This week, our feature article is one where Natalia Iwanek digs into the human rights issues faced by seasonal and temporary foreign workers who come into Canada, especially now, with COVID-19 affecting, well, everything.
This seemed especially timely given the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the Cargill meat plant. Cargill hires a large number of temporary foreign workers to work in its slaughterhouse operations, one of the largest facilities in Canada, processing between 4000 – 4500 head per day over two shifts. That’s just under five every minute.
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw has noted that the living conditions of workers made following proper separation particularly difficult, including many people living in a single household, and carpooling being required for them. So when the disease was brought home from one person’s job at the continuing care centres that have already had outbreaks, it spread quickly to multiple people in the family who then took it to Cargill where it spread even further.
Having such a concrete example of why these temporary foreign workers need to have their human and employee rights better protected during COVID-19 really brought home Natalie’s article for me, and I urge you to give it a read.
Beyond that, this week, Jason Kenney, accompanied by former AUSU president Jason Nixon in his current capacity as environment minister, took to the stage to announce some details of the federal government’s recently announced billion dollar assistance plan to clean up orphaned and abandoned wells here in Alberta.
I’ve seen a number of questions as to why we aren’t requiring the companies who owned the wells, or the oil and gas industry as a whole, to pay for this clean up. While I would agree that would be the ideal situation, and there have been some inadequate steps taken in Alberta to start to address this issue, the sad fact is that these wells are out there now, they need to get cleaned up, and, quite frankly, our provincial government is afraid to drive away the industry that’s enabled them, for decades now, to avoid having to make hard choices as to whether Albertans need to pay more taxes for the services we demand.
The government could simply create legislation that requires immediate payment, right now, to handle the public liabilities that the industry as a whole has places upon us. Such legislation could divide the total clean-up bill by the percentage of oil revenues that current companies are receiving, but the likely response of these companies would be to, after first going to court over it, simply leave the province earlier than their current plans have them doing. So, unfortunately, it’s a taxpayer funded clean up or nothing, and now is about a good as time as any to do it – when Alberta companies can hire cheap labour and so get a lot done for the money.
Still doesn’t mean I like it though.