Our natural-resource firms are big creators of wealth and work that keep B.C.’s economy rolling, finance our education and health services and support thousands of families.
Go anywhere north of Whistler and east of Hope and you run into these frustrated questions:
• Does nobody in the Lower Mainland understand the value of B.C.’s natural resource industries and their workers?
• Does nobody in the Lower Mainland realize how much their economy and their jobs depend on the resources and industries outside Metro Vancouver?
As director of social responsibility for the recently launched non-profit Resource Works, I have been working to answer and discuss such questions objectively and to develop research into important natural-resource issues.
I was raised in a B.C. resource town and after a proud career as a city councillor and trade-union administrator, I’m delighted with my role helping the advisory group and researchers who are guiding this worthy effort.
Let’s go back to those two questions and see if Resource Works can help those in Metro Vancouver who aren’t fully aware of what B.C.’s resource industries mean to them.
This question could not be more important with the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, which means more favourable trading conditions for our resource exports, such as the annual $157 billion worth of metals and minerals Canada ships to nations in the partnership.
In today’s competitive global marketplace, staying ahead means focusing on what you do best. Being a world-leading resource nation is what Canada does best. This leads directly to high-paying jobs for residents.
Key findings in our recent research show how a strong and responsible energy, mining, forestry and aquaculture export economy is good for everybody in the province:
• Natural resources in B.C. create a lot more than local jobs where the mines are dug, wells drilled, trees cut and fish caught.
• A 10-per-cent boost in B.C.’s natural-resource output would mean 55 per cent of the jobs would be in the Lower Mainland — and well-paid, full-time jobs at that. (That 10 per cent is realistic, by the way.)
• It’s a myth that resource jobs are found and focused only in rural B.C., not in cities. In fact, the increased demand for services mostly benefits Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
• It’s also a myth that the money in resources goes to equipment and not wages. In fact, our B.C. natural resources create scores of thousands of well-paying, full-time jobs.
Our economist used proven and trustworthy methods to show that this sort of boost in our resource output would mean an extra $2.1 billion in B.C.’s GDP, an extra $4.5 billion across Canada and more than 39,000 new jobs in B.C.
And, again, more than half of those jobs would be in the Lower Mainland, in such fields as professional business and financial services, transportation, retail, information, law, engineering, accommodation and food — and even art and recreation.
Let’s not forget the place where so many of our resource products make their last stop before being loaded on ships headed overseas: Port Metro Vancouver. The latest trend is using shipping containers to send resource products to world markets, helping to ensure our container trade is a balanced one. This business is growing so quickly that an expanded container port at Roberts Bank is deemed to be needed and the project is moving through approval stages.
When the expansion is finished, our ability to maintain and grow the resource trade with our TPP partners will be secured. Our natural-resource firms are big creators of wealth and work that keep B.C.’s economy rolling, finance our education and health services and support thousands of families.
And they are also making B.C. a developer of innovation and technology that makes our natural resource industries smarter, quicker, cleaner and safer. This is how B.C. will thrive in the new era of Pacific trade.
Barinder Rasode is director of social responsibility for Resource Works. She served as City Councillor in Surrey for two terms until 2014 and is on the board of Fraser Health.