Liberal MPs cried bloody murder during committee this week, suggesting that concerns about foreign workers at a taxpayer-subsidized plant are 'xenophobic.'
On November 21, Conservative MP Rick Perkins introduced a motion to investigate why Stellantis, a battery manufacturer, reportedly hired 1,600 South Koreans in place of Canadian workers.
According to the Windsor Police Service, South Korea’s Ambassador to Canada visited Windsor on November 16 to review preparations for "approximately 1,600 South Koreans."
Neither the South Korean Embassy nor Windsor Police have since commented on the remarks, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
Liberal MP Ryan Turnbull, who serves as parliamentary secretary to Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, said those concerns are rooted in "xenophobia."
"It doesn't make sense to me that you would consider that as factual," said Turnbull, calling it a "desperate" bid to undermine the electric car industry.
Perkins rejected the claim, citing their "motivation is simple: transparency."
"In the absence of having the details of that contract, taxpayers can't understand whether or not there is a contract that compels Stellantis and their subsidiary now in Windsor to hire Canadians," he said.
Ultimately, the industry committee approved the motion without a formal vote after Conservative, Bloc Québécois and New Democrat MPs supported further examination of the Stellantis contract, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
Stellantis received $10 billion in federal subsidies for the plant last year, and an additional $5 billion from Ontario.
But the subsidy has not been disclosed, despite repeated requests from Opposition parties to make all electric car funding agreements public.
"Every family in Canada will give $1,000 to this plant," said Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who called for reassurances that no public money would go to hiring temporary foreign workers.
"One would think […] that level of subsidy would [include a] commitment for Canadian jobs," added Perkins.
In 2022, NextStar, a joint venture between LG and Stellantis, committed to hiring 2,500 Canadians to operate the plant in 2024, and 2,300 more during construction.
While the company has not confirmed how many jobs would be held by foreign workers, they have nearly two dozen job openings on its website for technicians, supervisors and legal administrators with "fluency in Korean."
"There are 2,500 good jobs that will be created at this plant," said Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk, parliamentary secretary for employment. "Those are the facts."
According to a CBC News report, foreign workers were hired at the plant because of a free trade agreement struck with South Korea by then prime minister Stephen Harper.
"We do have a free trade agreement with South Korea," said Immigration Minister Marc Miller. "And under Article 186 of that agreement, people do come and go on business visas, or visa-free, and they can stay if they are within the ambit of the reasons why they're here."
On November 20, cabinet confirmed they began issuing foreign worker permits for the plant, despite promising to create Canadian jobs.
"Yes, there will be Korean workers who come to Canada to help with the installation of the equipment," admitted Kusmierczyk. "Why? Because this is a new industry."
Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne reiterated his colleague’s remarks, claiming "we’ve never done batteries in North America."
Miller said fewer than 100 trained foreign workers have entered Canada under these conditions, without impacting "a single Canadian job."