The waves of economic recession rolled onto Nanaimo shores this spring, bringing an unemployment rate substantially higher than neighbouring communities and almost twice the provincial average of about eight per cent.
For a service hub like Nanaimo, gone were retail, restaurant and hospitality jobs. While low paying, those jobs were vital in keeping young workers here in town, hopefully to work while attending post-secondary education to achieve a higher standing, or serving as a secondary income for families.
Which is why John Les’s comments this week were surprising.
The parliamentary secretary to Premier Christy Clark said young people should consider moving to where the jobs are, notably to northern cities like Terrace and Kitimat, to “expand their horizons”.
He also said training people to work in the up-and-coming aquaculture industry is a good opportunity, but failed to note that Nanaimo doesn’t have such industry.
Shipping out Nanaimo’s future workforce and secondary incomes, along with our newly educated university students, to far off cities isn’t the answer. What needs to be established in the Harbour City is a made-in-Nanaimo approach.
Les breezing through town offering lip service for a provincial job strategy clearly created prior to local input is, at best, insulting. If brain-drain is the Liberals’ answer, Nanaimo doesn’t need it.
Fortunately, local politicians anticipated shifting job markets and are already looking ahead to ignite the city’s economy.
Mayor John Ruttan’s new Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation won’t solve all Nanaimo’s unemployment problems, but it will be one important driver in bringing those lost jobs back, while creating new employment of which Nanaimo families can be proud.
It’s a perfect example of ‘if you want something done correctly, do it yourself.’