Canmore faces staff shortages heading into tourism peak season

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Michel Dufresne, the local Job Resource Centre director, said there is no one is keeping track of the of current staffing shortage problem in the Bow Valley. He said employers are calling him ten times a day and telling him they used to be short five employees but now they are short 15 staff.

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Businesses in Canmore said they have been forced to close earlier because they had no staff to work.

Dufresne said he believes the staff shortages could be pandemic-related. Pre-pandemic foreign workers and seasonal workers from other parts of Canada made up nearly half of the workforce.

“I think we lose people in the Bow Valley because of the cost of housing eventually but we don’t know why the seasonal workers from Ontario and Quebec are not coming like they used to. There are still restrictions in Quebec so maybe if you are living in a place where there is restrictions then you might not be thinking about traveling elsewhere,” said Dufresne.

Cindy Heisler, the Bow Valley Home Finder Facebook group founder, said people need to wake-up to the reality of the staff shortage and realize that it’s caused by the lack of affordable rental accommodation for staff in Canmore.

“There is no tourism without staff. Canmore is in a horrible position right now. Hotels, retail, and restaurants rely heavily on seasonal workers. Who is going to make the hotel beds?! If it’s bad now… it is going to get much worse after May 1 when tourism picks up,” said Heisler.

The Bow Valley Home Finder group started in 2014, and currently has 24,700 members.

Heisler says the group has steadily increased recently with more and more people joining every day.

“Out of 10 posts per day, two are people are advertising a rental, the other eight posts are posted by people looking for a place. I’ve seen so many people repeatedly say I’m still looking. The majority of people posting in the group have work lined up but they don’t have a place to live,” said Heisler.

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“People working from home during the pandemic filled up a lot of vacant accommodation in Canmore by deciding to move to the mountains to work from home.”

Heisler questions why Canmore can’t be on the leading edge of Van Life as an option for people.

“I don’t agree with what the Town did with restricting the Van Life area behind Save On Foods. I think the money that was spent on the outreach assessment officer would have been better spent on redesigning a better area for the people passing though.

“Supply and demand doesn’t make sense for Canmore. There are no more rentals being built. More and more employers are requesting that staff have housing; seasonal workers in Toronto work can’t seem to find a place to live online ahead of moving here and that turns them off.”

According to the last Bow Valley Job Resource Centre report thirty-nine per cent of all jobs posted at the Job Resource Centre from February-July were advertised with staff housing. More jobs in Banff (50%) came with staff housing than in Canmore (21%).

The report also said wages showed a steady increase in the average wage in the Bow Valley to $19.11 per hour.

Canmore Mayor Sean Krausert said on Monday Canmore has suffered from staff shortages for some time now, and such has been exacerbated by staffing shortages across the country.

“I expect the high cost of living in the Bow Valley contributes to staffing challenges,” acknowledged Mayor Krausert.

“Increasing affordability is a key goal for Council and something we will be working to address throughout our term. I can point to the return of the Safe Park program, a continued focus on increasing the income appropriate housing stock in the community, continuing fare-free transit and increasing the service times of Roam as just a few items that we are committed to in order to address livability for Canmore residents.”