Because Chetwynd’s livelihood is rooted in a resource-based economy, there are many factors impinging on our prosperity that have to be considered in the decisions we make. One of them is location; another is time. Because of our location, shipping costs to the major markets are significant. Lumber, for example, is shipped thousands of miles by rail and by ship to the primary customers. Coal, likewise, incurs a huge shipping cost to reach our customers. Now, north-east natural gas, no longer in high demand in the United States, is experiencing basement prices because the infrastructure for shipping it to the major emerging markets is not yet in place.
Which brings us to the time element. Australia, the United States, and other fields still in the development stages, are our major competitors. You can be sure that both Australia and the United States are wasting no time and sparing no effort in developing the capacity to tie into the Asian market for liquefied natural gas first. The supplier that gets there first will naturally have the advantage and perhaps lock up the market for decades to come.
There are some who would say, “So what? Leave the gas in the ground.” That’s one perspective. But life in the north east is not that simple any more. Perhaps sixty or seventy years ago when many of us were on the subsistence plan of existence we could manage that kind of life. Things have changed a whole lot in the last half century.
Gone are the days when we could l pick a bucket of berries, root out a hill of potatoes, run down a moose, and survive for the winter. Mind you, it was a pretty meager survival and many there were who didn’t survive. In century 21 there are not enough moose in the bush to keep us alive, 98 per cent of us have forgotten how to grow a potato, and the berries have disappeared. We have to play with the cards we have been dealt – a modern, industrialized, resource-based economy – to put the food on our plates. And we can be thankful that we have the skills and the vision to do that.
But time is indeed an element to be taken seriously. If we want to keep on playing in the world economy, we have to be prepared to connect with the world and that includes building the infrastructure capable of delivering our resources to the markets. The markets aren’t going to wait for us. Australia has one little disadvantage in that our coast line is marginally closer to the Asian market but the Ausies are a competitive and focused people who will not wait while we consider. Neither will the United States wait while we decide.
In all our deciding, however, there are certain basic life-style elements that we are resolved to preserve. But let’s not lose our position through stonewalling and jockeying for internal advantage when we want the same thing.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor