By Korie Marshall

I heard this week on CBC Radio that the McDonald’s restaurant chain is being investigated for abusing temporary foreign worker legislation. It reminds me again of the argument that people, especially young people, seem to feel more entitled to higher paying, better jobs than some would think they deserve. Sure, I know some people, often kids, who seem to think they deserve more than they work for. But I’ve argued before that I also see people who are being taken advantage of at work. Sometimes that is the temporary foreign workers who come for what they hope is a good job, and sometimes that is the local employees they are replacing, because the local folk won’t work for so low a wage.

But there is another kind of entitlement I see sometimes too – businesses and contractors who think they are entitled to local work just because they are local.

I am all for spending money and providing work locally, but there are some cases when local people don’t have the expertise required of a certain job. Lots of people will say “just do with what we’ve got,” and often I’ll agree. But when it comes to a job dealing with sensitive habitat, and our village’s water supply, like some of the Swift Creek restoration work that is starting, I’m a little more picky.

There was a time when it was ok to do whatever was necessary to get a job done, and not worry too much about the repercussions, or what might happen 50 years in the future. We see a lot of that in local history, especially from rail and pipeline building, and dam building. I’ve heard stories that the banks of Swift Creek itself were changed by the rail company (that might explain the strange banks I noticed the first time I walked the trail three years ago), and that whole creeks were diverted, or bends in the Fraser river were lopped off. And I am pretty sure they weren’t thinking of what kind of damage it could do to our environment when they created dams like Mica.

I think it is a good thing that we take longer looks at those projects now, and that can mean some specialized training is necessary. I know we have very talented and experienced workers in the valley with many skill sets, but even as a community, we don’t know everything. Yes, I know there are lots of people in Valemount and McBride that can run machinery, provide and move rock, clear snow and build roads. But keeping a steep clay bank from falling in again, without affecting our water supply, and without doing damage to fish and aspects of the environment – I think that probably takes more than the ability to throw rocks around. I am glad there is someone with specialized knowledge involved.

We are not in a vacuum in these valleys. There are a lot of people that travel through our communities, and some of them are doing work here. Many of them might come back for pleasure and maybe some of them might consider moving here. If we’ve already made them feel unwelcome, is either of that likely? And do you think our communities will survive without new people coming in?

If you think people coming here shouldn’t be working, you had better be prepared to say you are not working outside of here.