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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pipelines and Temporary Foreign Workers

by Karen Wristen 

Canada wants more Pinoy skilled workers.
Photo: The Filipino Post
A blogger friend of mine put me on to an interesting story about temporary foreign workers that surprised me. It’s not that it’s a surprise that foreign pipeline workers are being recruited; it’s just that I thought they’d be coming from China, not the Philippines. And I didn’t know just how active a role Canadian institutions were playing in training and certifying them.

In July, 2012, school started in Cebu City, Philippines, with the Canadian Consul to the Philippines, Robert Lee, gracing the opening ceremony. It was the first Canadian Welding Bureau school to be set up outside of Canada, enrolling 120 students who would go on to be certified according to Canadian standards, eight months later. Consul Lee was reported to have said, “I want to make it my legacy sending world class Filipino welders to Canada before my retirement few years from now.”

By January, 2014, there were three centers accredited by the Canadian Welding Bureau operating in Cebu: Brilliant Metal Works, Zoie Training Center and Primary Structures Educational Foundation. “The welders that we are training in Canada right now are not sufficient to fill that vacuum that’s why the Canadian government is looking of hiring temporary workers from outside, and right now, the Philippines is a very favorable place to hire the welders,” said Bob Montes, according to an article reported in the Filipino Post.

The following notice was published April 28, 2014 by the Canadian Welding Bureau on the website of the UA (The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada or "UA" as it is commonly known is a multi-craft union whose members are engaged in the fabrication, installation and servicing of piping systems.)

"There have recently been publicized reports that the Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB) is recruiting Filipino welders to fill welding jobs here in Canada, and in particular, to fill vacancies in the BC shipbuilding industry. These statements are incorrect. For the record, the CWB is not in the business of recruiting welders, either from the Philippines or elsewhere, or involved in any job placement schemes, contracts or agreements to enter Canada."

A search of the CWB website today reveals that it operates test centres in China, Vietnam, Egypt, Suriname, Philippines and the USA--as well as in Canada. There is no indication on its website that it is actively involved in recruiting workers; its business is training and certifying them to Canadian standards.

With all the pipeline building going on in the world today, it has been apparent for some time that there is a shortage of the types of skilled trades required. Clearly, that shortage is going to be filled by foreign workers, rather than by an intensive recruitment of Canadian trainees. This fact calls into question yet again the benefits claimed by pipeline proponents for Canada as a whole.

A portion of the benefits case for the Northern Gateway Pipeline was based on the tax revenues Canada would gain from direct employment, plus the employment created when those employees spend their money--known as induced and indirect employment. With temporary foreign workers in the mix, what proportion of the labour force will be resident—and paying taxes—outside Canada? Does the induced and indirect job creation calculation differ for workers whose home and assets are located elsewhere? Do temporary workers spend their money in Canada at the same rate and for the same goods and services as resident workers? The case for income tax revenues begins to look pretty soft.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Trash into treasure

By Will Soltau

Last fall Kerri, our Office Administrator blogged about how her husband Tyler found treasures amongst the trash while taking part in a shoreline cleanup. The two treasures—a glass ball and a bottle with a message inside—found on the same day is a rare occurrence indeed. Finding either one evokes an uncommon combination of feelings mixing amazement at finding such a rarity with awe that such fragile beauty could survive the turbulent elements of the beach. Toss in a dash of wonder over from where it came and how it ended up in front of you. I say this from personal experience having myself found a few glass balls. That is the lure that hooks a person on beachcombing.

The problem these days is that beachcombing means wading through tonnes of trash to find a treasure. If only that trash could be turned into treasure, an incentive like that would make our work a little easier. Refining the ocean plastic into useable oil, using it as raw material in 3D printers and certifying it as an ocean-friendly ingredient in packaging material are a few potential global solutions that we have been involved with. All are still in their infancy and none have really gotten very far off the ground yet. But then there are the home-made solutions at the local level. Repurposing is a popular incentive to beachcombers and artists. Colorful crab buoys and plastic balls are ubiquitous yard art in many coastal towns. In really remote communities anything useable is snatched up quickly. Large plastic oyster floats get repurposed as flotation in docks.

A recent example of turning what could have easily become trash into treasure is this (obvious) Japanese skiff that was found recently by a surfer friend of mine on the rocks at a very remote part of Vancouver Island’s west coast.

It was a little beat up but not broken beyond repair. He knew if he left it where it was, the skiff would soon get pounded to pieces by the tide and surf. So my surfer friend floated it a few miles to a nearby sand beach where it was less exposed to the elements and tied it up to a tree. Later, other friends of mine stumbled upon it while beachcombing large oyster floats and sent me some photos and a report for our interactive Clear the Coast map. Already knowing how it had gotten to where it was, I made introductions all around and we went back to gather more identification so we could report it to the powers-that-be. A third trip out for patching made it seaworthy enough for salvage.

Now ready for removal, I brought in a third friend of mine to tow the little skiff off the beach with his fishing boat. The first attempt had to be scuttled when the seas wouldn’t cooperate and we returned to town empty handed. But while waiting out the weather we came across huge accumulations of trash while beachcombing in Sea Otter Cove. We vowed to return for a cleanup there but that’s another story.

Eventually the weather improved enough to launch the skiff and it was moved to a more secure location where it sits today while the search for its owner in Japan continues.

Who knows what will become of this so-called treasure. The point is that even though the Japanese skiff was found in a very inaccessible location, it was worth our time and effort to remove it before it got trashed. If only the same were true with all the other trash on our shores.

Reducing the amount of debris entering the ocean is a key objective of our Clear the Coast Campaign. It’s a no-brainer. Cleaning up what’s already out there to restore our shores is number two. It’s also the right thing to do but it’s a huge job. Lots of folks are interested in volunteering their time to help clean up a beach (and maybe find a glass ball). Getting them out to remote shorelines where debris accumulates, then safely bringing them and what they collect back again takes a healthy dose of vitamin M. We need your support. That’s why we are actively fundraising to clean up Sea Otter Cove—a habitat rich area of northwestern Vancouver Island. Please check it out. There are some cool perks available if you donate.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Humpbacks and humans deserve better

It just gets worse, the deeper you dig.

Bad enough that the government’s down-listing of humpback whales was accomplished just in time to make way for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. Now it appears that the ‘independent scientist’ retained to write the science advice for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) was in fact the same person retained by Enbridge, and now Kinder Morgan, to provide evidence in support of their pipeline and tanker projects.

Just say you’re the government and you’re looking for a humpback whale expert to write an opinion about the state of their recovery for COSEWIC. Do you ask one of the 19 researchers who just last year completed and published a comprehensive investigation of the North Pacific humpback populations? Or do you ask Andrea Ahrens, a Stantec employee with a M.Sc., living in Gainsville, Florida, whose sole contribution to humpback literature is a paper, published in 2008, that analyzes humpback whale population numbers using photographs? And who happens to have been retained by both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan.

From Ms. Ahrens’ Linked In profile: “She serves as an advisor for the Canadian North Pacific Humpback Whale Recovery Team, co-authored the Draft Recovery Strategy, and wrote the COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Humpback Whale in Canada.” You guessed correctly.
Vital feeding areas for Humpback Whales around Gill Island are designated as critical habitat. This area is also part of the proposed tanker route. Humpbacks are the species of whale most commonly reported to be struck by ships in B.C.

Odd that she didn’t mention her retainers when writing an opinion piece for the Vancouver Sun defending the humpback decision. Equally odd that Andrew Trites’ spirited but not especially scientific defence of the COSEWIC decision and his former student (“Let’s say every whale in the Douglas Channel is run over; you would probably never even notice it in terms of the recovery of whales on this coast.”) refers repeatedly to the independence of COSEWIC.

Trites and Ahrens may insist that there is no conflict in working for both the government that is supposed to protect whales and the companies whose ambitions will harm them. And perhaps there is none: the government has repeatedly signaled an overriding ambition of its own, to approve pipeline and tanker projects that will impact whale habitat. You would expect them to be a little more forthcoming about the author behind the downlisting recommendation, though, if it were truly so innocuous.

At Living Oceans we believe the public—and the whales—deserve better.