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NEWS RELEASE September 16, 2002

British Columbians strongly disagree with provincial government decision to consider giving BC Ferries' contracts to refit and construct ships to foreign countries: opinion poll conducted for Shipyard Workers shows 90% say buying locally important; 65% say government should only buy BC goods and services

British Columbians strongly disagree with a BC Liberal government decision to request foreign tenders for BC Ferries contracts to refit and construct new ships, a new province-wide public opinion poll shows.

The poll found that 90% of those surveyed said it was either very important [58%] or important [32%] for the provincial government to buy local BC goods and services, while 65% said the government should only purchase locally.

The POLLARA poll was conducted for the Shipyard General Workers' Federation after BC Ferries announced in July that for the first time it would allow shipyards in China, Korea, Singapore, the United States and other foreign countries to bid on refit and construction work. Initial bids close on Friday, September 20 on refit work on the first of five vessels, valued at about $150 million over five years and construction of a new ship worth about $25 million. The work would begin in December.

"This poll makes it clear that British Columbians do not want their taxpayer dollars spent creating jobs in foreign countries," says George MacPherson, president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation. "It's time for the provincial government to listen to the common sense of British Columbians and leave the bidding on BC Ferries work to BC shipyards."

The poll also found that 70% of the 500 British Columbians believe that the government should make sure that BC shipyard bids are competing on an even playing field against foreign shipyards that are subsidized by their governments, pay workers lower wages and have fewer safety standards. Those polled say the province should make allowance for those differences in considering bids in order to be fair to local companies.

The poll shows how important stimulating the BC economy through local hiring and purchasing is to British Columbians, says BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair. "If Premier Campbell is going to keep his promise to build the BC economy he needs to hire BC workers first with BC taxpayers' money," Sinclair said. "Why would foreign companies invest here when our own government won't do so?"

The POLLARA poll, conducted in late August, found that 54% of respondents feel the government should take job creation in BC into consideration as well as cost savings when awarding contracts, while 19 percent said investing in BC's construction industry was a factor and 11% said tax revenues were important.

For more information, contact George MacPherson at 604-254-8204.

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