Canadian resort industry wants improved Working Holiday Visa program

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The Whistler Chamber of Commerce, a resort town in British Columbia, is petitioning to have the Canadian working holiday visa program extended to two years. They also wish to remove age restrictions.

If successful, the changes could have a huge impact on reducing labor shortages in Canada, especially British Columbia's resort industry.

Chamber President Louise Lundy hopes that by spring she can deliver the petition to the Standing Committee on Immigration in Ottawa.

She is working with local MP Blair Wilson so he can take the petition to the House of Commons. Wilson, a member of the immigration committee since his election, wants to raise immigration caps for skilled workers to help ease labor shortages across the country.

Lundy hopes for 5,000 signatures from a wide range of interested groups and individuals to show a broad support for the changes to the working holiday program.

"We're basically pursuing every avenue possible to push this change through legislation," she said. "We're just trying to keep the momentum going until it happens."

According to Lundy, Whistler's economy depends heavily on foreign workers taking advantage of the working holiday visa program to work in Canada. However, high turnover rates due to the short visa period impact employers economically and affect their ability to give effective service.

Currently, the working holiday visa program only allows a one-year stay in Canada and only peoples aged 18 to 30 qualify for the program.

Lundy wants the age restriction completely removed.

"If you're 50 or 60 and want to travel and take advantage of this program, I think that would be great," she said.

Lundy has been active in pushing for relaxing rules intended to allow foreigners to work in Canada. In September of 2006, her organization hosted a meeting with former Immigration Minister Monte Solberg.

As well as talking about relaxing working holiday restrictions, the meeting discussed simplifying procedures to allow companies to sponsor foreign workers where Canadian workers with the proper skills could not be found.


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