Trudeau promises construction jobs will go local, including electric vehicle plants

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will do everything he can to protect local jobs, he vowed Monday as he met with a union concerned that foreign workers are taking Canadian jobs at a new electric vehicle battery plant in southern Ontario.

His promise came as Conservatives pressured him to make public the contracts for six major electric vehicle projects in Canada, to show what protections they include for union jobs.

Trudeau addressed a crowd of 500 construction union leaders from all provinces at the Canadian Construction Unions annual conference on Monday, where he received a standing ovation.

During a 35-minute fireside chat with Sean Strickland, executive director of the CBTU, Trudeau pledged that his Liberal government will work to ensure that the majority of jobs tied to electric vehicle projects in Canada remain local.

“So yes, it’s part and parcel of this that we expect construction, installation and maintenance to be done by Canadians as much as humanly possible,” Trudeau said.

“We’ve been putting pressure on the plants to make sure of that.”

CBTU wrote to Trudeau earlier this month asking him to intervene because it said Canadian workers were being sidelined in favor of foreign employees at the NextStar electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ont.

About 180 skilled workers in the region remain unemployed, according to the letter, despite being available to perform jobs that have instead been assigned to newcomers.

Both Trudeau and NextStar, owned by Stellantis and LG Energy Solution, have denied that is happening, saying 72 positions have been for foreign workers to install equipment that Canadians will be taught to use.

@JustinTrudeau promises to protect local construction jobs and make EV plants deliver. #CDNPoli #ForeignWorkers #ElectricVehicleBatteryPlant

There is nothing more disturbing for a construction worker, Strickland told Trudeau, than “when you have a Canadian worker sitting at home, collecting employment insurance in their home community, and there are foreign workers doing their job in a plant “.

“That is completely inexplicable to that Canadian worker. We cannot allow that to happen,” Strickland said.

Foreign automakers have invested tens of billions of dollars since 2020 to build electric vehicle battery plants in southern Ontario, with help from the federal and provincial governments in the form of tax credits and subsidies.

Last week, Honda became the latest automaker to announce an electric vehicle battery plant in the province, following similar projects by Volkswagen in St. Thomas, Ont., and the Stellantis LG plant in Windsor.

These electric vehicle projects will guarantee “fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth” generation of workers thanks to those investments, Trudeau said.

“We didn’t do it because the government said, ‘Okay, let’s build electric cars,'” he said. “We did it because we said, ‘This is where jobs will be in the future.'”

Opposition MPs, however, want Trudeau to do more than just promise to try to protect jobs.

The Conservatives have tabled a motion before a House of Commons committee demanding the government submit contracts for six electric vehicle projects underway in Canada.

The Conservatives want to see what the contracts say about the use of foreign workers.

This is the second time they have tried to get this type of contract.

“The government stated that all of these jobs, both in the construction phase, with the exception of some skilled jobs, would be jobs available to Canadians,” Conservative industry critic Rick Perkins said Monday at the government’s operations committee. .

“And in fact, that is not the case.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was undecided Monday about whether or not his party will support the Conservatives’ search and said he needs more information.

“They are proposing to open all contracts and I have heard serious concerns about that jeopardizing the project,” Singh said.

He maintained the NDP’s position that whenever public money goes into projects, there needs to be irrefutable guarantees that well-paying union jobs will be created “and that the work will stay in the country.”

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre will address the CBTU conference on Tuesday.

Trudeau warned leaders ahead of Poilievre’s speech.

“Ask him if he is really going to support the workers, even though for 20 years of his career in Parliament, he has ideologically opposed the workers every step of the way, until, oh, he suddenly needs votes to get elected “Trudeau said.

“Look for actions, not just what people say. And I’m proud to stand behind the actions of what we’ve built together.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2024.

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