The fourth set of questions the Tribune asked the candidates running in the provincial election is about their stance on health care, environment, fisheries and jobs:
How should government deal with the shortage of skilled workers in the resource industry sector? What is your position on the current temporary foreign worker program?
Answers are as follows:
Bob Simpson, Independent, Cariboo-Chilcotin
None of the political parties and their leaders are speaking to the real job challenge confronting B.C. which is both demographic and geographic.
In 2013 there will be more British Columbians retiring from the workforce than young people entering it and the overwhelming majority of new jobs will be in rural and remote areas of the province while most of the available workers live in the Lower Mainland.
Left unaddressed, this demographic and geographic challenge will mean the hundreds of thousands of new jobs both political parties are talking about will be most likely filled by people from out of province or temporary foreign workers.
Given that we’ll have a significant made-in-B.C. worker shortage, is it really wise to liquidate all our mineral and oil and gas resources as hastily as both the NDP and Liberals suggest we will over the next 10 years?
Regardless of the answer to this question, B.C. will still likely have to increasingly rely on the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program.
As such, this program must be strengthened so that TFWs are fully protected under B.C.’s laws and are paid wages that are on par with British Columbians.
This will prevent both the abuse of the program (as a means to hire cheaper workers) and abuse of these workers.
Duncan Barnett, New Democratic Party, Cariboo North
Since the Liberals launched their jobs plan and spent $17 million in taxpayer dollars to promote it, B.C. has lost 34,800 private sector jobs.
Industry leaders have been warning for years of the looming skills shortage and the negative impact on our economy. Instead of investing in skills training, the B.C. Liberals cut funding for it in this year’s budget.
We have committed to bringing in a $100 million student grant program that will help more people access the training they need to get the skills employers are looking for. New Democrats have also committed to increasing spaces for apprenticeships, improving completion rates and investing in modern training equipment in local colleges, universities and technical institutions.
British Columbians need to have the first shot at jobs before they are offered to temporary foreign workers. Unfortunately, loopholes in the program and shortages in skills training have resulted in British Columbians losing out on good jobs. An NDP government would train British Columbians to fill these jobs and close loopholes in the program.
Coralee Oakes, Liberal Party, Cariboo North
I am proud to have been part of the team that lobbied for $11 million for the North Cariboo Community Campus and phase II of the $9.8 million Skills and Trades Centre. I will continue to be a champion for the expansion of phase II in Quesnel and of TRU in Williams Lake.
Skills training is a major priority for today’s B.C. Liberals.
In September 2012, we announced a comprehensive $75 million Skills and Training Plan to expand and align skills training programs with economic opportunities to ensure British Columbians have the right skills, in the right places, at the right time. This is in addition to the $500 million in annual investments in skills training programs.
We want to increase the number of high school graduates proceeding directly to a trades or technical program by 50 per cent, and expand opportunities for students to begin apprenticeships before graduation and earn graduation credits that also can be applied to a trades or technical program. Starting next year financial aid will be available for in-demand trades and technical programs.
The federal government is reviewing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to ensure that rules and process are being followed. We will continue to work with them to ensure that British Columbians are first in line for jobs in B.C. and that we are providing the necessary skills training.
Temporary foreign workers play an important role in the provincial economy, but our goal is to ensure British Columbians are first in line for available jobs in B.C.