Jobs. People have often asked me questions like “Chris, you’re for the environment, but what about jobs? Will environment always come before creating jobs?”
I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. There are a myriad of ways to create jobs, including ways to do so that will also help and protect our environment.
What are your ideas? Please share them in the comments or email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
Short Term (1-5 years):
The immediate opportunities I see for job growth in our City are in the service and small business sectors.
The Issue: Our hospital and seniors homes are very full and we will need more homes and other types of care, that means more people employed. Not only can we encourage VIHA (already our largest employer) to expand but other providers as well. We must also work to make our city a desirable place for young families and professionals to live in so that we are not simply adding to the commuter traffic over the hump.
Finding a Solution: The economic development office has in the past and I think must have recruiting more healthcare providers and services as a top priority. As a city we must also continue to improve our levels of service and amenities and not be afraid to advertise the incredible services and advantages we already have so that people want to live here rather than only commute here to work.
The issue: I think we have seen over the past few years a much needed uptick in optimism in our small business community. We are finally starting to see some revival of the 3rd and Argyle area and we are seeing Johnston and Redford continue to hold their own. I believe very strongly that small businesses are absolutely critical to the health of any small city like our own. We must have a goal to reduce the incentives for residents to drive out of town to get what they need. I would like to see the City open up a discussion with the community asking everyone why they leave town. I know people who go to Costco or Woodgrove in Nanaimo. I know people who go to the Pool in Qualicum or Nanaimo. I know people who recreate in Parksville or Tofino instead of Port Alberni. Developing our waterfront with more commercial and residential access is something that continues to elude us.
Finding a Solution: We need to ask people why they go away and what things the city could do in order to keep people in town and address the needs that people see are missing. This is a big part of any “green” agenda as well. Less driving out of town means less CO2 emissions, less car accidents, and less air pollution. Perhaps a local city currency could encourage people to stay local as well?
Capturing West Coast Traffic:
The Issue: I cringe every time I hear that people wish to create jobs from the tourism industry because I strongly believe people need stable, secure, well paid jobs in order to fully contribute to society. Seasonal jobs will never replace those more traditional types of jobs. However, there is no doubt that Port Alberni continues to miss out on massive opportunity with every car that passes through on their way to or from the West Coast.
Finding a Solution: I honestly believe this comes down to advertisement. Very often I have conversations with people from out of town who literally have no idea what this town offers. They simply don’t know. And people are just too busy to find out. We must redouble efforts to get a cohesive identity for our city and to advertise the businesses and opportunities we have here. I would like to see a real attraction, something that can truly draw people to the City, *within City limits*. Some things I’ve heard? A water slide park, a museum for the water bomber, or even a mountain slide. This is something big that would draw people in so that they could stay and then also see all of the other amazing things we already have like trails, mountain biking, fishing, shops and restaurants, and steam train and Mclean Mill.
The Issue: People often forget that one of the largest job creators is always home building and renovation. Port Alberni’s home market has been largely stagnant or depressed for a generation. I believe it will soon snap out of the doldrums and we will see a mini-boom in our housing sector. This will mean jobs for construction workers as more people choose Port Alberni as a place to live.
The Solution: There are a number of initiatives in my other platform points that relate to getting people to come to Port Alberni to live. Everything from developing the waterfront to a new pool to simply advertising the fact that we exist and are a great place to be! There are also specific incentives that could be in place to encourage people to renovate and make their homes more efficient.
There are a ton of other opportunities out there including the work that needs to be done to upgrade the airport so that Coulson and others can start creating more jobs through that particular bit of infrastructure. What are your thoughts on the best way to create some jobs prospects in town?
Medium/Long Term (5-10+ years)
The Issue: Following on from the tourism and forestry pieces above, you can’t do any of that without good transportation infrastructure. As we have seen over and over this summer, Highway 4 is congested and increasingly dangerous. This does have an economic as well as the obvious social and environmental impact. We are also seeing huge costs in the City from all of the truck traffic beating up City streets We need to find ways to take traffic off our roads while also increasing capacity to allow for growth in our Port and other industries.
Finding a Solution: Building key infrastructure creates jobs. In the City, it is long past time for truck routes to be designated and enforced. Large trucks on residential streets are dangerous and disruptive and overly damaging to an already fragile streets cape. They also reduce the ability for bikes, walkers and others to enjoy our streets as well. Trucks should be limited to the Provincial Highway (Johnston Rd) and routes branching off Gertrude and Stamp/3rd corridors. I support the industrial waterfront road to try to keep trucks off the 3rd Avenue corridor as well.
I would like to encourage the City and Regional District to take a big step back and investigate all of the options for increasing both industrial capacity to our port and City and also tourism and commuting traffic. We need to get an idea of what routes and modes of transport best fit our City’s needs and what are most sustainable and cost effective in the long term. My personal opinion is that focusing on paving the road to Bamfield/Cowichan and encouraging industrial, tourism and commuting traffic to move onto the railway is a much more achievable goal and would provide more benefit in the long term than a Horne Lake Connector. No matter what the conclusion of such an overall assessment, having it done would, I believe significantly bolster our ability to lobby government for the funding to make it happen.
The Issue: Whether you see the massive cut blocks in the backcountry or the raw logs leaving the port, it is abundantly clear our forests aren’t producing the jobs and benefits to the Valley that they could be. The pace and lack of public consultation is endangering other industries and activities in our Valley as well from mountain biking to hunting and fishing. Forestry should be our #1 “Green” job source. It is a renewable resource that should, barring consumer cycles, provide us a constant source of job activity and wealth creation.
Finding a Solution: The Economic Development office of Port Alberni continues to pursue ways to have more wood processed in our Valley into high value products. We must redouble our efforts to do this so that there are ample opportunities for local logs to be processed locally and create more jobs. I would also like to see our Community Forest adopt a no-log-export policy. There is absolutely no excuse for logs from our own community owned forest not to be milled and processed here to create employment in the Valley. We must also find alternative uses for parts of the Community forest to encourage recreation and alternative forest resource use like mushrooms, traditional foods and medicines and wildlife preservation. These are all ways we can have our forests create far more jobs than they do now.
The Solution: We need to continue encouraging North Island College to grow in our community and provide more courses for our grads and for new and mature learners outside our community that might not be able to get into the programs they need in their own communities. We could be partnering with North Island College to promote our City for the affordable living it provides. As someone who has worked in Post Secondary for 14 years, I have seen first hand how much students struggle now to make ends meet and complete their studies. The more students come, the more jobs will be created and potentially the more students will stay in the Valley as other businesses and industries see there are people here ready to work.
The Issue: As it seems to have been since the founding of Port Alberni over 100 years ago, the Port remains our greatest and yet most elusive opportunity for major job creation.
The Solution: A port thrives when there are goods moving through it. We have to come up with ways to make that happen that don’t detract from other job creating industries. (ie. log exports). I believe the greatest opportunity we have right now and one of the greenest initiatives, at least on paper, that I have ever seen proposed is the Port Alberni Transshipment Hub. This is a project that is quite a ways off (2020-2025) and has many major hurdles to overcome but at first glance, I believe it is very much worth investigating.
If you are not familiar, this is a proposal that would create a new port facility 30km down the Inlet on First Nations and private land near Sarita Bay. It would be a very large facility able to dock massive container ships that currently go past us to Vancouver, Seattle and Tacoma and redistribute their cargo using barges. This would reduce by many days the time it takes these ships to do their business and it would take thousands of trucks and trailers off our Lower Mainland highways. The construction of this $1-2 Billion facility would bring major construction jobs to our area and would likely spur the paving of the Bamfield/Cowichan road as well as the reactivation of the railway to supply the facility with the goods it needs to function. It would also give Port Alberni a direct link to ship to and receive from Asian markets for the 700,000 residents of Vancouver Island.
I would be remiss if I did not include a mention of renewable energy as a potential job creator. However, until there is a significant shift in Provincial and Federal support for this kind of job creation I believe the opportunities for large scale work from this will continue to be limited. It is a shame, because we live in a location with massive potential for wind, tidal, wave, run of river, geothermal and even solar power. But we need buy in from senior government to make it happen. There will be opportunities for small scale stuff though like the city District Energy system and home renovations and additions we can all do to get into the renewable energy game and start creating jobs.