Bell says rare aneurysm won't stop him from working on temporary workers file

VICTORIA – Jobs Minister Pat Bell says he wants to help resolve the controversial temporary foreign workers issue involving an underground coal mine in northeast British Columbia before he leaves politics in May because of a rare aneurysm that could be fatal.

The Liberal cabinet minister said Monday the discovery of a low-pressure aneurysm that requires him to undergo regular heart checkups is forcing him out of politics after 12 years.

Bell, 55, said the aneurysm that was detected last September and confirmed in early December is likely due to genetics and was not brought on by stress.

“I have loved my 12 years in politics,” said the Prince George-Mackenzie MLA. “I was looking forward to another four years.”

But Bell said he was concerned about his condition and told he may need surgery in the future and likely require months of recovery time.

But he said he’s staying on until the May 17 election, and one of his goals is to help resolve the issue over HD Mining bringing temporary foreign workers to Canada.

Bell said he’s speaking with federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley about reworking the temporary foreign worker program that both Ottawa and the B.C. government acknowledge hasn’t been a success.

“I acknowledge that people have lost confidence in the temporary foreign worker program,” he said. “I actually have a phone call with Minister Finley later on today. I don’t like to leave anything unfinished and that’s one file I hope to deal with.”

Last November, Finley issued a news release that said she and her ministry were “not satisfied” HD Mining had made sufficient efforts to recruit or hire Canadians. She announced the federal government was reviewing the entire temporary foreign worker program.

The company suspended the use of Chinese miners at its proposed Murray River project near Tumbler Ridge. It announced last month that 16 Chinese workers who were already in Canada had been sent home and no others would arrive until the legal challenge launched by two unions was sorted out.

HD Mining said earlier it planned to use 201 Chinese miners at its proposed Murray River mine. The unions have asked the Federal Court to throw out the temporary foreign worker permits, arguing HD Mining didn’t take adequate steps to hire Canadians.

HD Mining asked the unions publicly this month to drop their legal challenge of the project’s temporary foreign worker permits and talk instead, but the unions rejected the offer.