Canada has a serious shortage of skilled workers and many dealerships are looking overseas to recruit for vacant positions.
The Canadian government is eager to roll out the red carpet in welcoming skilled foreign workers, but once these workers are here, the red tape involved in keeping them working here is a logistical nightmare.
A case in point: In September 2013, I hired a skilled automotive technician (Thomas) as a temporary foreign worker. Thomas, who is originally from Germany and who had been working in New Zealand when we recruited him. Thomas is now a foreman at my Audi dealership.
The process of getting Thomas to work in Canada took two years, which underscores how desperate businesses are to find qualified workers to fill available positions.
Thomas has proven to be a tremendous asset. His excellent language skills in German, his Master's Degree in German Automotive Technology and his 29 years of work experience have made our business more successful.
Since Thomas began working for us, we have hired three more apprentices whom Thomas is personally responsible for training and developing in the automotive trade.
Thomas has also benefited our recreational vehicle rental business, as 50 per cent of our clientele is from Germany and not all customers speak English. RV rentals represent a huge business in Ontario tourism.
All of the benefits that Thomas has brought to Canada and to our businesses mean nothing to the Canadian government. Service Canada (which oversees the Foreign Worker Program for Ontario) has denied Thomas's application for an extension of his temporary work status, and after January 15th, he will no longer be allowed to work in Canada.
Service Canada has taken issue with how we advertised for the position that Thomas filled. We have fulfilled all of the legal requirements and abided by all of the rules as outlined by Service Canada - all to no avail.
To add insult to injury, Service Canada refuses to meet with me or with Thomas to discuss the matter. They wrote me a letter saying that we must re-apply for Thomas's temporary work application and re-advertise for Thomas's position, which could take months, and we don't have the luxury of time.
Thomas and I visited MP Chris Alexander's office (Alexander is Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration). His staff interviewed Thomas and they can't understand why Service Canada won't help us.
Thomas cashed in his life savings to move here. He persuaded his family to start a new life in this great country. He pays taxes, he rents a home, his children go to school here and he has an Ontario automotive technician license.
Sixteen months into a new career and a new life, the Canadian government has effectively shut the door on Thomas. The financial and emotional stress of his uncertain future in Canada has taken a toll on Thomas's health.
I can't explain how Thomas's value is not recognized by Service Canada. Rejecting his application will result in three apprentices losing their jobs and my business will not thrive in the way it has while Thomas has been employed with us.
There is something egregiously wrong with a government that actively entices skilled foreign workers to come and work in Canada and makes it nearly impossible for these workers to remain working here.
What message does Thomas's story send to other foreign workers who might be thinking of re-locating to Canada? What does it say to Canadian businesses that play by the rules and wind up having to vacate filled positions?
Thomas has no money to return home. He's about to lose his job. We're about to lay off three talented apprentices. We don't know where to go from here.