Canada largely owes its economic development to natural resources, the vast and (theoretically) sustainable resources like lumber, fish, minerals, agriculture and energy in the form of oil and natural gas. Borrowing liberally from Harold Innis’s iconic The Fur Trade in Canada, hewers of wood and drawers of water we were, and in many ways, we remain.
We’re just getting much more sophisticated – at both hewing that wood (we call it sustainable forestry, now) and drawing that water (mostly for hydroelectric and agricultural purposes these days, and oil sands oil production).
The latest reportfrom the Canadian International Council, The 9 Habits of Highly Effective Resource Economies, argues that Canada cannot become a resource superpower by accident, but only through careful planning. However, the main thrust of the report can be summed up by a prominent quote by former Industry Minister Jim Prentice:
“There’s no shame hewing wood and drawing water as long as you are the best in the world at it.”
Before 2003, it appeared Canada was ashamed of its past, as it didn’t appear as if Canadians wanted to wander down that path any longer, having spent century’s doing so already. The heady dot com years of the late 1990s promised a Canada following in America’s footsteps to develop technology and communications as the best and brightest path to prosperity.
“Pumping oil, cutting wood, and extracting minerals were largely regarded as part of an economy best left behind as Canada raced toward a glittery high-tech future,” writes report author Madelaine Drohan, Canadian correspondent for The Economist.
But growing demand from India and China for what Canada has in abundance – the natural resources that stretch across 5,500 km of land from sea to sea to sea – put resources back in the spotlight, coinciding with a ramping up in production of the Alberta oil sands and resulting in what Statistics Canada so aptly called “the revenge of the old economy” in 2006.
The full story is online at Alternatives Journal.