections and $7.4 million to support foreign workers through outreach and programs delivered by migrant worker support groups.
What the changes mean for BC is another question, though.
“It is great that Canada is investing in the program and I hope that the investment will result in meaningful improvements,” said Reg Ens, executive director of the BC Agriculture Council, which manages SAWP in BC through its subsidiary the Western Agriculture Labour Initiative. “I really don’t know what this will mean for WALI.”
Ens said BCAC has been working with the province and national groups to look at how lessons and improvements developed during COVID-19 could improve SAWP.
The federal government says it will consult with the provinces and territories before making any changes. BC agriculture minister Lana Popham provided a statement indicating that BC’s success during the pandemic would be part of ongoing discussions with Ottawa.
“Other jurisdictions are looking at the system we developed for use in their communities,” she said. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with our federal and provincial colleagues.”