Supporting ALBERTA’S TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY


December 17, 2014

2015 Housekeeping Award Recipients Announced
The AHLA Announces This Year's Housekeeping Award Recipients!

Congratulations to the 2015 Housekeeping Award recipients! Thank you for participating! 

For the full list of award recipients, please click here!

 


December 4, 2014

Municipal Hotel Taxes
The AHLA Addresses proposed "Pillow Tax"

A potential threat to our industry that we continue to monitor is the implementation of a municipal tax on accommodation, or “pillow tax.”  Many jurisdictions in North America have imposed city hotel taxes to help fund infrastructure and the provision of local services. We suspect that every city and town in Alberta would take advantage of this taxing authority if permitted.

We were recently informed by AHLA members in Fox Creek of a proposed town bylaw that would change the annual business license fee for hotels and motels from $75 per year to an amount equal to 100% of the Tourism Levy. Needless to say, our members in Fox Creek are outraged. The proposed bylaw would increase the annual business license fee from $75 per year to $127,750 per year for a 100 room property (based on annual occupancy of 70% and ADR of $125).

 

 

This proposed bylaw is really a 4% sales tax on the accommodation sector in Fox Creek. If passed, it would set a dangerous precedent for our members across Alberta. It could also lead to the implementation of municipal sales taxes on other business sectors. Alberta’s Municipal Government Act (MGA) is not definitive on whether business taxes could be assessed on the basis of sales or revenue. However, when a similar threat occurred in Drayton Valley in 2011, the Minister advised the AHLA that the province would move to amend the MGA to ensure this would not happen.

As it stands today, the MGA has not been amended, so we need to take these threats seriously. We have vigorously supported our members in Fox Creek in opposing this bylaw. On November 24, AHLA Director Perry Batke attended a public hearing and town council meeting in Fox Creek and presented our industry's concerns with the bylaw. Perry challenged the town council on the discriminatory nature of what is essentially a tax, and raised questions as to their council's interpretation of the MGA. He also asked how the assessments would be implemented given the sensitivity and confidentiality of the financial information that would be required.

If this bylaw is passed, the accommodation businesses in the Town of Fox Creek will appeal it, as per the process described in Division 3 of the Municipal Act. This challenge will be strongly supported by the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association as this represents a dangerous precedent to the accommodation industry in Alberta and really represents a potential municipal tax grab of $90 M per year.  We ask that Town Council not pass the proposed bylaw.” ~Perry Batke

The town council was unable to effectively answer many of the questions that were raised. In the end, they voted to table the proposed bylaw. As I write this, the AHLA is awaiting confirmation of a meeting with the new Minister of Municipal Affairs to discuss this issue. We are hopeful the province will support our position and move quickly to intervene if necessary.       

We look forward to serving you!   


November 13, 2014

Labour Shortages Spark New Opportunities
The AHLA Meets with Government Officials for Round Table Discussion 

 

Earlier this week, Dave Kaiser, AHLA CEO & President, was invited to attend a round table discussion on the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) reforms. Many elected officials attended the meeting, including Ministers Jason Kenney, Rona AmboseLaurie Hawn, and Members of Parliament James Rajotte and David Yurdiga.

The other participants consisted primarily of employers from a variety of industries, mostly high wage/skill and low wage/skill workers, from rural communities in Northern Alberta, where the shortage of labour is having serious impacts.

Given the complexities surrounding the TFWP, the government is reviewing the current state of the program, highly focusing on the need for permanent immigration solutions.  

The government officials and industry participants acknowledged the unique challenges employers face due to the recent changes to the TFWP. Minister Kenney was particularly interested in the attendees’ success with the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP). 

What Dave told the Ministers and MPs:

  • The need for a permanent Foreign Workers solution moving forward.
  • The success our industry has had with the AINP.
  • The Hotel & Lodging Worker Program, which presents industry-driven solutions to the TFWP, for consideration. 
  • Highlights from the Labour Market Survey – Minister Kenney was interested in the results, particularly permanent residents working at properties.

Some interesting takeaways from the meeting include:

  • Minister stated that Canada is the only country with a low wage/skill TFWP.
  • Minister was unaware of the large backlog in AINP applications (approximately 10,000).
  • Minister stated that government is aware of the unique challenges of Alberta employers and acknowledges the need for other solutions.

Overall, the round table discussion with the government officials was positive. Moving forward, Minister Kenney is in discussions with the Government of Alberta's Minister of Job, Skills, Training, and Labour, Ric McIver.

Stay tuned for future developments!


October 23, 2014

AHLA Response to Recommendations in the October 14, 2014 Report to the Attorney General
Public Inquiry into the Death of Raymond Joseph Belanger 

Ensuring the safety and security of guests is a critical aspect of the hotel business.  The facts of this case are tragic and point to the importance of having a fire safety plan.  With regard to the recommendations contained in Judge Williams’ report:

1. No portable space heaters should be permitted for use in hotels or motels in Alberta. 

Whether the cause of the fire was heater malfunction or combustibles being placed too close to the heater, it appears that this fire could have occurred anywhere a portable space heater is being used.

The AHLA believes this recommendation would be difficult to monitor and enforce.  Portable space heaters should not be used as a substitute for adequate heating.  Regardless of the age or condition of a property it can be difficult to maintain a room temperature that satisfies every guest.  Furthermore, hotel management may not be aware that a space heater is in use if a guest brings their own portable space heater.

Only CSA Approved space heaters should be approved for use in Alberta.  Portable space heaters should always be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

2. Annual fire inspections for hotels and motels in Alberta 

The AHLA encourages all members to work with their local fire department to ensure they comply with Alberta’s Fire Code and local regulations.

As the safety and security of guests is a critical aspect of any residential business or institution, the AHLA would support annual fire inspections for hotels and motels in all municipalities in Alberta.  The AHLA believes that all medium and high density residences, including hotels, motels, condominiums, apartment buildings and care facilities, should be inspected regularly. 

The AHLA offers its members a property & liability insurance program with a strong risk management program that includes regular inspection of participating hotels and motels.


October 3, 2014

President & CEO Message 
AHLA Presentation to the Federal Conservative Alberta Caucus

On September 5th, I was invited to provide an industry presentation to the Alberta Regional Caucus of MPs for the Conservative Party of Canada. I used this opportunity to outline the serious implications to the major reforms to the TFW program and our industry’s proposed solutions.

My presentation included heart wrenching anecdotes from our members and information from our 2013 Labour Market Survey to support the critical need for a permanent foreign worker solution for our industry. I warned the Alberta Caucus that the TFW program reforms, implemented to reduce program abuse, may result in unintended consequences. It’s not hard to imagine a growing underground economy fueled by desperate employers who can’t find staff and desperate foreign workers without valid work permits who want to stay in Canada.

Solutions

The AHLA is asking the federal government to extend work permits for TFWs and to increase the number of certificates allocated to the AINP for a period of 2 years. This would provide an opportunity for many more TFWs to become permanent residents and remain working at hotels in Alberta. The results of our labour market research demonstrate the success of the AINP for our industry. I reminded the Alberta Caucus that the AINP is the only program currently available for the immigration of low-skilled workers in Alberta.

We are seeking support for a Hotel and Lodging Worker Program, a Hotel Association of Canada initiative that we started well before the TFW program moratorium was imposed on the foodservice industry this past June. I provided the Alberta Caucus with a draft framework for this program and outlined how it would help our industry transition to a Canadian workforce over time.

We would like to explore the possibility of Alberta developing its own immigration program, similar to the Québec model. We certainly support greater provincial control of any foreign worker program to better address the regional labour market disparities that exist in Canada. We understand this is a stated goal of Alberta’s new Premier-elect, Jim Prentice, and we look forward to working with his government to advance this opportunity.

The Alberta Caucus acknowledged our industry’s concerns and expressed interest to learn more about our proposed Hotel and Lodging Worker Program.  We will continue to work hard on all fronts to find a permanent foreign worker solution.

We look forward to serving you!          


June 20, 2014

Changes to the TFW Program Announced 

Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced an overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program. The revised program is based on three pillars:

  • Limiting access,

  • Increased labour market information and

  • Stronger enforcement and penalties.

Overhauling the Temporary Foreign Worker Program contains complete details about the changes announced today, which include:

  • The TFWP will now be administered based on wage, not National Occupation Classification.  According to the government, wage is a more objective and accurate reflection of skill level and labour need in a given area.  TFWs being paid under the median wage will be considered low wage.  In Alberta, the median wage is $24.23.

  • Employers in areas with unemployment exceeding 6% will not be able to apply for TFWs in the accommodation, food services and retail sectors.  Alberta’s unemployment rate is 4.6%.

  • Phasing in a cap on the number of TFWs a business can employ. 

    • Effective immediately, employers that currently employ more than 30% low wage TFWs will be limited at 30% or frozen at their current level.

    • This will be reduced to 20% starting July 1, 2015.

    • This will be further reduced to 10% starting July 1, 2016

TFWs currently working at work sites over the cap will be allowed to continue working at those sites until their existing work permits expire.

  • Labour Market Opinions will be replaced with Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA).  Employers will be required to:

    • Indicate the number of Canadians that applied for their available job,

    • Indicate the number of Canadians the employer interviewed,

    • Explain why those Canadians were not hired and

    • Attest that they are aware of the rule that Canadians cannot be laid off or have their hours reduced at a worksite that employs TFWs.

  • Effective immediately, the duration of work permits set out in LMIAs will be limited to a maximum of one year for all low wage positions instead of the two year duration that existed previously.  Employers will have to reapply every year for an LMIA.  The fee to apply increases from $275 to $1,100.

“These changes will only increase the structural labour gap our members already face,” said Dave Kaiser, the AHLA’s President & CEO.  “They do nothing to address regional disparities, and do not reflect labour market realities in Alberta.  These changes create an unnecessary burden and significant cost to our members.  This overhaul will result in reduced service, limited hours of operation and even closures for some businesses in Alberta’s hospitality industry.” 

The AHLA will continue working with all levels of government to develop a Hotel and Lodging Worker Program that works for our industry.

If Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association currently employs Temporary Foreign Workers that you would like to retain, we encourage you to nominate them to become Permanent Residents through the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program.