Natural resources power B.C. but are we getting the word out

Guest Commentary
By Stewart Muir

British Columbia’s natural resource industry is the economy’s fastest growing sector, according to new data released this week in conjunction with B.C. Day.
The provincial government’s just-released 2014 Financial & Economic Review, showed natural resource GDP grew by 4.6 per cent in 2013, making it the number one growth sector ahead of finance, real estate, and trade.
BC Day was established in 1974 to recognize the pioneers of British Columbia,” said, a non-profit organization dedicated to conducting research and raising public awareness about the natural resource sector.
Today we have fresh evidence that the natural resource sector continues to anchor the prosperity of the province, just as it did in decades past.
Resource exports in 2013 equaled the cost of 195 new high schools.
The value of 2013 natural resource commodities shipped out of BC was $11.7 billion, enough to run the province’s entire health-care system for 239 days. This was exactly the same ratio as in 2002.
Fashions change, but BC’s reliance on resources has not.
Nobody has shown a realistic way to replace natural resource contributions to the economy. Everything from cellphones to yoga mats is made with BC resource exports and that is only going to increase in future.
You must consider where the social benefits would have to come from if we were not able to responsibly develop our natural resource legacy.
Other 2013 highlights include:
► Natural resources brought more money into provincial coffers than all the Crown corporations combined.
► Resources contributed more to provincial GDP compared to the previous year, while GDP from taxation and Crown corporations shrank.
► Resource royalty revenue grew by 20 per cent over 2012, the highest of any revenue source.
► Employment in the primary industries reached pre-recession levels for the first time.
More British Columbians were employed in mining and oil-and-gas industries than ever before.
The economic stimulus caused by resource spending is expected to offset softer spots in the economy.
Compared to natural resources, we continue to see lower employment gains in health and welfare, recreation, culture, information, and accommodation and food services.
As Resource Works research has previously shown, the natural resource sector spreads growth across the economy, with the Lower Mainland in particular gaining 55 per cent of all new resource jobs.
The provincial data shows that resource industries plan to spend $7.7 billion on new infrastructure in the current calendar year. This figure is surpassed only by home-building.
The United States is returning as a strong customer especially for forest products, yet Pacific Rim nations took more BC exports than ever before, growing 5.2 per cent between 2012 and 2013 so that they now account for 43.4 per cent of the total.
The challenge today is for government and industry to work harder to show the public that innovative and sustainable practices are being brought to bear on natural resource development.
We know that 72 per cent of British Columbians support resource development according to an April 2014 poll by Ipsos Reid commissioned by the Resource Works Society.
But people also need to know more about the innovation that underpins today’s greener, high-tech resource sector.
We found that only about half of people believe enough is being done to get the word out about BC’s world-leading industrial practices.

Stewart Muir, is the executive director of the Resource Works Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to conducting research and raising public awareness about the natural resource sector.

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