Feds announce major push to address COVID-19 outbreaks on farms

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Windsor-Essex, in large part due to high numbers of COVID-19 cases on farms, remains at Stage 2 and lags behind the rest of the province in the economic recovery.

“This is a strong step in the right direction … we know that more is needed,” said Kusmierczyk. He said COVID-19 has “shone a spotlight, revealing shortcomings” in Canada’s temporary foreign and seasonal agricultural worker programs.

The biggest chunk of the new money — $35 million — targets on-farm workplace health and safety mitigation efforts, including improved housing. Ottawa has pledged to develop new national standards and guidelines for accommodations, “ensuring long-term dignified and high quality living conditions for workers.”

Kusmierczyk said the Liberals view as “critical” the issue of improving housing for migrant farm workers, with crowded living conditions considered a major factor in the spread of the novel coronavirus.

More than $16 million is being invested to beef up farm inspections and “making improvements to how tips and allegations of employer non-compliance are addressed.”

Kusmierczyk said the extra money will pay for about 3,000 farm inspections. “If a migrant worker reports they are in a vulnerable situation … it can trigger an inspection. They can also be random.”

More than $7 million will go to “increase supports to temporary foreign workers,” including $6 million to migrant worker support organizations for direct outreach to workers. Organizations like Leamington’s Migrant Worker Community Program, said Kusmierczyk, deal directly with temporary foreign workers and assist them in dealing with government, and they host health fairs and offer English language training.