Editorial: …and we’re climbing a stairway to…?

Trent Ernst, Editor


It never rains but it turns to snow and becomes a nasty slush that is hard to drive in.

After last week’s news that Walter Energy was idling the Wolverine Mine, putting 415 people out of work, some people said that news couldn’t get much worse.

But the cynics (and there are a lot of them out there) knew better: it can always get worse.

And their cynicism was justified when, a week later, Teck announced that it wasn’t going ahead with Quintette this year.

Suddenly, 80 more people are out of work, bringing the total up to nearly 500 people who used to have work in Tumbler Ridge no longer having work in Tumbler Ridge.

The cynics have also been saying that they expect Anglo American to announce they’re shutting down the Trend mine sometime soon, but so far, they have been proven wrong on that. (But that’s okay; if they keep saying it long enough, it’s bound to come true someday, even if it is the day the mine runs out of coal….)

But the fact is, Tumbler Ridge has been delivered a one-two punch. We got knocked to the ground, then someone came up and kicked us in the wibbly-wobblies.

And its tough not to start thinking that maybe something might be a little bit wrong with the world.

It’s easy to point fingers. I’ve seen people on Facebook go off on Walter. “I’ll never work for that company again; they’re a bunch of so-and-sos who play dirty pool and kick puppies.” (That is not a word for word quote, just so you know.) I’ve seen people go off on the union: “what right do they have to try and protect our jobs for two years; in two years, I’ll have another job or I’ll be dead. If I get called back and I have another job, I’m not coming back, and therefore won’t get my severance, and they should all be taken out behind the barn and shot.” (Again, that’s a rough approximation of the sentiment, and shouldn’t be attributed to anyone.)

But the fact is, both are just players in a game that was created well before you and I came on the scene. It’s called capitalism.

Milton Friedman famously argued that capitalism, unfettered by government intervention “[distributed] the fruits of economic progress among all people. That’s the secret of the enormous improvements in the conditions of the working person over the past two centuries.”

Which is all fine and dandy until someone loses a livelyhood, and when that person is you, you start questioning whether the free market is all its cracked up to be.

Economist Thomas Piketty recently wrote a book that turns Friedman’s assertion on its head. He argues when a capitalist society is working properly, there is great inequality between the haves and the have nots. That capitalism unfettered gives us things like child labour, and it was only a pair of world wars knocking off a large swath of the population that temporarily reduced inequality, that hid capitalism’s darker roots.

The thing is, we’re just making this up as we go along. Communism, capitalism, socialism, anarcho-syndicalism, globalization, localization, libertarianism….the list goes on.

Nothing has worked perfectly, and nothing will ever work perfectly outside of a theoretical vacuum, because at the root of all political systems is the poli—the people. And believe you me, nobody knows how to screw things up like people.

Which brings us back to the 415 people that Walter let go, the 600 Teck is letting go. Because they are us. We are them. (Coo coo ca choo…) Not in one of those silly new age-y sort of ways, just that you and I are more alike than you and that rock.

I keep seeing people trying to point fingers and lay blame on other people. We roll our eyes and trivialize them because they may wear a different label than we have chosen to wear, and therefore they are somehow less people than we people.

And it’s there we are wrong. Because by lessening them, we lessen all of us. And we can climb far higher helping by giving each other a leg up than by knocking someone down and stepping on their back.