Editorial: Changes

Trent Ernst, Editor

 

And just like that, everything changes.

Suddenly the world that we knew doesn’t exist anymore.

415 people out of work, many of them Tumbler Ridge residents.

Like a stone tossed into a puddle, this will have effects radiating out from it. What we see now is only the immediate effects: 415 people out of a job: hundreds of families suddenly without a source of income.

In two weeks, when there’s no more paycheque coming, suddenly things will start to get tight. A fortunate few may find employment elsewhere in town.

Others will have to start looking for work in Chetwynd. In Dawson Creek. In Fort St. John, or even in places farther away.

Two weeks ago, if you had asked about transient workers, you would have been wondering about people who lived elsewhere and who were coming to Tumbler Ridge to work their one week on, then leaving for one week back to the place that they truly called home.

Now, there are 415 people who call Tumbler Ridge home who are looking for work. Many of them, who have fallen in love with the Tumbler Ridge lifestyle will choose to go and work one week in a camp, or in a town that they don’t call home so that they can keep their families here in a place they do. They will be Tumbler Ridge’s new transient workforce, the exact opposite of the transient workforce that was here a week ago.

Ripples in the water.

What will happen to the real estate market in Tumbler Ridge over the next few weeks? Months? Many people expect the prices of houses to fall, though it is too soon to know by quite how much. How many people will try and ride this out? How many people will have to sell?

And it’s not just the real estate agents. Former employees of the mine suddenly won’t be spending as much money in town. Local stores may have to cut staff. Some may have to close. Councillor McPherson says this sets the town back a decade in its work to attract businesses to the downtown core.

But it might not all be bad news. One of the first real world casualties of the layoffs was bylaw amendments that would have limited who could set up shop in the downtown core, something the local property owners have long fought against. The bylaw was tabled, but considering the opposition in had, I don’t see it coming back anytime soon.

Currently, the price of rental space in the downtown core is high, in the way you could use the same word to describe Cheech and Chong, ie: very.

While it is still too early to tell, there’s a good chance that lease rates will drop, making starting a business in Tumbler Ridge more attractive. Of course, that will be offset by the fact that there may be no people left in town, but we’re trying to be optimistic here.

As the ripples expand farther out, what other effects could it have? It’s hard to say for certain. One thing most people agree on: Tumbler Ridge is not destined to be a ghost town like it was a decade ago when the mines shut down. These days we have the wind project. We have people who work oil and gas who live here. We have a community forest.

There are more things, more diverse things happening now than were in Tumbler Ridge twenty years ago. There was no wind energy twenty years ago. There were fewer people working in the patch twenty years ago.

Still, this is a devastating blow to the community, and even harder to the people that are directly impacted, and our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who is currently struggling to survive. I’ve been there, and I know how hard it can be.

The only saving grace is there are few more supportive, encouraging and giving places to be than Tumbler Ridge. Good luck to all.