Help us or we may leave Vancouver, Lululemon tells Ottawa

OTTAWA — One of Vancouver’s most successful companies is warning it may be forced to move its 1,200-employee head office outside the country because of problems with the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Vancouver-based Lululemon Athletica Inc., which earlier this year delivered a scathing written critique of the strict TFW rules on hiring foreigners, wants the same kind of exemption Ottawa grants to universities, the film industry and Microsoft.

That would allow the athletic apparel retailer, with global revenue of $2.1 billion in 2015, to avoid going through a time-consuming labour market impact assessment (LMIA) process before recruiting a senior manager or design expert from one of the world’s apparel hubs, like London, New York or San Francisco.

“Our growth and our ability to remain headquartered in Vancouver will require that the vertically-integrated apparel industry be granted a similar LMIA transition plan exemption as the film industry and academia,” the company stated in a paper submitted to the House of Commons finance committee in late July.

The B.C. Federation of Labour this week accused Lululemon of issuing a “threat,” though the Business Council of B.C. said Ottawa should make it easier to bring in people with specialized technical and professional skills.