Northern B.C. Future Bright, with Some Policy Changes

By Submitted Article - Opinion 250

Friday, June 03, 2011 10:59 AM

Dr.Paul Bowles, UNBC Economics Professor says there needs to be policy change so the north can reap benefits of commodities boom
Prince George, B.C. - Dr. Paul Bowles, an economics professor at UNBC says when it comes to the economy, it is no longer a bad thing to be economically reliant on commodities. That bodes well for the future of northern B.C. as its resources such as minerals, oil and gas, are in high demand. But the professor says there needs to be some policy change to ensure northern workers and communities reap the benefits.

He says the minerals commodities pricing was virtually unchanged for 60 years, then, it spiked “The prices are out of whack compared to where they have been”. He noted the same could be said for food pricing, and oil pricing . “There has been a dramatic shift in the nature of the Canadian economy and in the North’s economy.” The climb of the Canadian dollar is further evidence of the demand for commodities, a move which has squeezed the manufacturing sector.

“We are living in unprecedented times for demand for commodities”. While he says part of the reason for the boost in pricing is speculation, but there has been incredible growth in India and China.

Dr. Bowles says the real challenge will be addressing the social issues which come along as a result of the demand for resources. How will be benefits of the resource booms be shared, who will get what?

He asks “will there be windfall profit taxes? Where will those taxes go? Will workers share in the benefits?”
Over the last decade, Bowles says socially, policies have gone in the wrong direction with the employment standards changes, and growth of casual work, have not been positive for workers.

He says the abolition of appurtenancy was also a bad move “It tied local resources to local communities it was a direct way of sharing revenue with local communities.” While appurtenancy was a “province building” strategy.

He says the male work-camp model poses strains for the workers, and strains on their families.
“The whole focus for the past decade has been to increase the flexibility for firms, and decrease the security for workers.”

He says there has to be new ways to revenue share and risk share for workers and communities. He says there has to be some way of investment sequencing, for instance, mega projects today create a job shortage, then when that project is complete, there is a job surplus. Sequencing could eliminate or at least reduce those employment swings.

He says there should be some local procurement and hiring rules for projects, which include gender equity policies.

Dr. Bowles says rather than have a B.C. Progress Board, he says there should be a Brighter Futures Board which has representation from all sectors and all regions. “This part of the world is not going to have a brighter future unless all voices are heard, and all regions are involved.”

Above copy courtesy of Opinion 250

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