COLUMN: Forget oil, let's tap into the beer economy
If the BC Liberal government’s press releases were a representation of reality in the province we live in, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t work in the burgeoning liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.
Not only does B.C.’s LNG industry employ close to 100 per cent of British Columbians providing all the benefits that flow from the government, but Premier Christy Clark’s LNG machinery is fighting air pollution in China and clearing up smog in Los Angeles.
“This is our biggest opportunity we’ve ever had to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide,” Clark told a crowd in Whistler this month.
I’m wondering if B.C.’s LNG industry will soon solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Ukraine/Russia war, and maybe even resolve world poverty.
But the reality about the oil and gas sector in British Columbia is that it is currently shrinking and fewer than one in 100 jobs in the province come from oil, mining and gas.
That’s according to Conversations for Responsible Economic Development B.C. (CRED), an organization made up of various business owners, academics and generally progressive thinkers who want to see the B.C. economy move away from such a strict focus on resource extraction.
Last year, CRED released a report that found oil spills have direct and lasting impacts on property values.
This latest report “What’s Fuelling B.C.’s Economy?” illustrates that our economy relies more on service-based sectors than oil and gas and mining.
While oil and gas receive by far most of the attention from the BC Liberal government, oil, gas and support services make up just three per cent of B.C.’s GDP, according to CRED.
By comparison, financial and real estate services make up more than 23 per cent of GDP. Retail and wholesale trade make up 10 per cent, construction is at eight per cent and manufacturing provides a further seven per cent.
“It’s important that the public has an accurate understanding of where the oil and gas sector fits into our economy and how investing in this type of infrastructure development could impact other thriving sectors,” says CRED executive director Liz McDowell (who is from Chilliwack).
As for actual jobs, the mining, oil and gas sector employ approximately 25,000 people. Yet there are 205,000 jobs in construction, 127,000 jobs in tourism and 164,000 jobs in manufacturing.
The high-tech sector employes 84,000 people and there are 123,000 people employed in the “green sector,” according to CRED.
In fairness to the provincial government, the LNG industry is a proposed one. It is about the future economy, not today’s.
But this report stopped me in its tracks with one statistic: Last year the Conference Board of Canada released a report that found the “beer economy” represented more than one per cent of all jobs in Canada supporting 163,200 people—more than the 112,000 people employed in the oil sands economy.
Stick that in your pipe and drink it.
Sure, the guy driving truck in Fort St. John is making more money than the guy who sold you a six-pack at the Jolly Miller cold beer and wine store, but his job is less, well, beer related.
It’s my guess that despite the chorus of opposition, we will one day see Kinder Morgan’s proposed twinning of its Trans Mountain pipeline get the green light. Since Northern Gateway, a greenfield project, was approved I can’t possibly imagine a twinning project in an existing right-of-way will be turned down.
But maybe there would be less opposition to the twinning of a pipeline carrying oilsands bitumen if they were to add a third pipe, sending Big Rock IPA from Alberta to the coast.
That’s where the jobs are anyway.