Editorial: Time to swallow our pride?

Trent Ernst. Editor


Last week, there was a new site seen around town that has rarely, if ever been seen before.

On Thursday, as I was walking over to visit my mom, over in Hartford Place, I passed a local out on the street in front of town hall with a sign.

You can see this person if you turn to page nine of this paper, as I took a photo of him.

He’s a local resident, though he’s only been here a few months. He was working in the oil and gas industry, but lost his job and now, like many, is having difficulty finding work.

He and his family—a wife and two kids—have not been here long but he says that he wants to do what he can to stay in town. So, not having much luck with traditional methods, he’s taken to standing out in front of town hall with a sign.

The sign reads (if you’re too lazy to flip to page 9) “I don’t want a handout, I need a job.”

This smacks of the same attitude the District has adopted with their “made in Tumbler Ridge plan.”

But I’ve been wondering if maybe, it’s the wrong attitude.

No, wait, follow me for a second here. We want to have some form of industry—any form of industry—happening in town here.

What are the golden rules of industry? Keep costs down, keep profits up.

So, when a forestry company is looking for a new place to put a, say a pellet mill, what are the things they’re going to be looking for?

Well, they’re going to be looking for the appropriate infrastructure. For forestry, that means they need trees. In BC, 60 percent of the province is forested, so a company can build that pellet mill darn near anywhere. So there needs to be something else that attracts them.

Well, obviously, the second thing needed is transportation. If you can’t get your product to market, you’re not going to do very well. Generally this means rail. Nearly all the towns and cities in BC are accessible by road, save for a few coastal communities, which are accessible by ship, which is just as good for the forestry industry, and most of them are accessible by rail, too.

So if Tumbler Ridge is looking to attract that pellet mill, saying we have trees and saying we have rail is akin to saying we are just like any other community in BC.

So, what else is industry looking for? A third thing is a qualified workforce. And this is why when you see new mills going in, they’re going in in Chetwynd and Dawson and Fort St. John, because we don’t have a lot of people who work in the forestry industry in town.

But there’s something else that industry is looking for. Let’s call it … weakness.

What do I mean by weakness? I mean they’re looking for a place that’s willing to do anything to make sure that company builds that mill in their area. They want tax cuts, a labour force that is easily cowed and submissive, free beer and all the babies it can eat.

Signs of weakness can overrule a qualified workforce, because in industry, the biggest predator is the one that will succeed.

They want a population broken and submissive, willing to sell their soul for a job, a town willing to roll over for any demand.

And Tumbler Ridge? Tumbler Ridge isn’t acting weak right now. We’re down, certainly, but we’re not out. We’re wounded, but we’ve still got some fight, and we’re going to make it, somehow, without selling our soul to the lowest bidder.

Thank goodness.