Glory Days Of Resource Jobs Gone – Bill McQuarrie

January 4, 2017
  • KAMLOOPS, BC

 McQUARRIE – Glory days of resource jobs gone

March 302016 3:11 A.M.

Old Ajax excavation.

BACK IN the 1900s — it sounds so long ago when you say it that way — I had an opportunity to attend a Guide & Outfitters conference and chat with several licensed hunting guides who were running their businesses in British Columbia.

It was in the mid 1990s and a new land management policy was being introduced by the provincial government, which would alter the way our forests and mines operated in the province.  At the time, I was president of the Cariboo, Chilcotin, Coast Tourism Association and our discussion was intended to look at the impact this new process would have on the tourism industry.

During the course of those conversations the guides and resort owners mentioned how valuable the fall moose hunt was to their business.  Wealthy clients would fly up and pay thousands of dollars to hunt but those in the industry were concerned about declining moose habitat and populations and the impact it would have on their businesses.

I innocently asked why they don’t “shoot” the same moose each time a hunting party came up.  By shoot, I meant with a camera instead of a rifle, not out of a sense of a “no hunting” mentality but as a businessman who saw an opportunity in what was then the infancy days of the Enviro-Tourism market.

To me, several photo safaris a month that captured the same moose turned that moose from a one-time sale into a revenue machine that kept turning out a profit.  It would also open up the market, allowing guides to work beyond that short fall hunting season.

The response surprised me, as the answer was pretty much, “no way.”  When I asked why, they told me quite matter of factly that it simply wasn’t the way things were done.  People paid them to hunt, they took them hunting and that’s the way they did it, the way their fathers had done it before them and the way their children would do it in years to come.  Resource decline and changing attitudes be damned as they made decent money extracting a limited resource… a resource that was profitable but only once.

That conversation has stuck with me for years and has come back to mind more recently as we talk about resource sector jobs (Ajax) and diversifying the economy of Kamloops.

Are we still stuck in the nostalgia of those “good old days”?  A time where a kid could leave high school, step into a well-paying job at the mill and just like his father before him, work there until he retired.

Those were the glory days of the resource sector.  Think of all the mills that once existed in and around Kamloops and people they employed.  For the most part they are gone.  Corporate consolidation, market fluctuations and technology eliminated many mills along with their jobs.

So what about today and Kamloops?  Do we old men hang onto the belief the old ways will return or do we look at a new economic model that utilizes talent and resources in a different way?  Are the possible jobs at Ajax our salvation or simply a delay in recognizing the resource sector we once knew and counted on has and is changing?   Have we become so desperate for the jobs of those former glory days that we are willing to allow a huge open pit mine at our City’s boundaries?  At what point does nostalgia and dreams of the past become a hindrance to the future?

Do we sell our one-time extraction of ore for jobs that have no future and in the end will require workers to move somewhere else in order to try and repeat the process?  To me that approach seems more like shooting the moose until there are none left simply because that’s how we’ve always done it.

Forget what that kind of attitude does to the resource and others who share the resource with you. After all, it’s all about a few of you making a hundred grand or more a year on the backs of a community of 90,000 people.

In the end, even the company that hired you will abandon you without so much as a thought or concern.  Your legacy?  You dug a big hole beside our city for them and the hole and your services are no longer required.  No other developed country will allow what you did but of course there are many more impoverished and desperate towns in third world countries that will sell out to them as easily as you did.

Bill McQuarrie is a Kamloops entrepreneur. He can be contacted at billmcquarrie@gmail.com. He tweets @mcrider1.

 

Jason says:
March 30, 2016 08:45pm

I’d like to weigh in here. For all the talk of how bad this pit mine is going to be for the community from these people that have found a profitable means to sustain themselves without the resource sector, I’ll in courage you to consider that not everyone has the ability ither mentality or financially to progress through what the writer has rendered to as the “New” way of operating with talents. It would seem to me that a great majority of people that are protesting this mine are, for lack of a better word, “Other industry Environmentalists”, and old retired people that don’t have to worry about their income because they’re already retired from their resource industry job. So I’ll ask you this, what consideration do you people have for the under-privilged people who through no fault of their own, couldn’t get that post-secondary education? Also consider the secondary industries that supply, support, and cater to this mine. I believe that if Ajax can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’ll take every step foreseeable to protect the environment, and be willing to pay for any damages that they can’t forsee, then we should let them go ahead. And when their done, we flood the pit that’s about 1.5km x 3pm, and turn it into a water resort.

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bronwen scott says:
March 31, 2016 03:47pm

Even if Ajax said they’d protect the environment, i wouldn’t believe it, because the company has already been shown to be manipulative with data and unconcerned about potential health effects. Both the Interior Health Authority and the federal government, plus two independent application reviews, have shown this to be the case.

And about the pit being used for water sports: even Ajax had to admit that seepage of “Fluoride, Sulphate, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, and Zinc is likely to remain into Post Closure the duration is far future.” So we will be left with a toxic lake.

Please, read the application, not just the company’s propaganda.

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Frank says:
March 31, 2016 07:44am

I’d recommend at least reading the application before weighing in. Ajax expect the pit to fill to within 200m of the surface (not ideal for a water resort), and for it to take 700 – 1000 years for it to even get that full.

You seem to be under the delusion that Ajax will be hiring lots of under-privileged people who couldn’t get a post-secondary education. Aside from a few mine truck driving jobs (which will probably be automated after a short period of time) what jobs do you think these people are going to be doing at the mine? Just because Ajax seems to hire people without a clue for communications and public relations doesn’t mean that they will continue to do that when it comes to operations.

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yuri says:
March 30, 2016 03:21pm

Can someone explain glory days of resource jobs? Was always a tough and dangerous line of work. Only a keyboard warrior would call it glorious.

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Underground mine worker says:
March 30, 2016 02:30pm

Your story of the Moose and your “enviro-tourism” idea really paints an interesting picture. Killing the Moose is for food, clothing and survival – it’s necessary,Similar to mining and metal extraction. As you type your own “old school” perception of the Ajax mine on your computer, using electricity flowing through copper wires, making connections through gold contacts, take time to consider the mining industry is allowing you to share your opinions of it right now. Furthermore allowing you to have a business and do your hobbies. I don’t agree with everything behind the Ajax mine, but have an open mind – mining has come a long way since your ways of the 1900’s. Bill, you seem like the kind of person that would show to protest logging with a paper sign mounted on a wooden stick. Go back to not using electricity and live off the land and perhaps you would have some credibility. Maybe take the time to consider the big picture before slandering so many people’s livelihood,the mining industry promotes more than just mining business in Kamloops.

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Roy kahle says:
March 30, 2016 09:41am

To be consistent you should stop using copper wire, don’t drive cars and don’t use electronics. All of these are dependent on the resource extraction industry you so readily denigrate! But I forgot—-you would let the underdeveloped countries supply the minerals while you protect your own pristine back yard.

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Frank says:
March 31, 2016 07:52am

I guess that means you support sweat shops (after all I assume you’re wearing clothes so you must support all clothing manufacturing), prostitution (if you have sex you have to support all sex), and think having a landfill and sewage treatment plant as neighbours is a great idea. The argument of “you use copper so you have to support Ajax” is just as ridiculous as the comment above. Hopefully Ajax supporters realize just how foolish it makes them look and stop using it.

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Bianca says:
March 30, 2016 10:33pm

Do you wear clothing or shoes? Oh, you must support sweatshops! No? Exactly…

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John says:
March 30, 2016 12:26pm

And what of the gold that is to be mined? Some 78% of gold is used for jewelry. For the adornment of people, the adornment of the earth is sacrificed.

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Miles says:
March 30, 2016 11:58am

I don’t think Bill is being inconsistent. We’re all a prisoner of the system. We can live within and use the system that we, as a society, have built and still disagree with how it was built. Often it’s more prudent to lobby to change the system than to try to live outside that system in order to “be the change you want to see in the world”.

I agree that the root of the problem is the demand for the resources and that a “not in my back yard” attitude mainly just pushes the problem onto someone else and is possibly selfish but I also think that refusing this type of development as shortsighted encourages us to look for more long term solutions. Ultimately we will run out of accessible mineral resources on earth, the more we focus on reducing consumption the less of a system shock it will be when the growing demand exceeds the plummeting supply.

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Lee Kenney says:
March 31, 2016 10:03am

“We have met the enemy and he is us”,Walt Kelly .A 1971 cartoon for Earth Day since then we are the Anthropocene,this is our planet ! The doomsday clock is ticking !

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Pierre Filisetti says:
March 30, 2016 06:59am

The tragedy of the commons…a tale of self-interest, the doctrine of capitalism. But remember we cannot blame Peter Milobar…he is serving the community to the best of his ability…the “community”…

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bronwen scott says:
March 30, 2016 05:44am

Well said, Bill. Kamloops would profit more from mining copper from the garbage dump–likely more ore per tonne than the Ajax site 😉 Besides, the copper will still be in the ground if we don’t mine it right now. We can always have a mine if we want. What we can’t have if Ajax goes through is a Tournament Capital with relatively clean air and water, and sightlines that don’t include a huge hole and tailings pile that can be seen from anywhere in the city.

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Seizing The Enviro Moment – Bill McQuarrie

McQUARRIE – Seizing the enviro moment

March 92016 4:39 A.M.

Mission Flats landfill. (CBC Daybreak Kamloops photo)

THERE WAS a time, not that long ago, when some believed that environmental and economic objectives were not and never would be compatible.  Some felt and still do that one simply and quite obviously precluded the other.

On this point of compatibility, Stephen Harper was in the irreconcilable differences camp and reinforced those feelings when he said at a party meeting; “We’re gearing up now for the biggest struggle our party has faced since you entrusted me with the leadership. I’m talking about the Battle of Kyoto — our campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto accord.”

I was thinking about Harper and his fearful beliefs as I drove from Kamloops to Ashcroft this past weekend.  Passing the Cache Creek landfill, I recalled how just a year ago, Wastech (Belkorp Environmental Services) and Cache Creek celebrated the opening of the new Landfill Gas Utilization Plant…A project that takes methane, the bi-product of the landfills and uses it to generate 4.8 megawatts of electricity.  That is enough electricity to power over 2,500 typical homes!

In terms of global economic and environmental impact, this plant could be considered slightly below insignificant.  But in terms of the local economy, it was a major investment that created new jobs while solving significant and newly regulated environmental concerns.

Prior to building the generation plant, methane, one of the most dangerous of greenhouse gasses in the world, was flared off and before that was simply left to escape into the atmosphere.

It wasn’t rocket science, simply an innovative solution where a major corporation saw an opportunity, was willing to put up the investment capital, got the support of the community, built the project and turned tonnes of escaping methane into electricity.  Doesn’t sound like job-killing, economy destroying work to me.

Here in Kamloops, we have a landfill too.  Certainly nowhere near the 200,000 tonnes a of waste per year that Cache Creek gets, but at around 35,000 tonnes of combined household and Industrial Commercial Institutional waste, not insignificant either.  In fact, it is enough waste to fall within the new provincial guidelines that dictate we must, like Cache Creek, do something about the methane it is producing.  So what are we doing about that?

Well, it’s my understanding that Kamloops will do the prescribed minimum.  We will collect as much of the methane as possible, build a flare tower and burn it off.  The rules that came into effect January say we must destroy the methane and this flaring process is but one option that can be employed.  Flaring does create CO2 but the rationalization is, CO2 is less harmful to our atmosphere than methane.

I’m wondering though, if there isn’t another solution?  Something a little more creative, less wasteful, more efficient and like the Cache Creek project, might even generate some economic benefits.

I doubt there is enough methane being produced to justify a facility such as Cache Creek.  However, there is a major industrial enterprise just down the road from our landfill and they require a tremendous amount of heat in their paper manufacturing process. This heat could – at least in part – be created through the use of our landfill’s methane.

Imagine for a moment a City helping its largest industrial employer reduce their dependence on natural gas by using an almost identical gas that is a by-product of the landfill.  It’s a project even Fortis might want to get involved with as a demonstration of how environmental and economic interests can coexist while lessening dependency on fossil fuels.  It wouldn’t surprise me if there was interest from private sector investors as well but of course you have to go out and look for that.

But instead, to the best of my knowledge, the City’s plan is to flare off the methane.  They will simply build and pay for the necessary infrastructure and that energy will be burnt as waste and to the benefit of no one.  This is the total opposite approach of Cache Creek where a community liability became an asset.

The new provincial regulations on Landfill Gas (LFG) Management established province-wide criteria for LFG capture from municipal solid waste landfills. The Regulation focuses on greenhouse gas emission reductions with the objective of maximizing reductions of LFG emissions and identifying potential opportunities to increase LFG recovery.

It was the identifying potential opportunities part that Cache Creek capitalized on by encouraging and welcoming private sector investment.  Something Stuart Belkin, Chairman & CEO of Belkorp Industries Inc. seems to agree with when he stated last year, “By utilizing the <landfill> gas that is naturally generated, this investment adds a new dimension to the waste management practices at the Cache Creek Landfill.”

Yet here in Kamloops, we have a major industrial employer, already nervous about their $5,000,000.00 property tax bill, living next door to a possible man-made energy source that could benefit them while simultaneously helping the city solve an expensive regulatory problem.  Which begs the question…

Does our City continue down the Harper path of mean spirited and wilful enviroeconomic blindness or like Cache Creek, seize the moment to create new opportunities that help both the economy and the environment?  What do you think should happen?

Bill McQuarrie is a Kamloops entrepreneur. He can be contacted at billmcquarrie@gmail.com. He tweets @mcrider1.

 

Joanne says:
March 9, 2016 08:40pm

Very interesting & thoughtful essay. How can we ensure our City’s mayor & councillors consider these ideas? Throwing all our food waste into the garbage still bothers me. When will our City decide to do something about that? Hmm…

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Pierre Filisetti says:
March 9, 2016 07:24am

Bill;
I am curious to find out if you talked to anyone of our local representative about this. Maybe they have…

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