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not all is equal. what choice will you make?

Mythbusting: Don’t the Oilsands Only Benefit Alberta?

Alykhan July 26, 2011

Enemies of ethical oil frequently try to frame their argument in a way that isolates Alberta. That’s one of their tactics: to make it seem like Alberta benefits from its oilsands resource, while everyone else in Canada gets left out, or worse, has to suffer the negative international publicity around the oilsands. The irony is that it’s these same folks who are responsible for stirring up all that bad publicity through their spread of misinformation and hyperbole about the oilsands. Mike Hudema, for example, a local Greenpeace campaigner calls Alberta “a rogue province that is setting all the other provinces back.” He, like others who try to vilify Alberta, are doing their best to revive old, fading tensions between Eastern and Western Canada. Talk about setting the country back.

In reality, the oilsands have quickly become one of the entire country’s most vibrant job creators. And the benefits to people from B.C. to the Atlantic provinces have mushroomed at a breathtaking rate, and promise to deliver decades, and billions of dollars, more in benefits to regions all across Canada, including some of the most economically challenged places in the country.

The independent, non-profit Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) — a partnership between academia, industry and government — has calculated that Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (essentially the size of its economic output, or, more simply, how rich our country is) will be boosted by nearly $800 billion by as early as 2020 by the oilsands alone. A lot of that GDP growth will happen well outside Alberta’s borders.

Ontario, for one – well poised to build the machinery and equipment needed in the oilsands region – stands to benefit to the tune of more than $100 billion, according to CERI’s studies. To put that into perspective, the entire Ontarian auto manufacturing sector contributed 2.6% of Ontario’s 2009 GDP of about $550 billion—or roughly $14 billion. Other provinces and territories will see more than $53 billion flow their way directly from the economic spin-off effects of the oilsands. And the number of jobs created directly, or indirectly, by the oilsands? Nearly a quarter of a million. Fully 44% of all the employment effects of oilsands investment —nearly half — happens outside Alberta.

People in Newfoundland already know all about the incredibly salubrious effects that the oilsands can have on communities thousands of kilometres away from Fort McMurray. Parts of that province that had been economically stagnant for years, due to the closing of the Atlantic cod fishery, the primary economic driver in the area, have seen unemployment rates dive and watched their towns come back to life again thanks to the planes that carry thousands of workers to Alberta, where they can earn six figure paycheques, and then back home again, where they can spend it.

First Nations people unfortunately face some of the most formidable economic challenges in the country: About half of all Canada’s aboriginals subsist on an income of less than $10,000 annually. The oilsands, though, has quickly become the largest employer of First Nations people in the country, offering them valuable skills and a way for their communities to permanently end their generations-old dependency on the federal government. In 2008 alone, the oilsands provided more than $575 million worth of contract work to aboriginal-run firms in Northern Alberta; in the last decade, companies owned by First Nations people and bands, collected more than $3 billion from oilsands-related contracts. The tiny Fort McKay First Nation counts just 648 people in its band: it collects more than $100 million in revenue through the companies it owns that service oilsands producers. That’s more than $150,000 for every single person in the community.

And, of course, the oilsands represent a massive and growing tax base for municipalities, provincial governments and Ottawa: nearly half a trillion dollars in taxes and royalties are expected to flow to levels of government across the country. In a nation of just 34 million people, that’s like handing each and every man, woman and child a cheque for $14,400 worth of government services, or nearly $58,000 for a family of four. That’s money that can be spent on hospitals, schools, and all manner of other social programs that will benefit all Canadians.

This is a huge part of what makes the oilsands resource so ethical: while revenues from Conflict Oil in places like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Libya ends up enriching the Swiss bank accounts of dictators and their cronies, and to fund the guns and tanks they use to sow strife and to oppress their own people, Canada’s oil revenues deliver jobs, economic opportunity and social support to everyone in the country. The oilsands aren’t just about economic growth for one province, as the anti-oilsands lobby would have you believe; they are about advancing the values of social justice and fairness that Canadians so firmly believe in.

Comments (41)

  1. There are thousands of men in Atlantic Canada who when the cod fisheries were shut down found employment as journeymen in the oil sands. Never forget the oil sands are benefiting ALL of Canada. Machines made in southern Ontario, workers employed in Newfoundland, etc etc etc

  2. Ah, but it depends where you get your numbers. In 2009, the oil sands were responsible for 6.5% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, up from 5% the previous year. And then the Canadian government obscured the oilsands’ specific greenhouse gas emissions in its report to the UN (included it in its overall numbers, but not providing a breakdown of emissions which showed how high the oilsands emissions were)

    • The oil sands ghg emissions are still equal to about 1% of the USA power generation sector and about 1.6% to that of europes. If its 5% or 6.5% of Canada’s emissions it comes down to splitting pennies. The point is the oil sands is not this massive apocalyptic source of pollution equal to less than 1/10th of 1% of the worlds emissions. Think about all the oil Saudi Arabia burns to power their country… Every government bends statistics, you think China, Russia, OPEC producers and others release legitimate realistic statistics, you are dreaming. Canada is ranked one of the most best countries in the world for government transparency. That is Ethical Oil.

    • Heather, Heather , Heather you got to look past what Suziki dribbles on about. Just look at the American coal industry which spews 100x the CO2 that all of Canada does. We are insignificant as a country and the oil sands are a fraction of that. Refocus your attention to the real culprits and then go from there for your rants.

      • I don’t understand why we Canadians have to compare ourselves to the United-States?
        And what’s ethical about oil anyways? Oil contributes to climate change no matter what. And it is because of climate change that many islands are now flooding around the world. The thing about Canada is that when OUR Arctic melts, we’ll get even more oil. And we can’t even look at stats that show emissions from Canada because the oil is exported abroad.
        It’s a shame to say that Canada has become egocentric as a country

  3. Pingback: The Keystone XL Solution: Jobs Here; Jobs in Canada

  4. I love the oil sands. It is economically viable when oil prices are high. Canada had an off oil program, but it was scuttle by OPEC lowering the price of oil. We should continue the off oil program. Green Peace and other similar organisation should not receive tax breaks.

  5. As someone who works in this industry and has spent time working in home offices as well as on site I have to say that when I was on site, being a native Albertan, I was a minority. East Coast workers were hugely prominent as were workers from all other provinces aside from Alberta.

    • No kidding! I was driving a vacuum truck up in Ft Mackay. Mackay indians, Newfies and Saskatchewan farmers! (in the winter) Mackay was a one road shithole back then. I don’t think any of the residents would want to go back to the way it was. Easy for the greenies to talk trash but the indians I saw weren’t living the good life before the Oil Sands expansion.

  6. To Heather> People spout these skewed stats to suit their own ends…how about the millions of trees planted and thousands of hectares reclaimed by Syncrude and Suncor to restore the environment where they have been??? Oh sure some ducks died in a tailing pond but what about the thousands of birds and bats killed by wind turbines in the US? Do u ever wear rayon or polyester or sneakers with rubber soles? How often do u use a bank card or credit card? Watch a tv…get a coffee to go…been to a hospital for any reason…the list goes on and on!!!! Oil and its byproducts touch us EVERY day and these huge companies that find and refine it for us understand their impact and are making huge strides in reducing it…how come that is never breaking or front page news??? We have Carbon Capture starting up just outside of Edmonton…why isnt that front and center as something Alberta is doing right???

  7. Fact: Oil is subsidized by our government and pays much lower tax rates then the average Canadian.
    Fact: Tar Sands destroy First Nations lands and poisons their waters so the mere fact that you include them in your arguments is like spitting in their faces.
    Fact: I live in Ontario and see absolutely no tax deductions or service increases from the tar sands.
    Fact: The tar sands may create environmentally harmful jobs across the country in a minimal way however many environmental research jobs are lost in the process

    • It’s called equalization payments. Ontario is a have-not province which relies on government equalization payments so that it can pay for bills such as healthcare, infrastructure and education. Though the province has autonomy were to spend this money. With the increase of oil production, there will be an increase in equalization payments.

    • What a bunch of crap. Typical of Ontario. Who do you think props up the auto industry? What foot print does it have? For that matter why not put the carbon tax on cars instead of the fuel? That is what puts the carbon in the air. That would make you smile wouldn’t it. Then there’s the transfer payments to Ontario because you are now officially a HAVE NOT province. Let’s not mention the billions that go to Ontario industry to build the Oil Sands components (one which probably employes you). We could go on and on but there some food for thought.

      Another thought for you before you get on a high horse, Try formulate a thought using facts rather than the bulls*it that comes out of the foreign backed green (sic) movements.

  8. You know whats funny? I go on the facebook page of this supposed “Ethical Oil” and state some obvious facts like it doesn’t reforest and it does support terrorism as most of the oil from the tar sands go to the US army and I get booted out. Sounds like there is no space for truth on the internet right?

    Apparently lying about everything is ethical. I’m not religious but it makes me laugh that many people in this industry and our government like Harper are religious yet they don’t follow the most basic rules of religion like “Thou Shalt Not Lie” because all they do is lie about everything. Funny thing to that people in this industry seem to forget is that they talk about oil that supports “terrorism” yet the oil companies that drill for oil and support these “terrorist states” are the exact same oil companies that are involved in the tar sands.

    • Don’t believe everything you see just because it’s labeled ‘documentary’. These things are also being paid for by interested parties to express specific points of view.

        • Actually this “documentary” was in no way paid for by the first nation…. This film was paid for by a “small group of independent investors” according to Mark Mathis.

  9. Ontario, for one – well poised to build the machinery and equipment needed in the oilsands region….. as long as they don’t contract out all the engineering and manufacturing to foreign countries Ontario could be well poised

  10. from the comments and rebuttles I’ve been reading it sounds lke ethical oil is owned by tarsands developers. (although I’ll buy Canadian oil over middle east oil anyday)

  11. I find it strange that all of you who find this type of economic development so repugnant are quite willing to accept the benefits that it generates – a quality of life enjoyed in this country second to none, opportunities available in this country second to none, freedoms enjoyed in this country second to none. It would be an enlightened day for everyone if we would all realize who and what is actually supporting the benefits we enjoy. “Fdgs” I would check your “Facts” if I were you – If you were to just read them over for yourself and do a modicum of research you will find each one of them baseless.

    • Tar-sands-not-oil-sands December 4, 2011 at 01:18

      I find it strange that the comments defending tar sands on this site are first name last initial commenters who seem to be randomly generated common names.

      • And your name would be? Your ignorance is reflected by your handle. Bitumen is not tar. Tar is made by the destructive distillation of coal and is chemically quite different from bitumen.

        • CaughtYouRedHanded December 5, 2011 at 02:01

          I was fishing for you, apparently I caught you. Why isn’t there a tag on your comment or a hint in your name as to identify you as working for you obviously got a notification of my comment. Transparency is key.

  12. Pingback: The Oil Sands and Canadian Identity – a Starter List | GreenPolicyProf

  13. Though I applaud your attempt to bring reality into the affair and dismiss fantasy… I can’t say I agree with the term “ethical oil”… Had the G8 applied an ethical and moral decision making framework to our combined foreign policy… we would actually be taking action against oppressive states rather than just quoting figures about how “un-ethical” they are… while you are able to hold up our oil as a beacon of hope for human rights and transparency… you illuminate the fact we are complicit and guilty of the permitting the very crimes you speak of in these other nations. or even worse that we take little or no action in countries with no oil assets to attract our corporate attention… Until we align our foreign policy to the moral and ethical standard you hold so high, I don’t think we have the right to say we are walking the talk… We simply are not.

    I work in the international Oil and Gas industry. I’ve been all over the world for the last 15 years and am well acquainted with every side of this industry and our morally and ethically bankrupt foreign policy that surrounds it. We’ve propped up and continue to prop up dictatorships for years with terrible human rights records simply because they were “stable” or held pro western views, or quite simply kept the oil flowing… allowing access in one way or another.

  14. “This is a huge part of what makes the oilsands resource so ethical: while revenues from Conflict Oil in places like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Libya ends up enriching the Swiss bank accounts of dictators and their cronies, and to fund the guns and tanks they use to sow strife and to oppress their own people” and our foreign policy has supported this for years… we’ve taken little or no action to rectify this as we prop up these nations at worst or at best simply ignore the problem in the interest of keeping our foreign commercial interests operating… you can’t have it both ways…

    • We continue to dance to the tune of the dollar. We have supported these unethical regimes because there was money to be made. Now you try to argue that Canada’s tar sands oil is ethical because we don’t kill or oppress our people—unless they happen to be poor aboriginal people or anyone else who lives downstream of the rivers whose flows are transformed from pristine to toxic. Then the corporations and the government of Canada deny there’s a link between these toxic flows and disease among those who rely on these watercourses for drinking. Ethical? Hardly

  15. Marcel Lefrançois December 6, 2011 at 23:48

    How can oil be ethical anyway ?

    If your reasoning is that because the oil comes from Alberta (or Canada if you prefer) and that Alberta (or Canada…) can boast of scoring better on YOUR four-point ethical examination, the validity of which I will not discuss here, implies that the oil is ethical then I’ve a problem with your logic .

    Maybe you should call yourselves or . With the fallacious name ‘’ I can’t see how you can speak of others ‘framing their arguments in such a way’ or using hyperbole and exaggeration .

    The bitumen calling the oil black . Shame on you !

  16. Very nice outside for December in Edmonton, was +6 C on Friday probably due to Global warming and CO@ emission form the Oil Sands! OOPS! didn’t beat the record, was +11 C on Dec 23 1928, HUMMM! They must have had global warming going on then, by the way on the same day in 2010 it was -25C in Edmonton….

    Global warming doesn’t exist it is Global Temp. Trends, the temperature will always vary!!!
    Just another way for Greenpeace and Environmentalist to make money and Bash Canada!!!

    • Really? Tell that to the people of Tuvalu and do a bit more research on Global Warming as well as Climate Change because your comment is irrelevant.

        • First of all, did you read the whole thing? the 2 last paragraphs just proves my point. Anyway, the tar sands contribute a lot to global warming which has detrimental effects for people all around the world even natives near Athabasca. Many of them now have health problems because of “Ethical oil”

  17. wateriscentraltolife January 10, 2012 at 03:55

    China owns major shares in Alberta’s oilsands; China has dead rivers, “cancer alleys” and polluted groundwater due to unplanned industrial development. China has a terrible human rights record under a Totalitarian regime, how is partnering with China in anyway ethical?

  18. NoEthicsInRuiningRainforests January 14, 2012 at 14:32

    How is putting a pipeline through the last Temperate rainforest on earth ethical? How is displacing the largest populations of Whales in North America Ethical? I’m not anti Oil Sands but shouldn’t we just manage this resource for future generations and not for exploitation by foreign interests? We must stop this Dutch Disease problem we have.

  19. I am very proud of the Canadian Oil Industry and am honored to be employed by this sector. When I think of the fact that Canadian Oil being bought and sold within North America will keep funds away from Nigerian dictators, Saudi Princes etc and instead add so much to the regional economics of North America, I know we are doing the right thing by advancing the Canadian Oil Sands.
    Canada’s Oil Sands synthetic crude is produced in a less energy intensive process than is oil out of Iraq, Iran and Venezual. The best thing is we do not kill reporters and Green Peace demonstrators for speaking their minds as Russia does. We are THE ETHICAL CHOICE!!!

  20. Two things…

    First, if this oilsand is really better than the Arabic oil, why do we have to sell it quickly at every other countries, and why don’t we keep it for us and slowly extract it ? Oh, yes, that’s not our oil but it belongs to the companies… and by selling it to China, we will be all happy to go to the shop to buy our plastic stuff…

    And second, the economic boost create by the oilsand will not last forever… yes, it will give a lot of money in a short time… and after ? What about the long term ?? Why that much energy, words and empty arguments for something that will not last ?

    And, if this oil was use to improve our knowelge about renewable energy, would it be used in a more ethical way than to make plastic stuff ?

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