Comment: LNG Canada committed to B.C. workers and to apprentices

Re: “Barely half of LNG workers to be from B.C.,” column, April 3.

Temporary foreign workers at the LNG Canada project in Kitimat will comprise fewer than five per cent of the workers, as promised by LNG Canada. Put another way, 95 per cent of the workforce will be Canadian. These estimates were released last summer in briefing notes to the provincial government from LNG Canada from March 2018.

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LNG Canada responded to the belated “April Fool’s” brouhaha raised by B.C. Liberal MLA Mike de Jong in a short and clear statement.

“We do not expect to use temporary foreign workers and, if required, only at peak construction and in specialized trades,” said Susannah Pierce, who is the director of corporate affairs for LNG Canada.

We acknowledge that Les Leyne is correct when he notes “there are no hard requirements” in the agreement the government has with LNG Canada, at least according to a government briefing note. But we cannot dismiss LNG Canada’s public statement on the issue.

For the record, here is the projection of the workforce requirements for LNG Canada’s project.

• The project will be built over six years.

• At no single time will the Kitimat terminal facility construction require 10,000 construction workers.

• At peak construction, the project will require about 4,500 construction workers.

• About 25 per cent will be labourers.

• 23 per cent will be plumbers/ pipefitters/gasfitters.

• 27 per cent will be made up from welders, carpenters/scaffolders, sheet-metal workers, crane operators, concrete finishers, electricians, cryogenic insulators and other trades.

• The remaining workers include engineers, management, IT software and administration.

• An important component of the project is that LNG Canada is committed to hiring 25 per cent apprentices for the apprenticable trades.

We anticipate that most of the skilled (Red Seal) trades will be available from the B.C. construction workforce. When the LNG Canada project begins construction, workers who are currently working in non-industrial construction (primarily residential) will look at and move to the higher salaries paid for industrial work.

It’s ironic that the Liberals are attacking the NDP over the issue of temporary foreign workers. It was Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government that imported and exploited 35 TFWs to build the Canada Line. That project oversaw the hiring of TFWs to excavate the tunnel under False Creek at less than $4 per hour. The use of 80 Eastern European TFWs on the Golden Ears Bridge was horrific, as well; again, under the watch of the previous provincial Liberal administration.

In 2016, the previous Liberal government acquiesced to 40 per cent initial TFW labour to build an LNG facility in Prince Rupert, which could have peaked at 70 per cent temporary foreign workers. (That proposed project was subsequently cancelled due to LNG prices.)

Fewer than five per cent of the workers on LNG Canada’s facility in Kitimat will be temporary foreign workers and fully 25 per cent of the Canadian trades workers will provide training hours and experience for apprentices.

Tom Sigurdson is executive director of B.C. Building Trades.

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