Earlier, we reported on then Minister of State for Mining Bill Bennett's private display of affection toward Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc.'s Gething Coal Project, which included talking to the federal government about the company's controversial plan to staff the proposed mine with workers from China. But the Campbell administration doesn't seem to be nearly as enthusiastic about such plans when communicating to its opponents.
Back in May, International Transport Workers Federation-Canada national coordinator Peter Lahay wrote Economic Development Minister Colin Hansen requesting the province "not support the application of this (sic) Chinese controlled companies request to import some 400 Chinese coal miners."
Minister Hansen's response: "The Ministry understands at this point in time, the project is only a proposal and has not been approved to proceed with either construction or operationâ€¦All requests for temporary foreign workers are the responsibility of the federal government, and all companies requesting foreign workers must demonstrate they have attempted to hire from within British Columbia and Canada at a reasonable wage rate, or their requests will be denied. Ministry staff are monitoring the situation and are in frequent contact with their federal counterparts regarding foreign worker applications."
Indeed. Asked for comment on the matter, New Democrat energy, mines and petroleum development critic John Horgan said, "It's absolutely inappropriate for a provincial minister to say to a proponent in another country that he will lobby on behalf of that proponent to bring foreign workers to British Columbia. At the same time, it should be the role and function of the minister of economic development to be forthright about the intentions of this government with those who are communicating with it. And that apparently is not the case." The following is an edited copy of the aforementioned letters.
From: Peter Lahay
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2007 2:30 PM
To: Hansen.MLA, Colin
Subject: Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc.
Dear Minister Hansen
I urgently write to you today respectfully requesting your Government not support the application of this Chinese controlled companies request to import some 400 Chinese coal miners.
I refer for your information today's newspaper story from Globe and Mail's Report on Business. Clearly there are significant issues that need to be addressed.
I understand that the BC Federation of Labour has come out opposed to this plan and you have dismissed their concerns through the use of old school politics that have worn thin.
It would be my opinion that the Government should heed those concerns, because this could be the issue that brings home so many other issues that have not been in the interest of BC communitties, citizens, workers nor the environment.
Clearly your Government does not give a damn about anything except corporate interests. So much so that you are willing to poison us with emissions through your Gateway project.
I am sure that this email is easy for you to dismiss. However, when people such as myself have had enough and decide to dig in it does not bode well for your Government.
Please reconsider your position on this matter.
Intl. Transport Workers Federation-Canada
From: Minister, ECDV ECDV:EX
Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 3:26 PM
To: Peter Lahay
Subject: FW: Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc.
Mr. Peter Lahay
Intl. Transport Workers Federation-Canada
Dear Mr. Lahay:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding Canadian Dehua International's mining interests in British Columbia and your concerns on the proposed importation of Chinese mine workers.
The Ministry understands at this point in time, the project is only a proposal and has not been approved to proceed with either construction or operation.
While the company has an office established in Vancouver and a presence in Chetwynd, the project is still at the pre-application stage of the Environmental Assessment process. The Environmental Assessment process will require the proponent to meet the regulatory requirements in terms of environmental impact of the project, including socio-economic, community and First Nations impacts.
The Ministry also understands while Dehua Canada International recently issued a press release announcing its intention to hire 400 underground miners from China, no such application has been received by Service Canada. All requests for temporary foreign workers are the responsibility of the federal government, and all companies requesting foreign workers must demonstrate they have attempted to hire from within
British Columbia and Canada at a reasonable wage rate, or their requests will be denied.
Ministry staff are monitoring the situation and are in frequent contact with their federal counterparts regarding foreign worker applications.
Thank you again for outlining your concerns on this matter.
cc: Honourable Richard Neufeld
Minister of Energy and Mines
Mr. John Horgan, MLA
Malahat - Juan de Fuca