By Laura Keil Publisher/Editor

At a recent Council meeting, Valemount’s Trans Mountain area rep Kent Taylor informed Council that the company is aiming to close down the worker accommodation camp sometime in the second quarter of 2023 (before June 30th). 

While its true pipeline operations are supposed to start winding down (a promise that has been made before to little effect), the rental market is still sky high, with a vacancy rate hovering at zero, alternating with bidding wars of $1,500-2,000 for a bedroom. Widespread TMX live-out-allowances have made this possible.

Two members of Valemount council spoke up and told the TMX rep that they would like to see the camp stay open longer to take pressure off Valemount’s overheated rental market.

Counc. Pete Pearson asked about how the Clearwater camp closure has been received in the community, and Kent said it’s been well-received.

Counc. Pearson said he still has a concern.

“My concern is, in our community, the fact the camp is closing, leaving the workers in the community. I would love to see the camp stay and start moving workers out of local accommodation, free up some housing so we can actually attract employees in our community. Right now, we can’t hire anybody, because they’d be sleeping in their car. I really feel that wasn’t the intention for the camp that it would be the first thing to go out of the community. I would love to see it stay, start to migrate some of those workers into the camp as the progress changes to free up housing.”

Counc. Hollie Blanchette echoed Counc. Pearson’s concerns.

“If we can’t hire nurses, and teachers and doctors, that doesn’t work well for the community, so I would back up what Counc. Pearson said to really push that through if you can,” she said.

After years of providing this kind of feedback to TMX, you’d think it would have finally landed, but apparently not. The TMX rep did say he’d relay the feedback to the company’s decision makers and as soon as they have a firm closure date, he would share it with Council.

Can we expect a revised timeline on the camp closure that will help ease housing pressure over the summer and fall? It would sure be nice, but I’m not holding out hope. Perhaps this direct feedback coming from members of Valemount Council will sway their decision, but someone in a boardroom is crunching numbers and thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could shut that thing down?’

Personally, I don’t want our rental market to remain this way for another eight to eighteen months. We are losing out on new residents, service providers, and the staff needed to run many, many businesses in town. Even families who moved here to work on the pipeline and might have made this their permanent home are being driven out due to high rents. 

Will TMX finally open its ears? I fear the hum of economic necessity has made it permanently deaf.