Message from silent majority: it's time to collaborate on BC prosperity

Dispassionate discussion based on facts should determine the fate of development projects

post-image.jpgIt is time for diverse groups within B.C. society to kiss and make up and work to find common ground on economic development.

Too often public debate in B.C. is polarized, pitting environmentalists, labour and the corporate community against one another.

There is no doubt, over time, such pie throwing has taken a hefty toll on B.C.’s economy — as was newly pointed out recently by the business community.

caroletaylor.jpgThe Business Council of B.C. and the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, following a year of research into the province’s economic challenges, recently produced a report, the B.C. Agenda for Shared Prosperity, based on a project chaired by former BC finance minister Carole Taylor (pictured).

It features 60 recommendations aimed at improving economic life in B.C. (EDITOR'S NOTE: The recommendations concerning economic literacy and boundaries on respectful debate were adopted as the essence of the Resource Works Society's mission.)

The two groups say their report is timely because many are finding their incomes stalled, and are worried both about their retirement and offspring facing precarious economic prospects.

These folks probably represent the silent majority, and have every reason to want sensible, sustainable development that would deliver the prosperity they yearn for.

Right now, B.C.’s productivity is 10 percent below the Canadian average and we rank fourth among provinces in disposable income.

Clearly this is not good enough for a province with good infrastructure, a highly educated multicultural population, a superior quality of life, a bounty of natural resources and an advantageous geographical location as a gateway to Asia.

Examples abound of potentially wealth-generating resource projects that have been stalled by polarized debate, including Taseko’s Prosperity mine, the Jumbo Glacier ski resort and the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The business groups are not suggesting every project ought to be approved but rather that more fact-based deliberation take place. It wants fair and dispassionate consideration given to whether economic developments can proceed sustainably.

Their worthy appeal this week is not just to government and the public, but labour and environmental groups.

In fact labour in this province has shown small signs of a willingness to collaborate.

Several weeks ago Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, appeared at a podium with Premier Christy Clark to announce cooperation on training workers for future jobs in a liquefied natural gas industry.

And a year ago, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in B.C., unusually, teamed up with CUPE B.C. to promote the value of shopping locally.

Such actions, borne of common cause, make sense. And it is that sort of collaborative spirit the business community is working to encourage.

The environmental movement, for its part, too often has taken a scorched earth approach, slamming any and all resource proposals, nurturing hostility within communities and encouraging civil disobedience.

In fact, these activists may have more to gain by staying at the table and methodically working to determine whether a given development can take place sustainably, and how to go about the task.

The simple truth is, B.C. needs to keep growing its economy to meet the needs and aspirations of its residents. More civilized discussion to that end is to be enthusiastically encouraged.

This editorial by The Vancouver Sun was originally published in Sept. 2013. The Shared Prosperity findings were later incorporated into the foundational thinking for the Resource Works Society, which was launched in April 2014.

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