A fundamental shift occurred when Premier Christy Clark announced her job plan. She placed B.C.’s economic future squarely on the shoulders of unsustainable resource extraction industries, while diminishing the role sustainable resource sectors can play in job creation. Ultimately, mining and oil and gas extraction are unsustainable activities. Ore bodies play out. Gas and oil wells dry out. As soon as the first shovel is put in the ground at a new mine, or the first turn of the drill occurs at a new well head, the clock starts ticking down toward the end of those operations and the end of the jobs associated with them.
Depending on the size and quality of the ore body, we might get a couple of generations’ worth of jobs out of a mine. That’s not likely with oil and gas wells. This shouldn’t be the case with B.C.’s sustainable resource extraction industries: forestry, agriculture and fishing. The jobs and benefits from these sectors should always be available because the resources they depend on, if managed sustainably, should never “play out” or “dry up.”
But there are good reasons why the premier diminished the role of B.C.’s sustainable resource industries in favour of unsustainable ones. First, in a resource-limited world in which China and India are still ramping up demand, mineral and oil and gas extraction represent easy money for government. Creating jobs and revenue flow in the immediate term from unsustainable industries buys the government some forgiveness for not tackling the much more complex issues associated with getting our sustainable industries back on track. It also diminishes the pressure on government to invest in our forest and agricultural land bases now, and to try to resolve the problems associated with restoring our fishing industry. In short, creating well-paying jobs and generating revenue for government can buy a lot of forgiveness for a political leader, even if those jobs are not sustainable in the long term.
Our premier, the government and every MLA in B.C. has a responsibility to use the economic benefits of our current mineral and fossil fuel boom to reinvigorate our wilting sustainable sectors. We owe it to future generations to re-establish the primacy of B.C.’s forest, agriculture and fishing sectors, because that’s where the truly sustainable family supporting jobs are.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.