People of the North on Vancouver Island want strong support for aquaculture, forestry and tourism industries in the post COVID-19 economic recovery era
By Fabian Dawson and Samantha McLeod
The people of the North on Vancouver Island have a message to the politicians running for office in the upcoming provincial elections – listen to us about aquaculture, tourism and forestry, not only to the activists who have no stake in our communities.
The message, underlined in a report by a grassroots citizens-business group was delivered to the Campbell River City Council yesterday, as activists ratchet up their campaign to oust fish farms from BC waters, and restrict logging – industries that support thousands of jobs on Vancouver island.
“The attractiveness of Campbell River must not be put at risk by lack of awareness or other narratives put forth by those who have no stake in this community,” stated the independent report by the Campbell River Business Recovery Taskforce.
“Campbell River’s history and economy are rooted in primary resource industries, referred to as “first dollar” industries.
“These industries, primarily, forestry, aquaculture and tourism, together with businesses that support them, are the major source of employment in our coastal community. The dollars they spend in the community is re-spent several times over,” the report noted.
Comprised of a community business leaders, The Campbell River Business Recovery Taskforce began work in May to:
- Explore and understand the challenges facing Campbell River businesses;
- Learn about impediments and aids to Campbell River businesses generally as well as those specifically applicable to recovery from the pandemic;
- Message to all levels of government the task force findings and recommendations.
A foundational requirement was that the task force members be entirely independent from all levels of government, said the groups’ co-chairs Garth Sheane, a retired credit union CEO, and Brian Stamp, a former lawyer.
Key findings of the report include;
- The City of Campbell River does not have a comprehensive economic development plan;
- The city and the public at large need to be reminded of the foundational role played by resource industries in making a strong economy. The Task Force believes that the resource industries in the country need to be brought to bear, as the top priority, in the recovery of Campbell River’s economy and that of Canada, in the post COVID-19 era;
- Threats come sometimes from market headwinds and lack of awareness but other times by impediments driven by urban narratives and agendas of third parties; neither of which have little or no connection to this community, care for or have any understanding of it. There must be a balance between industry and social interests, something that is not evident today. We believe that all of the community’s political representatives need to understand this balance and vigorously defend it;
“There is a direct connection between the health of first dollar industries to the number of schools, retail options, scope of health care, the number of parks, property values and general community amenities and attractiveness that are hallmarks of this community. As we seek to attract others, whether retirees or younger individuals who can bring new skills and knowledge, the attractiveness of Campbell River must not be put at risk by lack of awareness or other narratives put forth by those who have no stake in this community,” the report said.
“The activists have a narrative for politicians that is catered to the voter rich territories…it’s not community centric,” said Jill Hanson, who administers a group of companies with varied operations on Vancouver Island.
Jim Dobinson, president of the Campbell River-based Ambleside Land ltd and a taskforce member said, “Our message to the politicians at all three levels of government is to recognize what fuels our economy.
“If you are not going to support what fuels our economy and our post Covid-19 recovery efforts, make that clear,” Dobinson told SeaWestNews.
BY THE NUMBERS
Campbell River remains a so-called “first dollar” community depending to a significant degree on the money input to the community from three primary industries:
- Forestry which refers predominantly to the harvesting of timber but includes the supply chain associated with it;
- Aquaculture, for the purposes of this report, refers primarily to the salmon farming industry and the supply chain associated with it;
- Tourism “First Dollar” implies that these industries generate money which is spent and re-spent throughout the community through wages and local purchasing of goods and services. If the “first dollar” is put at risk, everything below it in the spending chain is also put at risk.
The Truck Logging Association (TLA) identifies 106 Campbell River and North Island companies as members. The Task Force reached out to 4 contract logging companies each of which are headquartered in Campbell River. In addition, the Task Force contacted a single individual licence holder. In aggregate these four companies and the individual licence holder employ some 500 people, pay annually an estimated $47 million in wages and benefits to employees who reside in Campbell River, and these same companies purchase conservatively some $77 million in supplies and services from vendors located in Campbell River.
Salmon farming companies employ 572 people in the Campbell River region affording salaries and wages of about $14.91 million annually. Salmon farming companies purchase supplies and services from 680 vendors in the region. Estimated annual spending on supplies and services from these local vendors is $132.65 million.
Destination Campbell River has 260 stakeholders employing some 1,900 people in the region contributing to the $2.2 billion in tourism dollars annually for the Island’s economy. Of the three economies, tourism has been the most severely impacted from COVID-19 due to the restraints on Campbell River businesses. Resorts that count on group tours may see no business at all in 2020. The estimated recovery period for the tourism industry will be 3-5 years to hit pre-COVID (2019) levels. The tourist driven recreational fishery in the Campbell River area is suffering a double calamity in 2020, with both the COVID-19 situation and sport fishing closures valued at $250 million.
“We will continue to be resource based whether it is forestry or fisheries…when I say fisheries it is all inclusive of commercial, sports and aquaculture,” said Andy Adams, mayor of Campbell River, which prides itself as the ‘Salmon Capital of the World’.
In an interview with SeaWestNews prior to the taskforce report being released, Adams said the activists pushing to oust fish farms from the seas and grow salmon in land-based tanks have no idea about the economic devastation that it will cause to coastal communities.
“If we moved entirely to land based we would lose the industry because they will move closer to the big markets in the US to avoid transportation logistical challenges,” he said.
“If the message from the anti-fish farm activists was current or if the message was more constructive then I could take it more seriously, but it is the same old rhetoric that is not backed by science or what is actually going on locally.
“The fish farmers on the other hand have recognized that there are issues and are putting money into their investments to try and address the concerns raised by the activists.
“But the activists are refusing to acknowledge all the science that shows that farmed fish and wild fish can thrive in our oceans.
“I think there are positives and negatives in both camps but one camp, the fish farmers, is trying to address the concerns raised and the other camp won’t acknowledge the wins.
“If our politicians in Victoria and Ottawa keep listening to the activism, we might as well be up the creek without a paddle,” he told SeaWestNews.
In Port Hardy, which is struggling to get back on its feet after a protracted forestry strike and the pandemic, Mayor Dennis Dugas said his community is fortunate to have the aquaculture industry.
“For us and for our community aquaculture is really important…It is not only important for Port Hardy, it is important for our First Nations that are involved in this industry.
“We want to see this industry grow, there is no reason why it shouldn’t. It is an industry that is sustainable…what is our future without aquaculture and logging? Are we all going to go back to social assistance here? Is that what the activists and government wants. If there is no economy, why would anyone stay here?…That’s the message Ottawa and Victoria needs to hear,” Dugas told SeaWestNews.
(Main image shows members of the Campbell River Business Recovery Taskforce (LtoR): Matt Clarke of Poseidon Ocean Systems, Jill Hanson, Jim Dobinson and Garth Sheane)