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Eco-activists should show more concern for jobs



Cary Pinkowski: Eco-activists should show more concern for jobs

January 25, 2013 • Section: OPINION

Even though pipelines, including one that has operated for some 60 years, transect our beautiful province, the proposed Northern Gateway project has turned what should be a rational discussion into a virtual screaming match. It’s time to take a look at the bigger picture.

As a business executive who works in the mining sector, where environmental stewardship and safety are key elements to corporate survival, I am in favour of the pipeline. In part, that’s because I am also in favour of health care, hospitals, education and social programs that take care of our most vulnerable.

According to projections, our province will be more than $66 billion in debt by 2015. With a population of 4.4 million — and only 2.2 million taxpayers — this equates to debt of about $30,000 per taxpayer, not including federal, municipal or personal debt.

How will you pay for your share?

I want nurses and doctors to be paid for their important work. I also want teachers and professors to be compensated for their role in ensuring British Columbians and Canadians are equipped with the skills they need for our collective success. What about our elderly? Who will pay their pensions?

I personally witnessed first-hand what happens when a government loses its ability to borrow. For the last three years, I’ve been working in Spain and have seen the crushing effect of excessively high debt. It tears apart families and shuts down key community structures like hospitals and schools. B.C. is headed in this direction if we don’t start to embrace new industry and begin to pay down our debt. People in Canada believe we are in much better financial shape than our American neighbours. But on a per-capita basis we are almost equal, and not in a good way.

Many environmentalists say they are against the Northern Gateway project. They are protesting on principle rather than facts. According to media reports, it appears many of them are truly against development of the oilsands, or the export of any type of fossil fuel. But oilsands emissions account for only 6.9 per cent of carbon emissions in Canada while transportation accounts for more than 30 per cent.

Do they campaign to stop driving and flying?

BHP Billiton, when looking for a west coast port through which to ship its Canadian potash, could easily have chosen the convenient Port of Vancouver, but decided instead to ship through the Port of Vancouver, Wash. This decision provided no environmental benefit, but suggests investment capital is averse to this province. The economic damage to B.C. is obvious.

Our non-governmental organizations have cost Canadians jobs and taxpayer money that would otherwise fund our schools, hospitals and other social aspects. There are always many options for industry, given the mobility of capital. I wonder what other industries and jobs are being frightened away from B.C. because of small, vocal activist groups.

Let’s be very clear: jobs are important. Creating the conditions for good, well-paying jobs should be the goal of all of us, from elected officials to activists concerned about social justice, to educators. Jobs keep families together, and are crucial, especially in northern B.C. communities.

I would challenge those who oppose the entry of new investment and new industry to propose real, feasible alternatives.

I am not affiliated with any political party. I consider myself a committed environmentalist. I simply want a beautiful, sustainable British Columbia that thinks rationally about its future.

We should be thankful to the various governments here in British Columbia over the last 50 years for having some of the strongest environmental laws in the world and still allowing industry to operate and thrive.

I believe that blocking this proposed pipeline is akin to blocking health care and education, so let’s say “yes” to new industry and “yes” to safely constructed and properly monitored pipelines.

Cary Pinkowski is president and chief executive officer of Vancouver-based Astur Gold Corp

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