CENSUS NUMBERS SHOW LIBERALS HAVE FAILED RURAL B.C.
February 10th, 2012
Raw Log Exports a Symptom of Government Policies That Have Failed Small-Town Economies
Raw log export data is due out Friday afternoon, numbers that will show how much of our raw resources are being shipped offshore instead of creating jobs in primary and secondary manufacturing in rural communities.
Data from the recently released 2011 census show the effects of 11 years of Liberal neglect on rural British Columbia.
In a period when the province was still benefiting from growth fuelled primarily by pre-Olympic construction, rural, resource-based communities across the province were shrinking or barely treading water. Mackenzie, in the jobs minister’s own riding, shrunk by nearly 23 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Nearby Prince George, despite being a service hub for the central and northern part of the province, saw its population grow at just over 1 per cent – well below the provincial growth of 7 per cent. Prince Rupert (-2.4 per cent), Houston (-0.5 per cent) and Kitimat (-7.4 per cent) also saw declines.
The problem was not confined to the north. Other communities where the population dropped include Duncan (-1.1 per cent), Hope (-3.5 per cent), Golden (-2.9 per cent), Grand Forks (-1.3 per cent), Revelstoke (-1.3 per cent); Williams Lake’s population remained essentially unchanged (0.8 per cent growth).
The de-population of resource-based communities comes after 11 years of a Liberal government ignoring the growing crisis in the forest industry and failing to take advantage of promised federal money to diversify single-industry communities. Meanwhile, they have cut vital services in rural areas, making it harder for community leaders to attract new residents.
Ignoring Rural B.C.’s Economy – Under the B.C. Liberals, 35,000 jobs have been lost from the forest industry as more than 70 mills have shut down. There has been a sharp increase raw log exports – approximately 40 per cent of all logs cut on the coast in 2011 were exported without processing. The closest thing to action on log exports under the Liberals is to announce yet another review – the third announced review since 2007 – while mills in China are processing logs which could be creating jobs in B.C.
Despite grand pronouncements and sometimes steep rises in commodity prices, the news is not substantially better in mining. There has not been a single new major metal mine opened since the Kemess-South project came online in 1998. The Liberals have exacerbated tensions with First Nations over mining projects and those tensions have factored into the rejection of some mining projects.
Cuts to Services– Health care in rural B.C. was significantly degraded under the B.C. Liberals, with closed hospitals in Kimberley, Lytton, Enderby and Fernie and reduced services in more than a dozen other centres. They also reduced ambulance service in rural stations.
Under the B.C. Liberals, more than 100 community schools were closed, with many of those closures taking place in rural B.C. while Christy Clark was education minister.
The Liberals closed 24 courthouses, greatly restricting the ability of rural residents to get timely access to justice. This was exacerbated by cuts to legal aid and the failure of the B.C. Liberals to fill judging vacancies in rural regions. The B.C. Liberals have also closed and reduced hours at government offices, including closing the ministry of forests office in McBride.
New Democrat forest critic and Rural Caucus chair Norm Macdonald: “The Liberals have simply refused to address the economic devastation their policies have wrought on rural B.C. – and have refused to take any real action to reduce the amount of raw logs exported from B.C.
“The cuts to vital services, including health care and education, made the challenges facing smaller communities only more acute. The census data shows the result of that. It’s time the Liberals faced up to this reality and came up with a real plan to help rural British Columbia recover.
“Unfortunately, the likelihood of real action from the Liberals is slim. Premier Clark is mostly focused on reviewing her own government’s policies. We’ve counted at least 35 promised or ongoing reviews of Liberal policies – including this latest review of raw log exports – but those reviews look more like an excuse to not take action on the problems they have caused.”