B.C. labour leaders shared a podium with Liberal Premier Christy Clark on Monday to announce a plan to develop jobs and training strategies, saying the need for such a program was too great to allow political differences to interfere.
"We are committed to working together for the citizens of our province," Ms. Clark told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver. "We have to set aside differences that we've had and decide there are things we share in common and about which we are equally passionate. We all believe British Columbians should be first in line for the high-paying jobs that liquefied natural gas [sector] is going to present."
B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair and Tom Sigurdson, executive director of B.C. Building Trades, stood on either side of Ms. Clark as she spoke and subsequently said they looked forward to working with the government to develop a jobs strategy.
"The challenge facing our economy, perhaps the most important challenge, is that economic growth without opportunity is a waste of time, money and energy for British Columbia," Mr. Sinclair said. "If we are going to build this province, then it's the people of British Columbia who are going to build it."
What Mr. Sinclair described as a "crisis" in skills and trades training has resulted in a gap amounting to thousands of jobs – perhaps hundreds of thousands – between the current labour pool and the potential needs of the LNG and other sectors, he said.
Details of the new co-operative approach are still to be worked out, but Ms. Clark said she hoped to have guidelines in place by the end of September.
The B.C. Federation of Labour and the B.C. Building Trades backed a court action brought by two Building Trades affiliate unions against Vancouver-based HD Mining over the company's plans to hire up to 200 foreign workers for a B.C. coal project. A federal court judge in May dismissed that application, but the high-profile case put a spotlight on skills and labour issues in the province.
Ms. Clark is promoting an aggressive LNG strategy that she says has the potential to create up to 100,000 jobs in the province over 30 years and eliminate provincial debt.
The plan calls for three LNG plants to be operating by 2020.
There are at least six proposals for B.C. LNG projects that would ship LNG to Asian markets.
Labour groups backed the NDP and Leader Adrian Dix in the May election campaign.