Although B.C. has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, many workers in the province are overwhelmed by debt, living paycheque to paycheque. Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 are particularly having a tough go within the province’s work environment. More than 12 percent of them are unemployed, with 1 in 4 being underemployed, university graduates who are working in jobs that don’t require a degree. Unemployment for this age group is twice as high as that of the general population. As time goes on, improved transportation of goods and services and increased provincial infrastructure can promote prosperity for British Columbians of all ages, creating diverse job prospects throughout the province.
In British Columbia, there is a direct link between job creation, export of goods, and increased productivity. Small and medium-sized enterprises in the province make up a vibrant community ripe with exporting potential. Vancouver Fraser Port Authority president Robin Silvester has shared “It is clear that when we engage in exporting we are good at it.” Through Canada’s Asia Pacific gateway, B. C. has vast possibilities to boost exports by continuing to diversify and develop relationships with trading partners globally. However, when increasing exports, infrastructure must also be increased if economic growth is to be achieved.
Infrastructure projects through highway and airport development continue to be priority investments in British Columbia. In these next three years, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure – along with its partners – will be investing more than $4.6 billion to improve B.C.’s transportation network. The Trans-Canada Six-Laning – Fraser Valley Project has received funding from federal, provincial, and municipal levels. At least 700 employees and $235.5 million will be needed for this corridor upgrade. As 6,000 of the 80,000 vehicles driving through the corridor each day are commercial trucks transporting goods, it is evident why the various levels of government want to put funds towards developing this section of Highway 1. Adding to road development in the province, B.C.’s Transportation Minister Todd Stone recently unveiled “groundbreaking” plans to replace the Massey Tunnel, constructing a $3.5-billion 10-lane bridge in its place. $2.2-billion dollars has also been committed by the federal government for transit projects in the Lower Mainland that include a light-rail network in Surrey and a East/West subway ling along Broadway in Vancouver. Furthermore, the provincial government is entering into cost-sharing agreements with public airports for upgrades and expansion. Allocating money towards road and airport development is crucial in increasing transfer and exportation of goods across the province and beyond.
When it comes to long term job creation, the province may be in a better place by putting money into infrastructure rather than other avenues such as technology. Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Blackberry, is now co-founder of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. He thinks Canada’s stagnant action regarding innovation has set the stage for deterred economic growth. Although Balsillie feels that traditional infrastructure projects have little impact on Canada’s 21st-century economic productivity, the management of B.C.’s largest airport and port appear to prove otherwise.
As Canada’s only Pacific province, developing diverse infrastructure to increase international trade capacity for B.C.’s goods and services makes sense, especially when trying to gauge what will promote future economic prosperity and stable employment for British Columbians.