Will LNG projects in B.C. require temporary foreign workers?

With 22 proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) projects in B.C., thousands of workers will be needed

With 22 proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) projects in B.C., thousands of workers will be needed if even one of these projects is approved. This raises the question – will the LNG industry rely on foreign workers?

According to a briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, officials told the federal labour minister in February that it was inevitable that companies would need temporary foreign workers to proceed with energy projects in Western Canada.

According to The Canadian Press, the briefing note recommends “signal support” for temporary foreign workers “on the condition that Canadians are considered first for available jobs… and only used as a measure of last resort.”

In an interview with The Canadian Press, David Keane, President of the B.C. LNG Alliance, said the LNG industry will likely have to rely on foreign workers.

“There will be probably a requirement, and I think everybody recognizes this, for temporary foreign workers to be able to build this industry, but we have a plan in place and are developing the plan and refining the plan to make sure that we look at Canadians first before we bring in temporary foreign workers,” he said.

Keane was in Burns Lake earlier this year answering questions about the LNG industry and its impact on local communities. During his visit, Burns Lake residents raised concerns on the likelihood of corporations hiring locally or bringing in foreign workers to construct the facilities and pipelines.

“We said locals first, British Columbians second, Canadians third, and then we’ll start looking elsewhere; but when we hire, they have to be qualified and they have to have experience,” Keane said in Burns Lake.

Although there are currently 22 proposed LNG projects in B.C., Keane said the actual number of facilities built will more likely be around five to seven.

TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink Pipeline, a proposed pipeline from near Dawson Creek to near Kitimat, passing south of Burns Lake, anticipates an estimated 2000 to 2500 jobs during construction, and 16 to 35 permanent positions during operation.

Black Press asked Costal GasLink if they expect to hire any foreign workers, and if so, how many.

Shela Shapiro, a spokesperson for Coastal GasLink, said Coastal GasLink expects to hire local B.C. residents “to the greatest extent possible, and provide high-quality, well-paying jobs.”

“We want to make the most of under-utilized local resources in B.C., depending in part on labour market conditions and the status of other major projects in the province,” she said. “We’re committed to providing contracting opportunities to qualified Aboriginal businesses, local contractors and suppliers along the pipeline route.”

Job opportunities will range from labourers and equipment operators, to skilled tradespersons and project managers. Construction requiring Aboriginal and local resources will include activities such as right-of-way clearing, gravel processing, access road development, camp and storage site preparation, materials hauling, right-of-way grading, pipeline ditching, site clean-up and reclamation.

If LNG Canada approves the project, construction on the Coastal GasLink Pipeline would begin in 2017.