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

 

Just Posted

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

Coastal GasLink stops work to investigate archaeological find

OGC archaeologists are en route to the Houston-area site where Unist’ot’en report finding stone tools

Millennium Memorial Park a birders’ paradise

Findings by the Delkatla Sanctuary Society has given birdwatchers more reason to… Continue reading

Major upgrades needed for Port sewage lagoon

Engineering firm itemizes shortcomings for provincial and federal standards

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers

COG organizers said the hope is to return to the Okanagan in 2020

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Most Read