Trent Ernst, Editor
Let me tell you a story about a government.
Not about government in general, but about a specific government. We shall call it The Government.
Now, The Government had been elected by The People. Together, they lived in The Area, and The Area was beautiful.
One day, the government decided that it was going to build infrastructure for The Industry, and it made The People upset.
You see, while The Industry was something that was proven elsewhere, The People were worried, as it had never been tried in The Area before.
The Government tried to appease The People. “We’ve been thinking about doing this a long time,” they said. “We’ve had Experts working on reports and they tell us this is a good idea.”
But despite the opinion of Experts, The People still were against the idea. “It’s too big,” they said. “And it costs too much, for too little return. And it will only benefit a small fraction of us, less than one percent, of the population. Why should taxpayers foot the bill for something that is only of benefit to so few?”
The Government sought to convince The People that, while that might be true in the short term, in the long term, it would be worth it. “It might not pay off next year, or in the next five years,” said the Government. “But this is a long-term investment.
“Besides, you can’t just look at the direct economic impact. Sure, it might not directly pay for itself, but the spin-offs will be immense.”
The People were unconvinced. “This is a waste of money,” they said. “We don’t want you to do it,” they said. “These are the negative machinations of the financial oligarchs and their destructive pay the rich schemes organized using corrupt politicians to rob the public treasury and the enormous value workers create,” one lone voice shouted, though most people ignored him.
But the Government was convinced that The Industry would be good for The People, and so, despite the opposition, they went ahead and built the Infrastructure to support The Industry.
And you know what? There’s been well over $10-billion in returns on that investment
$10-Billion. That’s a conservative estimate of how much revenue has been generated by the coal mines built in and around Tumbler Ridge since the start of the Northeast Coal Project back in the 1980s.
In that time, thousands of people have found employment here in Tumbler Ridge. Without the infrastructure built by the Government of BC back in the 1980s, this town probably wouldn’t exist, and you wouldn’t be reading these words.
The northeast had the product—coal—but in order to get it out of the ground a railway, a highway and a town needed to be built, at a cost to the BC taxpayers of $1.6-Billion.
Has the province made that money back directly? Possibly not, but it’s tough to calculate, because in addition to the taxes collected on the mines, you also have to factor in residential taxes from people who live here as well. And the town is still going, so the income is not finished. The mines are still going (sort of), and in the next ten years there might be four, five, six new mines starting up.
But if the government hadn’t made that investment, would Kinuseo Falls be one of the icons of this province? Would we be sitting in the World’s newest Geopark? Would there even be a town here? I don’t think so.
In fact, I doubt anyone here would say Tumbler Ridge was a bad investment.
What’s that? You thought I was talking about the Visitor Information Centre?