Edmonton Journal

Canada needs to sup­port its re­source sec­tor

In­vest­ment in green tech­nol­ogy will be crit­i­cal, Richard Mac­in­tosh writes.


When it comes to Canada's nat­u­ral re­sources, I can al­most chant the num­bers: 909 re­source com­mu­ni­ties, 1.9 mil­lion jobs, $86 bil­lion in in­vest­ment.

Canada is No. 1 in the world for pro­duc­ing potash, No. 1 for canola, No. 2 for ura­nium, No. 5 for gold, No. 10 for cop­per. And No. 3 in the world for the area of forests and for oil re­serves.

We now need all our re­sources to play their role in Canada's re­cov­ery from the pan­demic slump, and in Al­berta and other prov­inces where re­sources un­der­pin the econ­omy. In­vest­ments in in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy to sup­port nat­u­ral-re­source de­vel­op­ment for the en­ergy in­dus­try are vi­tal, and cre­ate a win-win story for peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Gov­ern­ments need to sup­port such ini­tia­tives, which en­able us to be greener when we ex­tract, process, ex­port and use en­ergy re­sources. We rank No. 2 on the Global Clean-tech In­no­va­tion

In­dex, and have made real progress in tack­ling green­house-gas emis­sions from the oil­sands and the oil and gas in­dus­try. But there's more to be done.

We need to take a good look, for ex­am­ple, at the op­por­tu­ni­ties hy­dro­gen can bring — in em­ploy­ment, wages and tax base — along with its zero emis­sions when used as a fuel.

Around the world, there are more than 1,800 Lng-fu­elled elec­tric­ity plants in var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion. There is room to con­vert th­ese to hy­dro­gen, with small changes to the fuel-de­liv­ery sys­tem. I am a boil­er­maker, and I know. Canada can pro­vide LNG, yes; but we can also pro­vide hy­dro­gen.

We also need to step up car­bon-cap­ture tech­nol­ogy, which can de­crease Canada's car­bon leak­age, and at the same time cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Look at three car­bon-cap­ture projects we have done in Canada: Bound­ary Dam in Saskatchew­an, Shell Quest in Al­berta, and the NWR Stur­geon re­fin­ery, also in Al­berta. They cre­ated 6,121 to­tal jobs, $1.6 bil­lion in wages and ben­e­fits and gen­er­ated $2.7 bil­lion in GDP across Canada.

A Cana­dian white pa­per on large-scale car­bon cap­ture pro­poses a re­fund­able cap­i­tal tax credit pro­vided in ad­vance of con­struc­tion of car­bon-cap­ture fa­cil­i­ties, a tax credit fo­cused on ex­pen­di­tures dur­ing the study and de­sign phase of a project, and a pro­duc­tion tax credit, sim­i­lar to that of the 45Q in­cen­tive in the United States, to ad­dress com­pet­i­tive­ness is­sues. Can we move on th­ese?

And let's con­sider some com­mon sense in ef­fi­cien­cies: Why did we have to send 450,000 bar­rels of Al­berta oil by tanker through the Panama Canal to New Brunswick, a jour­ney of 12,000 kilo­me­tres in to­tal? Be­cause we don't have pipeline ca­pac­ity to do it.

Canada needs to sup­port our own in­dus­tries be­fore we sup­port the in­dus­tries of other coun­tries. We should build a pipeline across the coun­try to de­liver our oil to Cana­di­ans. And we can build a power line so Que­bec can ex­port its hy­dro­elec­tric­ity.

As a union guy, I have to plead with gov­ern­ments to bring unions into the dis­cus­sion about the fu­ture. They un­der­stand re­source de­vel­op­ment and eco­nom­ics.

What does labour want to see from gov­ern­ments? En­sure job cre­ation:

es­tab­lish a reg­u­la­tory and pol­icy en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages in­vest­ment in in­dus­try in or­der to get Cana­di­ans back to work;

■ co-or­di­nate with in­dus­try to ad­dress pend­ing labour short­ages and the dis­rup­tion of the nat­u­ral-re­sources sec­tor's labour force;

■ work with prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries to mod­ern­ize Canada's ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing sys­tems to bet­ter sup­port life­long learn­ing;

■ em­pha­size flex­i­ble, af­ford­able train­ing and con­tin­ued skills de­vel­op­ment;

■ en­hance skilled-work­force mo­bil­ity;

■ ad­vance In­dige­nous em­ploy­ment by work­ing with their gov­ern­ments;

■ in­crease em­ploy­ment re­ten­tion and readi­ness for skills de­vel­op­ment;

■ step up train­ing on the econ­omy. We train peo­ple to be­come great work­ers in this coun­try, but we do not take the time to ex­plain how the econ­omy works.

There's a pre­scrip­tion for eco­nomic re­cov­ery and the eco­nomic fu­ture.

Richard Mac­in­tosh is an in­ter­na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the In­ter­na­tional Brother­hood of Boil­er­mak­ers Canada and serves as the Boil­er­mak­ers in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of cli­mate-change pol­icy solutions. The union is also an ad­viser to the Task Force for Real Jobs, Real Re­cov­ery.

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