LET’S TALK about jobs, good resource sector jobs to be more specific. However, before everyone gasps in disbelief thinking I’ve changed my mind on Ajax… I haven’t.
I have nothing against mining and fully appreciate it’s’ tremendous value to the economy but — and this is the big ‘BUT’ — Building an open pit mine in Kamloops remains, as I’ve always felt, one of the most ludicrous ideas imaginable. That being said, let’s look at how politicians and some pundits are hiding or at best ignoring the truth about B.C.’s abysmal record when it comes to resource jobs, especially in the forestry sector.
You see, I came across some startling statistics while I was doing research for a future column on mining jobs. However, these statistics had nothing to do with mining jobs and everything to do with forestry and they were eye opening, perhaps more so as they are the direct result of intentional government policies and practices. By way of background, let me explain.
In Ontario, 292 cubic metres of harvested wood are needed to create one full-time forestry related job. In B.C., a full-time forestry job needs 1,300 cubic metres. In other words, it requires nearly 4.5 times more wood to create a B.C. job then it does in Ontario and it gets worse.
Some may say that is a direct result of our productivity and we’re simply far more efficient than Ontario but that may simply be a myth.
In 2012, Ontario added about $840 to their economy for every cubic metre cut. In B.C. that cubic meter added just $235 to our economy or less than a third of what Ontario was able to generate. So much for the efficiencies argument.
More recently in Ontario, their annual cut totalled 12.6 million cubic metres and in the process created and sustained 43,000 jobs. In B.C., we harvested 68.8 million cubic metres of wood, creating 52,500 jobs. Over five times the amount of wood harvested and yet we could only create 9,000 more jobs than Ontario?
Using the Ontario model as a guide and taking the amount of wood we cut, we should have over 200,000 forestry jobs and in the process be adding nearly $58 Billion to our economy. Instead we seem satisfied employing 150,000 fewer workers and earning a fraction of what we should be generating for the province.
So where are those jobs and why don’t we have them? Many would say, and I would agree, that part of the problem is raw log exports. Put into perspective, our log exports represent 23,000 jobs we don’t have.
B.C. is accountable for 97 per cent of all Canadian raw log exports and while it’s nice to lead in something, raw log exports may not be the kind of Number One spot we want. You see, over the past 15 or so years, while our log exports have skyrocketed, the market value for raw logs has been falling. So we are exporting more logs while getting the lowest possible value and in the process denying tens of thousands of high paying local jobs for the B.C. workforce.
It’s those kind of numbers that make me wonder why we are tearing our community apart and fighting over a couple of hundred mining jobs when our government is throwing away the opportunity for thousands upon thousands of high paying jobs? It represents more work than we can currently handle, the resource is renewable and as far as money goes, I haven’t even begun to talk about value-added manufacturing jobs.
For today’s workers there is a resource sector future here for them, their children, and their grandchildren and beyond. It’s not about a few hundred jobs lasting 20 years, dividing a community and depleting a one-time resource.
The practice of raw log exports is not an accidental one-off mistake by the government. It is a long-held practice of government, supported by policy and practiced for decades and I can’t understand why those wanting good jobs aren’t fighting for them.
I mean the province doesn’t care about you as they’re only in it for the stumpage. The forestry companies don’t care about you, as they just want the quick profit of selling logs offshore. So if you want your $100,000 resource job you are going to have to stop the poor me whine-fest and use the coming election to make it happen for you.
Personally, I think we should put new and still unproven opportunities like our LNG daydreams on hold. Not forsaken but simply put on the back burner as an income source we might draw upon in future decades. In its place we take the money we were willing to invest in LNG and redirect our efforts and investment into rebuilding a sustainable forest industry while simultaneously developing value added manufacturing.
It’s a proven industry, using a renewable resource that creates good jobs.