Changes to the temporary foreign workers program will include a cap on the number of workers coming to Canada for low-wage jobs, and heavy fines for employers who break the rules, CTV News has learned.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney will announce the changes during a news conference Friday.

The limit on low-wage workers will apply to each work location, making it difficult for employers to skirt the new rules.

Sources told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that the move will slash the number of low-wage jobs from 30,000 to 15,000.

Ottawa also plans to significantly boost the number of business inspections, and will impose tough penalties and heavy fines.

Temporary foreign workers already in Canada for low-wage jobs will be allowed to remain until their permits expire, which could be anywhere from one to four years.

The reforms come nearly two months after Kenney imposed a freeze on foreign workers in the food services industry following allegations that some McDonald’s franchises were bringing in too many low-paid labourers under the temporary foreign workers program.

The Harper government has faced major public backlash over Canadian businesses importing workers to fill low-skilled jobs, even in areas of high unemployment.

Government figures show that there are about 336,000 foreign workers in the country, which is an increase from 100,000 in 2002.

The new reforms won’t affect highly skilled workers. Seasonal labourers such as nannies and caregivers will be exempt under the new rules.

After imposing a moratorium on the food services industry in April, Kenney has repeatedly stated that the federal government would mend the program. In question period Thursday, Kenney said the government has already referred several cases to the Border Services Agency for criminal investigation.

On Thursday, picketers demonstrated outside government and lobby group offices to protest the ban on food sector workers and call for permanent immigration status for migrant workers and their families.

With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife