LATELY I’ VE HAD the unfortunate experience of being given a glimpse into the future and I have to say it wasn’t — as that old song goes — all Sunshine and Lollipops. Let me explain…
Here in Kamloops as well as on the Island, we’ve been going through some very difficult times as far as the forestry sector goes.
In the meantime and all around Kamloops, mills are closing. The shutdowns are either permanent or for the foreseeable future and, like the Island, it is happening in communities that for decades have relied on the jobs and business spin-offs of this industry.
The impact this is having on towns is not limited to those who were once directly employed by the forestry sector either. As coffee shops, retail outlets, motels and other businesses cut back, closed down or went into bankruptcy, the minimum wage worker, often holding down two or three jobs just to get by, is laid off.
The ripple effect hits everyone and hits him or her equally as hard as it doesn’t matter if you were being paid $40/hr or $13/hr; out of work is out of work.
In my last column, I wrote about how disappointing it was to see all those good years we had being wasted as far as planning for the bad times to come.
That column generated the expected response from a few that went something like: “Don’t worry, everyone will always need wood to build their homes. The industry will come back strong.”
However, who says homes will always be built based on 2×4 or 2×6 construction? I hope it wasn’t the same people who predicted the internet would never act as a substitute for a store in your local shopping mall. Buy your groceries online? Are you crazy? Work in a gig economy with several bosses from several companies based in different towns or even countries? Get out of here, it’ll never happen!
Ideas that once sounded ridiculous and/or cost prohibitive, have a way of becoming normal, inexpensive and industry standards almost overnight.
Societal pressures from major urban centres and adaptation of new technologies will only accelerate the process while influencing decision makers to review and revise management practices in the resource sector.
We’ve already seen successful tests using 3-D printing to construct homes and those who scoff at the idea now will be wondering what hit them in the not too distant future. And the movement to halt or severely limit harvesting of old-growth forests is gaining momentum.
The future for resource economy towns and to some extent, the cities that live off of the avails of those small towns, are up for grabs right now. The strike on the Island and the closures in the Interior have provided a preview of the outcomes if nothing is done.
Bill McQuarrie is a former magazine publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.