Welfare recipients to be trained and moved up North

The government is in the process of launching an initiative to retrain welfare recipients and fly them North.

The government is in the process of launching an initiative to retrain welfare recipients and fly them North to cash in on high paying jobs in the oil, gas and mining industry.

While the B.C. government is currently hashing out the details of the initiative dubbed ‘welfare air’, Cabinet ministers have already touted the initiative as a positive one for both welfare recipients and employers.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said the program could potentially finance itself because people would be taken off of welfare and put directly into a job and Environment Minister Terry Lake stressed that no one would be forced into the program.

John Rustad, Nechako Lakes MLA said to Lakes District News that welfare air is not designed to take job opportunities away from unemployed people in the North.

“We are definitely not trying to do that. This is for areas like Fort Nelson who have an unemployment rate of minus 10 per cent, meaning that they have way more jobs available than people. We would move capable people from down South, who are living in areas of high unemployment and get them reengaged in the workforce.”

Rustad estimates that approximately 1,000 people will qualify for the program, but he cautioned that these numbers are still preliminary. “It still needs to be worked out,” he said.

He also said he is pushing for the program to extend to communities like Burns Lake in the North.

“This is something that I am advocating for and there may be an opportunity for people from all areas of the province to take part in the program, not just those from down South, but these are details that are still being worked out,” Rustad said.

While he said some individuals on welfare may not be suited to the program he said it will be more of a match making process between employers and welfare recipients.

“It will be predominately people from the Lower Mainland …. the details will be worked out later this spring,” he said.

Carole James New Democrats’ social development critic has publicly slammed welfare air. She said to media that the program won’t address the underlying problems that lead some people into social assistance, such as addiction and mental illness

“Giving them a ticket to move up North is not going to solve the poverty struggles and the education struggles that those individuals are facing,” she said.

Jobs Innovation and Tourism Minister Pat Bell said a screening process will take place to judge the willingness of those to work, and to determine if individuals have mental health or addictions issues.