February 25, 2024 10:26 pm

Liberal MPs opposed disclosure of federal battery contracts: report

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Liberal MPs have voted to not disclose federal contracts into a taxpayer-funded battery plant that hired foreigners.

Liberal MP Charles Sousa asserted that subsidy agreements are “confidential matters” that could disrupt foreign direct investment if disclosed. “I am a little shocked actually,” he claimed. 

The taxpayer boondoggle emerged after a conflicting November 16 announcement by Windsor Police, acknowledging that “1,600 South Koreans [are] traveling to work and live in our community.”

On November 27, the Commons’ government operations committee opposed disclosing details into the $15 billion Stellantis battery plant in Windsor, Ontario, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. Of that amount, $10 billion came from federal tax dollars.

On Monday, the Conservatives criticized the hiring of foreign workers on the taxpayer dime and pressed the feds to publish the NextStar contract.

At the forefront, Tory leader Pierre Poilievre argued that Canadians are privy to the contract details to see if it stipulated the hiring of local contractors. 

“Taxpayers can’t understand whether or not there is a contract that compels Stellantis and their subsidiary now in Windsor to hire Canadians,” said Conservative Industry critic Rick Perkins.

But last week, MPs on the Commons industry committee decided to view the contract behind closed doors. 

The committee approved the motion without a formal vote after Conservative, Bloc Québécois and New Democrat MPs expressed support for further examination of the NextStar contract, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“The motivation is simple: transparency,” said Perkins. 

Other House parties also chimed in on the taxpayer boondoggle, calling it “a failure of leadership.”

I’d like some light shed on that,” said Bloc MP Julie Vignola. “We are talking about billions of dollars.”

New Democrat MP Gord Johns condemned the Trudeau Liberals for being ‘evasive’ on the matter. “There have been many questions this government has refused to answer,” he said.

“From last Monday the government said it was one job,” said Johns. “Then on Tuesday, 100 jobs. Then on Thursday, there were 900 jobs.”

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, Johns said the conflicting messaging has damaged public trust and sowed division among various unions and communities.

Sean Strickland, executive director at Canada’s Building Trades Unions, said the hiring of temporary foreign workers came as a shock given local contractors had submitted quotes for fitting out the factory since August, without response. 

NextStar Energy, a joint venture between LG and Stellantis, and the company running the factory, said they outsourced work because it required specialized, proprietary expertise needed to install the equipment. The company has roughly two dozen job openings on its website for technicians, supervisors and legal administrators with “fluency in Korean.”

In 2022, they committed to hiring 2,500 Canadians to operate the plant once operational in 2024, and 2,300 more during construction.

As reported by the Globe and Mail, NextStar disclosed that 900 South Korean and Japanese workers would install technical equipment at the plant and go home upon completion.

According to Strickland, the hiring of 900 temporary foreign workers to install equipment at the factory would cost skilled construction workers in Canada around $300 million in lost wages and contractor fees, roughly 2.8 million workhours.

Irek Kusmierczyk, the Parliamentary Secretary to the employment minister, confirmed the figure after weeks of Cabinet ministers walking around the issue. He opposed disclosure of the Stellantis contract during committee meetings on Monday.

On Monday, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne dodged questions when asked how many foreign workers would be employed at the plant. 

“I mean you can’t tell a number. You’d have to talk to the people who know these things,” he told reporters in Parliament. “Anyone who’s guessing numbers, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

However, Kusmierczyk told the Globe that 900 foreign workers would work alongside 700 Canadians to install 300 machines for the factory.

“Why?” he posed. “Because this is a new industry.” Champagne reiterated those remarks last week, claiming “we’ve never done batteries in North America.”

Upon completion, South Koreans would continue to work at the battery plant alongside 2,500 local workers, said Kusmierczyk.



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Original Source: Liberal MPs opposed disclosure of federal battery contracts: report

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