Friday, September 16, 2011

We Can't Stand The Truth?

Nanaimo Unemployment Is Alarming
'Sound Bites' Don't Change That

John Les, the parliamentary secretary for the Premier upset a few local sensitivities with his suggestion that if you are having trouble finding a good paying job in Nanaimo, you might want to consider the prospects in other BC communities. All he has done with his statement is prove why politicians are so often loath to speak the plain, simple truth.

The first I noticed was when the News Bulletin took exception to his comments on their editorial page saying more or less that Mr. Les should not have said what he said. That seemed to be all that was said about it until an arcticle appeared on Sept. 14 in the national newspaper, the Globe and Mail which seems to focus more attention on a subject than our local media. This has resulted in our Mayor rising to the defense of the city in print and also on CHEK television, along with city hall staffer Ian Howatt. Basically both Ruttan and Howatt said things in Nanaimo are improving and pointed to a couple of things supporting their claims. If you listened to what either of them said exactly, you will notice that neither of them really said anything of substance.

Mayor Ruttan is quoted in the Daily News as saying "there is no need to go .... you can talk gloom and doom all you want, but there is work here". I am not sure how much work and what type of work the Mayor thinks there is right here, he seems to be ignoring that double digit unemployment number which has been hanging on since the spring of this year. He also doesn't seem to acknowledge that many people who have decided not to go are also relying on school feeding programs, soup kitchen type feeding programs and food banks just to keep body and soul together.

Hoping that the newly created Economic Development Corporation is going to somehow magically solve Nanaimo's employment woes is simply not dealing with reality either. I have never heard anything concrete from any of our civic leaders that leads to believe anyone knows how to improve Nanaimo's economy. We came off of a boom cycle that saw construction literally explode for many years but aside from that government and some tourism seem to be the only economic drivers in the city of Nanaimo. The success of Harmac, while admirable is barely a shadow of what it once was and the few hundred jobs is hardly something that sustains a city approaching 100,000 people.

As to the issue of moving to where the jobs are, seems pretty much like a no brainer particularly if you are in the construction business. When construction came full force to Nanaimo, a great many of those employed in fact came from someplace else, they were not all Nanaimo residents. So to think those same people are now going to move to where construction is more vital hardly seems like anything other than common sense.

The cities up North are on the cusp of an $11 billion economic boom driven by an export terminal near Kitimat, upgrades to the Alcan smelter, building a 344 Km hydro transmission line, a 197 megawatt hydroelectric project and several copper and gold property developments. 

The economic development officer in Terrace is quoted in the Globe as saying "There is huge opportunity if, say you are from Nanaimo and cannot find work or don't want to work for $8 - $10 an hour. Starting wages in construction with high school education is $28/hr and carpenters earn up to $40/hr.

In the meantime Nanaimo is putting a lot of hope in the skills of the newly hired head of the EDC who will be assuming her role here sometime in October. But unless she is some kind of magician it is totally unrealistic to think she will be able to change Nanaimo's employment scene overnight. I have said before, one of Nanaimo's problems is the fact we don't really seem to know what we are, and we seem to try to be all things, with the result we can't define which way we wish to go. Continually building and selling houses may be OK in the short term but long term can't be relied upon.

On a closing note, I wonder who is going to be able to pay those ever increasing taxes we are told are sustainable if those 12% finally decided to move someplace where they can earn a living?


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