Anyone who wants to know how many temporary foreign workers have come to Canada in the first half of 2015 will have to pay to find out, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The request for payment comes more than a year after Employment and Social Development Canada, a separate department, promised it would publicly post such data each quarter in a press release detailing changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Instead, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) told The Tyee it must pay a cost recovery fee for information about the number of permits issued for foreign workers in 2015. That's despite freely posting the numbers up to the end of 2014.
CIC said the employment ministry's promise to post data doesn't apply to it.
The government mades changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in June 2014 after public outcry over employers using it to pay lower wages to foreign workers instead of Canadians.
Included in the changes was the promise by the employment ministry to publicly post worker data, along with approved Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs), which an employer needs to bring a temporary foreign worker to Canada.
"To further increase transparency and accountability beginning in fall of 2014, [the department] will publicly post data on the number of temporary foreign workers approved through the [program] on a quarterly basis and will post the names of the corporations that receive LMIAs," the employment ministry stated in a June 2014 announcement.
Employment ministry refers to CIC
An access to information request to the employment ministry for the number of work permits issued up to May 2015 -- because such data has not been published -- turned up nothing but a suggestion to talk to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The employment ministry did not explain why it has not publicly posted LMIA data since 2013.
CIC said the new figures are available, for a price. After The Tyee sent a screen shot of the government's promise to publicly post the data, CIC insisted it has posted it -- but only up to the end of 2014.
"Citizenship and Immigration publishes quarterly data for all of its programs on its website," said an email from an unnamed staff member. "The latest available is the fourth quarter of 2014. The screen shot you provided does not refer to CIC’s work permit statistics, but to [the employment ministry]’s LMIA statistics."
The most recent data posted on CIC's page shows the number of valid permit holders as of Dec. 31, 2014. That means the number of temporary foreign worker permits issued in 2014 totalled 94,000, down from 118,000 the previous year.
Updated data to mid-2015 would give a better picture of the effects of changes to the program.
Permits can be valid for up to four years with reapplication, though it varies depending on the stream of the program under which the permit is issued.
Some estimate the number of foreign workers in Canada at any given time as high as 500,000.
Earlier this year, The Tyee was told the figures for the last half of 2014 would be posted sometime after June, more than six months after the time frame elapsed.
CIC's data management and statistics office said it is assessing the costs of releasing the information and will deliver an estimate within 10 business days.