To answer questions raised by media reports, the Western Agricultural Labour Initiative (WALI) has clarified details directly with the federal ministry of employment and social development in an August 7 communique to stakeholders.
The federal government will be consulting with the provinces and industry regarding the $35 million portion of the funding allocated to "improve health and safety.” While no details have been provided on what this will include or how it will be administered, WALI understands that the funds are intended for “immediate, short term issues.”
Comments attributed to Employment Minister Qualtrough regarding “imminent improvements to housing” appear to have been misunderstood by the media. The Minister’s office has confirmed that it is engaging with the provinces (who are responsible for housing standards) and industry before any changes are made.
The federal government is aware that any significant changes to housing could be very costly and that government may need to assist employers.
WALI's understanding is that the primary issues being raised are improving worker privacy, livability and comfort levels. The details are not yet clear on what this means, what standards they are being compared to or what the objectives are.
Staff members from Employment and Social Development Canada have confirmed that for Labour Market Impact Assesment (LMIA) applications now being completed for the 2021 season, current housing inspection forms will be accepted. Note that WALI is working with the B.C. government to see how the pre-occupancy inspection process will align with the provincial COVID inspections.
The Canadian Horticultural Council has started a small working group that is in contact with ESDC to provide input on improving conditions in ways that do not negatively affect farm businesses. WALI is participating in this group and is committed to providing good housing for workers.
Source: Western Agricultural Labour Initiative August 7, 2020 communique