Mood of Optimism at Natural Resources Forum
Prince George, B.C. – There is an upbeat mood at the 14th annual Natural Resources forum underway in Prince George.
Despite the fact the “Trump effect” has dominated most forum discussions, there are more exhibitors taking part in the trade show portion of the forum than there were last year. The 600 people attending the Premier’s lunch on Wednesday was double the number served last year.
“There is a greater air of optimism in the room than previously” says MLA Mike Morris although he’s not able to pin point why the mood is more upbeat this year than last . “Everyone comes to the podium with a good message, everyone is eager about their own resource sector and I think that passes itself on to the audience.”
B.C. has a diversified economy, and over the past year has consistently lead the nation in job growth “We’re suffering a little bit in rural B.C. because of the commodity prices” says MLA Morris “But I think most believe they (commodity prices) have bottomed out so there is no way to go but up, so I think that’s also a part of the increased optimism.”
The thread woven through the presentations is all about the future, from anticipated increase in demand for LNG to the development of bio-fuel from the pulp process, the diversity of natural resources is paving the way to a strong economy.
But the lack of a Softwood Lumber Agreement is a concern. Premier Christy Clark told the crowded luncheon yesterday that Donald Trump is a businessman and that he understands the best way to kick start the U.S. economy is to get housing construction going. Minister of Forests Steve Thomson echoes that comment “U.S. President trump wants to build the U.S. economy, We think our lumber industry is an important part of building that economy. They want affordable housing, they need our lumber as part of their economic development so we think there is a path forward to a new (SLA) agreement. The challenge right now is to find that process of engagement as there are new people in the administration in the U.S. who are just getting themselves settled. We are heading back to Ottawa next week to meet with the federal team to look at the strategy.”