Nov. 12, 2001
The following letter was written to Kelowna-area MLAs and MPs:
The members of the North Okanagan Labour Council are disappointed by the lack of action from our local political leaders in response to the Western Star plant closure announcement in Kelowna.
It has become apparent to us that our local politicians have no plans at all to try to stop the exodus of Kelowna's biggest private-sector employer and the hundreds of jobs it provides. This, we believe, is an abdication of your responsibilities.
The people of the Okanagan, including our members, elected our current slate of MLAs and MPs - including yourself - to try to help the local economy. We did not expect you to sit idly by and watch it move away.
A hands-off approach to the economy, which is being touted by most of our local elected leaders, is not the answer to keeping the Central Okanagan economy above water - even for a so-called free enterprise government.
While our governments take a hands-off approach, so-called free-enterprise governments in jurisdictions like Oregon are offering incentives that will only draw away more of our major employers unless our government is prepared to join the fight.
Oregon has Western Star. How soon before it starts luring Western Star's suppliers? Do our governments have plans to assure these suppliers stay here and provide good, local jobs?
We note that B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair, along with the machinists union, have called for a task force to look at ways to save Western Star's jobs in Kelowna. They have also called for the job protection commissioner to intervene.
It is frustrating that while the labour movement is doing all it can to save some of Kelowna's best jobs, the provincial government, in particular, shows no interest in joining in on such constructive initiatives.
It may be good rhetoric to say that government is taking a hands-off approach to business, but as the Western Star case shows, such inaction is only going to cost this province its best jobs.
We urge you to reconsider you hands-off approach and join the labour movement in the fight to save Western Star jobs.
North Okanagan Labour Council