Even Thomas Mulcair knows that oilsands is much more than a dirty word.
The federal New Democratic Party leader attracted scorn from politicians across the West for complaining that Alberta’s rich resource is responsible for artificially inflating the value of the Canadian dollar, thus hurting the nation’s manufacturing sector — an economic affliction known as Dutch disease.
Mulcair got some support for this controversial thesis this week from the Pembina Institute, which concluded that, indeed, Canada is suffering from a type of Dutch disease it dubbed oilsands fever, “a strain that is beginning to create clear winners and losers in Canada’s economy.”
But what’s so different about this state of affairs? Canada’s economy has always been a topsy-turvy study of opposites. Boom in the East, bust in the West. Boom in the West, bust in the East.
Now that the West is enjoying some well-deserved prosperity due to the price of its natural resources, the East is feeling the pinch due to a sluggish manufacturing sector. But is the slowdown due to a relatively strong Canadian dollar or is it because North America’s economy has been caught up in global financial turmoil?
Likely the latter.
There’s no denying that Alberta’s oilsands have made the province the envy of other provincial finance ministers, but the truth is that the benefits of the resource are felt nationwide.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, more than $200 billion in capital investment will be made in Alberta’s oilsands over the next 25 years. And for every $1 invested, about $8 in economic activity is generated, with one-third of that outside Alberta.
Mulcair’s broadside against Alberta and his subsequent highly publicized visit to Fort McMurray succeeded in garnering national media attention (maybe that was the plan in the first place), but it also served to focus the spotlight on the giant energy projects and how they’re developed.
He admits that he’s not necessarily against the oilsands, but simply wants to ensure they’re exploited in an environmentally sensitive way.
Well, who doesn’t?
There’s no denying that oil is a dirty business, whether it comes from a well on the Prairies, gouged from the earth in northern Alberta or pumped from a platform in the Atlantic. Nobody wants to hurt the environment, but at the same time, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who would say no to a cheque that came courtesy of the oil industry.
The much-maligned oilsands are good for Alberta, but there’s no question that they’re good for Canada, too. And it’s the job of government to ensure they’re developed with environmental sensitivity and with careful consideration for the planet.
Contrary to what Mulcair might have you believe, that’s not politics, it’s just common sense.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.