Letter to the Editor published in the Victoria Times Colonist, 26 July 2004
Re: “Ottawa should invest in the West,” July 15.
As a trained historian, I would like to clarify a recent editorial on the pattern of economic development in B.C. From a historical standpoint, investment in infrastructure offers no panacea for economic success. Nor does the exploitation of new resources.
Billions of dollars in public funds have built up our rail, road and energy infrastructure. However, as the editorial points out, resource communities suffer from staggering levels of poverty, unemployment and related social ills. At Port Hardy, a clear majority of people are without regular work.
This is not due to a lack of resources. Billions of board feet of lumber, billions of tonnes of coal, iron and other minerals, billions of fish, have been extracted from our land and waters. A tremendous amount of wealth has been produced through the extraction of natural resources, and yet our resource communities remain impoverished.
Premier Gordon Campbell and his cohorts are misguided when they call for public-private investment in transportation infrastructure and the opening up of oilwells on our fragile coastline. The problem is not a scarcity of resources or infrastructure but an imbalance in how resources are distributed.
If our existing resource base was used wisely, and the fruits distributed fairly, there would be enough work for everyone. Tenure in our forests and fisheries could be held by communities, rather than corporations, with greater potential for value-added and related economic benefits. Environmental stewardship could be incorporated into community decision-making, rather than dismissed by external shareholders.
Such a model of economic development is possible. It is being practised in communities such as Revelstoke, Canoe and Mission. But don’t expect Campbell to tell you about it.