Re­silience is this re­gion’s great­est strength

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - ED­WINA NEARHOOD

B.C. forests have been hit hard in so many ways, from past years’ fires, tim­ber sup­ply, al­low­able cut, pine bee­tle, spray­ing, cari­bou pro­tec­tion plans, tar­iffs, loss of a soft­wood lum­ber agree­ment, po­lit­i­cal pres­sures, and more.

Sys­tems are de­signed for the out­comes achieved. Our forests are in trou­ble – en­vi­ron­men­tally and sys­tem­i­cally. How does ev­ery facet work to­gether to achieve a bal­ance in the in­dus­try? Glob­al­iza­tion is also a con­trib­u­tor to these op­pos­ing mar­ket forces.

Aug. 9 was the last day of work for the Louisiana Pa­cific OSB mill in Fort St. John. North­ern B.C. is re­ported to be home to 39 per cent of pulp and paper mills, 55 per cent of the prov­ince’s sawmills, 79 per cent of pel­let mills, and 45 per cent of ve­neer ply­wood and panel mills. North­ern economies de­pend on forestry.

The State of Forestry in North­ern BC re­ported by North­ern De­vel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive Trust re­ports that one in five jobs in North­ern B.C. are tied to the forestry sec­tor. That re­port goes on to in­di­cate that, as of July 10, with four mill clo­sures, there were 710 di­rect

jobs af­fected, which im­pacts an es­ti­mated 1,500 in­di­rect jobs and an es­ti­mated an­nual pay­roll of $40 mil­lion.

The pay­roll loss due to cur­tail­ment is an es­ti­mated $175,000 per week per mill.

One thing that is for cer­tain in the north is there will be ups and downs. The chal­lenge is bal­anc­ing the ups and downs be­tween re­source in­dus­tries. Slow, steady sus­tain­able growth of­fers more sta­bil­ity than the boom-bust we are ac­cus­tomed to in the north.

We have a strong com­mu­nity and we are re­silient. Con­trac­tors will need to react quickly to re­main com­pet­i­tive for a smaller mar­ket share. Larger or­ga­ni­za­tions will need to down­size to cut un­nec­es­sary costs. The fall­out in the com­mu­nity trick­les into the ser­vice shops, the sup­ply stores and re­tail sec­tor. It is a time for tight­en­ing the belt and spend­ing less for the for­est in­dus­try and their em­ploy­ees.

I see small com­mu­ni­ties be­come more re­silient. How do we sup­port one an­other through eco­nomic hard­ship? Sec­ondary jobs are now be­com­ing the primary jobs. Stay at home dads are em­brac­ing an op­por­tu­nity to bet­ter their fam­ily in ways never ex­pe­ri­enced. I look around my com­mu­nity and am con­stantly iden­ti­fy­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for small busi­nesses to thrive.

I per­son­ally have changed my spend­ing habits. My pref­er­ence is to shop/eat/sup­port lo­cal. Sure, we all have the odd visit out of town, but it is no longer the weekly or monthly visit. Maybe you re­ally aren’t saving any­thing when you go out of town and over­spend.

If mem­ory serves from the Hy­dro project em­ployee de­mand, we are en­ter­ing a pe­riod that re­quires the most man­power. This will help off­set some of the job losses. On the up­side, there is a lot more re­source ac­tiv­ity and pipe­line con­struc­tion cur­rently. These are tem­po­rary, short-term jobs… which we are quite fa­mil­iar with.

No wimps al­lowed in the north. Ride the wave. Re­silience rules.

— Ed­wina Nearhood is a life­long res­i­dent of Fort St. John.

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