By DOUG PARTON
LNG Canada, the first of the proposed LNG projects in northern B.C. to have shovels in the ground, is a $40-billion project that is expected to employ 4,500 construction workers, 95 per cent of whom will be Canadian workers. This is just the first of a number of anticipated construction projects in northern B.C. that are going to help an entire generation of young women and men obtain skills training that will provide them good-paying jobs for the rest of their lives.
Northern B.C. has often faced much higher unemployment than the Lower Mainland and this has often resulted in young people leaving their communities to find work elsewhere. These LNG and other resource and energy development projects are providing an opportunity for the youth in the north of our province to learn skills that lead to high-paying jobs, to stay in the communities they grew up in, and to help their region prosper.
Ironworkers Local 97 and other construction unions are working closely with their contractors, their apprenticeship program and the local communities to ensure the youth of northern B.C. learn the skills needed for these projects. First Nation youth and women are being especially recruited as B.C.’s construction unions seek to provided training tailored to increase these traditionally under-represented groups’ participation in construction. Local 97 is committed to working with local First Nations to ensure interested Indigenous youth are provided the training and education they need to ensure lifelong success as ironworkers.
This includes not only work in the northern region of the province but throughout the U.S. and Canada, as First Nations’ members enjoy unrestricted access to work on construction projects in the United States thanks to the Jay Treaty of 1795. As a result of the apprenticeship training First Nations ironworkers will receive working on LNG projects in B.C., work opportunities in places like the U.S. Gulf States and elsewhere will also be open to them.
While LNG projects have faced criticism as contributing to climate change, the export of cleaner fuels to help power countries that have traditionally relied on coal, with its large carbon footprint, will help lead the world to meet the Paris Agreement targets. This is especially true as we see the LNG projects commit to using hydroelectric power to operate their LNG plants.
For a province that was traditionally thought of as merely hewers of wood and drawers of water to one that has become heavily reliant on the high tech and service economy, LNG provides B.C. an opportunity for the future — tens of thousands of construction jobs, along with all the spin-off jobs that building and operating the LNG plants bring to the local economies. Additionally, these projects will expand our tax base and help British Columbia afford the quality health care and education systems we know we all need going forward.
All in all, B.C. as a whole and northern B.C. in particular will prosper because of LNG. These LNG projects are the largest investments ever made in British Columbia — in our future and our children’s’ future and Ironworkers Local 97 is excited to be a part of it.
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