The federal government has allowed the temporary foreign worker program to go ahead with modifications to account for COVID-19, but employers are experiencing hurdles getting workers into the country.
Some farmers and beekeepers are worried that their workers will arrive too late.
Bill Termeer, owner of Moondance Honey near Sexsmith, Alta., brings about seven temporary foreign workers into Canada each year from the Philippines to help run his 5,000 honeybee colonies.
“It’s very difficult for the guys to go travel around and get their paperwork,” Termeer said. “They just don’t have it. So I expect there will be a shortage of workers.”
Workers usually arrive around the beginning of April, Termeer said, meaning the crews are already late. The workers need to quarantine for two weeks when they get into the country.
Termeer said it is a struggle to hire locals to do the seasonal work. Albertans don’t want to come back to the job year after year, he said.
The Canadian Honey Council is looking at options to charter a plane from Nicaragua, at a cost between $130,000 and $230,000, to bring in about 160 beekeepers, said Rod Scarlett, the council’s executive director.
The Canadian beekeepers would have to foot the bill.
“All the airlines started to cut back on their services, so foreign workers couldn’t catch flights out of their respective countries,” Scarlett said.
“Then, there were health protocols that had to be approved. And the government introduced quarantine protocols that had to be sent to other governments to get approved.”
He said the process of getting work visas has stalled in some countries.
“It’s a complicated situation.”