A tale of two futures

A lot of statistics came up during the skills gap analysis workshop in town recently.

A lot of statistics came up during the skills gap analysis workshop in town recently.

One telling stat we didn’t include in our story was the growth potential for nursing. Nursing is a growth industry in the region, no matter what scenario plays itself out over then next 10 years, but under two completely different sets of circumstances.

In the first case, where none of the projected resource projects come online and forestry continues its decline, we’ll need more nurses to take care of an increasingly aging and aged population as the region’s young leave to find someplace to work.

Nursing becomes, according to the report, one of the top five growth industries in the region.

The report didn’t mention what the demand for nursing would be like under the second scenario where projects come online, the workforce grows, people find good work, have families, and the young have the option to stay here and work.

It’s not a stretch to recognize that the demand for nursing will naturally increase. Win-win for the nurses. But what about for the region?

In the first case, we need more nurses because the region is fading. In the second case we need more nurses to take care of the day-to-day minor trauma that goes hand-in-hand with a vital and growing population.

It’s no secret that the second scenario is tied to increased resource extraction and transportation in mining, oil, and gas. If projects don’t move forward, the region slowly contracts.

Some will say that it’s no coincidence that a provincially-funded study turns up results that support the provincial agenda, insinuating the study is just propaganda for industrial expansion.

Propaganda use bits of truth to construct a bigger lie, but I don’t think the accusation fits here. It seems sensible to believe that if no new industries or projects come online to replace the decline in forestry, then the region will be diminished.

By diminished I mean decline and become poorer, both economically and in terms of opportunities for education and personal advancement.

The filpside of the story is that quite possibly the environment is the better for it.

But will the environment be better for it in the long run?

Consider what goes with a regional decline in population, youth, prosperity, education, and jobs: the electorate gets poorer, less educated, and more frustrated.

A desperate population is not in a position to make sound choices, environmental or otherwise. Look at the exploitation of poverty-stricken people world-wide. They’re unable to counter the sway of industrial dollars and power.

What does an educated, prosperous population have? It has the power to shape the circumstances that surround its prosperity.

Just a few weeks ago TransCanada was in town and reported they had diverted their proposed natural gas pipeline route around Bald Hill to accommodate the handful of residents there.

It looked like at least a kilometre of extra pipe and work. At 10 million dollars or so per km, that’s a significant concession.  Peanuts in the overall profit margin?  Maybe, but that’s not the point. Twenty years ago, would that concession have been made?

The point is, with education, a media-savvy electorate, and a ground- swelling of environmental activism, we seem to be at a point where industry is ready – or forced – to play by a different set of rules.

Not the set of rules where they don’t make money and resources don’t move. But the set of rules were the region’s citizens play a big role in defining the scope, capacity and license of projects.


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