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NEWS: Harper supports Murray River coal mine in BC with temporary foreign workers

The Murray River

The Vancouver Sun reports, “(Vancouver-based Dehua International Mines Group, which is) proposing (the Murray River) underground coal mine (on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains) near Tumbler Ridge in northeastern B.C. wants to bring in (just under 2,000) experienced miners from China as part of its operating plan…”

“As Vancouver Sun reporter Peter O’Neil noted, Premier Christy Clark didn’t mention during her trade mission to China last November that most of the coal mining jobs created by a $1.4-billion Chinese investment in B.C. would be filled by Chinese workers. …The company says it can’t find the specialized workers it needs in British Columbia, where there are few remaining underground mines. The federal government, which runs the temporary foreign worker program under which about 150,000 people are allowed into the country each year, agrees there is a labour shortage in mining.”

Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom comments, “Early on in the 20th century, the silver and gold mines of Northern Ontario imported thousands of foreign workers. …In every case, the point of the exercise was to bring in workers who were less likely to make common cause with those already there and who, therefore, would be willing to work for less. …So it is depressing in the extreme to see employers, aided and abetted by the federal government, engage in the same discredited tactics. …I expect the real reason that Canadian Dehua and its Chinese partners want to bring in Chinese miners is because they figure on getting more work for less money from them. As temporary migrants dependent on their employer for work visas, the Chinese workers will be less likely to complain. They also will be reluctant to join a union.”

He adds, “Under Stephen Harper’s federal government, the number of temporary migrant workers allowed into Canada has exploded. …In Alberta, some temporary skilled workers serve coffee in doughnut shops. Others heave around beef carcasses in slaughterhouses like the Brooks XL Foods meat-packing plant — now the epicentre of an E. coli food scare. In the fruit and vegetable fields of Ontario, the unique skill that temporary migrant workers from the Caribbean or South America bring is their willingness to do back-breaking work for low wages.”

Walkom concludes, “This government just authorizes more temporary migrant workers, knowing full well that — regardless of their formal rights — they are in no position to complain. It’s one thing for the Harper Conservatives to return us to the status of a resource economy. It is another for them to insist that we become a low-wage resource economy.”

The Vancouver Sun article is at http://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/government+knew+years+plan+import+Chinese+miners/7373193/story.html. Walkom’s column can be read at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1270570–walkom-b-c-s-low-wage-migrant-coal-mining-jobs-send-us-back-to-the-future.