Looking at the latest employment figures from the province, it’s clear to see why there is somewhat of a debate surrounding energy projects in the region.
Projects such as the Enbridge Northern Gateway project and, to a much much lesser extent, the Pinnacle Pellet terminal have things about them that people don’t like. In the case of the pellet terminal these include health concerns and visual quality impacts, while the list of concerns around the Enbridge project are plentiful and have been covered in great detail before.
But on the opposite end of these concerns is something that the northwest as a whole needs – and that is more jobs. There’s no way to look positively at double-digit unemployment numbers or the loss of 5,900 jobs from last July to this July.
To put that in perspective, the population of Smithers in the 2011 census was 5,400 – so that’s just over one job lost for every resident of that community.
And while the Minister may note that there is plenty of activity in Kitimat with the Alcan Modernization Project and in Prince Rupert with the port-related activity, the fact is that when the northwest as a whole isn’t doing so great on the job front it impacts both of those communities. When people are unemployed, the chances they’re going to take a short trip to visit another community lessens, and the chances they’ll be leaving the region to look for work elsewhere increases. This affects our hotels and restaurant sector (which shed 2,300 jobs across the province last month) and the service sector.
So the trade off goes back to economy versus environment. It’s a back and forth battle in which those on one side are never really going to change the perspective of those on the other side. Welcoming these industries into the community strengthens the economy while also impacting the environment around us.
It’s up to the individual to decide what is most important to them, and whichever side you’re on be prepared to defend it.