Opinion: Are we ready for it?

There are challenges ahead as Chilliwack prepares for the growth predicted by Statistics Canada. Are we ready?

Statistics Canada had an ominous warning for B.C. residents this week. The population is expected to grow by 6 million people over the next few decades.

The growth won’t be as rapid as in neighbouring Alberta, but it will be significant.

Much of it will be occurring in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, underlying the need for proper planning if we hope to protect livability.

That planning must occur on two fronts. In Chilliwack, we want to ensure our local economy keeps pace with this growth. We want local job opportunities so these new residents aren’t simply finding more affordable housing here, while working down the highway.

That has long been a concern of Chilliwack decision makers: not allowing the city to become a bedroom community to larger centres to the west.

And for good reason. A robust local economy creates a greater sense of community. Healthy business and industry also provide a stronger tax base that takes some of the pressure off homeowners.

Because it is that tax base that Chilliwack will need if we are to succeed on the second front: Ensuring Chilliwack has the sufficient resources necessary to maintain livability.

Already Chilliwack is assuming responsibilities that were once the purview of other levels of government. The shift has been gradual but unrelenting. Municipal governments are working more actively to provide support for the less fortunate, care for the vulnerable, and security for the populace.

Pressure, too, will come as we age. The number of seniors living in B.C. is expected to climb to 27 per cent of the population by 2038. Not only does this have implications for our health care system, but also the economy as more people move from full employment and into retirement.

Chilliwack, like municipalities across the province, will be deciding Nov. 15 who is best suited to prepare for these challenges over the next four years.

The civic campaign is about to begin in earnest. Let it be about issues and ideas. Let’s hear how Chilliwack can grow its economy, can create real and meaningful jobs, and prepare for the population influx we’ve already been warned is coming.