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COMMENTARY · 19th October 2010
Walter McFarlane
We have had a good run. They’re warming up the priest in the next room; all of Kitimat’s family and friends have gathered round and soon it will be time…

What’s that? The metaphor too harsh? Too soon perhaps? Maybe it’s time to stop living in the dream. Maybe it’s time to wake up and smell reality closing in with its harsh cold claws.

We have been told that there are people in Kitimat who are gravely concerned for the future of this community; with the recent events, the reduction of businesses, students in schools, health care, and jobs in general, as a sign that this community is on its last legs. In addition to that most are afraid to talk about it openly for one reason or another.

PEOPLE… WE LIVE IN CANADA

It’s not often we talk about our fundamental freedoms which have been granted to us by the government. Right at the top of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are the Fundamental Freedoms:

FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS.
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.


One woman talked to us on Tuesday about her concerns after she expressed Kitimat’s future is appearing grimmer then that of Tumbler Ridge.

“Is there going to be a future of Kitimat?” she said. “Our numbers are definitely going down and our concern is right now are about the Kitimat Hospital and the jobs and the youth are leaving because they are trying to find jobs and there are no jobs in Kitimat. The lines in Alcan are closing, the hospital is closing the number of employees in Kitimat General Hospital are going down, so where is Kitimat?”

She questioned with the reduction of businesses, jobs, students and population, how could Kitimat still be called a city. “What is Kitimat right now? We are promoting Kitimat as an aging community. How can we be an aging community? What do the aging have for safety?” She said.

When asked what she thought could be done, she replied: “If I had the answer to that, Kitimat would be booming. I think the provincial government needs to have the answers for that, we need to have jobs.”

She suggested one solution to the population problem is to bring back the students who have left Kitimat.

Because we live in Kitimat, we do not count as British Columbians or Canadians. Remember the big quote? Senator Neufeld’s: ‘We will sacrifice an MLA, an MP or a community for the good of the Province’, before casting a glance at three of our City Councillors? It is coming to pass.

Our town has been hurting for quite a while now. Further back than when I began reporting for the Kitimat Daily. Do you remember a time when our mall used to contain stores rather then non profit organizations and big business offices?

Or perhaps there was a time when; the graduation class consisted of more then 100 students, there were 6 elementary schools in Kitimat and we had a hospital with all the bells and whistles needed to maintain a community.

Do you remember when Kitimat’s slogan was: “The City of the Future?”

And if we are still this said city, what does that mean for the future of the rest of the world. Does that mean the government and big businesses are going to sell them down the river as well?

But all this happened long ago. In recent years, we’ve seen Methanex shrink to near non existence, West Frasier close shop for 550+ jobs and Rio Tinto Alcan slowly cut employment from 1500 in recent times. The estimated number of employees rumoured to be cut when the modernization is done, take a 200 away.

And how many people will be left when all is said and done. Sure we have industries looking at Kitimat but it will take 10 Enbridges at minimum to make up for the loss of Eurocan; 20 to make up for both losses at Alcan and Eurocan; 40 Pytrades to cover both. The real problem is you get the same number of jobs by opening a fast food chain here in Kitimat. A&W reported about 50 positions when they had their grand opening.

Sure those are minimum wage but it is literally better then nothing which is what we are getting from all the other industries which are giving us nothing but promises and the occasional pat on the head to tell us they still care.

Almost ironically, the one economic development agency which has done the best job of accomplishing it’s goals is the newest of the lot of them, the Retire Kitimat Campaign. Why ironic? Because they are bringing seniors to Kitimat while our hospital appears to be shipping services out.

The people who are holding Kitimat together are doing so using their hands, feet, and body to plug the holes. And while they may not always see eye to eye, they are doing one thing; they are the people who are keeping this town alive.
Get out while you can!!
Comment by Ken Bromley on 25th October 2010
I lived in Kitimat for 15 years or so and graduated in 1984 from M.E.S.S. I loved Kitimat back then but all that changed when I moved to Southern Ontario back in 1987. I realize now that everything I loved about Kitimat was nothing compared to the wide world that existed far from highway 16.

I will always have fond memories of my youth at the end of the Douglas Channel but I am SO GLAD to be long gone from that dead end community. The scenery, people and wildlife are all wonderful memories...but they are just that; memories.

A few weeks ago I found a website that listed Terrace as one of the 10 worst places in Canada to live. Kitimat would have been listed but the only communities they accepted were those with a population over 15,000. Kitimat's population and employment have been on a steady decline for years...it's just a matter of time...

It's kind of ironic that I had commented on a good friend (L.B.) from Kitimat's facebook page a few weeks ago that he should "Get out while they can!" ...wierd how things work out.

Kitimat to me is like an 87 year old grand parent who passes away... you know it's gonna happen, you mourn for the memories...but life goes on.

RIP Kitimat
Quit whinning and do your best to change things
Comment by larry walker on 20th October 2010
I feel that most people to write or talk about our town (Kitimat) seem to suffer from tunnel vision. Resource based industries are great but in very limited supply (and the competition is fierce). On the other hand, nobody is focusing on the TOURIST INDUSTRY and just maybe....that can be our saving grace. Look around at the various villages, towns and even small cities that have captured this market. Sure the wages are less and the seasons are short and nobody is going to get rich (that is what lotteries are for)....but people can and do make a reasonable living at it in the medium to long run. Please think outside the box and look for opportunities in this area....it could help safe our beautiful town.