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Province presses pause on Rural Renewal Stream applications

County of Barrhead manager suggests going into the future they may want to only endorse temporary foreign workers already living in Canada
Debbie Oyarzun rural renewal stream.JPG

BARRHEAD - The Alberta Rural Renewal Stream program is currently on hold.
At least for the time being.

That is what County of Barrhead manager Debbie Oyarzun told council at their Sept. 5 meeting.

The Rural Renewal Stream enables rural communities with less than 100,000 people to attract and retain immigrants by working with local employers and settlement-providing organizations to offer employment and support services, including housing, language training, health care, and education. The stream requires that communities apply for designation through the provincial government. Designated communities have the Rural Renewal designation for two years, with the option to extend for a third.

Barrhead (town and county) received its accreditation in early November.

The program is part of the province's Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (AAIP). The AAIP is part of the province's effort to combat the province's labour shortage. It does this by helping employers recruit foreign nationals to apply for jobs.

Once a community receives a Rural Renewal Stream designation, a local council or a settlement organization can endorse a potential immigrant by writing a letter of support. A prospective worker could then use the letter as part of an immigration application package
As of Aug. 31, 20 employers have enrolled in the program, with only seven who are currently active with open job vacancies.

For an employer to be eligible for the program, they must have at least one full-time vacancy defined as a minimum of 30 hours a week. The position must not be seasonal. It is worth mentioning that nominated candidates must live in the community where their job is.

Since the start of the program, the county, which is the lead community, has endorsed 55 candidates, 16 of which are current temporary foreign workers already living in Canada, and 39 are international applicants, with 21 positions.

Oyarzun said the province has temporarily pressed pause on the program as they filled their 2023 quota.

In a subsequent statement after the meeting, County of Barrhead communications and special project coordinator Adam Vanderwekken clarified that it was the municipality that pressed the pause button on endorsing applications as all "provincial nominations" were currently under review as thre were 500 applications still in the queue and that it wouldn't be until sometime in 2024 when the backlog was cleared.

"When the program resumes, one thing we may want to consider is limiting endorsements to temporary foreign workers, meaning those already living in Canada and Alberta," Oyarzun she said. "The challenge is the delay in the provincial and federal process, and getting that applicant to successfully leave their country and arrive here is taking quite a long time."

Drozd asked if the reason why the temporarily pause in taking new applications was because of a shortage in affordable rental accommodation.
Oyarzun said no, it was related to overall immigration quotas, but did admit finding accommodations for applicants has been and will continue to be a challenge.

Vanderwekken, in his statement, noted that since the Sept. 5 council meeting, the municipality has resumed issuing endorsements but, going into the future, would only be giving new endorsement letters to Temporary Foreign Workers already living in Canada on an open work permit.

"By focusing on candidates already in Canada and only endorsing TFWs, employers have a better chance at getting workers in the door sooner, as TFWs can start work in Barrhead while they wait for their provincial and federal applications to be reviewed," he said.

Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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