VICTORIA – The federal investigation of the Murray River mine project and the Temporary Foreign Worker program shows the B.C. Liberal government was wrong to defend the company and the permitting process, say the New Democrats.
“The Liberals have known for years that hundreds of mining jobs in B.C. won’t be going to British Columbians,” said New Democrat labour critic Shane Simpson.
“Instead of raising concerns with the foreign owned mining company, or setting up skills training programs to prepare British Columbians for the jobs, the Liberals have instead defended the agreement and even taken credit for it.”
Last week, federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development said the federal government is “not satisfied with what we have learned about the process that led to permission for hundreds of foreign workers to gain jobs at the Dehua Mines subsidiary in British Columbia.”
But in October, Jobs Minister Pat Bell claimed “The due diligence was done by this company” and he justified workers taking B.C. mining exploratory jobs away, saying “To try and do it with British Columbians is impractical.” Bell continued, “On top of which, simply recruiting people who are prepared to take that type of training and go underground is very difficult.” Bell also dismissed the value of the jobs, saying it’s “dirty work.”
“It’s really unfortunate when a jobs minister refuses to fight for B.C. jobs because he thinks it’s impractical and he thinks British Columbians don’t want the jobs,” said Simpson. “The fact is the Liberals have refused to set up the training program and aren’t even giving British Columbians a chance to sign up to learn the skills to be eligible for the jobs.”
Simpson said New Democrats support the review under way by the federal government in principle, and urged the B.C. Liberal government to be an active participant in the federal investigation process to ensure the review is thorough and addresses issues critical to British Columbia.
Simpson added that the official opposition will look for opportunities to engage in the review, saying it is critically important that the protection of workers is taken into consideration, including both during the recruitment process overseas and ensuring workers' rights are protected when they are in Canada.
“I would like to see the federal government look at the circumstances for the 70,000 temporary foreign workers in B.C. today,” said Simpson. “Are those jobs that could be filled by British Columbians? How are those workers being treated?”
Adrian Dix and B.C.'s New Democrats believe an investment in skills training and post-secondary education is a critical component of any jobs plan, and that immigration to Canada through the Provincial Nominee Program offers better protection for foreign workers who want to come to Canada.