You know the province is in trouble when a premier starts holding up the Northwest as “the economic engine” of BC.
So, after more than a decade of recession that saw industrial plants closing across the region, population spiral downwards and unemployment head in the other direction, we are suddenly the knight in shining armour who is going to save the province?
Of course, it is understandable that Christy Clark should hitch her wagon to our star given her mantra these days is Jobs First.
Right now it looks like the Northwest, and Kitimat in particular, are going to be leading the provincial pack when it comes to new jobs – which will be in the thousands.
And, given the current timelines for the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter modernisation and the KM LNG and BC Co-operative liquefied natural gas plants, those jobs are going to be “created” between now and 2013.
Very convenient for a government that will be seeking re-election that year.
But looking beyond the next election, the problem is these construction jobs are just that and will disappear when the projects are completed.
And as happened here in the 1980s when the new methanol plant and major upgrade at Eurocan had been completed, boom will quickly turn to bust.
Ah, I hear the spin doctors cry, you’re forgetting about the new permanent jobs that will be created.
No I’m not, but nor have I forgotten other relevant job stats.
It is difficult to put a solid number on the permanent jobs that will be attached to the LNG plants given it is not clear what spinoffs there will be in terms of servicing those plants either through increased employment at our existing service industries or the appearance of new outfits in town to perform that task.
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, there will be 250 new jobs – and that’s great.
But what is known is that the modernisation project will see 500 fewer jobs at the aluminum smelter.
And more than 500 jobs vanished when Eurocan was shuttered early last year.
Do the math and we are going to be minus 750 – and I am not even including the Methanex closure.
So while it is nice to be fawned over by the premier when we are on the cusp of a boom, I can’t help wondering whether the provincial government – whatever political stripe it might be by then – will be quite as attentive when we hit bust.