Temporary foreign workers are being used in every sector of Canada’s labour market, from farms and factories to the fast food industry.

But documents obtained by iPolitics show that in the past two years, even the federal government has used the TFW program.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s office told CTV News that the departments who have applied to use temporary foreign workers include:

  • National Defence (a flight engineer)
  • Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (two scientists to work on research projects)
  • Health Canada

His office also said the Public Health Agency of Canada applied for temporary workers but did not hire any.

“The cases in question are individuals in very highly skilled occupations,” Kenny’s office said.

While the program was designed to help fill labour shortages in rural communities, information technology specialist Rohana Rezel found that most companies that employed temporary foreign workers in British Columbia and Alberta were in urban centres.

Rezel used government data to create a website, which shows thousands of companies in both provinces that successfully applied to the program up until 2012.

“I find it a little bit shocking to be honest,” he told CTV News. “It’s not meant to be a long-term fix for businesses.”

The Liberals tried to pass a motion Wednesday night to reduce the use of temporary foreign workers. The Conservatives defeated the motion, but insist the program is under review.

The program became the subject of heated debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, when Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said it has resulted in fewer jobs for Canadian workers.

Meanwhile, Rodger Cuzner, Liberal employment and social development critic, said the program is a “legitimate” one, but argued that it needs immediate reform.

“There are all kinds of legitimate needs for temporary foreign workers,” he told CTV’s Power Play. “But this is about the program -- they’ve managed it badly. So we’re saying: mend it, don’t end it.”

With files from CTV’s Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief Laurie Graham