Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals won last year’s B.C. election by appealing to the economic development dreams of voters in the province’s regions, but a new study by Statistics Canada’s former chief economic analyst has found that most of the jobs created by resource extraction will be in the Vancouver area.
Philip Cross, writing for the new non-profit Resource Works, used 2010 data to examine what would happen if B.C.’s economy grew by 10 per cent in a year, and found more than 29,000 jobs would be created.
“The results will surprise many,” Mr. Cross wrote, noting the jobs created will be well-paying and full-time. “The Lower Mainland garners just over 50 per cent of all jobs flowing from the growth of B.C.’s natural resource sector.”
Ms. Clark has estimated an economy fired by new LNG development would generate a trillion dollars in economic opportunity that would eventually create 100,000 jobs. Her election job-creation plan hinged on resource development in B.C.’s north, in particular as a result of LNG development.
While Mr. Cross’s study notes that rural areas of B.C. will benefit from the extraction of natural resources, particularly in the forestry, fishing and mining industries, the spinoff from an increased demand for services will also benefit Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
“When the resource sector expands, it’s going to need more business services, legal services, engineering services, accounting services,” Mr. Cross said. “These firms are in the Lower Mainland. That’s where the bulk of these jobs are created.”
John Winter of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce noted that Vancouver is the “epicentre” of the service industries that support the resource sector, and although the LNG industry is still in the planning stages, jobs in those areas are already being created.
“All these companies coming in to set up shop in the LNG sector are bringing with them huge gobs of dollars to hire the lawyers, accountants and researchers to do the work,” Mr. Winter said. “While we think only about the physical jobs that go into building a pipeline or a shipping dock, this work is already under way and being performed right here in Vancouver.”
Mr. Winter said that despite the study’s conclusions that B.C.’s remote regions will see less job growth, they stand to profit from an increase in resource extraction.
“The economic benefits are not just in jobs – it’s in the taxes paid to the government that can then be translated into the goods and services that the north doesn’t have an abundance of,” Mr. Winter said. “The north stands to benefit hugely from this.”
Peter Hall, an associate professor in the Urban Studies program at Simon Fraser University, said the relationship between resource extraction and the creation of jobs within the province is less direct than it used to be.
“Many of these activities look to Vancouver for services,” Dr. Hall said, “but increasingly, these are globalized industries that might be looking halfway across the world for services.
“There are connections, and the study has pointed them out, but these relationships are much more hidden and complicated and aren’t as obvious or easy to trace.”