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UBC Theses and Dissertations

New economic spaces and practices in coastal British Columbia Young, Nathan


Coastal regions of British Columbia are presently undergoing a period of dramatic economic restructuring. The roots of this crisis lie in the environmental and economic exhaustion of Fordist systems for resource production that have dominated B.C.’s rural economy since the Second World War. This thesis argues that current responses to this crisis--as undertaken by governments, corporate actors, communities, and local firms--are resulting in a fundamental restructuring of economic spaces in coastal British Columbia. I argue that senior governments are responding to the crisis in rural economies in British Columbia by implementing separate development strategies for resource- and community-based economies that are based on different visions of how these relate to global (Post-Fordist) economies. On the one hand, new reforms have recently been implemented to spatially liberalize resource economies--allowing major corporate actors significantly more freedom to manipulate geographies of resource production according to global market conditions. On the other hand, senior governments are implementing new ’entrepreneurialist’ programs in the local spaces of community-based economies--encouraging local groups and firms to pursue new types of connections to broader markets based on local capacities. The segregation of resource- and community-based economies is fundamentally altering local economic spaces and practices. This thesis advances detailed research from two case communities on the British Columbian coast--Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island, and Bella Coola on B.C.’s rugged central coast--to address how local economic spaces are being restructured both by institutional actors (state and corporate actors) and by community-based actors (local groups and firms). The withdrawal of corporate actors from the local economies of these communities places many local firms in a very tenuous position, where survival depends on successful connection and engagement with broader (global) markets and spaces. Drawing on interview research in the case communities, I develop and apply a schema for understanding how local actors attempt to participate in the global economy from positions of geographic marginality. This schema, which is based on the analysis of how local actors attempt to ’reach across space’ by negotiating socio-technical network arrangements (which I term "performances of distance"), uncovers new opportunities and inequalities confronting local actors in the new spatial economies of coastal British Columbia.

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