Location of Chemainus in British Columbia
|Regional district||Cowichan Valley Regional District|
|• Total||4.02 km2 (1.55 sq mi)|
|• Density||755.1/km2 (1,956/sq mi)|
|Time zone||PST (UTC-8)|
Founded as an unincorporated logging town in 1858, the Chemainus is now famous for its 39 outdoor murals. This outdoor gallery has given birth to many businesses, including a theatre, antiques dealers, and eateries. The tourist industry stemming from the murals helped rejuvenate the town after its large sawmill closed in the early 1980s and was replaced by a smaller but far more efficient mill.
The name "Chemainus" comes from the native shaman and prophet "Tsa-meeun-is" (Broken Chest). Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community, the Stz'uminus First Nation, formerly the Chemainus Indian Band.
The railroad arrived in the 1880s and by the early 1920s the town's population had ballooned to 600 persons. Chemainus was eventually designated a census populated area by Statistics Canada comprising the more built-up residential and commercial neighbourhoods. Its population had further grown to 3035 residents by 2011. A larger more inclusive Chemainus area is customarily regarded as comprising part of the District of North Cowichan that lies north of the Chemainus River. This is the area covered by the Chemainus Advisory Committee set up as a consultation body by North Cowichan.
On 13 January 2006, a Boeing 737 aircraft was sunk off the coast in order to build an artificial reef. The sinking was documented in "Sinking Wings", an episode of the Discovery Channel Series, Mega Builders.
Economic development under Post-Fordism
In the 1980s, British Columbia's forest industry experienced a period of deep recession, largely caused by a substantial decrease in demand and price of B.C. forest products. This decrease came as a consequence of increases in global competition within forest product markets, the reduction in B.C. forest stocks, the placing of tariffs on B.C. forest imports to the United States, issues regarding aboriginal land claims and the increase public support for environmental groups.
That said, scholars view this recession more importantly as a representation of a larger structural shift from a Fordism economic production system underpinning many North American industries, toward one of Post-Fordism. Fordism is a system of production methods based on principles of specialized mass production technologies, aimed at capturing economies of scale. However, due to rising global competition, energy crises, stagflation and recession, Fordism began to unravel. Consequently, a new system of economic production, characterized by greater flexibility and the exploitation of economies of scope, known as Post-Fordism, began to emerge.
This transition placed a heavy burden on coastal single-industry forest communities like Chemainus due to rising unemployment. At Chemainus, Post-Fordist restructuring of B.C.’s Forest industry resulted in a large overhaul of the local sawmill owned by the Macmillan Bloedel company (a CPR subsidiary). Automated, state-of-the-art machinery was installed which allowed for greater flexibility in producing a larger range of products and greater ease in meeting varied market demands. This restructuring however led to a reduction in the amount workers necessary for its operation: a decrease from about 600 workers to 145 workers.
However, the declining forest industry in Chemainus has led to a drive to diversify the local economy. Chemainus has been successful in growing its tourist industry through the entrepreneurial activities of local citizens. Key projects include the revitalization of Chemainus’ main street, through painting a series of large outdoor murals, as well as the construction of a shopping mall several miles away.
Chemainus’ geographical location, between Vancouver Island’s largest cities, Victoria and Nanaimo, as well as its proximity to ferry terminals and the coast island highway has also contributed to the successful growth of tourism in the community.
That being said, while tourism activities represent a new feature of Chemainus’ economy, the forest industry is still the largest industry in the community. Chemainus’ restructured sawmill is profitable, and newer developments such as Chemainus’ industrial park have been completed, attracting a number of re-manufacturing firms including Plenks Wood Centre and Paulcan.
Despite Chemainus being heralded as a rare case of successful economic redevelopment within small resource communities, there are still some uncertainties facing its continued development into the future. Some note that the initial redevelopment projects in Chemainus such as the painting of large murals and other revitalization projects depended on funding from the government. This funding has largely disappeared and some have observed a reduction of opportunities for entrepreneurialism.
- Hayter, Roger (2000). Flexible Crossroads: The Restructuring of British Columbia's Forest Economy. Vancouver: UBC Press. ISBN 0-7748-0775-X.
- Barnes, Trevor; Roger, Hayter (1994). "Economic Restructuring, Local Development and Resource Towns: Forest Communities in Coastal British Columbia". Canadian Journal On Regional Science. xxvii (3).
- Barnes, Trevor; Tanya, Behrisch and Roger Hayter (2003). ""I don't really like the mill; in fact, I hate the mill": Changing Youth Vocationalism under Fordism and Post-Fordism in Powell River". BC studies 136: 73–101.
- Daglish, Brenda (1992). "Falling on Hard Times". Mcleans 105 (34).
- Koster, Rhonda; James E. Randall (2005). "Indicators of community economic development through mural-based tourism". Canadian Geographer 49 (1).