By Bob Simpson
It’s always fascinating how politicians jump at the opportunity to get their photos taken when private companies make investment announcements. However, they’re nowhere to be seen when those same companies announce mill closures or cancel previous investment announcements.
Take the recent photo of a group of politicians (replete with hard hats and big smiles) that graced the front page of the Williams Lake Tribune when West Fraser Timber announced that it would be investing in their planer mill there. The politicians crowed that West Fraser’s announcement is proof that the forest industry in the Cariboo is facing a bright future.
Where was the photo of those same politicians when Tolko announced last week that it has decided to permanently shut down its Creekside sawmill in Williams Lake? Using the political logic that private investment means a "bright future", should we interpret the Creekside closure as a sign that our forest sector is facing a "dismal future"?
Bottom line: politicians shouldn’t be involved in the PR associated with private sector investment decisions, which are made solely on the basis of the implications for the bottom line of those companies.
There are a multitude of factors that go into private-sector investment decisions, but an investment announcement doesn’t mean that the investment will actually occur, or that it will lead to success for that company or for the future of that sector.
Enbridge’s recent and grossly underreported announcement that it will mothball Phase 1 of its nearly-completed natural-gas processing plant in the North Peace is a classic case in point. The brand new multimillion dollar facility will now sit idle, having never processed any gas, because the natural gas market has collapsed.
Funny that no politicians have commented on this corporate decision and its implications for the natural gas industry in B.C.
Politicians should not be involved in private-sector announcements, positive or negative. Having politicians involved in the PR of private corporations only adds to the public’s concern about the already too-close relationship between corporations and government, and it simply feeds the cynicism voters have toward politicians and the political process.
Bob Simpson is the independent MLA for Cariboo North.