How are we going to compete?

I imagine that there are a few communities on the southwest coast of BC, and the southern interior that look at the prospects of LNG in the north with some degree of envy.  Communities across the north have been attracting workers to their petroleum and gas rich areas for years now.  LNG will just extend that and deepen it over the next couple of decades. 

Projects in the south can offer nice tidy 3-5 year projects, probably all well-paying jobs, but then what?  The lure of the north is that one can count on moving there and raising a family there…the work won’t run out any time soon.

On the north island we have been dealing with population loss for many years.  Perhaps it has slowed most recently, but we still see declining populations of students in our schools and workers in our core industries.  A recent survey of Port McNeill and Port Hardy high school students indicates that the trend is continuing.  Yes, students want a safe community to live in, but they also want good jobs and the “amenities” that communities to the south, or perhaps further north can offer. 

How do we create a region, communities and neighbourhoods that are attractive to young workers and their families?  What’s it going to take to compete with the petroleum and gas rich north?  What’s it going to take to get our young adults to move back here after their training is complete? 

Not everyone wants to work in a community with a single industry focus, where housing will be hard to come by and the winters are far more severe than our ocean-tempered south coast.  But does that mean that young workers and their families will locate here for the jobs that do exist in our forest or marine industries? 

It doesn’t.

We have to attract workers and their families here.  We have to create a region, communities and neighbourhoods where outsiders can see themselves living.  We have to lead with our natural beauty and wilderness, but we have to offer more. 

Families want employment for themselves, good education and recreation opportunities for their families and a sense of community pride. 

We need a vision for our region and communities that takes us down the road to the (re)development of communities that have a lot to offer. 

It’s not just about the wilderness and cheaper housing!  It’s got to be more than that to be a difference maker to outsiders looking in.  We need to make investments in our future: good schools, recreational facilities and welcoming town sites.

The choice is ours.  We can make those investments or we can continue to watch populations dwindle and our towns slowly die. 

David Mitchell,
General Manager