Before moving back to the Cariboo, I lived in Ottawa for several years and frequently had to drive to Toronto on the weekends to cover sports. Wanting to spend at least some time together, my wife would semi-frequently come with me and advocate for driving through the countryside rather than the highway the entire way.
One thing was very clear driving around small town Ontario; many small towns were dying or near death. Many main streets, despite being packed with beautiful brick and other old buildings, had an abundance of empty or boarded up storefronts. There was the occasional exception of historic towns that had managed to turn themselves into a day trip attraction for a major nearby urban centre, but most really looked rather grim.
In Europe, many rural areas experience similar problems, although there the high population density and outstanding public transit mean working in an urban centre while living rurally is a possibility.
Here in the South Cariboo, things aren’t nearly as dire as in many Ontario towns. According to recent census data, our population increased and, heartwarmingly, many locals make an effort to buy local. Additionally, our Birch Avenue looks quite good. Some new businesses have opened (such as Jackson’s Social Club &Brew House).
However, the Cariboo Regional Economic Outlook, released by Central 1, is sombre, as it predicts unemployment going up and housing prices going down. Additionally, softwood lumber tariffs could mean fewer mill jobs (tariffs hadn’t been announced yet at the start of the release).
Perhaps that’s why local leaders (including CRD Chair Al Richmond and 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall) are headed off to China for two weeks along with local business representatives.
More than any other year, seeking trade outside of the U.S. is something that could really pay off. Canada is often seen as the little brother of the U.S.
Now that the big brother has effectively announced it’s closed for business by looking for travel bans on some Muslim countries, antagonizing China and possibly putting tariffs on other trading partners, Canada may well be the third dog walking away with the bone. There already are (nearby) examples, such as Thompson Rivers University seeing a massive surge in applications from international students (presumably not wanting to go to the U.S).
Canadian politicians can often be heard saying we should diversify our trading partners. Maybe this time, with a little unintended help from the U.S., they’ll actually be able to do it.