March 13, 2013
Let’s not look too askance at the U.S.; Canada has its own big divide
Citizens of countries other than the U.S. have become accustomed to viewing events in Washington and shaking their heads. The political gulf between the two parties — which, by the way, is also reflected in the country as a whole — appears enormous.
Put in simplistic terms, it’s the tax-and-spend Democrats versus the slash-and-downsize Republicans.
The latest dispute over sequestration and across-the-board government spending cuts threatens to seriously harm an economy that has otherwise been showing definite signs of improvement.
We might well ask, “What are they thinking?” But we shouldn’t be too quick to judge.
Canada has its own gaping philosophical lines of division.
The same debate over the size of government is being played out in Ottawa, although with more than two major parties, the contentious issues are somewhat blunted. There’s always jockeying for the middle ground.
Nor am I speaking of the Quebec versus the “Rest of Canada” divide, although it continues to simmer, especially when one side or the other sees some potential for political gain in turning up the thermostat.
No, what is most jarring at this time is the dichotomy of visions for Canada with respect to the assets we have been given in a world increasingly dependent on foreign trade.
There are those who back resource development, with appropriate caveats, and those who would rather stand in its way. Most prominent in the latter category are strident environmentalists and many aboriginal groups.
Some among us argue that too much concentration of effort in any one sector will promote instability and hurt our chances in other areas of the economy.
This line of thinking usually targets the mega projects in Alberta’s Oil Sands.
You can probably guess my position on the subject. Count me firmly among the pro-resource-development crowd.
For starters, Canada has not put all its eggs in one basket. We have many receptacles. In resources, there are precious and base metals, uranium, potash, agricultural and fishing products.
In other sectors, there is the entertainment industry concentrated in Vancouver and Toronto; financial services in Toronto and other major cities; high-tech in Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and the suburbs of Vancouver; and the list goes on and on.
Our natural resources are the birthright of all Canadians. Through jobs and taxes, they provide the revenue that enables most of us to live quite comfortably. They’ll be the source of future employment for many of our children.
Not to speak up in defence of the firms working to bring our raw materials to market would, in my estimation, be short-sighted and wrong.
Recently, thousands of protesters gathered in Washington to argue against the Keystone XL Pipeline. It’s their contention that more development of the Oil Sands will damage the land and the atmosphere.
This overlooks how hard Oil Sands producers are working to prove that industrial production can proceed in tandem with taking proper care of the eco-system.
There are thousands of kilometres of pipelines already in existence throughout North America, operating efficiently to deliver fuel to homes and businesses.
Coal-fired power generation yields far more carbon emissions than any other form of electricity production. The U.S. still derives much of its electricity from coal-fired plants.
Canada’s power comes more from hydroelectric stations and even nuclear sources.
I have a suggestion for the environmental movement in Canada. It should conduct research into which states south of the border have the highest proportion of coal-fired generating stations in their power mix.
Protesters on this side of the border might then target the products imported into this country from those jurisdictions. That might help restore some of the balance to the discussions.
The population of Canada is approximately one-eleventh that of the U.S. The same goes for our national output. But we have a land mass that is even bigger than our American friends.
Compare Canada’s 35 million people with the 1.3 billion individuals in China, a country where rapid industrialization is taking place fueled by all manner of energy, including coal.
Canada is not the culprit in world climate change. We’re not even the pimple on the boil.
We must continue to provide support to our Oil Sands and other raw material industries and to seek out new customers in the emerging world.
There seems to be increasing evidence that it’ a wacky world. Here’s the latest example.
All of the political parties in New Brunswick want a pipeline to run from Alberta, through Ontario and Quebec, to a terminal in Saint John. The local politicians see the economic benefits.
All of the political parties in B.C. don’t want a pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast, to supply oil to customers in Asia — at least not unless an agreement has been worked out providing more economic benefit to B.C.
What are the differences between the two regions?
Is the coastline of B.C. more worthy of protection than that of the Atlantic Region? Few would wish to pursue that subject.
Are there more native land claim issues in B.C.? Yes, but how is the cycle of poverty on reserves to be broken unless more economic opportunities are embraced by the native population?
The people of B.C. are generally more affluent than those living in New Brunswick. That might be a factor. Perhaps they think they can afford to sit on their assets.
One doesn’t have to be religious to understand the “parable of the talents” in the Bible. A “talent” was an ancient measure of currency.
A merchant went on a journey and left some of his wealth to three of his servants, according to their respective abilities — five talents to the first, two to the second and a single talent to the third.
By the time he returned, the first two servants had put their money to work and doubled their funds. The merchant was pleased.
The third, however, buried the talent in the ground. He was afraid to do anything with it and kept it for safekeeping. When he told his employer, the latter was most upset and disappointed.
Let me conclude by framing the issue in hypothetical terms.
Suppose you have a young daughter and she has a beautiful singing voice. She could grow up to be a diva.
Do you keep insisting she learn how to type so she can pursue a more stable and “sensible” career?
I’m sure this question will draw a mixed response or two.