The expression "fiddle while Rome burns" means to spend time enjoying yourself or doing things that are not important when you should be dealing with a serious problem.
One cannot help but think that our various levels of government are doing just that when it comes to what is taking place in north-central B.C. If there ever was a time when we should be dealing with the serious problem of job security and job creation in the region, this is the time.
So let's look at some of the situations that have taken place in the past 20 years.We have had major shut downs of industry from Prince Rupert and Kitimat to Dawson Creek and Cache Creek, and all places in between.Sawmills, paper mills, pulp mills, pellet plants, mines, fish-packing plants, newspapers and more are gone. Some new mines have opened, however at best these replaced those that closed, so there were in effect no increase in jobs.
The interior of B.C. is totally reliant on the exporting of lumber, pulp and paper, mineral products and, to some extent, food products.When the market for these products decline, we are immediately affected, which is what is happening at the present time.Markets for coal, molybdenum, copper and so on have declined, and we have a number of mines shutting down, waiting for the market to return.
So how long can we rely on this feast or famine situation? We need to look beyond being a supplier of raw products, and look to establishing some industry in this area, that actually produces products that are required on a regular basis and create meaningful jobs.The question is what would those industries be?
The basic requirements for any society is food, shelter, housing and transportation. We produce lumber for housing, however we are fast approaching the maximum we can expect from that industry.We cannot compete on producing clothing.
We do however have a first-class transportation system, i.e. roads, rail, and airlines.We also have thousands of hectares of prime farmland that could produce root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, cabbage, turnips, beets and, of course, hay to support our cattle industry.
This is the direction that the interior needs to go.We need to change the way we think and start to utilize our basic assets and find a market for these products, and build the infrastructure throughout the interior to support a more up-to-date and comprehensive food industry.
Working with the farmers, railways, trucking companies, airlines, warehouse companies, etc., we could locate distribution centres throughout north-central B.C. and supply food and other products to world markets.
We need all levels of government to support this type of initiative, while at the same time eliminating any and all legislation that impedes our ability to run profitable businesses in the interior.
This type of initiative would mean that the governments would have to have tax incentives, and cheap electricity and natural gas available so as to support industry, so that they can locate and build in this area, and still compete on the world stage.
Can it be done?
Of course it can, all it takes is the concerted effort of all the hard working people in the interior to make it happen.Will it happen? That depends on us.This would be a big project, and we would need to establish a market for these products and then work with everyone to see how we can actually make it happen.
What's the point?The interior of B.C. is facing further problems in the coming years with our lumber industry, mining, natural gas, etc. There is nothing on the books to indicate that we are going to create any new jobs.Our population is declining.So the point is, if we don't do something then we can expect more of the same going forward.