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We are urging the government to bring back the Destination Employment Program

As highlighted in our members update late last week, Ministers Miller and Boissonnault made changes to temporary resident levels which reduces the maximum percentage of restaurant operators’ workforce through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) for low-wage positions from 30 per cent to 20 per cent. The validity of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is also reduced from 18 months to six months. Please note that the work permit will still be for two years, but this reduction in validity down to six months will mean more red tape for operators. 

Restaurants Canada is deeply disappointed and concerned with this announcement. We knew the federal government was considering restrictions on the program and have been pushing to keep the current system in place while they look for a way to address our industry’s labour needs.  This was strongly reiterated in meetings with Minister Miller in February and discussions with Minister Boissonnault’s team.

With 100,000 current job vacancies, these new measures will make it even more burdensome to fill these positions by reducing the labour pool available to restaurant operators and adding more red tape to redo LMIAs more often. This comes at a time where the industry is facing immense pressures in a number of areas. Canada’s labour market and workforce strategies must prioritize the needs of small business, family-owned and national franchise establishments across Canada. It is essential to ensure economic growth and prosperity for all.

This is why we are urging the government to bring back the Destination Employment program, to offset the impact of these new measures and make sure restaurant operators can focus on their main mission: serving their communities and their customers. As we pointed out in our prebudget submission, the Destination Employment Pilot is a key mechanism to augment our workforce capacity and address labour shortages across Canada. Its efficacy has been proven, and those who were part of the pilot program praised its efficiency. It would significantly assist in our industry’s labour supply challenges.  Know this is a priority issue for Restaurants Canada.

As we transition into this time of renewal, our focus remains steadfast on federal advocacy to support and empower the restaurant industry. Our government relations team is on deck at pace with the return of legislatures from break and is committed to addressing the unique challenges and opportunities that arise during this period, ensuring that our members and the broader community can thrive in the ever-evolving foodservice landscape.

I want to assure all our members that we are deeply dedicated to guiding you towards a wealth of support options provided by both national and local governments. The Canadian government has curated an extensive array of programs specifically tailored for businesses on their Supports for business website, including several related to carbon tax funding welcoming applications from our industry. Please read the reporting from Richard Alexander, Restaurants Canada’s EVP, Government and Public Affairs, below for more detail. It is our priority to ensure that you have the necessary information and assistance to benefit from these opportunities.

Restaurants Canada is proud of the research and intelligence reports we provide to our members to support their business planning. If you have not taken advantage of the latest research offering be sure to check out The Quarterly: Canadian Restaurant Intelligence Report. This new report combines the Restaurant Outlook Survey and the Quarterly Forecast into one convenient new research tool with an updated and fresh look. Each edition of The Quarterly will include an overview of the foodservice landscape along with the latest industry trends to help you benchmark your business, including a forecast of foodservice sales over the next two years. Operators and suppliers can learn which segments have the strongest growth in the coming quarters, as well as the economic factors that pose a risk to that growth.

Speaking of the Restaurant Outlook Survey, the Q2 2024 response form is now live. I strongly urge you to take a few minutes to fill out the survey by Monday, April 8th. Collecting and sharing current member information is vital to our research and advocacy work, both of which are crucial tools Restaurants Canada counts on to advance the needs of our industry.

As we look at the year ahead it is hard not to think about this year’s Restaurants Canada Show, themed “LEVEL UP”, which kicks off April 8th.  Level UP. It is a time of innovation and great change which will be evident throughout the show floor and across every stage. The content and panel discussions will support you and your teams with great insight. The schedule is now live, and there are a few sessions on the RC Show Speaker Stage, and elsewhere on the Show floor, I’d like to mention.

If you are attending RC Show (and I hope you are!), please reserve your table in advance for the highly anticipated and/ore restaurant Chef’s Picnic at the RC Show Pop Up Experience, taking place all three days of RC Show (April 8-10). This limited-time dining experience, featuring Executive Chef Missy Hui and the and/ore restaurant team includes a modern Canadian Chef’s Picnic menu with paired cocktails and full table service. Tables for two to six people at $15 per person are available, with all proceeds after taxes and fees donated to the Canadian Hospitality Foundation (CHF).

One thing is clear: our Millennial diners want an experience, and thankfully that is what the restaurant industry does best! They want to feel that emotional connection that these panelists have mastered! We are thrilled to have renowned, full-service operators joining us for the Crafting Unforgettable Full-Service Experiences panel, presented by American Express, including John Bunner, Operations Director at Alo Food Group and Cory Vitiello, Director, Concept and Culinary Development at LFG Growth.

During the post-pandemic era, as we work to rebuild our teams, we are also facing enduring labour challenges. Demographics suggest this labour gap will remain a fixture for at least a decade, so it is more important than ever to create positive and inclusive workplaces that foster belonging. The Next Generation of Canadian Foodservice session, focused on the importance of fostering mentorship to help nurture and develop emerging talent.

As we look at other opportunities to enhance our workplaces, I always like to highlight the value of employee benefit programs. Studies show providing benefits is linked to lower employee turnover, higher productivity and increased employee engagement. To support our members, we have partnered with The JDB Group, who can answer your questions and provide members with options.  


From Richard Alexander | Executive Vice-President, Government Relations & Public Affairs

Carbon Tax Reimbursements & Fairness for Restaurants

Restaurants Canada continues to press for clarity and fairness for operators.

You are likely hearing lots about the Carbon Tax lately. It is THE signature policy of the Trudeau government, and killing the tax is THE current election promise of the Official Opposition. To say the issue of carbon tax is divisive in Canada is putting it mildly.

Though the government promised that carbon pricing would be revenue neutral, many have argued that this commitment has not extended from individuals to small businesses. Indeed, a 2022 report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, stated that “in our view, due to issues … delivering the funding, the department had not addressed the burden from carbon pricing faced by [SMEs].”

The mechanism for returning carbon tax inputs to small business is significantly more difficult than returning inputs to a household and, as such, the mechanism is different for small businesses and households. The federal government allocated $218 million of carbon tax revenue over two years to help SMEs, including restaurants, to invest and install energy efficient retrofits via the Climate Action Incentive Fund.

The challenge for our industry has been awareness of the funds and finding the capital to contribute to qualify for funding. Post pandemic debt and historic levels of inflation has resulted in most restaurants not being able to take advantage of the program. 

Restaurants Canada has and continues to engage with the federal government on this problem. It is a complex discussion and is fraught with political risk; however, there is a real issue here for our industry and the policy of carbon tax is not incentivizing our industry the way it was supposed to. The federal government’s policy objective and initial intention is not being realized. Stay tuned.

As mentioned above in Kelly’s section, if you are interested in seeing what funding is available for business under the carbon tax, read the article below and follow the link to the Supports for business web page. In the search bar, there is an element you can select to “reduce pollution or improve energy efficiency” which brings up the programs funded by the carbon tax.

Federal Supports for Restaurants “Supports for business” site offers a wealth of national and regional supports.

Restaurants Canada is committed to helping members find and access financial and other supports available through national and local governments. The Government of Canada’s Supports for business site lists hundreds of different programs (primarily regional in nature) that offer financial support and advice for businesses, including programs that are accepting applications from the food services sector.

When visiting the site, you will be prompted to click the “Find the right support now” button to be directed to the—Business Benefits Finder. The website will prompt you to answer some questions about your business, its location(s), and about the types of supports you hope to access, including, but not limited to, grants and funding; loans and capital investment; tax credits; wage subsidies and interns; expert advice, and more. The site lists programs that offer funding and support for things like starting or buying a business; buying or leasing equipment; growing and expanding business; hiring and training employees; increasing working capital; increasing productivity, quality, safety, or efficiency; reducing pollution or improving energy efficiency; and help selling, closing, or transferring a business.

We will continue to work with all levels of government to ensure the foodservice industry’s unique needs are reflected in the business supports provided.

Update: Fighting Against Forced Labour & Child Labour in Supply Chains Act

First Reports Due May 31, 2024, and information sessions for RC members are in the works.

Organizations subject to the Act will be required to submit annual reports to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness by May 31, 2024. Applicable organizations must report the steps their organization has taken to prevent and reduce the risk that child labour and/or forced labour are used in their supply chains to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The Act generally targets publicly traded organizations and larger organizations (those with at least two of: 250 employees, $20M in assets, $40M in revenue).  More details regarding reporting requirements are available through Public Safety Canada: Forced Labour in Canadian Supply Chains.

Restaurants Canada has reached out to the Office of the Hon. Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Public Safety, to request an opportunity for our members to speak with officials to ask technical questions and share any concerns they have about compliance and reporting. The minister’s office has responded and is working with us to facilitate an information session with their officials that will be open to our members.  

Making Introductions & Relationship Building

Central Canada V-P Kris Barnier is getting into position.

New Central Canada V-P Kris Barnier has been active with outreach to several key ministerial offices and has already met and/or spoken with senior staff from the offices of the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Job Creation and Trade, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. 

Kris is also looking forward to upcoming meetings scheduled with the Office of the Premier, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Associate Minister of Small Business, and has made outreach to other ministerial offices. Kris will provide his first official update in his next scheduled report.  

To date, his meetings and engagement have focused on building on the work that Restaurants Canada has already done to build strong and positive relationships and on helping the Government of Ontario understand the important role restaurants play in our economy and communities and the urgent need our members have for relief and support from all levels of government.   


From Maximilien Roy| Vice-President, Federal & Québec

Max is just back from vacation and will return to regularly scheduled reporting this week.


From Jordi Morgan | Vice-President, Atlantic Canada

New Brunswick and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador both released their budgets last week. New Brunswick’s Finance Minister presented a “stay the course” pre-election budget surplus with spending focused in key areas of healthcare, housing, education, and social assistance. Newfoundland and Labrador’s Finance Minister delivered a budget with a forecast of a $152 million deficit attributed to spending on affordability initiatives with some small but welcome news for small business.

Newfoundland & Labrador: Budget Overview

Spending increase with small business tax reduction and investments in workforce development and economic growth.

Although delayed by a day due to protest at the legislature, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Finance Minister Siobhan Coady delivered a budget Thursday with a spending increase of 4.6 per cent, that focused efforts heavily on health care and housing, as well as support for seniors, communities and industry.

Total spending will hit a record $10.4 billion resulting in a $152 million dollar deficit. There is some notable spending aimed at small business. A reduction in the small business tax rate, effective January 1, 2024, from 3 per cent to 2.5 per cent on income tax payable up to $500,000 will result in savings for about 6,500 profitable small firms. $170 million is earmarked for workforce development and $35 million will support economic development initiatives including research and development, commercialization, investment attraction, regional development, and business growth activities. Notably, $500,000 has been set aside for business navigators to work with businesses to help make it easier to navigate government policies and red tape.

There are no new taxes, tax increases, or fee increases. Highlights of the NL 2024-25 budget can be found here

New Brunswick: Budget Overview

No plans for direct foodservice industry support or tax relief.

On Wednesday in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Finance Minister Ernie Steeves delivered a budget with a forecast surplus of $41 million, but nothing in the way of tax relief for small business owners. There is no direct assistance for the food service industry; however, there were some indications there may be opportunities to revisit program spending directed toward the sector for employment and innovation.

While there is a projected surplus, the cumulative provincial debt will increase by $315 million this year following several years of decreases. Highlights of Finance Minister Ernie Steeves’ budget can be found here

Restaurants Canada Atlantic V-P Jordi Morgan had a few moments to catch up with New Brunswick Finance Minister Ernie Steeves before he delivered the 2024-25 provincial budget in Fredericton on March 18th.

Nova Scotia: WorkSafe Nova Scotia Making Psychological Injury Compensable

Webinar on the implications for business owners happening this week.

WCB is preparing to make gradual onset psychological injury compensable. Beginning in September, Nova Scotia will be the first province in Atlantic Canada to offer coverage for this type of work-related psychological injury. To help owners understand important implications to their business, a webinar is being hosted this Wednesday, March 27 from 3:00 to 4:00 PM by WCB’s Director of Psychological Injury, Lynette Fenton. You can register for the webinar here

Nova Scotia: RANS 2024 Education & Training Survey

The short survey calls for input on foodservice industry education and training needs.

The Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS) is looking for your help to understand the education and training needs of the food and beverage industry. This survey will gather data to provide a picture of where restaurant owners are accessing their education and HR needs, the current level of training for both operators and employees, and their future intentions. The survey should take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

Please complete the survey here.


From Kris Barnier | Vice President, Central Canada and the North

Ontario: Provincial Budget

Budget tomorrow, March 26th

Facing considerable pressure on rising health care expenses, public sector wages and post-secondary education, the province is also expected to demonstrate progress on home building and key infrastructure programs balanced with an ideologically driven desire to freeze taxes. This will likely result in a slim budget primarily focused on the measures outlined above.

Restaurants Canada delivered a pre-budget submission that focuses on core member priorities, and we will respond to the Budget after it is delivered.

Ontario: Working for Workers Legislation

Restaurants Canada underlines the industry’s “Catch-22” during meeting with Ministry.

Restaurants Canada recently met with staff from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Skills Development to discuss labour policy. During discussions, Restaurants Canada emphasized that our members are responsible employers, but employers who are struggling with numerous growing expense pressures and who have no capacity to take on additional costs. Restaurants Canada also spoke about the importance of immigration and opportunities for Ontario to help with labour shortages impacting the restaurants sector.

Manitoba: Engaging the MRFA

Restaurants Canada meets with Executive Director to collaborate on joint interests and concerns.

New Central Canada V-P Kris Barnier met with MRFA Executive Director Shaun Jeffrey to introduce himself and to talk about opportunities to collaborate on top member priorities in Manitoba.  Kris is scheduled to attend MRFA’s trade show and Board meeting in April and will coordinate with Shaun on engagements with strategically important Manitoba government offices.

For their first joint meeting, Kris and Shaun met with Justice Minister Matt Wiebe to talk about the impact crime is having on restaurants and other businesses and they urged the Government to take action to help restaurants, their staff, and their patrons.    

Territories: GNWT Releases What We Heard Report

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has released a “What We Heard Report” that summarizes the results of engagement on the Employment Standards Act and regulations. High level findings can be found in this release.

Yukon: Labour Market Development Strategy

The Government of the Yukon is beginning engagement on a Yukon Labour Market Development Strategy. There is opportunity for interested stakeholders to provide background and input into their existing and anticipated labour needs.


From Mark von Schellwitz | Vice-President, Western Canada

Saskatchewan: Budget Highlights

On March 20th, the Saskatchewan government tabled their final budget prior to the upcoming October provincial election. The budget theme of “Classrooms, Care and Communities” reflects $1 billion in new spending on healthcare, education and community supports.

The budget projects a $273.2 million deficit for fiscal year 2024-25, followed by a $18.5 million surplus in 2025-26, and a $225.1 million surplus in 2026-27. There are no new taxes or tax increases included in the budget, nor are there any specific measures targeting the foodservice sector.

Budget provisions of interest to members include an extension of the temporary 1 per cent small business tax rate introduced during the pandemic until June 30, 2025. The rate was scheduled to return to 2 per cent this July. The eligible small business tax threshold remains at $600,000 which is the highest small business tax threshold in Canada. The budget also includes some workforce development initiatives including an increase of $856,000 in spending for the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) to support the record 8,000 nominations allocated for the SINP program.

Alberta: AAIP Tourism and Hospitality Stream Membership Verification Process

Volume of response results in a new, weekly verification process for Restaurants Canada member applicants.

Following the March 1st implementation of the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (AAIP) Tourism and Hospitality Stream, AAIP has received hundreds of applications from Restaurants Canada members. One of the eligibility requirements for the new immigration stream is that tourism and hospitality businesses must be members of one of the listed sector industry associations, including Restaurants Canada, to be eligible. As a result, Restaurants Canada has received hundreds of membership applications and proof of membership enquiries over the past two weeks.

Given the volume of membership applications and proof of Restaurants Canada membership enquires, as well as the large volume of initial AAIP Tourism and Hospitality Stream Restaurants Canada member applications, AAIP officials and Restaurants Canada have agreed to a membership verification process where AAIP will provide weekly lists of Restaurants Canada member AAIP applications to verify membership. This process will confirm applicants as Restaurants Canada members and speed up the application process. As a result, those new members or members waiting for proof of membership are encouraged to send in their applications to AAIP as Restaurants Canada members along with any information they have confirming Restaurants Canada membership and Restaurants Canada will verify your membership status with AAIP. 

Alberta: Addressing liquor Policy Issues and Red Tape

Meeting planned with Service Alberta & Red Tape Reduction Minister

On April 15th Restaurants Canada will be meeting with Alberta’s Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction, Dale Nally, who is responsible for AGLC and liquor policy. Alberta members with any liquor policy and red tape reduction issues and suggestions are encouraged to reach out to me directly prior to the meeting to ensure your concerns and recommendations are addressed.

British Columbia: BC Chicken Price Campaign

“Chickan’t Afford Me Anymore” campaign showing early signs of success.

The targeted “Chickan’t Afford Me Anymore” social media campaign launched February 27th continues, and initial feedback indicates the campaign is succeeding in reaching the targeted audience. Restaurants Canada followed up with additional campaign letters to Premier Eby and opposition party leaders including public opinion survey data indicating that 78 per cent of British Columbians would be concerned (with 21 per cent very upset) if chicken prices increase by another 10 per cent with 48 per cent of respondents indicating that they would purchase less chicken and 24 per cent stating they would stop buying chicken altogether. The letter resulted in conversations with two opposition party leaders asking for their party’s support in opposing the proposed price increase. On March 13th, Restaurants Canada also sent this letter to all BC MLAs asking them to voice their opposition to the proposed chicken price increase.

Despite Restaurants Canada having no standing as a stakeholder to provide direct input to the BC Farm Industry Review Board (FIRB) on the proposed chicken price increase, FIRB board members are aware of our industry’s opposition to the proposed price increase and our campaign. FIRB has now received all stakeholder submissions and is in the final stage of the decision-making process with a decision on the proposed chicken price increase expected sometime in April.

British Columbia: Labour Relations Code Review & Legislative Amendment

BC government introduces bad faith bill despite ongoing Labour Relations Code Review.

Restaurants Canada continues to work with other business associations on finalizing a joint business association submission to the Labour Relations Code Review Committee providing the business community’s perspective on potential changes to the Labour Relations Code covering issues like picketing, secret ballot votes and sectoral bargaining.

The business community was shocked to learn that, despite the active Labour Relations Code Review Committee’s plans to report back to the Labour Minister with recommendations by May 31st, rather than waiting for the review committee’s report and recommendations, the provincial government, with no transparency or consultation, introduced Bill 9 – Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. The Bill includes a Part 5 legislative change to the Labour Relations Code that redefines the word “strike” and will expand the risk of secondary picketing affecting neutral third parties.

British Columbia: Employment Standards Amendment Act

Annual minimum wage adjustment formula included in the Act without RC consultation.

Restaurants Canada was also not consulted on the introduction and subsequent passing of Bill 2 – Employment Standards Amendment Act where the current government’s annual minimum wage consumer price-based adjustment formula policy is now included in Employment Standards Act legislation.

Previously, minimum wage adjustments were made by Cabinet through an Order in Council in the spring prior to June 1st implementation. Going forward, minimum wage will be adjusted based on the consumer price formula annually on the 1st of June, making it more difficult for subsequent governments to change minimum wage policy as it would require a legislative amendment as opposed to a Cabinet decision.

British Columbia: Public Health Accountability & Cost Recovery Act

Restaurants Canada concerned about implications of sweeping legislation and seeks to narrow the scope.

Restaurants Canada also has concerns regarding the recent introduction of Bill 12- Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act, which allows government to sue a wide range of companies who provide goods and services to British Columbians to recoup health care related costs in the event their product or service may have caused disease, injury, or illness (or even the risk of it), and where the government has incurred costs related to that disease, injury, illness, or risk. Restaurants Canada will be working with other business associations advocating for significant amendments to narrow the scope of this sweeping legislation that could negatively impact a wide range of businesses in various sectors.

A final reminder to take advantage of free member registration and to consider bringing your team to RC Show 2024. The Team Building Staff Pack ($522) is currently available and on sale. When you purchase one multi-day pass, you get an additional five passes at a 50 per cent discount.

I would also suggest you purchase your Breakfast With Champions and other Hospitality Week event tickets and reserve your table at the RC Pop Up Experience soon because they’re selling fast!

On a personal note, those who know me will understand that I have to highlight the workshop on Sake and the Umami Factor, with James Beard Foundation Award-winning authors Nancy Matsumoto and Michael Tremblay. Sake is an incredible experience for your tastebuds and is sure to be a hit on your beverage list—and these two are global leaders in the sake world!

Yours in unity, strength and community as we transition toward a profitable, sustainable future together,

Kelly Higginson