VICTORIA — Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is clearly a man who chooses to enrage rather than engage.
Preparing to visit Alberta’s oil sands last week, he stated that "Their (environmental) model for development is Nigeria." That Mulcair had never actually been to either Nigeria or the oilsands was clearly no impediment to this astonishing pronouncement.
Nevertheless, his earnest and cordial Alberta hosts did their best to show him the great strides the industry has made in reducing the environmental impacts of oil-extraction operations and the restored mine sites where wood bison and other wildlife now roam.
Mulclair would have learned the entire disturbed area of the oilsands is 100 square kilometres smaller than the footprint of the city of Toronto and comprises just one-tenth of one per cent of the Alberta northern boreal forest. He would also have learned the oilsands produce just five per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Predictably, there is no sign these facts altered his characterization of the oilsands as a threat to local and global ecosystems. But surely Mulcair’s earlier allegation the oilsands "model for development is Nigeria" obliges him to next visit the Nigerian Delta, where he would see firsthand that thousands of oil spills have made the drinking of water almost as hazardous as being subjected to the human rights abuses and deadly conflicts that pervade the region.
After his blusters about environmental Armageddon comes his "Dutch disease" theory. It starts with the premise that, since oil-export revenue lifts Canada’s balance of payments and generates national wealth, global money markets will value our dollar higher than if we didn’t produce oil. All true, so far. But then comes his leap of logic that, if we just stopped producing oil, the dollar would fall, manufacturers would thrive and Canadians would be better off.
But would they really? No one disputes Alberta is the biggest beneficiary of oilsands development, but Albertans also return much of that financial gain to the nation. In 2009, Alberta corporations and individuals paid some $40 billion in taxes to the federal government, while receiving $19 billion back in goods and services.
That $21-billion difference helps fund federal programs that benefit the entire country, as well as providing the lion’s share of equalization cash paid largely to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.
Moreover, oilsands companies buy a lot from other provinces. A study by the Macdonald Laurier Institute forecasts that, over the next 25 years in Ontario alone, oilsands developers will create 1.3 million person years of employment and create an economic impact of $95 billion.
Mulcair has conveniently neglected to mention oil from Alberta, as well as Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland is only one of the resource exports that help strengthen our dollar.
British Columbia’s natural gas, forest products and metal resources; Saskatchewan’s potash, Manitoba and Quebec’s hydro power all contribute to Canada’s trade balance.
If Mulcair’s theory that our country would be better off without oil exports was true, then wouldn’t it follow that stopping all resource exports would allow manufacturers to thrive even more?
But here are some more of those darned facts that clash with Mulcair’s theories. A recent study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy concluded only one-quarter of total Canadian manufacturing output has been negatively impacted by a stronger loonie. Many manufacturers have actually benefited by importing productivity- improving equipment. And where manufacturing plants have shut down, it’s sometimes due to the actions of provincial governments, the huge increases in electricity costs driven by Ontario’s misguided green energy subsidies being a prime example.
A new world economic order is dawning, with global growth moving from the West to the East.
Resource-hungry Asia is rising to lead that new economic order. Canada is the only G8 country capable of supplying those resources, which already account for half of our export revenue.
Resource-sector employment is a mainstay across our country, employing hundreds of thousands from labourers to skilled trades to engineers and accountants. The environmental record of Canada’s resource industries ranks among the best in the world.
Rather than irresponsibly accusing those who proudly work in them of "unsustainable" practices and of causing "Dutch disease," Canadians should expect a person aspiring to be prime minister would understand it’s Canada’s "resource advantage" that can keep our country strong and prosperous in the new world economic order.
Gwyn Morgan is a Canadian business leader and director of two global corporations.
— Troy Media