BC Economic Past


Areas: Valleys, river deltas, and plateaus
Places: Fraser Valley, the Okanagan Valley, and the Thompson Valley.

– While many of the settlers in British Columbia were farmers they consumed most of their own produce or sold them only locally. Agriculture began and developed to supply meat, vegetables and dairy products to people who earned their living in the resource industries of mining, forestry and fishing.
– The gold rush in the 1850’s and 1860’s saw the real beginning of vegetable farming to provide produce to the growing population
– In particular this era saw the beginning of cattle ranching in the interior of the province as cattle were brought in from the United States to supply meat to the thousands of miners in the Cariboo.


First Nations Farmers in Bella Coola

– Food processing such as canning and freezing of vegetables for local and export markets have had their periods of success and failure. From early in this century until the early 1960s, B.C. had an important vegetable canning industry with 15 canneries operating in various parts of the province in the early 1950s.
– Can’t grow enough food to feed population.
– Competition with US.

Areas: The coast, with its mild and wet climate, and steep mountain slopes & the interior with its drier and colder climate and is less mountainous.

– During the fur trade period the traders mostly used the forests to construct log buildings.
– Markets for lumber included Australia, Hawaii, Chile, and Shanghai (China).
– Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s required large amounts of timber and lumber for the construction of rail lines, bridges, buildings and temporary structures.
– In 1887 the forest industry in British Columbia went into decline until the late 1890s.
– Immigration boom on the prairies gave the forest industry its first Canadian export market.


Logging on the Coast, 1926

– Over the years there has been frequent concern in British Columbia about over cutting of trees and destruction of forests. In the early days forests were seldom replanted after the trees were cut. That is no longer true but the controversy continues over how much to cut and how much to leave as untouched forest land.

Areas: Open pit coal mines in the Southeast and Northeast parts of the province
Places: Vancouver Island, Nanaimo, Wellington, Barkerville, Highland Valley, Rossland, Atlin, Kaslo, Greenwood, Kimberley, Cumberland, Lady Smith, Peace River

– Was the beginning of the development of British Columbia’s industries.
– For decades these mines employed many thousands of people and made the fortunes of mine owners who were some of the province’s wealthiest people.
– Used as the fuel for the railways in British Columbia.
-Oil exploration began in British Columbia in the 1940s and in recent decades the province has developed its own oil and natural gas industry centred in the Peace River country in the north east.


Coal Miners in Nanaimo in the 1900’s

– Mining has faced numerous problems over the years. Mines have been closed or opened with the ups and downs of world metal prices.
– Minerals are not a renewable resource. Once an ore body has been mined out, it is gone forever
– There has also often been environmental concerns caused by the location of mines and by the effluent and emissions from mines and smelters.

Areas: Pacific Coast
Places: Annieville

– In 1870 the first canning plant opened for production in Annieville on the Fraser River.
– The canning industry provided many migrant workers with seasonal occupation.
– Cold storage shipping vessels eventually made it possible to freeze freshly caught fish and ship them to the world market without canning the fish first


Crab Fishing near Tofino

– The decrease in stocks.
– As fish numbers decline, it has become increasingly necessary to limit the amounts taken through limiting licenses and the number of days that commercial fishing is permitted
– Commercial fish farming, where fish are raised in pens, is another change in the industry.
– sport fishing has received a great deal of attention as a means of bringing tourism dollars into the province.

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