Saanich farm struggles to find workers despite rise in EI claims

WatchWe’ve seen industry after industry take major hits throughout the COVID-19 crisis. In March alone, over one million Canadians lost their jobs. But for the farming industry, it’s a different struggle. There’s jobs to be had, but filling them has become quite a challenge.

At Dan’s Farm & Country Market business is booming.

Their sales are up 50 per cent from this time last year, despite a deflated economy.

But with an increased demand for products, comes an increased demand for workers.

And with over one million Canadians losing their jobs and applying for EI last month, you’d think filling job openings would be easy.

However, that hasn’t been the case for farms around the Victoria region.

“I just put an add on Used Victoria and I was surprised I wasn’t getting any hits at all. There’s the odd person that I know of that is on EI and they don’t want to work at a job because they’ll ruin their chances of getting the EI,” said owner Dan Ponchet.

And losing out on local employees electing to collect employment insurance right now isn’t the only issue facing farmers. Foreign workers from countries including Mexico, who come every year, to work on Canadian farms will have a delayed start this year due to the mandatory 14 quarantine upon arrival.

And Quebec, the province hardest hit by COVID-19 with over 12,000 confirmed cases, is concerned about the arrival of migrant workers.

“There will be something like 159 Mexican workers which I personally welcome, but will have taken the plane in Mexico without having being tested for COVID-19,” said Bloc QuĂ©bĂ©cois leader Yves-François Blanchet.

But Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the RCMP will be working with municipal and provincial police forces to make sure that the quarantine act is enforced on the migrant workers that are so vital for food security in Canada.

“Canadians know from our farmers that their work is important to ensure food security and this season is an essential moment.” Freeland said.

Dan’s Farm in Saanich has brought in farmers from Mexico for the past 13 years. And will need them this year more than ever.

Locals interested in applying to the farm can do so here. 

Ben NesbitBen Nesbit

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