REALITY CHECK: Guess who’s got the most to lose from rash decisions on economic recovery? – by Stewart Muir (Resource Works – June 2020)

We’re at a moment of economic stress, with competing visions for how Canadian society should return to normalcy through the pandemic crisis. Stewart Muir looks at the situation.

Road to pandemic recovery

It’s plain to see that pursuing successful recovery means choosing responsible utilization of the natural resources owned by each province. Now more than ever we are seeing governments realizing (sometimes reluctantly) that only with industry as a partner can they effectively balance the economic use of publicly owned oil and gas reserves, mineral deposits and forests, with other priorities including local ecosystem maintenance, Indigenous rights, and global climate concerns.

Yet some pressure groups like to portray it as being the other way around, as if the principal role of government is to hold in check the insatiable demands of development. They seek to position modern resource companies as the source of the problem.

A small shift in perspective, to that of the resource owners themselves, soon makes clear why governments will not find these proposals as enticing as they might seem at first blush.

Resource companies are able to operate only because governments willingly license them to do so. I’ve spent years looking for a sector of the economy that produces benefits as pervasive as those that flow from natural resource activities. If it’s out there, I have not seen any trace of it. (Writer David Williams comes to a similar conclusion in this article.)

When it comes to taking a healthy slice of the proceeds for public use, governments are only just getting started when they claim royalties on the valuable substances provided when resource companies dig, harvest or drill.

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