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Labor Leaders Challenge Trudeau’s Use of Foreign Workers in Taxpayer-Funded Plant

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Justin Trudeau deceived Canadians about the Windsor battery plant subsidies. Despite touting the $15 billion in public funding as a move to save thousands of auto jobs for citizens, it’s been revealed much of that money will instead go toward hiring foreign workers.

While Trudeau was busy making grand claims about preserving domestic employment, the truth is that NextStar plans to import a major portion of the plant’s workforce from overseas. Windsor police are preparing for 1,600 South Koreans arriving to staff the plant.

Trudeau essentially forced every Canadian to pay $1,000 out of pocket toward the plant. Yet that money appears destined to go toward Korean paychecks rather than Canadian ones.

This betrayal reveals Trudeau’s priorities are with corporations, not citizens, and that he has no problem throwing away the public’s trust and money for his own interests.

Did Trudeau mislead citizens or fail spectacularly in his oversight duties?

The new electric vehicle battery plant being built by Stellantis and LG Energy Solutions in Windsor is the recipient of an unprecedented $15 billion in subsidies from the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments. 

This massive investment of taxpayer dollars was promoted by Justin Trudeau as a way to “save thousands of auto sector jobs” for Canadians. 

In announcing the deal, Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli hailed it as “a historic deal” that “protects the thousands of jobs quite frankly that were at stake.” 

However, it has now emerged that NextStar plans to potentially hire a significant portion of the plant’s workforce from overseas. NextStar’s CEO admitted “absolutely it would be a possibility” to import workers from South Korea despite “our preference” for local hires. Job listings for the plant requiring Korean fluency show that foreign labor is intended to be more than just a small fraction.

This was confirmed after Windsor Police tweeted that they met with the South Korean ambassador to discuss “1,600 South Koreans traveling to work and live in our community in 2024” at the new battery plant.

This directly contradicts the government’s claims that Canadian jobs would be protected by the subsidies. As Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre argued that at the price of $15 billion, “every Canadian is essentially paying $1,000 toward this plant” through public funding.

He called for the government to make the contract public and prove that every single dollar will go to Canadian paychecks, not to temporary foreign workers. 

The fact that the Trudeau government refuses to disclose the full contract details certainly suggests a lack of openness about the hiring commitments made.

Canadians have a right to expect that billions in taxpayer subsidies for a private corporation will directly benefit domestic workers, not foreign labor. The Liberals need to explain why bringing in over 1,600 overseas workers is justified when Canada has a highly skilled workforce ready for these auto manufacturing roles. 

As Poilievre stated, Trudeau needs to “prove that every single dollar will go to Canadian paychecks, not to temporary foreign workers.” The secrecy surrounding the contract terms raises suspicions that the government may be prioritizing corporate interests over Canadian workers. 

Unless the Liberals can demonstrate bringing in foreign labor is absolutely necessary, this represents a betrayal of the promise that Canadian jobs would flow from the public’s massive investment. The Trudeau government needs to be held accountable for this controversial decision.

Ontario Labour Minister David Piccini told reporters “My message is simple, Ontario jobs first.” Piccini claimed he was unaware of the plans to hire foreign labor when Ontario agreed to provide billions in subsidies. 

This contradicts claims by NextStar CEO Danies Lee that specialized foreign staff are required due to their “proprietary knowledge.” 

Piccini pushed back against claims that specialized foreign workers are needed, insisting that local workers are more than capable. When asked if bringing in overseas laborers is standard practice for operating complex proprietary equipment, Piccini stated unequivocally that “We’ve got world-class workers here who can do the job.” 

He emphasized Canadians stand ready to take on all necessary roles, saying local workers can handle tasks like “drywalling, framing, everything that we need.” Piccini’s firm assertion challenges NEXTStar’s rationale and defends the skill level of Canada’s workforce. 

His stance makes it clear there is no acceptable reason to staff the plant with thousands of foreign temporary workers rather than utilizing domestic labor. Piccini’s message underscores that failing to hire locally would betray the commitment made to Canadian jobs in exchange for massive public subsidies.

The revelation that NextStar was granted Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) to hire foreign workers for the Windsor battery plant demonstrates a failure by both the federal and provincial governments to ensure Canadian jobs result from the massive public subsidies provided. 

LMIAs are only approved when the government accepts a company’s claim that insufficient domestic workers are available. However, Piccini has staunchly stated that Canada has a “world-class workforce” fully capable of staffing the plant. This means the LMIAs awarded were unnecessary and represent Canadians losing out on jobs funded by their tax dollars.

The finger-pointing between the federal and provincial governments over who is responsible for allowing foreign hires shows a lack of oversight and coordination on ensuring citizens’ benefit. 

The Ontario government claims it was unaware of the LMIA requests, yet it provided billions in subsidies without safeguards to guarantee jobs for Canadians. Meanwhile, the federal Liberals insist the project will still create thousands of domestic jobs, downplaying the number of foreign workers approved. 

Trudeau bears sole responsibility for the unacceptable situation of thousands of foreign workers potentially being hired at the Windsor battery plant instead of Canadian citizens.

Sean Strickland, head of Canada’s Building Trades Unions, stated that the unions want “an opportunity to sit down with the executives of the NextStar Energy EV Plant to understand their labor requirements” before the situation is “unrepairable.” 

Strickland emphasized that Canadian workers, including those with technical skills from auto factories, are available and capable of filling these roles.

These sentiments were echoed in the House of Commons by Windsor NDP MP Brian Masse. He referenced the commitments to jobs and training for Canadians that the federal and Ontario governments made when subsidizing the plant. 

Masse called on the Liberals to assure that all jobs at the battery plant are unionized and filled by people from Windsor and surrounding areas. He demanded guarantees that “not a single cent goes to temporary foreign workers.”

Joe McCabe, CEO of Auto Forecast Solutions, argues that some temporary foreign hires should be expected for a project like the Windsor battery plant involving a foreign company like LG. 

He believes having representation from LG initially is reasonable to get the facility operational, calling it “the pill that needs to be swallowed for a short amount of time.”

McCabe states that calls for an entirely Canadian workforce are “short-sighted” and claims the focus should be on the long-term economic benefits despite short-term foreign involvement. 

However, his stance seems to dismiss the commitments made by the government for domestic jobs in exchange for massive subsidies. The expectations of taxpayers were clear – their billions would fund employment for citizens, not temporary foreign labor.

While McCabe sees overseas hires as inevitable, that does not excuse or justify the government’s failure to uphold promises that Canadians would benefit most from this investment. The “long-term viability” he cites depends on citizens getting priority access to these auto jobs.

Trudeau has utterly failed to uphold his commitments to Canadian workers regarding the Windsor battery plant subsidies. Despite repeated assurances the $15 billion investment would “protect thousands of jobs” for citizens, his government did not safeguard this promise. 

The admission that thousands of foreign temporary workers will likely staff the plant represents an unacceptable betrayal of the Canadian taxpayers who funded the project.

Trudeau cannot be allowed to violate the trust of the public without consequences. As critics across the political spectrum have emphasized, Canadian workers stand ready to fill these auto manufacturing roles. 

Labor leaders have demanded an opportunity to prove domestic hiring can meet staffing needs. The Prime Minister disregarded the clearly expressed expectations of citizens and failed to guarantee their job prospects in return for massive subsidies.

This is an unconscionable abdication of responsible governance by Trudeau and his Liberals. They have shown no regard for ensuring Canada’s “world-class workforce” benefits from public funding as promised. Trudeau’s failure to uphold his commitments demonstrates he does not have the best interests of Canadian workers at heart when distributing billions of their tax dollars. His government has betrayed the people it is supposed to serve.

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