“Premier Higgs announced yesterday that no temporary foreign workers will be allowed to enter New Brunswick as a result of COVID-19.
New Brunswick has been fortunate that transmission of the virus has been reduced and the decision to close our borders has no doubt contributed to the low numbers of infections.
We fully understand the reluctance of many people to open borders at this time even if it is to allow a workforce to assist us in our fisheries and agricultural industries. We also understand the concerns of fish plant workers with respect to health and safety issues.
As we know, year after year, temporary foreign workers have played a key role in sustaining and growing these two important economic sectors in New Brunswick.
This last-minute decision, to ban temporary foreign workers is causing great concern in our fishing and agriculture sectors about a state of uncertainty.
The premier originally supported a decision that the lobster season be delayed. Fishermen, processors and farmers were making plans based on that direction. They incurred significant costs arranging temporary housing and arranging flights to bring these workers in. Planes were actually ready to and waiting for the workers to board. They had made arrangements for a 14 day quarantine.
At the last minute, they are being told that things have changed, and these workers will not be allowed to cross the New Brunswick border from Nova Scotia. The employers are understandably upset. How can they plan a season when the rules of the game keep changing?
The Premier has indicated that the labour needs could be met with our existing workforce. The Premier has made this commitment and it is therefore his responsibility to ensure these industries have the human resources they need.
The health and safety of New Brunswickers remains the priority and we fully agree with that, but let’s not forget that these businesses have been identified as critical by the province.
We need to address the concerns of the both people who run these operations and the workers who keep them going.”
Critic for Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries