As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the country, the Senate of Canada is warning about a labour shortage for agriculture and subsequent food shortages. Twenty-two senators signed a letter on April 6 to the ministers of agriculture and agri-food as well as employment, workforce development and disability inclusion recommending new steps to incentivize and retain domestic workers.
The substance of the letter follows:
1. Allow Canadians and permanent residents who are employed in agricultural positions commonly filled under the Temporary Foreign Worker or Seasonal Agricultural Workers programs to: a. Receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit while keeping on-farm earnings; or b. Receive Employment Insurance benefits without having their on-farm earnings clawed back; or c. If a worker is ineligible for either program, receive a grant equivalent to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit; including students.
2. Explore with provinces and industry measures to provide job protection to workers eligible for the Canada Emergence Response Benefit whereby workers would be allowed to claim the CERB, retain their connection with their current employer so that they have a job to return to post-crisis, and work in agriculture in the interim.
3. Protect workers by paying for accommodations at nearby hotels or motels for those who would usually reside in on-farm communal living arrangements, thereby ensuring that accommodations comply with provincial health and emergency measures.
4. Waive the Guaranteed Income Supplement claw-back for on-farm income. Although we hope that allowing Temporary Foreign Workers and Seasonal Agricultural Workers to come to Canada will help mitigate impacts on the Canadian food supply, we believe that the government must also incentivize Canadians to work in agriculture to forestall a food shortage in Canada. Employment and Social Development Canada should also consider similar provisions for domestic seafood processing workers.
Source: Senate of Canada April 6, 2020