It is a curious phenomenon for those who watch municipal elections in the Lower Mainland to see resource development become such a large part of the campaigns. For the most part, the resources being debated are not located in Vancouver or the surrounding area and some of them are not even transiting via projects such as Northern Gateway or the Northern liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.
What is certain is that the mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby do not have any jurisdiction on resource development, unless there is a mine being proposed for downtown Vancouver that nobody noticed. Good thing, too, because Mayors Derek Corrigan and Gregor Robertson have a nasty habit of saying “No” to everything. They continually send a message to potential investors of British Columbia and the rest of Canada that capital is not welcome.
“We will do everything we can as a city to ensure Kinder Morgan does not return,” and “Kinder Morgan — bought and paid for by the National Energy Board” said Mayor Corrigan of a pipeline and company that has operated in Burnaby for 60 years. “Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has tabled a motion asking city staff to report back on a potential bylaw ‘to prevent the expansion of, or creation of new, coal export infrastructure within the City of Vancouver’ (G & M, April 2013)” of companies that have brought coal to Port Metro Vancouver for more than 100 years.
Rather than focus on issues that matter to voters and that are within their jurisdiction, like roads, transit, bike lanes, and garbage collection, Mayors Corrigan and Robertson have gone to war against the transportation companies that bring resources to the ports — both of which employ thousands of people. The Port of Metro Vancouver supports nearly 100,000 jobs and $6 billion in earnings, driving more than $20 billion in economic output, including direct, indirect and induced activities. Resource jobs are quality, high-paying jobs that can coexist with Mayor Robertson’s vision of a “green” high-tech community. Don’t kick hard-working taxpayers out of work just because you have a negative view of the resource sector.
Vancouver is a major gateway for Canada’s products to reach the world. Coal, timber products, agricultural products, chemicals, consumer goods such as vehicles, and oil all go through Vancouver on their way to international markets. Oil tankers have transited Vancouver’s harbour for more than 60 years. But why the focus on one product? After all, PMV ships myriad products that help drive Canada’s economy.
Without our ports, anything produced inland cannot leave. It seems fairly obvious to most of us but none of that seems to matter to these mayors. They are busy using these issues as a distraction to their voters. The National Energy Board has clear jurisdiction over both the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain Pipeline projects, and the courts have agreed despite Burnaby’s objections. CP Rail controls the fate of the Arbutus Corridor. The Port Metro Vancouver itself is a federal organization reporting to the Minister of Transport Canada.
We understand how frustrating it can be when you don’t have the power to force your views upon the region but there is a solution. You have the right to put their views before the panels that review these projects, quit your job and run to be a Member of Parliament or the Legislative Assembly or please just focus on municipal issues. You have great cities; please keep them that way.
The mayors are just two of many voices saying “No,” many of whom (Sierra Club, Dogwood) state that they speak for British Columbians. Do they really? Our guess is that not only do they not speak for British Columbians, they don’t speak for Westerners or Canadians as a whole. They speak for a small number of activists who are entirely focused on tearing down the Canadian economy.
“The resource economy is dead” or “we need to focus on the new economy” are examples of what we hear from anti-development groups. No details of course. We are meant to simply understand that Canada is moving in a different direction now.
Canada has developed and matured a great deal in our short history, but we remain a resource-based exporting nation. Without the opportunity to sell our resources on worldwide markets, we limit the returns on those resources. That is fewer royalties, taxes and wages paid to Canadians. This affects governments’ ability to build new schools and pay teachers, build and run hospitals, and maintain things that are important to our families.
The reality of our export economy is we need it to continue to grow, and most of that potential rests in infrastructure. The Northern LNG projects are very important to B.C. and to Canada. Selling our oil on international markets will bring vastly higher returns to Canadians. Finding new markets for our mining, timber and agricultural products will do the same.
Is there risk? Of course. No one can say there isn’t. The recent Mount Polley spill is a serious incident that shows we need companies and regulators to work harder at managing that risk. But it can be managed. We ought to stop saying “No” and start saying “How?”