British Columbia

Prospective workers outweigh protesters, claims pipeline company rep

Coastal GasLink has been holding a series of job fairs and networking events this year in Northern B.C. towns and Indigenous communities to connect job seekers with contractors connected to its pipeline's construction.

'Local first' hiring plan draws job seekers to LNG networking events

'It's like speed dating for business,' says TransCanada Coastal GasLink's Suzanne Wilton of the job fair and networking event held by the company in Prince George on Feb. 15. (Andrew Kurjata/ CBC)

The company behind a controversial gas pipeline project in Northern B.C. says, despite high profile opposition, the project has the support of many local workers.

Coastal GasLink has been holding a series of job fairs and networking events this year in northern towns and Indigenous communities to connect job seekers with contractors involved in the pipeline's construction.

Communications advisor Suzanne Wilton said the company is focusing on a 'local first' recruitment policy and there have been thousands of face-to-face meetings with prospective workers, some of whom have received job offers on the spot.

"It's like speed dating for business," she said.

High profile protests

The gas pipeline, which will run through Wet'suwet'en territory to LNG Canada's planned $40-billion export facility near Kitimat has been the site of protests and arrests in recent months.

TransCanada-owned Coastal GasLink is in court on Wednesday for injunction hearings against hereditary chiefs with the Wet'suwet'en First Nation and members of the Unistoten Camp who have tried to stop its staff from accessing worksites.

Protesters have gained support on social media and even from celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio.

On Jan. 7, 2019, RCMP enforced an injunction ordering people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink workers from accessing a road and bridge. Fourteen people arrested that day have had contempt proceedings dropped. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

'Local first' hiring plan

The company is trying to improve its relationship with Indigenous communities, said public affairs manager Kiel Giddens.

Coastal GasLink has announced $620 million of the pipeline project budget will go to contracts for Indigenous companies, and the company has a team dedicated to hiring Indigenous and local workers

"We're going to continue to work locally to find solutions that will work for the hereditary system but also for the community members that really can benefit from this project, as well as  through jobs and contracting opportunities," he said.

Giddens said the pipeline project will create 2,500 jobs over the planned four years of construction.

Judy Desjarlais of the Blueberry River First Nations and her husband own a company that clears land for pipeline construction. She came to the fair looking for a contract opportunity. Her sister-in-law also attended the fair and was offered a job on the spot. (Andrew Kurjata / CBC)

One of those jobs went to Judy Desjarlais's sister-in-law, who was recruited at the Prince George event.

Desjarlais from the Blueberry River First Nations owns a company that clears land for pipeline construction.

She came to the event to scout work opportunities and said it was worth the trip.

"I very much appreciated that TransCanada and Coastal GasLink have done their due diligence with First Nations and it puts back into our community ... it's time to start building," she said.

Listen to the CBCs Andrew Kurjata speaking to organizers and attendees at the Prince George job fair here:

Coastal GasLink-hosted an Economic Summit in Prince George which they described as "speed-dating for business." The CBC's Andrew Kurjata was there. 8:43

With files from Andrew Kurjata and Daybreak North