Real questions behind BC's rosy job numbers

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
April 25, 2017 - 5:00am
Image Credit: BC Government

KAMLOOPS — Jobs, jobs, jobs. It is a phrase we hear dozens of times as the provincial election kicks into high gear.

Premier Clark claims that since 2011 the province is leading the nation when it comes to job growth, with 191,500 new jobs in BC. But are the numbers true?

Well, the truth of the matter is yes, Ms. Clark is statistically accurate and her figures are backed up by both Statistics Canada and BC Stats.  

During the past year alone, 73,000 new jobs were created in BC and the Premier doesn’t waste anytime reminding people of her amazing job creation track record. But there is a little secret behind those numbers. What the Premier fails to point out is most of those jobs were created in the Lower Mainland and Victoria.

While Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island saw a combined increase of 7.3 per cent, here in the Thompson/Okanagan we finished the year at -0.7 per cent.

To make matters worse, Stats Can reported that on a national average, 70 per cent of all jobs created in 2016 were part time. Applied to BC’s numbers and those 73,000 new jobs turn into 51,000 PT jobs. So we have a couple of problems.

First, if you live outside of that Lower Mainland golden triangle, things have gotten worse as opposed to better. And second, most of those jobs are part time service industry positions.

BC Stats paints a bleak picture with declines in job creation throughout the Interior.

It’s troubling news but more troubling is the government’s complete disregard of the problem.

Minister Shirley Bond recently acknowledged that government is aware of the problem but other than platitudes, seems unable or perhaps disinterested in resolving those employment issues. It is as though the minister recognizes the wealth the Interior delivers but not the people who reside outside of her Lower Mainland comfort zone of corporate boardrooms.

When I look at the exponential growth of raw log exports, resulting mill closures such as we recently experienced in Merritt and regulatory changes that allow and encourage those exports, I cannot but wonder if we are viewed as incidental and expendable. It’s as though the thinking in Victoria suggests it is easier to make a corporate buck without having to involve those pesky mill workers and their families from the Interior.

At times it has some of the characteristics of an intentional resettlement plan. Reduce, consolidate or completely eliminate support infrastructure such as health, education and social services from the smaller and medium sized communities of the Interior. Then through corporate friendly regulatory changes, eliminate the jobs that for decades have been the backbone of those communities and slowly but surely there will be a migration from the Interior.

For years we have known that the softwood lumber agreement with the United States was set to expire and yet our provincial government has done nothing to prepare for renegotiations. The fact that we are likely heading towards the same mill closures and massive job losses we did the last time cannot have been lost on those responsible.  

Fingers of blame will first be pointed at Ottawa and then Washington but while they bicker over who is at fault, many of us will be out of work and forced to leave the Interior. In the meantime, those who own the cutting rights to the logs will continue to ship them as a raw and therefore underutilized community resource.

So this brings me to my last point: All the polling data continues to suggest overwhelming support for the BC Liberals throughout the Interior. There is a possibility they’ll lose a number of seats in the Lower Mainland but in the Interior, we seem to want the neglect and abuse to continue and I simply don’t understand this.  

It’s almost like a Stockholm Syndrome and I’d be interested to hear your opinion on why you think this is happening. Not the two banal and unsubstantiated anti-NDP, Internet troll excuses trotted out every time. But instead, your honest assessment on why we continue to elect those who despite their cliché and trite platitudes, don’t seem to care that small and once vibrant Interior communities are falling apart.

In my opinion, if something is broken and it’s not being fixed, then broken must be the plan.