Construction workers in underground portion of commercial-residential building

Construction workers in underground portion of commercial-residential building

Things that are going well in B.C.

There's a building boom in the southwest, employment is improving and B.C. is forecast to lead Canada in economic growth

In the early days of this new year, readers have advised me to do several things. I’ll go with one that seems relatively painless, embracing the “sunny ways” of our new federal government and seeking optimism in these fragile times.

For starters, we have a building boom going on in the southwest. Here in Victoria, cranes dot the skyline as new residential-commercial projects emerge from bedrock, and hardhats are mostly on construction workers, scratched and backwards, rather than shiny and forward on politicians.

Shipyards are busy, with Royal Canadian Navy work and cruise ship refits to reduce their emissions, plus work on ferries, tugboats and barges.

Most of the activity is private investment, much of it in a hot housing market. Surrey has just recorded its second-highest total for building permits in history, a value of $1.46 billion nearly matching the pre-recession peak of 2007.

Thousands of provincial employees get a small raise in February, based on stronger than forecast economic growth in 2014. It works out to $300 a year for a medical technologist and $346 for a teacher.

Health care costs are rising less dramatically. That should ease the crisis atmosphere at provincial and federal health ministers’ negotiations over the funding formula, taking place this week in Vancouver.

Health Minister Terry Lake announced last week that the province is increasing funding for a promising program in cancer research, using genetic analysis to improve targeting for drugs to treat the hundreds of different cancers diagnosed in B.C. patients each year.

The B.C. Cancer Agency’s new director, Dr. Malcolm Moore, oncologist Dr. Janessa Laskin and Dr. Marco Marra, director of the agency’s Genome Science Centre, described a world-leading centre of research that is reaching out to specialists and their patients across the province and attracting international funding and talent for ground-breaking research.

Outside the urban regions, where retail sales and real estate mainly drive the economy, sunny ways are harder to find. The mining and natural gas sectors are in the grip of a slump in commodity prices, with more temporary mine closures expected.

The forest industry is being helped by the low Canadian dollar and a steady recovery in the U.S. economy, and tourism is expected to have another strong year as Americans take advantage of a discount on visits to B.C.

Central 1 Credit Union broke down the regional employment numbers for B.C. in 2015, and found job growth in every region except the Cariboo. Province-wide employment grew 1.2 per cent last year, ahead of the national rate. That may not sound like much, but compared to Alberta’s oil-dependent economy, it’s pretty good.

Construction of a new dam on the Peace River is expected to ramp up this year, bringing workers home from Alberta, and the federal government is planning to fast-track its promised infrastructure spending to create work across the country.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett was in Toronto last week to ring the opening bell at the stock exchange with B.C. mining industry representatives.

Not much sun on mining stocks these days, but Bennett’s sales pitch to an investor luncheon included reference to two more mines under construction in northwest B.C., the province’s Pacific Rim trade advantage, and revenue sharing with First Nations that is attracting attention of other provinces.

The Conference Board of Canada has forecast that B.C.’s economy will “lead the country by a wide margin over the near term,” with unemployment declining in 2016.

We’re at the mercy of global forces, but things could be a whole lot worse.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Club Phoenix Fitness in Langford is the first Island business to be ordered closed by the provincial workplace closure order put into effect April 11. It will be closed until at least April 29. (Google Streetview/Screenshot)
Langford gym first Island business to be closed by public health order

Workplace closure order can now close businesses with three or more COVID-19 cases

Steven Manchur, who lives near the proposed site of supportive housing in Central Saanich on Prosser Road, said the province has misinformed the public about the site. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Central Saanich residents protest supportive housing project

BC Housing rejects claim that project will lead to more crime

A sewage pipe is pulled along Niagara Street in James Bay in 2018 as part of the Capital Regional District’s wastewater treatment plant project. Over the next 10 years, the city will complete 78 new underground infrastructure projects, upgrading sewage, stormwater and water main pipes. (Black Press Media file photo)
Construction begins on Victoria’s 10-year pipe replacement project

78 underground infrastructure projects will cost $53.8 million

Father Marinaldo Batista, who served at Catholic parishes in Saanich and Sooke, died April 1 in Brazil from complications of COVID-19. (Facebook/St. Elizabeth Church)
Brazilian priest who served in Saanich and Sooke dies from COVID-19

Father Marinaldo Batista, 53, went to Brazil to visit his parents and died there April 1

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial into 2016 Campbell River killing underway in Victoria

Ricky Alexander is charged with the first-degree murder of John Dillon Brown

..
Abbotsford nurse at ‘breaking point’ pleads with public to take COVID-19 seriously

Instagram post urges general population to stay home, wear a mask and get vaccinated

Alex Mah of Chemainus spends a sunny day at Kin Beach reading to daughter Beatrice Mah. 3. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Vancouver Island’s mini-summer poised to fade

Cooler and damper this weekend, summer-like conditions not likely to return until late June

Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigator Mark Jonah probes the scene of a blaze that destroyed two apartments on Sunday, April 18. The cause of the blaze has not been determined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Arson suspect arrested after apartment fire in Nanaimo

35-year-old man arrested for allegedly starting fire lived in the complex

A wildfire has started near Gold River, and B.C. Wildfire Service crews are on scene. Photo courtesy Coastal Fire Centre
Small wildfire burning in difficult terrain near Gold River

Coastal Fire Centre investigating, but confirms blaze is human-caused

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

Most Read