Why B.C.’S cities are are in a good place
Like British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. president and CEO Mark Collins (p.19), I grew up in Newfoundland and Labrador. Hold the Newfie jokes, please: our easternmost province is a remarkable place that most Canadians don’t bother visiting, to their loss. (See for yourself in our travel story on page 66.) It’s also long had the country’s highest unemployment. When I was a teenager in St. John’s during the 1980s—living a comfortable middle-class life—the jobless rate hovered around the high teens and low 20s. After the collapse of the cod fishery in 1992, unemployment stood at 20 per cent for three years—and the unofficial number might have been double that. Newfoundland still has its troubles: as of last September, about 13 per cent of residents were out of work, according to Statistics Canada.
Although unemployment is an imperfect measure of prosperity, we have much to be grateful for in British Columbia, where September’s rate was a mere 5.2 per cent. Yes, we still have the country’s worst child poverty, and sky-high real estate prices are helping drive the growing economic inequality we share with most of the world. But this province is a place of opportunity, as shown by the fourth annual Best Cities for Work in B.C. ranking (p.29).
Launched in 2014 by my predecessor, Matt O’grady, this survey draws on data provided by research partner Environics Analytics. It’s our attempt to present a snapshot of cities throughout the province where incomes are healthiest and job prospects are brightest. Every year communities rise and fall in the ranking, but I’d caution them against dwelling on that. For one thing, most of the cities compare so favourably with each other that small shifts in the income and other metrics we use can push them up and down. As you’ll see starting on page 32, this year it was my pleasure to visit two of the names on the list: Dawson Creek and Campbell River. Thank you to mayors Dale Bumstead and Andy Adams for their generous hospitality.
And thanks to long-time Bcbusiness contributor Steve Burgess for his gripping account of Vancouver bike shop owner Paul Dragan’s brush with death (p.42). In 2014, Dragan was gunned down by a former employee who bore a grudge. Burgess, a gifted journalist whose career spans magazines, newspapers, TV and radio, found the right balance between drama and utility. Capturing the shooting and its surrounding events with the skill of a seasoned true-crime writer, he also asks what lessons this violent episode holds for other business owners. Our gratitude to Dragan for talking to us, and here’s to his continued good health.