Rural communities face aging crisis

The number of jobs in logging and in lumber production has dropped by nearly half

Loss of resource sector jobs and a resulting decline in small businesses is causing a reduction in the number of young families in rural communities. This in turn is resulting in an overall increase in the average age in those communities, according to Gordon Borgstrom, executive director of the Southern Interior Beetle Action Committee (SIBAC).

Speaking during an economic development forum held Saturday, June 11, in Little Fort, Borgstrom said the loss of jobs in sawmills and small businesses also means a loss of disposable income in small communities as well as a loss of industrial taxation revenues.

Looking at the forest sector as an example, log production in B.C. hasn’t really changed that much over the past 20 years, although there have been some peaks and valleys.

However, the number of jobs in logging and in lumber production has dropped by nearly half.

Similarly, the self-employment growth rate during the years 2009-2014 decreased by 30.6 per cent in the Thompson-Okanagan. This compares with a provincial average decline of 10.5 per cent.

To illustrate his point, Borgstrom used a graph that shows how, in 1986, the number of children under age 19 in the North Thompson Valley was well above the provincial average, while the number of senior citizens was well below.

A second graph used by Borgstrom showed how, in 2015, the number of young adults in the North Thompson Valley had dropped to well below the provincial average, while the number of those aged 50 to 80 was well above.

(According to Stats Canada, the population of the North Thompson Valley, meaning Clearwater, Barriere and their trading areas, dropped 0.4 per cent from 11.687 in 1999 to 11,225 in 2006. Clearwater and its trading area’s population dropped by 12.6 per cent from 4,930 in 1999 to 4,166 in 2006.)

Borgstrom said that key roles for SIBAC for 2016 to 2018 are to continue to serve as an effective voice on rural issues, to connect rural communities to resources, and to act as an effective catalyst to advance rural development.

SIBAC is a member-based organization comprised of the nine regional districts and six tribal councils in the southern interior, as well as  the Community Futures Development Corporation of Central Interior First Nations.

Originally started by meetings held in 2006, since April 2011 SIBAC has focussed on developing, supporting and funding projects and initiatives that will stimulate and advance rural development in the southern interior.