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Redford to approach Harper for more workers for flood rebuild

Alberta Premier Alison Redford waves to the crowd as she rides a horse during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 5, 2013. This is the 101st edition of the Stamepde which continues until July 14.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she wants to talk to the Prime Minister about allowing more temporary foreign workers into Alberta as her province rebuilds from recent flooding.

Ms. Redford said Alberta is going to need a robust work force as homes and businesses are restored in devastated communities across the southern part of the province.

Both Ms. Redford and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are in Calgary this weekend for the Stampede.

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"I think we need to think about what it's going to take in terms of labour and work force to rebuild southern Alberta and we'll talk a little bit about that," Ms. Redford said to reporters before the annual Stampede parade.

She was asked if that meant for temporary workers.

"It might. We're going to have to talk about that because you can see from communities across Calgary and southern Alberta that there's a lot of people working," she said. "We want to make sure there's everyone here that we need to rebuild the province and make sure the economy continues to thrive."

More than 330,000 people live and work in Canada as part of the federal temporary foreign worker program.

That number has nearly tripled over the past 10 years, with the bulk of those job seekers going west.

The program has come under scrutiny lately, with complaints emerging that foreign workers are taking the jobs of Canadians.

The Conservative government was recently forced to admit that the temporary foreign worker program is due for an overhaul.

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Under the proposed changes, employers will no longer have flexibility to set the wages for foreign labour, putting an end to a rule that allowed businesses to pay foreign workers up to 15 per cent below median wages, if that's what they were paying Canadians.

The Conservatives also called for a temporary freeze to a program that fast-tracked the ability of some companies to bring in workers from outside Canada through what's known as an accelerated labour market opinion.

The two key changes are part of a larger overhaul of the program that also includes stricter rules for applications, new fees for employers who apply and a promise of stricter enforcement.

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