Saturday, January 28, 2006

Time for A Change?

This part of Canada is heavily reliant on the forestry industries as an economic base. THese industries use massive amounts of power to operate. Currently they are suffering what some have called a "perfect storm". A high Canadian dollar makes their product more expensive in the US, electricity costs in this province are higher than in other jurisdictions, fibre costs are high, transport costs (both of logs and of finished product) are increasing, and (in the case of lumber mills) there is a trade dispute around duties in the largest market.

Daily in the regional news there is a story about one or another mill that is announcing lay offs, or announcing the possibility of lay offs, or threatening to close altogether. Inherent in all these stories and announcements is the feeling that the government has to step in. The government has to lower operating cost, the government needs to lower electricity rates, or resolve the softwood lumber dispute, or pay a share of road construction costs, or lower stumpage fees. Or better yet, the government has to do all these things. Either the government acts yesterday or the industry will die.

Now make no mistake, there is a problem here. Despite my suspicions that the companies are milking this for all the poilitcal hay they can (to totally mix my imagery) I have no doubt that the economics are not good. And the lay offs/slow downs/closures make a real impact on the life of our communities. But still I wonder, maybe it is time for a change? Maybe it is time to rethink things.

THere comes a time when we need to make hard choices. Maybe the hard choice to be made involves deciding to keep on keeping on or to take a hard look at what is sustainable economically and environmentally in both the short and the long term. MAybe the short term choice needs to be to shore up forestry for a limited period and pour more and more resources into finding a new economic foundation, or a way to do forestry using far less power. This will cause upset and turmoil but maybe in the long term it is needed.

In last Monday's paper there was a letter asking why this town continues to look mainly to resource-based industries as its economic base (in conjunction with discussions around "mitigating" the planned closure of the generating station). Why not look elsewhere, at other industries? Maybe it is time the whole region asked itself that question. After all, what happens when the forests no longer provide enough trees or the rocks enough ore? That day will come at the rate we are going. That day will come. Lets start planning for a change now, before it is too late.

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