Canadian Ski Resorts Face Labor Shortage, Government Delays In Issuing Work Visas | national

VANCOUVER – Canadian ski resorts that rely heavily on international workers are bracing for a labor shortage this winter as the federal visa approval process slows down.

With the reopening of international borders to vaccinated travelers and vaccine passports allowing for increased accommodation capacity, Paul Pinchbeck, CEO of Ski Canada, said the anticipated busy ski season “creates a conundrum” for resorts across. the country.

“We have significant demand for our products, as evidenced by early season travel bookings and season pass sales, but we are short of several thousand employees across the country and this will hamper our ability. to provide their services this year, ”he said. “The magnitude of this cannot be understated.”

Michael Ballingall, senior vice president of Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna, B.C., said about 60% of his staff were international workers with two International Experience Canada visas. years before the pandemic.

He said the resort normally has an influx of applications for seasonal workers in the fall, but the pandemic is making it difficult for people to get work visas. The resort is currently at 45% of its staffing capacity and Ballingall has said secondary services, like hospitality, will suffer if nothing changes.

Irish visa applicant Lili Minah has already been offered a bartender position at one of Mooney Supply Group’s three restaurants in the village of Big White and hopes to receive a response from Immigration Canada before her flight to Colombia. British on November 20.

“If they don’t send me an invitation to apply for a visa by then, I guess it will only be a vacation,” she said.

Ana Mooney, who offered Minah the maid job, said 60% of their staff usually have visas. She said her restaurants were running out of around 50 employees ahead of the season, and three staff members had already chosen to return home because the visa process had taken too long.

“Tourism is hit so hard by COVID and having a second year of it means some people won’t weather the storm,” she said. “It’s not just in the ski industry, it’s tourism in general. As the borders open up, there are more visitors, but we don’t have the manpower. ‘work to take care of them. “

Ballingall said only a small number of visas are being processed, while permits for people allowed to work last year expire, leaving workers and resorts in limbo.

“When the pandemic hit, a lot of (international workers) still had their visas, so they could work for us last year,” he said. “This year most of those people are still in the country but their visas have expired, so we are pushing the government to reactivate the visas because everyone in this industry is in the same boat.”

Gemma Nicolle, 30, worked two winters in retail at Big White and is hoping her work visa will be reinstated in time for ski season.

“I’m going to have to start working again very soon to be able to stay here, so towards the end of November if nothing improves I will probably have to go home,” she said.

Ballingall said the Western Canada Ski Resorts Association and the Canadian Ski Council have joined with Big White in hiring a lobbying firm to convince the government to reinstate expired visas.

“We need more people and we ask the government to help us revive our businesses but also to provide a boost for Canadian tourism in general,” said Pinchbeck.

“Last year we didn’t have this crying need as we were heading into the different waves of COVID and we expected to reduce operations. This year we have proven that this is an industry that can operate in a safe and responsible manner. way and because governments know so much more about this virus and its transmission now, we are confident that we will need these people to scale up services. “

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in an email that continued restrictions on international and border travel, limited operational capacity overseas, and clients’ inability to obtain documents due to the pandemic have created barriers in processing, which he says hampers his ability to finalize requests, creating delays beyond his control.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, IRCC has prioritized applications from workers in critical positions in agriculture and health care, where the workforce is most needed to protect the health of Canadians and ensure a supply sufficient food, ”the ministry said.

Although he said he was focusing his resources on the resettlement of Afghan refugees through existing programs, there was no disruption in dealing with other business lines, including International Experience Canada, the ministry said.

“Despite these efforts, we know that some applicants have experienced considerable wait times with the processing of their applications. We continue to work as hard as possible to reduce overall processing times.

Ballingall said the Big White administration is not panicking yet. He said he hoped to attract Canadian workers this winter after the end of the Canada Emergency Benefit.

“We will start to panic around November 1 if nothing changes, because there are simply not enough Canadians in the basin right now to satisfy the industry. Something must give way. “

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 23, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.


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