British Columbia should embrace its role in the West

Western Canada, if allied, is a national powerhouse.

Dear editor,

In a few short years, we’ve gone from achieving a new height in collaboration in western Canada to climbing out of a new low. The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has thrown a wrench in the relationship and the plucky message that BC can prosper on its own – thank you very much – has broad appeal among British Columbians.

Unfortunately, this has undermined the solidarity with the other western provinces that has been so important to British Columbia’s success over the years.

I was raised and educated in Vancouver and for most of my life I thought of myself as a British Columbian. But time spent in Saskatchewan and Alberta has led me to think of myself as a western Canadian.

It is stunning how many values British Columbians share with many of their Prairie neighbours. A deep love of the land. Tolerance and hospitality. Creativity and a willingness to take risks. A belief in both personal freedom and personal responsibility. An understanding that prosperity doesn’t come from government largesse but from finding a way to add value to the lives of others.

These shared values likely reflect how recent the pioneering experience is in this part of the world and the basic export focus of the western Canadian economy. And indeed, it is “an economy” not several.

Alberta is BC’s second largest export market. The most recent numbers (2009) show that British Columbians sell $12 billion in goods and services to Albertans – more than they sell to China. Similarly, Albertans sell $14 billion in goods and services to British Columbians. The well-being of these two provinces is deeply interconnected. When one suffers, they both do.

Now, BC has some advantages that Alberta does not. BC’s economy is more diverse and many of its natural assets are renewable. Alberta is deeply dependent on the sale of its oil and natural gas assets and has to worry about saving for the future when they are gone.

Collectively, the western provinces are a powerhouse in food, energy and materials – the basics of life from the very first day that a human being built a shelter and started a fire to cook food. These shared strengths are an incredible platform for success if the West works together.

When the Prairie provinces were being created, Ottawa intentionally divided the West into small pieces so that they would never rival the power of Ontario and Quebec. This was very much on the minds of Premiers Campbell, Stelmach and Wall when they created the New West Partnership. They were seeking to create a common economic region with enough clout to influence national policies, attract investment and compete more effectively overseas. It was a great vision and is still vital today as the West struggles to get Ottawa to do its job opening markets, welcoming immigrants and – perhaps most importantly – addressing our obligations to our Aboriginal peoples.

The division over the Northern Gateway pipeline has created tensions in the partnership, but it need not spell the end of the cooperation that does, and still could, take place among the western provinces. Cooperation means more influence in the federation and on the international stage, better services for citizens and a stronger economy.

As with any relationship, the partners need to be open to debate and constructive criticism. BC’s comments on the Northern Gateway proposal to the National Energy Board were, for example, extremely valuable. Greater attention needs to be paid to whether there is adequate infrastructure to respond to potential spills in the remote areas the pipeline will cross. Alberta and Enbridge needed to hear this. Friends don’t have to agree, but they should listen to one another.

The broader point is that regardless of how the discussion on Northern Gateway proceeds, the larger relationship should be protected. The western provinces need one another and they need to stand united to advance western Canadian interests within Canada and abroad. They should do this as friends.

British Columbia is tremendously blessed with people and resources. It can certainly do quite well “going it alone.” But why be alone when you can be with friends and do even better?

Dylan Jones

President and CEO, Canada West Foundation

 

 

Just Posted

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

VIDEO: North Island Peewee Eagles unleash avalanche of goals against Peninsula in semi-final showdown

The two teams squared up on Sunday morning at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill.

North Island Seniors Housing Foundation takes the next step towards getting Trustee Road land

Seniors rejoice, Port Hardy council is very much in favour of helping… Continue reading

Port Hardy Volleyball club requests funding from Port Hardy council

The sport of Volleyball is alive and well in the North Island,… Continue reading

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

City of Port Alberni cancels tourist train operations for 2019

Steam train to McLean Mill is out of commission for repairs; city wants to re-examine rail costs

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Most Read