Risks of resource extraction must be considered
While I am not taking one particular political party's side on this, I was disappointed to see such strong backlash against Adrian Dix for coming out against Kinder Morgan’s proposed new Trans Mountain pipeline. British Columbians have some tough conversations on the horizon about the costs and benefits of new resource development, and emotional arguments that polarize the issue aren’t helpful.
As a Vancouver-based business owner and a proud member of the real estate sector, I want to make sure that any new resource extraction proposal doesn’t risk our already thriving local economy. Take, for example, my industry. People might poke fun at Vancouver’s expensive coffee shops and condos but these, along with other similar building projects, are huge job creators. The property development sector is directly and indirectly responsible for over 220,000 jobs in BC and there are over 14,000 people working in real estate in the Lower Mainland alone. Compare that to the 50 permanent jobs that a new Trans Mountain pipeline would create in BC and things come into perspective a little.
I have also heard proponents claim that BC needs the income from resource development projects to pay for social spending. I’m not an expert on all the various projects under proposal right now, but I can tell you that provincial tax revenues numbers given by Kinder Morgan for their proposed new pipeline would only add an extra 0.0004% to the province’s tax revenues each year – or $8.65 million – hardly enough to make a difference to our economy. Is this number sufficient to ignore the potential cost?
On the other hand, if a large oil spill was to happen in Burrard Inlet, we could easily lose tens of thousands of jobs and pay billions in taxpayer dollars to clean it up. The BC government itself confirms that much of the cost of a major spill would fall to taxpayers to cover.
I’m worried about the gamble that a new pipeline would take with my industry – do you think people want to buy homes in a city where oil is washing up on the beach every day? According to recent research, in other places where oil spills have happened, property values have taken a noticeable hit. And let’s be honest – anyone who’s been reading the news for the past month will know that spills are considered an unfortunate but unavoidable cost of doing business in the oil industry.
I’m not opposed to resource development if done responsibly, but I do believe that there are trade-offs that need to be considered. BC is one of the few provinces in Canada (alongside Alberta) that still has a net influx of residents each year. I’d guess this is due to our beautiful landscapes, high quality of life and, yes, good job opportunities in sectors like tourism, which employs 127,000 people across the province, real estate, fishing, note to mention our growing innovation economy, which creates more jobs than forestry, mining, and oil and gas combined. These industries need to be protected when deciding whether new development projects should go ahead. We would be foolish to blindly say any new business is smart business.
What we need is a better understanding of the actual benefits and risks. We are certainly not in a bad place today with unemployment lower than the national average, and our economy is growing in ways others would be envious of. It would be a shame to make a blind decision on such a significant project without looking at the facts first.