Now that the long-winded and obscenely expensive American presidential election is over there are three things to watch that will directly impact BC’s economy in the near term.
The first is how President Obama tackles the tricky issue of the Keystone XL pipeline. Recall he only tabled further debate on that pipeline until after this election. In his highly rhetorical victory speech last night the President indicated that freeing the U.S. from foreign oil would be one of his priorities, and Canadian-sourced oil is fundamental to America’s energy security. Expect the Keystone pipeline issue to be revisited very soon, which will have implications for both the proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines here.
Second is the Obama administration’s interest in natural gas exports, and Obama’s support for fracking. As Minister Bell states whenever he gets a chance, there is no second place in the race to get LNG to Asia. An accelerated U.S. natural gas push to Asia could easily push B.C. out of the running for “first place” in the global LNG race.
The third is how President Obama handles the gridlock in Washington and the “fiscal cliff” that’s coming as automatic tax and spending cuts kick in. The United States is a bankrupt and deeply divided nation, but there are signs it is pulling out of the depression it fell into after the 2008 crash. That’s been great news for our lumber sector and, if the positive trend continues, it may buy us some breathing room as it will allow more of our pine beetle killed forests to be economically logged, staving off potential mill closures in the near term.
If U.S. lumber prices do continue to firm up, then we must use the breathing room this will give us to develop a real transition strategy for our traditional forest sector and the communities and workers that depend on it. We desperately need a true vision and strategy that does not depend on a panicked opening of forest reserve areas to logging or a rapid and ill-thought out conversion of our public forests to quasi-private, area-based tenures.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.