West Coast Olefins wants to build a petrochemical plant here in Prince George to the tune of some $5.6 billion. That's with a "b." Maybe it's my age or something but I think this is a big deal but there has hardly been a murmur from the community at large since the initial announcement - either for or against.
So I am going to step up to the plate and with great enthusiasm say, "good on them, and welcome to Prince George, and I am for it, and let's as a community get behind them."
At this time in our history, when the opportunities out there in the forestry sector appear to be in decline, we need a boost in good, high paying, permanent jobs and would this ever be a boost. Huge numbers of workers would be needed during construction but the really big news is over a 1,000 direct employees when the plant is up and running. This will mean huge numbers of more jobs in the community plus more to come with the additional plants that WCO say will result from it. These are high paying, highly skilled, long term, permanent jobs.
Olefins are used to manufacture long wearing, tough, colourful fabrics used for such things as automotive upholstery and carpets. The WCO plant proposed for our city would manufacture olefin pellets that would be shipped to customers all over the world that manufacture these fabrics. Demand for these products is strong and growing.
The naysayers are worried about the potential air quality and pollution issues. Certainly we should all be concerned, questions need to be asked, we need assurance from government that only the highest standards will be acceptable and all of the possible safe guards must be put in place.
But don't just say no because there are some concerns.
I am 83 years old so I talk to a lot of old people, some of who are opposed to the project. Not in my back yard they say. To those folks I say, "shame on you."
All of you, if you have lived here for any time at all, owe the wonderful life you enjoyed as well as the pensions and benefits you now have at least in part if not completely to the forest and other resource industries. Our generation lived high on the hog from the jobs, both direct and indirect, as well as the stumpage and taxes poured into this area by those resource industries. Now many of those jobs are disappearing and you want to say it was OK for us but the next generation is going to have to be happy with either leaving here or trying to get by on lower paying, part time, no benefit work.
I don't want to see our town slowly fade into obscurity as sawmills close, logging contractors shut down, and pulp mills pull back on employment and nothing there to replace those highly paid, skilled jobs.
I have confidence that West Coast Olefin will build their plant to the highest standards known today and, as our current industries did, they will improve those standards as better technology becomes available.