As a Game of Thrones fan, I’m familiar with the word ‘usurper.’
It’s used quite a bit in the story as the plot mostly involves those who rise to power by whatever means possible … usually by lopping off someone’s head rather than holding, say, an election. Hence the zealous use of the word.
Prince George has, for decades, billed itself as the Gateway to the North. Built on the forest industry with mining thrown in and the old BCR line, nothing happened in the northern two-thirds of the province without it coming, somehow, through Prince George.
As the largest city north of Kamloops, Prince George is the natural service centre for the North.
Could our reign atop the major city in the north list be in jeopardy? Are there usurpers in our midst?
The North appears to be heading into another boom cycle and this one, if all the prognosticators are correct, could be bigger and last longer than any of the previous booms.
Between the Northern Gateway pipeline project, the ever-increasing possibility of liquefied natural gas plants being built on the west coast, new mines coming on stream, and remote, but interesting, possibilities of oil refineries also being built, there is some serious economic activity brewing.
The problem for us here in Prince George is that it’s all headed for the golden triangle of Terrace, Kitimat, and Prince Rupert. Between the three western communities, there are about 45,000 people living in the area. Should even half of the above-mentioned projects proceed, that number will increase dramatically.
The housing crunch has already hit Kitimat as a cruise ship has been brought in to house workers who can’t find a place to stay. Could the population out west increase by 30,000 people over the next few years?
It’s not out of the realm of possibility. As these huge mega-projects come online, the west coast triumvirate could eclipse Prince George’s population, which has been more-or-less stable (stagnant?) at about 72,000 for quite some time.
We have, for a long time, been comfortable with our title as the Gateway to the North, and it is a title that is well deserved. But it might not always be a given.
That’s not to say we should work against the developments headed for the western shores, or be envious of them. Nor is it to say that Prince George won’t benefit from those developments. It surely will.
What we must do, though, is realize that the economic benefits of the burgeoning boom won’t automatically come here. If we want those benefits, we’re going to have to go get them.
As any good Game of Thrones fan knows, the usurpers don’t just go away.