Canpotex pull out, a lesson in evaporation

Canpotex decides to pull out of potash project in Prince Rupert.

There are four ways to look at the Canpotex decision to cut its losses and pull out of its $775 million potash export terminal in Prince Rupert.

There is the proverbial glass half-full view and the glass half-empty but there are two more.

The glass half-full crowd will tell you that despite the pullout, Canpotex came to Prince Rupert and dropped millions of dollars into the economy conducting the plethora of socio-cultural-environmental assessments, site planning, consultations and due diligence — each of these employing people from, or bringing people to, Rupert. All of which dropped dollars into our local economy.

On top of that, the half-full folks will say, “look at the legacy.”

Canpotex has walked away from its non-refundable $15 million contribution into the completed Road, Rail and Utility Corridor (RRUC), which will inevitably, well half-full glass hopefully, pave the way for a future project.

The half-empty group will say this was just one of the very long list of pie-in-the-sky hopes that never seems to come to fruition for Prince Rupert. Another dream-crushing scenario that Prince Rupert and the North Coast has become accustomed to over and over again through the past few decades.

Billions of carrots have been dangled, but not once (Fairview Terminal excepted) has the Prince Rupert donkey been able to snag one.

When will we ever learn, they will say. The Canpotex decision only confirms their pessimism and negativity of any economic resurgence from the long-gone glory days of the pulp mill and fishing industry. They were right all along, it’s only hype and promises that will never come true. Give it up Rupert, this is our sad place in life, get used to it.

But there are two more. Two more that are more worrisome and potentially detrimental than the negative Nancys of the glass half-full cadre.

Two more that can and will continue to force poverty, socio-economic calamity and cultural divisiveness in our little city on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

There is a unfortunate number of those that either refuse to even look at the glass of water, or those that need an in-depth analysis before making a decision whether it is, indeed, half-full, half-empty, a glass, or even if it’s water.

The “no, now, what was the question?” faction is very much like a lost, critically-dehydrated wanderer in the desert seeing a half-full glass of water on top of a sand dune and dismissing it out-of-hand, without investigating. Without an objective look, they immediately reject it as either a poison, a disrespectful mirage or simply bypass it because that half-empty glass of water wasn’t there 100 or a 1,000 years ago.

And then there are the analysts.

They, also desert wanderers but unlike the no-now-what-was-the-question crew, crawl up the sand dune but spend countless hours peering at the glass to determine the composition of the glass itself and whether — surprise, surprise  — if the potash used in the glass-making process differentiates it from fine or cullet. Then there needs to be a determination of the size, thickness, clarity et. al. ad nauseum of said glass before moving over to a painful and tedious chemical analysis of the water before taking that life-saving sip.

Port of Prince Rupert CEO Don Krusel, obviously one of the half-full group, was right about one thing when he said, “Canpotex’s decision demonstrates that economic development opportunities have a limited lifespan. We need to improve our collective efforts to capitalize on these opportunities before economic windows close.”

Since the closure of the pulp mill and the irreversible collapse of the fishing and canning industry, Prince Rupert has found itself very much like that stranded, dehydrated wanderer of the desert.

Fortunately, in the past six or seven years we’ve been noticing glasses of water popping up all around us.

Half-full, half-empty, tad on the tepid side, the glass has a small crack in it, don’t like tap water — fine.

Whichever of these groups you find yourself in, it doesn’t matter. Look around you, people collecting beer cans to get by, living on assistance or on meagre paycheque-to-paycheque existences, massive infrastructure deficits, potholes, vacant buildings to closing businesses, Prince Rupert is dying from an economic thirst.

The one thing the Canpotex decision does prove is that everything has an expiry date. Left long enough, everything dies or evaporates.

It’s time for Prince Rupert — and Canada — to take a sip now before we allow yet another glass of water, another economic opportunity, to evaporate before our very eyes.


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