People rely on natural resources for a good life
As Canadians grapple with the result of the federal election and the naming of the new cabinet, when it comes to natural resource policy, it’s important to separate whimsical wishes from reality.
Natural resources such as the minerals that help make our cars and bicycles, the petroleum products that make our cell phones and the forestry products that produce our newspapers and the frames for our homes are a fundamental element of our modern existence. Canada is excellent at extracting these resources, and we would all be better off if we could accept and celebrate this.
From the moment we wake up in our machine-woven sheets (polymers) that are stretched over our foam (petroleum) and (metal) spring-filled mattresses, and we reach for our smartphones (aluminum, gold, plastic) and we walk on our laminate (wood, plastic) or stone (quarries) tiled or carpeted (petroleum) floors to the kitchen to start our coffee pots, (plastic, metal) we have depended upon at least a dozen different natural resources while we are still in our pajamas. Plus shipping.
Producing the raw materials for those goods also directly benefits thousands of Canadian workers. More than 420,000 people work in mining in Canada, with the average pay exceeding $117,000 per year.
Take Trevor for example. Trevor is an Albertan who has worked in natural resources for his entire adult life.
When he was in his 20s, he worked as a logger on northern Vancouver Island. Trevor recently shared an amusing anecdote with me about having to weave his truck around protesters waving paper “Don’t Cut Trees” signs, held aloft with wooden stakes. One can safely assume the protesters also lived in wood framed homes and used paper in their daily lives.
Now that he’s in his 50s, Trevor works in engineering, and his craft has taken him from the energy patch in Alberta to a hydro dam in Newfoundland to potash mines in the prairies. All natural resources, all being protested every step of the way by those who live comfortable lives thanks to those same natural resources they claim to loathe.
Trevor’s income has been slashed in half over the past few years because of these misguided misinformation campaigns waged by protesters. It has affected his family, eaten away at his savings and he has seen his friends and neighbours lose their homes, their vehicles and their marriages.
Trevor told me about some highly paid professionals he knows who are experts in finding and responsibly extracting oil from Canada’s natural oil sands. Since Alberta’s recession began, and they were laid off, the situation has been so difficult that they’ve been hiding their skills on their resumes, hoping to get jobs at Dairy Queen.
Meanwhile, as Canadian natural resource projects struggle to get off the ground, the world just buys the resources from another country – often countries with inferior environmental regulations.
Ultimately, Canada’s struggles with approving natural resource projects has cost our nation tens of thousands of jobs and a fortune in lost tax revenue for the government.
Second Street.org tallied up the value of several major projects that were halted or cancelled, at least in part due to government policies between 2014-19. The total of this missed opportunity was roughly the equivalent of building an NHL-sized arena every day for a year – a staggering loss.
While politicians often subsidize the construction of new arenas, and boast about jobs they claim they are “creating,” these natural resource projects don’t require subsidies to get off the ground.
What they do require is for Canadians to take pride in, and appreciate what our natural resource sector provides. Yes, we should strive to do better, but if we don’t sell other nations the resources they want to buy, the world will simply purchase those resources elsewhere and leave Canada behind.
– Kris Sims is a contributor for SecondStreet.org and is the B.C. Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
This column was published in Sun newspapers on November 22, 2019 (Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Edmonton Sun and Calgary Sun)