SIMON NATTRASS: Pipelines on your mind? Look north

Recovering from city life in the interior mountains, I sought escape from the barrage of politics that comes with life in The Capital.

Recovering from city life in the mountains of the interior, I sought a brief escape from the daily barrage of politics that comes along with life here in The Capital. Unfortunately, my earnest hope for peace and quiet evaporated when I discovered a piece of truly dazzling propaganda that had been slipped in between the pages of the rural community news.

“Building a Stronger North,” the full-colour, eight-page advertorial proclaimed. Its contents reveal a handful of feel-good stories about mountain biking and revitalization projects nestled between others trumpeting the return of Kitimat as an economic powerhouse and the good-old-days appeal of resource extraction.

The piece — published by the Northern Development Initiative Trust — goes on to refer readers to a series of investment portals featuring the four main regions of the northern province. Old B.C. favourites like forestry, mining, pulp and paper, and of course oil and liquid natural gas extraction are offered up to both entice investors and placate communities with the promise of jobs.

But it’s not all sugar and rainbows in the northern frontier. While the steady march of pipelines across the province is offering $70 billion in new investments, “a large contingent of the province’s population,” the editor’s note laments, “has become psychologically averse to industrialization.”

“The mines, mills, and pipelines that built this province,” we are told, “no longer match the 21st century mentality of ‘beautiful’ British Columbia.” Indeed, the “challenges” associated with activism and the rights of indigenous peoples “threaten the major economic projects that could propel this province toward future success.”

We have been duped, it seems; tricked into valuing the natural beauty, ecological diversity, and remaining wilderness of our home over the clearly superior goal of industrial expansion. Industry made this province what it is, and we owe it our blood and money in return.

You won’t find this in your mailbox. Like the elementary school presentations and information kiosks that precede construction in communities along pipeline routes, the NDIT isn’t concerned with The Capital, removed as we are from the visceral impacts of progress. While we howl into the deaf ears of politicians and bureaucrats, the real battle over B.C.’s future is fought in the hearts and minds of the province’s rural communities. M

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