Credit Downgrade? Rural BC has solutions – major projects

Written By Todd Corrigall

News of B.C.’s credit downgrade forced a bit of reflection on how we have arrived at this point and what we can do to pull ourselves out of it.

For seven years now, we’ve been told the province is in the situation we are because of the former BC Liberal government. In fact, this line is trotted out every time something egregious occurs that the government can’t avert. So, it was no surprise maybe when, on the morning of Mar. 9, B.C.’s Finance Minister blamed the credit rating drop on an infrastructure deficit left by the previous government.

An infrastructure deficit? 

Wasn’t there a plan for a new Massey bridge that was virtually shovel ready? Weren’t there serious infrastructure projects throughout the province that were ready to go – until project labour agreements were introduced and spiked the cost significantly? Did we not also have a line of major project proponents ready to invest in one of the most forward-looking, environmentally conscious jurisdictions in Canada? 

Credit where credit is due. The BC NDP got  LNG Canada across the finish line, moved Site C forward and, despite significant delays, finally provided approval for Cedar LNG to proceed.

As the former CEO for the Prince George Chamber of Commerce during COVID, I spoke regularly with elected officials, businesses of all sizes, and our colleagues throughout northern and central B.C. about what opportunities were before us. A common thread was the provincial government’s focus on healthcare, social issues, and helping people move forward. All great goals, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic. 

Missing in action was an economic recovery plan. 

Create major projects and new jobs

B.C. government officials often promised we would come out of the pandemic stronger and better positioned for the future. Instead, we now have our third credit downgrade with no new major projects approved. The government is also pushing electric vehicles and electric heating, even as we imported nearly 20 per cent of our 2023 electricity supply from the U.S. 

And we haven’t even gotten to the crumbling health care and general apathy for the economy.

We cannot tax ourselves out of this problem. People can’t afford it. But we can develop good-paying jobs, and attract new tax payers.

B.C. is well positioned to create new and innovative major projects, led by, or in partnership with, First Nations. 

It’s understandable the Lower Mainland pulls more attention than northern B.C. – there’s more voters there for one. However, how many junior mining companies occupy the Bentall Centre in Vancouver? How many advertising agencies and creative houses rely on wealth created in the north to market their clients’ goods? How many associations look out their windows on West Pender and think about economic opportunities developed in communities north of Chilliwack?

Rural B.C. represents the province’s future.

We are resource rich, provide good paying jobs, affordable homes, have multiple world-class educational facilities and trades programs, access to the outdoors and continue to provide the baseline for B.C.’s economic prosperity – while reaping few of the benefits. 

B.C. needs major projects and investments from other jurisdictions. It’s how the province was built, and certainly how the province can grow and thrive.

Otherwise, B.C.’s economy will wane, as will our prospects and, apparently, our credit rating.