June 26, 2024

Help Wanted: Canada’s immigration system unable to address construction labour needs.
Continued growth of temporary foreign worker program distorting B.C.’s construction industry, according to new research

Read the full report here

B.C. needs more construction workers and it needs them now.

According to recent data, the province will need 52,600 new construction workers by 2032 to avoid a disruptive labour shortage. 30% of those workers will have to come from outside of Canada.

But new research from the BC Building Trades (BCBT) shows Canada’s immigration system has not only failed to address construction labour shortages, it’s making the situation worse for workers and the industry.

The Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) was designed specifically to address the construction labour shortage by giving express entry to construction workers. It has failed to achieve that goal.

Between 2019 and 2023, the FSTP welcomed only 240 permanent resident construction workers to B.C. At an average of 48 per year, that represents only .2% of economic immigrant migrations.

The use of the broader economic immigration class to address the construction labour shortage has been similarly disappointing. Over the last five years, only 7,000 tradespeople have obtained permanent residency in B.C. through economic class immigration streams. This rate is far below B.C.’s labour needs and will not provide the permanent skilled trades workforce the province requires to build much needed housing and infrastructure.

This poorly designed immigration patchwork has led to a massive increase in the use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

 “We are facing a significant labour crunch, and while Canadian construction workers should have first access to available jobs, we recognize the need for new entrants to help to meet the growing need for skilled workers,” said BC Building Trades executive director Brynn Bourke. “Instead of ignoring the problem in construction, we’re calling on the Government of Canada to put a special focus on immigration in B.C.”

 The use of TFWs has become a permanent fixture of B.C.’s construction industry with 7,160 of these workers brought in between 2019 and 2023. While TFWs represent 2.1 per cent of the workforce across Canada, they are disproportionately prevalent in B.C. construction, making up 4.7 per cent of the workforce.

“Too many contractors have become hooked on cheap temporary labour to boost their profits,” said Doug Parton, business manager of Ironworkers Local 97. “As they abuse the TFW system, Canadian workers are paid less and shut out of jobs that should be theirs. That’s not right. The TFW program is hurting Canadians and migrant workers too. The entire system needs an overhaul.”

Since 2010, Canada’s overall reliance on TFWs has skyrocketed, increasing by more than 500 per cent.

Yet, construction was specifically exempted from newly announced reforms targeted at reducing temporary workers in March of 2024.

“‘Our union has long been concerned with the way the TFW program is used,” said Mark Olsen, president of LiUNA 1611. “Rather than solving labour shortages in the construction industry, it has enabled contractors to profit from the employment of migrant workers, driving down Canadian wages in the process. We need major changes to the program, now.”

To address the labour shortage and the failures of Canadian immigration and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the BC Building Trades is calling for action, including the following:

  • An independent audit to investigate mismanagement of the International Mobility Program (IMP) and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and a prohibition of activity on construction trades through the IMP and the TFWP until such an audit is complete.
  • A significant increase in the use of the Federal Skilled Trades Program.
  • The exclusion of employers from the TFWP who do not have a demonstrated history of participating in the apprenticeship system.
  • An update to the temporary worker program by the federal government including a revision of the definition and methodology for determining the prevailing wage.

Media Contact

Jeremy Allingham – Director of Communications & Campaigns, BC Building Trades Council


Established in 1967, the BC Building Trades represents 18 craft construction unions and more than 40,000 unionized construction workers in B.C. These highly skilled workers account for approximately 55 per cent of the non-residential construction labour force. We work with construction companies to leverage the most out of development for all stakeholders, to advance the economic prosperity of the province, to put local workers first and to ultimately build a better British Columbia.