Susan Mowbray, senior economist and partner at MNP, presents the State of the Island economic report on Wednesday night at the Vancouver Island Economic Summit at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Susan Mowbray, senior economist and partner at MNP, presents the State of the Island economic report on Wednesday night at the Vancouver Island Economic Summit at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Vancouver Island’s diversified economy expected to slow but not stall

Senior economist delivers State of the Island report at summit in Nanaimo, says ‘don’t panic’

No economy is recession-proof, but Vancouver Island is diversifying and becoming better-equipped to be able to stave off any slowdowns, says a senior economist.

The annual State of the Island economic report was released Wednesday at the Vancouver Island Economic Summit in Nanaimo. Susan Mowbray, partner at MNP, presented the report to delegates at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre and her advice was not to panic.

“Growth is expected to slow, there’s no question about that, but there’s no indication it’s going to stall yet,” she said. “And that is because of that diversification.”

Mowbray said because Vancouver Island has “a small, open economy” that isn’t independent, outside factors do have an effect. The pace of growth or lack of growth on the Island might depend on a range of influences, she suggested, such as global tensions and trade uncertainties, large-scale infrastructure projects elsewhere in B.C., and contraction of the forest industry.

The economic report notes that on Vancouver Island, population and employment growth contributed to overall growth, “albeit at a more moderate pace than in 2017.” Mowbray said growth in 2019 is going to be lower than 2018, and 2020 will be lower still, some of the reasons being slowdowns in housing and construction “and just a general malaise in the economy” brought on by global factors.

Vancouver Island’s unemployment rate is not only the lowest in B.C., but the lowest in Canada, Mowbray said, and the Island and the Lower Mainland are experiencing “very acute” effects of a tight labour market.

“It’s made it really difficult for employers to be attracting and retaining the workers that they need,” she said.

RELATED: B.C. Premier talks pipeline, Western separatism at economic summit

The report found that the Island’s tourism industry continued to perform well in 2018, especially considering a “relatively unfavourable [currency] exchange rate,” Mowbray said.

Conversely, the forestry industry had a “difficult year” in 2018, the report showed, and challenges have continued or worsened in 2019. Mowbray pointed to a lack of available trees, the absence of a softwood agreement, Teal-Jones Group ceasing harvest activity and the Western Forest Products labour dispute as some of the long- and short-term factors. A drop in production combined with mill closures and curtailments have resulted in a decline in shipments of forest-related products.

“There’s still going to be a forest industry on Vancouver Island – it’s just going to be a lot smaller,” Mowbray said. “Now, if I’d said that 13 years ago at the first summit, it would have been cause for significant concern, and don’t get me wrong, it’s still certainly a cause for concern.”

However, she noted that although there are more than 2,000 fewer forest-industry jobs on the Island since 2015, that same time period has seen the creation of more than 40,000 overall jobs. Film and TV, technology, craft brewing and cannabis, for example, aren’t large industries on the Island, relatively, said Mowbray, but “collectively they make a big difference and they do matter.”

It’s part of a shift toward a Vancouver Island economy that’s less dependent on any one industry, she said.

“By diversifying, Vancouver Island’s economy is becoming less dependent on cyclical swings in individual markets – such as what’s happening with forestry – and more resilient,” Mowbray said. “I’m not going to say recession-proof because no economy’s recession-proof, but more able to weather the storms.”

The 2019 State of the Island economic report was prepared by MNP for the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance. Pete van Dongen, MNP’s marketing manager for the Island, said the report has become a model for other regions to follow. He talked about how Vancouver Island has changed and grown since the first economic summit in 2007.

“I can’t help but think how our discussions today and tomorrow and the relationships that we build and the actions that follow from this event will change the course of our businesses, our communities and our Island as we look years into the future,” he said.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College to host practical nursing info session

10 seats are open in the Port Alberni region for practical nursing program

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP locate driver and vehicle, but are asking for video footage

Students from AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni write anti-bullying messages and draw colourful chalk art around their school for national anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day, Feb. 24, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY LISA ARBANAS)
Chalk art brightens public walkway on Pink Shirt Day

Students from AW Neill Elementary in Port Alberni write messages of hope

Mary Mason of Owls Path Foundation presents plans for a Nuu-chah-nulth Cultural Centre to Port Alberni city council. The structure pictured in this image is the Copenhagen Opera House. (SCREENSHOT)
Nuu-chah-nulth cultural centre pitched for Port Alberni

Three possible locations put forward for multi-million-dollar centre

An endangered Vancouver Island marmot suns itself on rocks at Mount Washington, near the Comox Valley. Learn more about this endangered species with the Alberni Valley Nature Club. (PHOTO COURTESY SANDY MCRUER, AV NATURE CLUB)
Marmots, underwater mysteries part of Alberni Valley Nature Club lineup

Club kicks off membership drive with series of Zoom chats

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Shiromali Krishnaraj arrives from India and receives a mandatory COVID-19 test at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. B.C.’s approved rapid tests also use a nasal swab, with a machine to scan for COVID-19 antibodies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s rapid COVID-19 tests have produced only two positive results

Tests deployed for exposures in schools, outbreaks in care homes, jails

BC Emergency Health Services confirmed that a call was received just before 10 a.m. Ground paramedics, as well as an air ambulance, are on the way to the area. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BREAKING: Helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

The Nanaimo bar display at the Nanaimo Museum. (City of Nanaimo Instagram)
City of Nanaimo points to correct recipe after New York Times botches batch of bars

City addresses ‘controversy’ around dessert square’s layers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A man holds a picture of Chantel Moore during a healing gathering at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. First Nation demands transparency in probe into second fatal RCMP shooting

‘Police have killed more Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members than COVID’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of dead B.C. Hells Angels prospect to be divided between wife, secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

Most Read