Premier Christy Clark and Jobs Minister Pat Bell have misled British Columbians about local job creation in Chinese-owned coal mines, says the United Steelworkers (USW), which represents miners in B.C.
Speaking about a proposed coal development by Chinese-owned Canada Dehua, Clark claimed in November 2011, “These two projects support our B.C. Jobs Plan and according to the companies will create over 6,700 jobs and other economic benefits for British Columbians,” according to media reports from Beijing where she was taking part in a trade mission.
And as reported by Gordon Hoekstra – then with the Prince George Citizen, now working for the Vancouver Sun – Bell said in March 2011, “Two Chinese coal companies and a steel maker are working with a Chinese company based in Vancouver to develop hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unique underground mines in northern B.C. that will provide thousands of jobs.”
And reported Hoekstra, “each underground mine would bring with it 300 or 400 jobs, or more, plus support another 5,000 to 6,000 spin-off jobs,” said Bell.
What the Premier and her minister did not mention was that those jobs were going to temporary foreign workers from China, not British Columbians.
“The people of B.C. have been purposefully misled by the B.C. Liberal government – this is not a job-creation program for B.C. It’s a project by, and for, Chinese corporations, who intend to bring temporary workers, dig up the coal and ship it to China,” says Steve Hunt, Director of the United Steelworkers for Western Canada.
Instead of hiring temporary workers, says Hunt, the B.C. government should be training B.C. workers, who currently face an unemployment rate of seven per cent.
“No one is born a miner,” notes Hunt. “You need to be trained. We could easily train British Columbians and Canadians who are looking for job security and stability in an industry that pays a family-supporting wage.”
Hunt also rejects Bell’s earlier statement that B.C. companies don’t have the expertise to develop underground coal mines.
“We are an exporter of mining equipment and mining expertise in this country. It’s nonsense to say we don’t have the expertise to develop mines.”
When Bell made that statement it was quickly rejected by Pierre Gratton, then-President of the Mining Association of Canada.
Hunt also reiterated his earlier concerns about the horrible safety record of Chinese mining companies.
“An industry that, according to the China Mine Disaster Watch – a website kept by the U.S. Mine Rescue Association – killed more than 50,000 workers from 2001 through 2011 has nothing to teach us about running mines.”