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Mayor’s Column – January 24, 2018

January 24, 2018


A Natural Resources Forum attended by 950 delegates would seem to be the ideal environment to stimulate the creative instincts of the naturally lazy mind. Well, sort of. But it still takes an effort to sit down in my hotel room and recapture some of the ideas that were floated during the day. (It’s doubly hard to recapture some of my own thoughts.)

Are natural resources really natural? Our opening speaker, Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations gave thanks, from the podium, no less, to the Creator for our natural resources. Does he know something that most of us don’t dare to think about? He was right to do so, but I didn’t hear a solid response in support from the amen corner.

As it happens, we are here, along with trees, coal, grass, and the hills that support and cover these resources. That is, I think we are here and if it is true that we are here and not merely a bad dream by an imaginary entity of nothingness, then we got here somehow. I assume that Perry Bellegarde favors option two. Or would that be option one? Yea, option one.

Our regional prosperity is predicated on the prosperity of our natural resource industries, however the resources got here, and I am with Perry as to their source, but whatever your philosophy of origins, we share a common interest in and responsibility for our heritage of resources. This means that we are responsible to ensure that the harvesting of timber, minerals, and even grass is done in a way that leaves the environment in a better state when we exit the stage than it was in when we stepped onto it.

A tall order, it is, but our descendents will thank the memory of their ancestors for taking the time and paying the bills for doing so.

For the timber industry, we probably need to plant more trees than we harvest. Not sure how many more. That’s a problem for the experts. When we dig coal out of the earth, we create a whole new set of challenges that must be addressed if we are to leave this world in a healthier state than we found it.

Most of us don’t think of the grass industry as posing environmental problems that are looking for solutions. Think over the horizon. Grass is fed to cows. The cattle industry releases more GHGs than most other industries all passing GHGs at once.

I’ll leave the solution for that one for better minds than I have in my head.

The greatest natural resource in our area of abundant natural resources is the human creatures charged with caring for the environment and for each other.

To care for each other we need jobs. Jobs are rooted in the trees we cut, in the rocks we dig to find the coal, and in the multitude of other resources scattered so prodigally across our great North East.

But trees in abundance and mountains of coal do not in themselves result in jobs. Living in this complex and interdependent world, peopled by others whose interests do not always coincide with ours, and ruled by people who are somewhat unpredictable and occasionally bellicose, we find ourselves from day to day having to react to circumstances beyond our control.

We can be thankful that we have capable minds (at least one with a well-honed sense of humor) at the helm of provincial and federal governments and leading our major industries who are preoccupied almost daily with negotiating Canada’s way through the maze of politics, international relations, and fiscal uncertainty to find the best-possible long-term solutions at the down-stream end of our natural resource stream.

In the meantime, let’s look to our own fiscal circumstances and keep our gas tanks full.

Oh, by the way, I just encountered this ancient wisdom: “before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I [Wisdom] was given birth” (a 3000-year-old proverb).


Merlin Nichols, Mayor