United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 held a rally at Western Forest Products’ office in Campbell River on Sept. 26, 2019. The WFP employees have been on strike since July 1. Photo by Marissa Tiel/Campbell River Mirror

McQuarrie: Bad government has cooked the golden goose of rural B.C.

Resource-rich communities have been plundered for the benefit of urban taxpayers

Small town BC is in serious trouble and government neglect in the years preceding today’s forestry sector implosion has only served to make the meltdown worse and the chances of a complete recovery more difficult.

However, this is not about singling out a political party with finger pointing and eager accusations of one-sided party ineptitude.

The sad and unfortunate truth is both BC Liberals and NDP governments (over several decades) contributed to the overall decline of rural communities through intentional policies of neglect, disguised as budgeting efficiencies.

The responsibility is therefore shared and just one example would be the long and deliberate practice of reducing or removing services from rural BC.

It began in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s when government offices and services were consolidated, with many relocated to larger urban centres. With those moves went ease of access along with the steady government pay cheques and supporting small business infrastructure that typically helped support a small town economy.

The flawed rationale for abandoning these communities was based on fiscal efficiencies in combination with a misplaced belief in the government’s ability to replace local services with a technology based communications infrastructure.

Paradoxically, it was an internet-based system deployed in communities that often didn’t have access to the internet.

It was the start of a political process throughout rural B.C. that was ready, willing and able to take the taxes, fees and royalties generated by the Interior’s resource industries and re-deploy that wealth for enhanced services in major urban centres.

Over time, when belts had to again be tightened, rural B.C. paid a disproportionate share of the cost through additional service and infrastructure cuts. And when a government’s desire for increased spending, balanced budgets and personal income tax cuts defied logic, those same governments simply increased resource royalties as a means of paying for their unwillingness to pursue fair taxation measures.

It is a routine, thanks to the vote-rich Lower Mainland that can get a government elected for several terms.

However there comes a time of reckoning when sleight-of-hand politics meets the perfect storm of an interconnected global economy, dangerously ignorant and protectionist world leaders and rampant greed. And that’s what is happening in our woods today.

Rural B.C. was thrown under the bus in return for short-term and shortsighted political gain. Instead of a more diversified economy we have a narrowly focused rural economy that is unable to withstand even the slightest economic challenge.

It is also an economy that is consistently run over by politicians in their rush and lust for power. It is an economy that is seen as the province’s ATM; a ready source of cash to cover the faults of a political philosophy founded on self-interest, self-absorption and self-aggrandisement

The absurdity of this narrow-minded style of governing is now apparent. Rural B.C., the golden goose that has kept the province afloat, has been plundered and abused too many times.

Rural B.C. has been bled to near death and the government’s insatiable appetite for cold hard cash may now force them to the very urban taxpayer they have been protecting from the realities of budgets balanced on the backs of rural B.C.

Bill McQuarrie is a former publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at bill@northislandrising.com

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