Minister confirms another misuse of TFW program by Alberta-based contractor

By Brandon Kostinuk

Earlier this month, via an anonymous source, received information that an Alberta-based contractor for the oil and gas industry was recently granted approval for 10 temporary foreign workers (TFWs) while Canadian workers were left in the cold.

The anonymous source claimed: “… attention should be brought to Alstar Oilfield Contractors based in Hinton Alberta … [S]omehow in this economy they got approved for 10 British foreign workers, even while numerous friends and contacts of mine had been submitting Resumes[sic] the whole time.”

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, MaryAnn Mihychuk, in a telephone interview with Thinkpol, duly confirmed that the previous Conservative administration had indeed approved Alstar’s request for TFWs, citing a May 7, 2015 Labour Market Impact Assessment.

The minister also affirmed she will be looking into this specific case further, adding that the Liberal government is seeking to reform the program, though Mihychuck did not elaborate further.

Yellowhead, Alberta MP, Jim Eglinski, said, he wasn’t too familiar with Alstar Oilfield and noted no formal complaint that he was aware of had been made.

No one from from Alstar Oilfield Contractors, which celebrated its 45th anniversary in operation last year, was made available for comment. The company lists three locations in Hinton, Alta. as well as Fort St. John and Dawson Creek in B.C.

Alstar isn’t the only company, within and outside of its industry, to stretch the use of Canada’s temporary foreign worker program beyond its intended purpose either.

Then-Minister of Human Resources Diane Finley, stated in 2012, “Evidence suggests that, in some instances, employers are hiring temporary foreign workers in the same occupation and location as Canadians who are collecting EI regular benefits.”

The same issue was brought to the attention of media and Canadians in February 2014 when Prayer Promec Joint Venture (PPJV), an oil and gas employer in Alberta, fired 65 Canadian ironworkers. In their place arrived TFWs from Croatia.

The Royal Bank of Canada, select McDonald’s restaurants (in Victoria, B.C.) and Sunwing and Canjet airlines were also wrapped up in misuse allegations. As well, allegations in past have stretched past misuse to mistreatment, abject (see, class-action lawsuit against Denny’s launched in 2012; African woman and West Vancouver resident) and otherwise.

The Conservatives sought to reform the system enacting new legislation June 2014 which were designed to improve transparency and accountability of the program. Stronger enforcement and tougher penalties were also supposedly put in place with the top caveat being to ensure Canadian workers came first, which was supposed to mean restricting access or use of the program.

Though, as Alstar’s case illustrates, the system remains troubled.

Don Butler of the Ottawa Citizen reported in a December 2014 article that, as shown via a government-sponsored survey, “nearly seven in 10 Canadians think employers regularly abuse the TFW program.”

And while just over half of Canadians reported being supportive of the program, 58 per cent said it needed to be reformed.

In May 2014, just prior to the Conservatives’ reforms, Liberal John McCallum, currently the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was broken and mentioned that immediate reforms were required to fix it.

The Liberals have discussed increased accountability and transparency, installing a complaint tracking system and compulsory and regular workplace audits, among other items, mostly related to disclosure and regulation.

Uniting employment insurance and the TFW program is another step pundits and citizens have opined for.

Regardless, putting Canadians to work where there is work should be priority one in a sputtering economy, even more that this relates to the oil and gas sector.

36 Responses to Minister confirms another misuse of TFW program by Alberta-based contractor

  1. Johnny says:

    CNRL in ft mac has more TFW s than any place I’ve ever worked .they will abuse the system any way they can

    • Anonymous says:

      So file a complaint !

      • Alan says:

        To what end? The conservative government made it abundantly clear – in spite of all their tough talk – that they had no real intention of doing anything about the problem. Maybe the Liberal government will do something, but I won’t hold my breath.

    • Karen Treit says:

      Yes John I saw that too
      Also when working there my company was hired to work on contruction of furnaces. Our company was union. We had boilermakers, pipefitters, ironworkers, electrician , labourers. Once our jobs were near completion… TR and CNRL took our contract away and gave the last parts of jobs to PHENIOX-A NON UNION COMPANY THAT 70-80% OF WORKERS WERE TFW.
      We had a awesome performance record, little to zero incidents etc. It pissed me off cause this was our contract and it was canadians loosing their jobs

  2. Alan says:

    I had no idea how many employers abused the TFW program until I moved to Alberta a few years ago. Seems like every other employer is abusing the system – and that’s putting it mildly. I see the same job ads posted over and over again for months on end on sites like Kijiji and the Canada Job Bank, but I know they aren’t actually looking for a local person to fill the position (i’ve applied to several of these jobs – never get a response, even though i’m highly qualified in my field). No, instead these people are only putting those ads up so they can say they did – and then they’ll go ahead and bring in a TFW. It’s sickening.

    The TFW program – and all the other programs like it – need to be scrapped immediately. Alberta is in a recession, people are getting laid off left, right and center, and still we keep bringing in TFW’s. What the hell?

  3. L says:

    To be honest ..I would hire a foreign worker over a Canadian any day. ..being a small business we can not find Canadian workers that actually want to work ..unless it’s for 30 an hour..we have gone through hundreds of workers cause they walk off job sites tell us they want cash so they can collect ei and get money…they do t show up etc….I am not saying this is all …but a good majority ..we make it too easy for them to get benefits with no follow up or recourse if they are doing great this to employers

    • M says:

      Well whatever your business is.. If 30 an hr or more is the going rate. Then maybe your not paying people what the going rate is? 25 years ago. If you hired a mechanic you paid around $20 an hr. Just because you got guys for that rate then doesn’t mean you still should. (now around $40 or more)

      Not you in particular, but a lot of businesses have a mindset of this job is worth x dollars an hr.. But the going rate is significantly higher. Awhile back I seen an advertisement for a jm welder with Foreman experience.. Paying “top dollar” of $22 hr.. When going rate for a Foreman is closer to $50 to even get someone qualified.

      • Maassi says:

        Excellent. Anyone who can’t keep up with the market shouldn’t run a business anywhere in Canada. I think that is why we are having far too many poor working class in Canada.

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re so full of sh•t. You probably pay low and treat your workers like crap. To say, you would rather hire a foreigner than a Canadian, makes you a piece of sh•t. You’ll take what you can from this country and not give a thing back. Do us, and Canada a favour, and f••kin kill yourself.

      • Anonymous says:

        Perhaps the person writing the article should get the facts straight.

        The TFW program is a stringent one and finding good, qualified people to work in the smaller communities, nights, weekends etc, etc is like pulling teeth from a worm.

        Not only this, but it take months & months to get approvals and approvals don’t come WITHOUT audits and major proof that they have done everything possible to find the kind of qualified worker they need.

        Most companies would hire a Canadian first and foremost, if only the workers were available.

        Those naysayers on here have no flippin’ idea how the TFW programs work, nor do you really know just how many entitled Canadians there are; who won’t move, who won’t work for a little less than Fort Mac, who won’t work nights, weekends, long rotations and who don’t have attitude, abuse the employer etc. With the downturn in the economy; perhaps they will be a little more appreciative and accept an offer when it’s presented.

        • Hi Anonymous,

          I’m the writer of the article above. If you read the quote from our anonymous source (second para.),”even while numerous friends and contacts of mine had been submitting Resumes[sic] the whole time,” it’s clear Canadian workers did apply. They were turned down, some of whom were allegedly previously employed with Alstar but laid off.

          Alstar has not responded to inquiries to state otherwise even after repeated efforts to obtain comment.

          I know how the TFW system is supposed to work. Not all companies care to follow the guidelines.

          I will be following up this piece with comments from one of the TFWs hired on at Alstar who also claimed he was confused at why Canadians he spoke with in Calgary weren’t hired on as they were seeking employment in the same field.

          The facts are straight. My email is [email protected]. I’d like to chat, if you have the time.


          • Anonymous says:

            Hey Brandon,

            I know a little bit about this situation you are reporting on and the fact of the matter is if your friends where willing to work for a reduced rate they would have gotten the jobs. If the company would have hired them at what they demanded they would have lost money on the contract in question before it was axed. Just because your friends could make that money last year does not mean they can this year. Open your eyes to what is going on around Alberta.

        • Canadian says:


          Thanks for admitting that the reason you are hiring TFW’s instead of Canadian workers is because you can pay them less.

          We of course already knew that, but it’s nice to hear a little piece of the truth come directly from one of the offenders.

          I hope your contracts dry up and your business fails. Then you can join the rest of us Canadian workers looking for a job, and not be able to find one because the businesses you apply at would rather hire a TFW.


          -A Canadian worker

    • Anonymous says:

      What’s the business and how much do you pay? I work for a West coast amusements last year they have the same problem. Mind you paying a class 1 truck driver a 100$ a day and making him work 15 hours a day may have something to do with it.

  4. Donald W Howard says:

    Yellowstone Alberta MP!?! I think Brandon Kostinuk has Alberta confused with Wyoming.

    [Editor’s note: Thank you for bringing this up. That should have been Yellowhead. We apologize for the mistake and thank you for pointing it out.]

  5. If they agree to TPP THIS PROBLEM WILL BE A HUNDRED TIMES worse. Worse because the agreement permits foreign workers with no way ofputting a stop to it.

  6. Anal Discharge says:

    Man that chick is fat

  7. wildcat says:

    I will never understand why any government would allow this to happen. I’m certain that if they put Canadians first this country would be in much better shape. I mean c’mon..feed your own before the neighbors. God knows I love this nation but I’m not so sure about any government. Build the people up (jobs) and you build a strong country. Oh Canada..what have they done to you?

    • Paul says:

      Its because the government does not care about you just like most employers. The TFW program is pure bullshit! If you want fairness and rights you young people have to stand up for it or forever hold your peace!

      • Anon says:

        Some foreign workers have come to take the skilled jobs the Canadians are not trained for!! They have to prove their work history for the last 5 yrs and pay all the expenses of getting here themselves! We’ve been here 3 yrs now and have paid our own flights, set up our own home, paid for all the safety courses ourself and upto now $6500 to the immigration for work permits etc! We pay the same taxes etc that the Canadians pay too! Maybe if the government spent more time and money funding training for the young people in Canada instead of complaining about the foreign worker then you won’t need the foreign worker anyway!! My husband helps and shares the knowledge he’s learnt over 25 yrs as much as he can with the young apprentices so they can be the best they can!!! Please don’t generalize the term ‘foreign workers’ as there is skilled and unskilled and your country needs the skilled workers right now so that the unskilled Canadian can learn and grow!!

        • Anonymous says:

          Actually there is enough skilled workers in Canada but TFW’S will work for a lot less money !!!!!

          • Anonymous says:

            Get your facts straight. You obviously don’t know anything about the program. They are paid the same rate as everyone else in their job category.
            I’ve been working with TFW’s for years and all that is very clear in the application process and the company has to prove otherwise.

  8. J DeMerchan says:

    Every Tim Hortons in Alberta and McDonald’s abuse this program too!

    • Alan says:

      I’m actually very surprised Tim Hortons doesn’t get called out for it’s wildly in-your-face abuse of the program more often.

    • Anonymous says:

      Try again fool. No timmies or mcd’s can have more then ten percent tfw but it was 15% before. If Canadians would work they wouldn’t have any. You advertise for ten positions. You get tons of applicants, BUT, they say the won’t work nights, won’t work weekends. And most of us feel they won’t ‘work’ even when they are at work. In Hinton the going rate was 15 bucks an hour, plus 50% after mid nite. Still no takers. We NEED tfw’s.

  9. Steve Ballantyne says:

    TFW’s work when you want them to. They work hard, and do a good job, which is more then I can say for most Canadians working in fast food or housekeeping. Ask around, at how many hotels have rooms they don’t rent, because no one to clean them. Ask around, how many fast food joints close quite early at night.(were open 24/7before). We NEED the tfw’s!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I was one of them contractors and I spent a lot of money and gave up a lot of time to go out and work in canada only to be treated like a bit of dirt by the company in question.Most of the 10 guys came over from the UK and were only there for 6 weeks and in that time only 2 or 3 of us got a few weeks work .so if you ask me ,they treat Canadians and forigen workers like crap.

  11. Anon says:

    Out of all the foreign workers brought in in 2013/2014 there is only one person left working for Alstar! This is because they treat their workers terribly!!! Two of those foreign workers were used as Quality Control instead of welders, like they were supposed to be! Alstar will take the foreign worker instead because they get funding from the government to pay these foreign workers wages so thus cheap labour! Last month they brought over 10 workers, of which some in three weeks didn’t get a days work, and they have now been sent back to the UK in the promise that when Alstar get work again they will send for them! These people have lost a lot of money and now have to return to no job, some no home, etc on the false promise from Alstar!!! They need to be made accountable for these actions!!!!!!

  12. AL says:

    When I hear they are screaming for this trade or that kind of person.
    The 1st thing I say is stop screaming at your people and there are plenty who will work for you. If you treat anyone like shit word gets around. If you pay people like shit you need to pay the rate. If in business you under cut your bid to the bone, it will not be long and you will not be in business.
    This TFW program has been abused far to many times in Alberta.
    As a union busting tactic and a way to trap people into working for less.
    To Many trades people have been brought to Alberta with substandard trades skills and certs. Those people need to be retested and sent packing. Others that have the proper skills and certs after being here for a while.They should see we make what we make because that is what it costs to live here.
    We should be training up our people to fill these jobs but it will take BUSINESS to train new trades men and women. Or we have to change the way things are done.
    Like revamping the Apprentice Programs.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Its already bad enough that Alstar starts up business in British Columbia and completely neglects the Aboriginal business’s, local workers, and local business’s. To bring foreign workers into a country that has large scale high quality workers available already in the oil & gas industry is an atrocity. Workers and business’s better beware of this company..

  14. Anonymous says:

    Looks like Alstar wants to try to make a big wave in BC. Bring over all your Alberta workers and now foreign works. Northern BC has a incredible amount of qualified oil and gas workers here. Taking jobs away from the people of these communities, I think not. Stay in Alberta and fix your problems before starting more problems here.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Canadian local worker will lose their job because Immigration consultant post Ads on kijiji and job bank intention to help their own hire foreign worker process.

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