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General News · 9th January 2009
Claire Trevena
The new year has a bleak beginning for many people. At a time when there should be hope for what the new year will bring, many people face an uncertain future.

The North Island, like the rest of BC, faces a precarious time: the economic crisis is having an impact across the board on those industries on which our communities depend. Forestry, aquaculture, tourism and other industries are feeling the impact.

But industries employ people and people create communities. The communities in the North Island have shown their resilience for many years, weathering hard times: in Port Hardy when the mine closed, in Alert Bay and elsewhere when the fishing industry collapsed, in Port Alice when the mill shut.

And that is why I have hope for the New Year, hope that our communities will work together to build a new, stronger future.

Our economic foundations have been truly shaken by the events of the last few months, where businesses are going bankrupt, banks are having to be bailed out by governments and major manufacturers going cap in hand to plead for help.

And this has come at a time of heightened awareness about climate change and the impact our way of life is having on the very existence of our planet.

So instead of being fearful during this period of huge changes, we should be looking at the opportunities these changes give us. The opportunity to do things differently.

In forestry, which should remain the backbone of our communities, there are short term assistance initiatives – such as pressing the federal government to extend the Employment Insurance benefits for workers affected by the downturn and to ensure the WorkShare program meets the needs of forest-dependent communities

But there are longer term strategies available if we seize the opportunity, such as changing the current tenure system so that our public lands serve the public good again. Or investing in local manufacturing and value added so jobs stay in communities.

Now should be the moment to truly tackle the myriad of housing problems we have – from homelessness to the need for seniors housing – by having a comprehensive public investment in the construction of (environmentally friendly) homes using BC wood, BC products, and BC technologies and know-how.

Now we should be looking comprehensively at our power needs and our power production plans, so that we have a provincial strategy into which the power projects being developed and proposed for the North Island can feed.

And now should be the time we invest in our people: in affordable, accessible child care, in public education from kindergarten to post-secondary, in health care, in those on assistance and in our seniors.

The possibilities are there for us to seize, if we so choose, to ensure our communities in the North Island remain strong and resilient.