VICTORIA - Jobs Minister Pat Bell says he wants to help resolve the controversial temporary foreign workers issue involving an underground coal mine in northeast British Columbia before he leaves politics in May because of a rare aneurysm that could be fatal.
The Liberal cabinet minister said Monday the discovery of a low-pressure aneurysm that requires him to undergo regular heart checkups is forcing him out of politics after 12 years.
Bell, 55, said the aneurysm that was detected last September and confirmed in early December is likely due to genetics and was not brought on by stress.
"I have loved my 12 years in politics," said the Prince George-Mackenzie MLA. "I was looking forward to another four years."
But Bell said he was concerned about his condition and told he may need surgery in the future and likely require months of recovery time.
But he said he's staying on until the May 17 election, and one of his goals is to help resolve the issue over HD Mining bringing temporary foreign workers to Canada.
Bell said he's speaking with federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley about reworking the temporary foreign worker program that both Ottawa and the B.C. government acknowledge hasn't been a success.
"I acknowledge that people have lost confidence in the temporary foreign worker program," he said. "I actually have a phone call with Minister Finley later on today. I don't like to leave anything unfinished and that's one file I hope to deal with."
Last November, Finley issued a news release that said she and her ministry were "not satisfied'' HD Mining had made sufficient efforts to recruit or hire Canadians. She announced the federal government was reviewing the entire temporary foreign worker program.
The company suspended the use of Chinese miners at its proposed Murray River project near Tumbler Ridge. It announced last month that 16 Chinese workers who were already in Canada had been sent home and no others would arrive until the legal challenge launched by two unions was sorted out.
HD Mining said earlier it planned to use 201 Chinese miners at its proposed Murray River mine. The unions have asked the Federal Court to throw out the temporary foreign worker permits, arguing HD Mining didn't take adequate steps to hire Canadians.
HD Mining asked the unions publicly this month to drop their legal challenge of the project's temporary foreign worker permits and talk instead, but the unions rejected the offer.
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Labour Day: A Canadian Invention
Few Canadians realize it, but Labour Day is as Canadian as maple bacon. It all began in 1872, when the Toronto Typographical Union went on strike to demand a nine-hour workday. When <i>Globe and Mail</i> chief George Brown had the protest organizers arrested, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald passed a law legalizing labour unions. Thus, a Conservative prime minister became a hero to the working class, and Canada became among the first countries to limit the workday, doing so decades before the U.S. The typographers' marches became an annual event, eventually being adopted by the U.S., becoming the modern day Labour Day.
The Winnipeg General Strike
The end of World War I brought social instability and economic volatility to Canada. On May 15, 1919, numerous umbrella union groups went out on strike in Winnipeg, grinding the city to a halt. Protesters were attacked in the media with epithets such as "Bolshevik" and "Bohunk," but resistance from the media and government only strengthened the movement. In June, the mayor ordered the Mounties to ride into the protest, prompting violent clashes and the death of two protesters. After protest leaders were arrested, organizers called off the strike. But the federal mediator ended up ruling in favour of the protesters, establishing the Winnipeg General Strike as the most important strike in Canadian history, and a precursor to the country's modern labour movement.
The Regina Riot
During the Great Depression, the only way for a single male Canadian to get government assistance was to join "relief camps" -- make-work projects set up by the federal government out of concern idle young men were a threat to the nation. The relief camps, with their poor work conditions, became breeding grounds for communists and other radicals. The "On-To-Ottawa Trek" was organized as a protest that would move from Vancouver across the country to Ottawa, to bring workers' grievances to the prime minister. The trek halted in Regina when Prime Minister R.B. Bennett promised to talk to protest organizers. When talks broke down, the RCMP refused to allow the protesters to leave Regina and head for Ottawa, and on June 26, 1935, RCMP riot officers attacked a crowd of protesters. More than 100 people were arrested and two killed -- one protester and one officer.
In May, 1938, unemployed men led by communist organizers occupied a post office and art gallery in downtown Vancouver, protesting over poor work conditions at government-run Depression-era "relief camps." In June, the RCMP moved in to clear out the occupiers, using tear gas inside the post office. The protesters inside smashed windows for air and armed themselves with whatever was available. Forty-two people, including five officers, were injured. When word spread of the evacuation, sympathizers marched through the city's East End, smashing store windows. Further protests against "police terror" would be held in the weeks to come.
Giant Mine Bombing
In 1992, workers at Royal Oak Mines' Giant Mine in the Northwest Territories went on strike. On September 18, a bomb exploded in a mineshaft deep underground, killing nine replacement workers. Mine worker Roger Warren was convicted of nine counts of second-degree murder. The Giant Mine closed in 2004.
The Toronto G20
The Canadian Labour Congress, representing numerous labour groups, participated in protests in Toronto during the G20 summit in June, 2010. When a handful of "Black Block" anarchists rioted through the city core, it brought an overwhelming police response that resulted in the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. More than 1,000 people were arrested, with most never charged with any crime. Numerous allegations of police brutality have been made, and the Toronto police are now the target of several multi-million dollar lawsuits. So far, two police officers have been charged with crimes relating to G20 policing, and charges against other police officers are also possible.
When Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters suggested the public "occupy Wall Street" to protest corporate malfeasance, New Yorkers took the suggestion seriously, and occupied Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Canadians followed suit, sparking copycat occupations in all major Canadian cities in September, 2011. By December, most of the occupations had been cleared, all of them non-violently. Though the protests achieved no specific goals, they did change the political conversation in North America. What their long-term legacy will be remains to be seen.