British Columbia Voters Choose Economic Decline

British Columbians: What were you thinking?

Instead of holding your noses and handing the Liberals another majority as you did in 2013, you boosted parties without any free enterprise smarts. NDP-influenced provinces are where the economy goes to die. Just look at the damage done by this party in B.C., Ontario, and now Alberta.

I know you voters are cranky about your moribund economy and the fact that no one in your province can afford to buy their own home, without help from their parents. I know that you are worried that taxes are high and that there is no job creation except in health care, thanks to seniors, or in tourism which employs plenty of baristas and waiters.

Some of you voted to save the trees, but the days of predation by foresters or mining companies disappeared decades ago. And when lapses occur, officials descend on companies with enormous fines.

I also know that your job is not to look after the rest of Canada, but the fact is that you have voted against economic development and to impede the national economy, reliant as it is on resource development.

You B.C. voters have chosen economic decline. Infrastructure in the form of pipelines and railways carrying oil and commodities from Canada’s hinterland are now imperiled, along with the value of the Canadian dollar.

These, by the way, were the only reasons British Columbia’s economy had a pulse. Another factor has been the flood of hot money from abroad that’s provided jobs to some high-rise construction outfits but has driven house prices to $1.8 million on average, the highest in the western hemisphere.

Without a solid underpinning of industrial development, the hope that Hollywood North or Silicon Valley North will pay the bills for health care and pensions are as realistic as hoping for an enlightened Trump Presidency.

The fact is that British Columbia has only three sustainable economic upsides: the development of energy resources, the development of mining resources, and the expansion of its critical logistics role and sector. B.C. has the infrastructure and geographic good luck to be where imports and exports transit via pipelines, airlines, ships, rail and roads.

Vancouver’s financial services head offices left with the closure of its stock exchange and the city has fewer head offices than Calgary due to taxes and high housing prices.

Instead of talking about how to maintain living standards, or improve them, much of this electioneering has been platitudes by the economically-challenged.

As I’ve written before, the province has finally gone from NIMBY, not in my backyard, to BANANA —  build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone.

This has resulted in B.C. per capita incomes of $53,267 in 2015 versus Alberta or Saskatchewan’s of $78,000 and $70,000 a year, respectively. This election has guaranteed that B.C.’s per capita income will continue to head toward Quebec and Maritime levels.

The NDP and Green model of development is to turn the province into a gigantic, empty park populated only by those retirees who can afford to buy the most expensive real estate in North America.

This is terrible news for Canada. Energy in general, and Alberta’s oilsands in particular, is the single most important cornerstone of the Canadian economy, bigger than autos, manufacturing, mining, forestry, tourism or financial services. Planeloads leave B.C. every day to take workers and suppliers to lucrative jobs in its oilsands.

Landlocked Alberta needs a pipeline or two to the Pacific coast, a railway to Valdez, or all of the above. If voters are worried about shoddy work, or Chinese oil tankers off the coast, then the debate should be about how government can insure against risks, not how to stop such projects. If First Nations are upset their claims are still in limbo, then government should settle because trillions of dollars are at stake in economic activity.

B.C.’s biggest upside is natural gas reserves if they are monetized. To do so, requires nation-building statesmanship, world-class marketing expertise, and a sophisticated, vigilant population that doesn’t merely stand in the way. The province could have become the Norway of Canada. But, instead, now the world, and Americans, will pass us by.

Finally, B.C.’s biggest shadow export industry — marijuana and other narcotics — is also in trouble because it’s being legalized everywhere.

Lastly, your election will test Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Barriers against resource exports to the coast must be blocked immediately by invoking constitutional powers to protect the right of Alberta, Saskatchewan and others to transport their legal products across the B.C. border to the Pacific Ocean for trade.

If not, this country’s economic trajectory is frightening.

First published National Post May 13, 2017