I did not realize that Bill Bennett was the hand that feeds. I have lived and worked in the Elk Valley for the past 35 years. I am a fourth generation mineworker. The mines of the Elk are the economic engine of the E. Kootenay and beyond. There is not another enterprise that comes close in contributing economically what the mines of the Elk Valley do for the E.K. That being said, the Valley has been getting screwed. With China’s lust for western Canadian resources over the last decade reaching never seen before levels, the mines of the valley have expanded to record levels of production to capitalize on record coal pricing. When the mines were all smaller, and facing far greater market challenges than they have over the last decade, Sparwood had a hospital, Elkford had 24hr emergency medical care and a resident doctor. It’s odd that during the great boom of the last decade, the Elk Valley has experienced a decline in medical services. Why is that Mr. Bennett? Cranbrook has seen hospital expansion, college expansion, an exceptional recreation complex, and my personal favourite, airport expansion. Just when are those jumbo jets full of wealthy tourists touching down? The mayor and council of the fairy tale resort of Jumbo are not quite ready. Meanwhile back in the valley I’ve watched our school district swallowed, a tangible decline in local health care, the closure of the Mines Inspection Branch offices. While all this has been playing out, billions of dollars have been stripped out of the Elk Valley while only a fraction have returned. Yup, the Elk Valley has been screwed.
When I watch provincial revenues going to finance the privatization of the B.C. Ferries and the sale of B.C. Rail, it sickens me. Oh yes, then there was the 2010 winter games. All these schemes, guaranteed moneymakers, and yet, after a decade of one of B.C’s greatest booms, we are at least 30 billion deeper in debt. The Liberals’ answer, we gotta make it boom harder, in fact we need some communist Chinese corporations and workers to pull us out of the hole that those NDP types left us in 12 years ago. It’s more than tax pain, Doc.
In the April 9 issue of The Free Press, I read a letter submitted by Paul Visentin of Cranbrook that suggested that all the environmentalists should just butt out of the Elk Valley. You Know Paul, some of them actually live here. There are two major factors that will affect the viability of the coal industry of the Elk Valley. The price of coal and The Canada/U.S. Boundary Waters agreement of 1909.
The price of coal is, what it is, and if it falls too low, the East Kootenay is out of work. Now the BWT? Can it? And will it be used by the environmental movement? By the U.S. government, the state government’s signatory to the Columbia Basin agreement for whatever agendas they may have? I just bet it will. Now, there’s not much choice, for the mines to maintain status quo, the Elk River will have to be cleaned up. Who’s gonna pay to do it? Well, you are. I am and a lot of taxpayers who have never heard of it, and we all get to yell “We’re getting screwed.” But we will pay to clean up the river or, there’s a fair chance there won’t be any, or, as many mines to suckle from. And if the enviro groups hold our feet to the fire to help ensure this happens, I’m OK with that.