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Foreign procurements taking jobs from Canadians

The Joint Review Panel's Condition 26 speaks to foreign workers used during the construction of the pipeline, but there are no conditions around foreign procurement.

We have heard lots in the news lately about the inappropriate use of Temporary Foreign Workers from the office towers of the Royal Bank of Canada to the street-level McDonald’s fast food outlets. Not being held in the limelight like temporary foreign worker issues are the effects of foreign procurement -- it too, takes jobs away from Canadians. 

Proof that foreign procurement is taking jobs from Canadians surrounds us in our everyday lives.  Go to our local building supply store and pick up a piece of wood trim, and you’ll read on the back “Made in Chile”.  Need some new clothes? Department store has lots of shirts and skirts to choose from, and they’re “made in Bangladesh”.  Drop into the grocery store for an apple for your lunch. It's grown in New Zealand. 

Chambers of commerce and municipal governments stress the importance of locals shopping locally.  Shouldn’t they expect the same from our local businesses?    

The reason why businesses large and small engage in foreign procurement is evident.  It is to better their bottom line.  Some companies speak very openly on how they benefit; take for instance Royal Dutch Shell.  One of their executive recently said they are outsourcing more and more from low-cost countries such as China, adding “I can make my tanks in China, and guess what? We take 40 per cent of the cost out.” 

Kitimat Clean Ltd. with its proposed refinery is not naive about how to save money on their project. The company owner, David Black, said “The tidewater location will enable the modular construction, transportation and installation of large refinery components from lower wage countries.”

Enbridge Northern Gateway hasn’t said what they will save through foreign procurement of pipe for their project, but they have indicated what Canadians will lose. 

In their reply to an information request from the federal government, Enbridge said, "If all line pipe was imported, the effect would be to reduce the construction period benefits (that is, benefits over the period 2013-2016) as follows":

  • construction period Canadian employment would be reduced by roughly 3,000 person years;
  • construction period Canadian GDP would decline by about $600 million (in 2009 dollars);
  • construction period Canadian income would decline by about $250 million; and
  • construction period Canadian government revenue would see a reduction of approximately $100 million.     

In their reply Enbridge claimed that "Northern Gateway will attempt to source these components from qualified Canadian suppliers, subject to their ability to meet Northern Gateway's specifications and timing requirements," saying it procured over 95 per cent of its line pipe from Canadian sources in the past. They said Canadian suppliers must also be competitive with other supply sources available to Northern Gateway.

Yet when pressed for comment during the hearings, here's what Tom Fiddler, Enbridge's senior manager of safety and construction had to say: 

Ultimately, there are cycles in the economy where they do need to recruit and have foreign -- employ foreign worker programs [...] we will get into those discussions with the tank builders relative to the Kitimat terminal. Tank construction, again, is predominantly union....there are a limited number of companies in Canada that build large-diameter hydrocarbon tanks...we’ve seen success with them when there’s been peak demands not having to resort to foreign labour programs."

The Joint Review Panel's Condition 26 speaks to foreign workers used during the construction of the pipeline, but there are no conditions around foreign procurement.

Our provincial government, with funding from our federal government, is planning enhancements to our ports, road and rail networks to encourage and enable more foreign procurement and export of our raw resources.

Is there anyone left to be a “Made in Canada” advocate?

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