Expanding economic diversity will help inoculate B.C. against the worst effects of COVID-19 and other debilitating marketplace challenges. Shrinking that diversity will do the opposite. Unfortunately, Ottawa and B.C.’s NDP government are doing the latter when it comes to regions outside B.C.’s urban southwest.
Consider salmon farming as an example. It is a $1.6 billion industry in B.C. with the potential to became a major player in a global market estimated at $344 billion. Critically for B.C., it is also a significant employer in northern coastal communities suffering from cyclical resource industry downturns and pine beetle infestation devastation. In short, it is a bright light in an otherwise dark economic time in places where employment options are limited and the promise of a future in technology and other service industries is neither a viable nor meaningful career for everyone. The governments of Justin Trudeau and John Horgan do not see it that way. They see problems where they should be cultivating innovation and opportunity. B.C.’s Discovery Islands region will be the first to suffer from that blinkered outlook. By June 2022, all 19 salmon farms in the area will be shut down in keeping with a government campaign to eliminate open-net salmon farming, even though science and economics say that is a misguided decision. In a recent letter to federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan, four northern Vancouver Island mayors point out that the decision against renewing Discovery Islands’ salmon farming licences will eliminate 1,500 jobs and further erode the social fabric in communities already struggling with economic hardship and unemployment. Governments in the pandemic economy now appear to believe that putting more citizens on the public payroll is the future of work. But it is instead the future of hollowed-out communities, devalued entrepreneurship and increased voter dependence on government.