VICTORIA - Some of British Columbia's most powerful labour leaders are pledging to work with Premier Christy Clark's Liberal government and the energy industry to help thousands of B.C. workers land jobs in what could be the province's multi-billion-dollar liquefied natural gas industry.
B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair and B.C. Building Trades Council executive director Tom Sigurdson emerged from a closed-door meeting Monday with Clark saying jobs trump politics when it comes to developing and securing B.C.'s LNG opportunity.
Clark, flanked by the two labour leaders, said the unions, her government and industry representatives will work together to develop a strategy to train B.C. workers for what could result in up to 100,000 new jobs in northern B.C.
A joint working document will be prepared and could be ready by the end of this month, she said.
"Government can't do this alone," said Clark. "Labour can't do this alone. Industry can't do this alone. We need to put aside our differences. People don't care about politics. They care about jobs."
The Liberal government has said the development of B.C. LNG projects represents a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity that could create 100,000 jobs and help the province pay down its debt, which currently is at more than $62 billion and forecasted to rise.
The BC Fed and the Building Trades Council are two of the top political donors to the Opposition New Democratic Party, but both Sinclair and Sigurdson said the prospect of jobs for their members replaces party politics.
"Together, we will fix this problem," said Sinclair who said the three sides have long-standing differences, but all realize the LNG opportunity represents benefits for all sides. "We're all here for the interest of British Columbians."
Sinclair was blunt when reporters asked if the meeting with Clark could be viewed as a slight against the NDP and party leader Adrian Dix.
"I'm not sure what Adrian Dix thinks, but I know our members will think it's probably a good idea," he said.
Dix's New Democrats have not directly opposed LNG development. Dix appointed Skeena New Democrat MLA Robin Austin as the Opposition's natural gas critic, advising that his primary mandate involves ensuring residents of northwest B.C., where much of the potential develop will occur, are in line for jobs and benefits.
Also, during last spring's election campaign, Dix made improving skills training across B.C. a primary campaign promise.
But that didn't prevent Sigurdson from levelling what could be viewed as a political shot at Dix, saying Clark appeared to be the only political leader to wear a worker's hard hat during the spring election campaign that saw the Liberals hand the NDP its fourth consecutive defeat.
"During the course of the election campaign, Christy Clark was the only leader that wore a hard hat, and I can assure you what I'm trying to do is put a couple of union stickers on there," he said.
Clark said she is fully aware that Sinclair and Sigurdson represent organizations that were not on her side during the election campaign, but now that the election is over, the time has come to work together.
"The politics isn't worth it. Let's get on with the job," she said.
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