ELECTION 2015: Kootenay-Columbia Q&A 3: Foreign workers and climate change

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  • Sep. 24, 2015 8:00 a.m.

In addition to other pre-election coverage, the Advance — together with other Black Press newspapers in the region — will be publishing federal candidates’ responses to two questions each week leading up to the Oct. 19 election. (Part 1 here, Part 2 here.) This week, the Advance asked the five member of Parliament candidates in the Kootenay-Columbia federal riding:

5. What, if any, changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program will you advocate for in order to help support tourism in the region? Or what is the alternative solution to businesses in our region that cannot find the staff they need to operate at full capacity?

6. Given the Kootenay-Columbia is a lake and river-filled region with extreme weather events, how will you be an environmental steward and address the uncertainties of climate change?

 

Bill Green

(Green Party)

5. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program was established to address short-term problems, but there is no quick fix to most of our labour shortages.

The Green Party’s labour market strategy focuses on long-term solutions: education and skills training, a guaranteed livable income to provide everyone with an income above the poverty line, and bringing in foreign workers as future Canadians — not as temporary, vulnerable employees.

We will remove financial barriers to education, apprenticeships and skills training by eliminating tuition fees and capping student debt.

A guaranteed income will allow people to live and work in their home communities, even on minimum-wage jobs, which will ease staff shortages in tourism and service sectors.

Finally, Canada needs immigrants and their families who become permanent, valued contributors to Canadian society. The immigration process must be tailored to meet our labour needs.

6. The best way to address the uncertainties of climate change is to avoid causing more climate change. Canadian governments have so far failed to meet this challenge.

The Green Party’s bold climate action plan starts with goals informed by science. To avoid catastrophic climate change, we must begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, starting now.

Our plan to achieve this is built around carbon pricing — a predictable carbon price levied on industry at the point of extraction. All carbon fee revenue will be redistributed as a dividend, rewarding those who strive toward a low-carbon footprint.

Leading international energy companies are urging governments to establish carbon pricing systems. The Globe and Mail ranked the Green plan as the most economically efficient.

We are experiencing the effects of climate change even now and more severe effects are unavoidable. We must be prepared. The Green Party will invest $6.4 billion per year in green municipal infrastructure to support community resilience in the face of extreme weather events.

 

Don Johnston

(Liberal Party)

5. Staffing seasonal industries and ensuring younger workers secure dependable employment are both nationwide concerns. We need to address both. Conservative mismanagement led to Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) entrants increasing from 141,000 in 2005 to 338,000 in 2012, and abuses of this program drives down wages and displaces Canadian workers.

Liberals believe those who want to work in Canada should have a pathway to citizenship. We will return the TFWP to its original purpose: filling jobs when qualified Canadians cannot be found and then complement it with employment programs.

We will increase the labour market development agreement by $500 million annually to support regional job retention, waive employers’ EI premiums when they hire 18-24 year olds, support college co-op jobs, expand pre-apprenticeship training and create a three-year $300 million youth employment strategy aimed at creating 40,000 jobs each year.

Combining TFWP benefits with other employment strategies has longer-term value.

6. Canadians want immediate leadership on the environment and that’s our promise. Our commitment to bring all premiers to the 2015 Paris environmental conference and investing $6 billion more in green infrastructure in our first four years is Step 1.

If you’re asking what I can do locally to mitigate problems, it could range from water level negotiations for the Columbia Basin Treaty, reinstating the federal Kootenay Lake fishery office or supporting wildfire programs. Climate change itself requires comprehensive environment policies and are one of the strongest reasons to choose a Liberal candidate. Our RealChange.ca website details plans to invest in green infrastructure projects like local water and wastewater facilities, climate-resilient infrastructure and energy efficient buildings. Liberals will provide support for community-scale renewable energy projects, and work with the provinces to develop a Canadian Energy Strategy that brings cleaner, renewable energy — like solar and wind — onto the electricity grid.

 

Wayne Stetski

(New Democratic Party)

5. In typical Harper fashion, the Conservative “fix” to the problem with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program did little to address the real issue. While we experienced serious issues with abuses of some foreign workers right here in the Kootenays, overall, the “solution” to the problem has made it very difficult for businesses in the area to get the workers they need and didn’t actually protect the foreign workers that are here.

I have spoken with numerous small business owners who are now struggling to get enough workers to keep their businesses open. We clearly need a new approach that meets the needs of both those seeking employment in Canada and the businesses that want to hire them.

6. As the former regional manager for the Kootenays responsible for fish and wildlife, ecosystems and BC Parks, I know the importance of healthy lakes and rivers to our environment, and our quality of life. The Harper Conservatives have gutted environmental legislation, 50 years in the making, and that is why internationally recognized environmental scientists like Dr. David Schindler are speaking out, asking voters to vote together to protect the environment.

Tom Mulcair is a recognized leader in the development of environmental legislation. As minister of environment in Quebec, he brought in the most progressive environmental legislation anywhere in North America. That’s the kind of environmental record I am happy to support.

 

David Wilks

(Conservative Party, incumbent)

5. New measures under the low skilled worker program were implemented in 2014 after abuses to the system were identified. These new rules are meant to ensure that Canadians have jobs first. These changes did, however, have a significant effect on communities in Kootenay-Columbia that are tourism based and cannot find enough local workers to fill the jobs. I will continue to meet with the minister to express the concerns of local businesses and work toward a solution.

6. Our government will continue to work with other countries from around the world to establish a fair and effective international climate agreement that includes meaningful and transparent commitments from all major emitters. Within Canada we have implemented a sector-by-sector approach and to date have regulated the transportation and electricity sectors. We have taken action to limit the growth of emissions on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). We have implemented strict new rules on emissions for coal-fired electricity plants and are the first country in the world to ban construction of traditional coal plants. I will work with local and regional partners such as the Columbia Basin Trust and support their Environment Strategic Plan, which includes five goals: water, ecosystems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, environmental education and stewardship, and environmental capacity building to strengthen communities.

 

Christina Yahn

(Libertarian Party)

5. I would like to see a streamlined process so that foreign workers are able to take part in programs such as the foreign worker program. Its a common issue for employers to access reliable workers and I think we should be doing whatever we can to aid in allowing the process of applicants to be as simple as possible.

6. With climate change humans need to develop the ability to adapt in a way that works with nature’s shifting and evolving cycles as opposed to fighting against them. There are many things we can do on an international and national level to reduce pollution through green incentives and holding polluters accountable by removing policy that protects them and sending them through the judicial system.

However, on a local level I would implement permaculture and agri-forestry practices to harmonize with changes to climate and ecology, planting along the lakes and rivers to reduce erosion, planting diversity in the forests to reduce the monoculture of pine trees to reduce issues like pine beetle damage — when you have a variety of flora and fauna pests are far less of an issue — and working with partnerships with biologists, entomologists and other specialists to develop plans and programs to create sustainable systems in our ecosystem.

Food security will become a pressing issue with climate changes and we seriously need to work hard to create a local food system. I see this through supporting our farmers, making land available to our young farmers who are the next generation of food security. The average age of our farmers is 65 years old and we have a surge of youth who are interested but do not have the land. I would work to build green houses, community gardens, green spaces and food forests with communities.

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