VICTORIA – A mining company’s stated intention to use temporary foreign workers in British Columbia for up to 10 years calls into question the Liberal government claim that British Columbians will only lose out on jobs during the exploratory phase, say the New Democrats.
“Clearly the Liberal government mismanaged negotiations with foreign-owned mining companies from the beginning, and they squandered the opportunity to ensure B.C. jobs go to British Columbians,” said New Democrat mining critic Doug Donaldson. “The Liberal government was aware that mining companies intended to supply their own workers, yet they didn’t even raise a concern during negotiations.”
HD Mining vice president Jody Shimkus has said that the company will need to rely on temporary foreign workers for operations in B.C. for 10 years. Shimkus said, “The mining sector as a whole has a shortage of skilled labour right now.”
While HD Mining says their own long-term plan is to assist in the training of Canadian workers, Shimkus said it “wasn’t even a government requirement.”
A two-page note for the premier and staff prepared ahead of a meeting with HD Mining contains a “Desired Outcome” section that doesn’t include anything about jobs for British Columbians even though the same note clearly outlines HD Mining’s intention to supply hundreds of their own workers for a B.C. mine.
Despite HD Mining’s intention to fill jobs for up to a decade with temporary workers, Jobs Minister Pat Bell continued to deploy Liberal government misinformation by claiming on Wednesday the jobs were only for “six to eight months.” The jobs minister tried to make light of the issue by saying “I guess I'm always happy to make sure there's lots of great water cooler talk for all the offices around the lower mainland.”
“Whether it’s the premier or the jobs minister, the Liberal government doesn’t get it. British Columbians won’t be able to fill those mining jobs if the Liberal government won’t launch training programs,” said Donaldson. “Clearly the Liberal government has dropped the ball from the very beginning when it comes to securing those jobs for British Columbians. They never raised the issue with HD Mining, and they have consistently said they are going to hold off any training programs for underground mining.”
Donaldson and New Democrat labour critic Shane Simpson wrote to the premier on Oct. 17, asking her to release details of any investment agreements reached with international mining companies during the 2011 jobs trade mission to China. There has been no response from the premier.
Adrian Dix and the New Democrats believe an investment in skills training and post-secondary education is a critical component of any jobs plan.