Forest Minister sees opportunity
Forestry Minister Steve Thomson sees “tremendous opportunity” in Campbell River when it comes to bolstering the economy through the area’s natural resources.
A good starting point, according to Thomson, is the recently announced Vancouver Island Exploration Geoscience Project, which will conduct an airborne magnetic survey of the region.
The survey, in tandem with the BC Jobs Plan and expected to start this month, is designed to gather geoscience data in and around Campbell River, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Alert Bay, Port Alice and Zeballos.
The information is supposed to help attract mineral exploration and provide communities with information on the geology of their area. Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, said it will be a big boon to Campbell River.
“If you look at the history of Geoscience in B.C., it really does help identify where opportunities are and it’s helped move progress forward,” said Thomson who was in Campbell River Friday to speak with city council, the Chamber of Commerce, and other community business representatives. “Certainly, as there’s development and exploration, if projects move forward, it will generate jobs and activity. I see tremendous opportunity for this part of the province here (to) build the tax base. I know Rivercorp’s key goal is to re-build the industrial tax base here.”
The recent agreement between Catalyst and Pacifica Deep Sea Terminals to sell the former Elk Falls mill site may be a step in that direction.
“I think it’s an exciting announcement for Campbell River and I know that the community has had a long interest in moving forward with that specific site,” Thomson said. “I think it does have a significant opportunity for jobs here in Campbell River. The role of our ministry will be in permitting and authorizing, depending on the activity there.”
One of the key goals of Thomson’s ministry is to reduce application backlogs for industrial work. The ministry set an ambitious target of reducing backlogs in the Land Act and Water Act authorizations by 50 per cent as of Dec. 31 of this year. Thomson was happy to report the ministry is well “on its way to achieving that.”
The opening of a FrontCounter BC office in Campbell River this year has contributed to the ministry’s success.
The office is a one-stop shop for the natural resource industry’s permitting and authorization needs and is aimed at providing easier access to government services to enable quicker job creation.
Thomson also touched on the possibility of a high-speed sawmill to re-energize the region’s natural resource sector.
Thomson said the idea originally came up in the BC Jobs Plan forum held in Campbell River in January but it was not identified as a top three priority. However, he said it is an “interesting” idea.
Thomson is confident Campbell River will land on its feet.
“(It’s) well-positioned on the coast to be part of the growth of the industry.”