BC’s urban-rural divide is so deep that a business group has offered a reward for the best idea for managing natural resources in a way that is universally beneficial
Stunning scenery may provide the wow factor that can make a Facebook post go viral, but living in remote areas can make it more challenging to earn a decent living.
Given that remote beauty spots tend to offer fewer options for those who want a college education, it’s not surprising that there is a steady trickle of younger people moving away from rural areas all over the globe. It’s mainly the young ones who leave, so the age profile in rural communities continues to rise steadily.
The teenagers and twentysomethings who go off to college often wind up marrying and rearing families in suburban areas far from where they grew up.
This urban drift means that Metro Vancouver and other cities are seeing their populations steadily increase (by more than 1 per cent a year), while shrinking rural communities struggle to attract qualified professionals such as engineers, doctors and vets.
Campaigns like Move Up Prince George are working to show that there are actually great job opportunities, and a great lifestyle, awaiting those who do make the move. When you throw a university into the local economy as with Prince George, there is clearly going to be diversification of the economy.
All the same, for those who do stay in rural areas – or move to them – they are more likely to work in resource-based industries such as forestry, mining, energy, and commodity transportation.
These industries traditionally formed the backbone of the BC economy. The export dollars we earn from them still account for the overwhelming majority of our goods exports and make a great contribution to our GDP.
It used to be that city people understood this, because the signs were everywhere. In 1959, a famous BC architect designed the mural pictured here as a tribute to the enormous impact of the province’s resource sector. It was the showpiece of a new bank branch at Granville and Dunsmuir in Vancouver. (It’s still there – but the bank is now a drugstore.) The city’s official crest harkens to those days as well, with its tribute to fishing and forestry.
Nowadays, jobs in the resource industries still create a high impact on GDP and can easily be found in fields like education, green tech, engineering or finance.
Urban living can also lead to changing values, political views and priorities. Urbanites tend to be stereotyped as trendy liberals with diverse or cosmopolitan tastes, while those doing business in rural areas are tagged as pragmatists overly focused on their own industry or locality.
Environmental concerns mean people all across the province are making an effort to adjust their lifestyles in order to live more sustainably. There’s growing recognition that a gulf between the lives of suburbanites and rural folk is far from helpful. The British Columbia Chamber of Commerce is offering a $10,000 prize to the person who best explains how our environmental resources, when managed sustainably, can educate townsfolk about how much we all depend on resource industries and how much they contribute to community life across BC.
The chamber’s brief asks people living across BC to examine what the exodus has meant in their area and to offer some new ideas on how natural resources can be managed to benefit both urban and rural communities.
The essay, which needs to be submitted by June 1, should be a maximum of 1,200 words and should include an image. Each of the five BC Chamber of Commerce regions will select a regional winner and the judges will use these to select a shortlist. The runner-up will get a prize of $5,000 and each of the four regional winners selected by a panel of impartial volunteer judges will receive $1,000. All regional runners-up will win prizes of $100.