There is considerable evidence to indicate that the reckless and hell-bent-for-leather policy of developing the Alberta tar sands at all costs has been, in fact, quite costly. Not only to First Nations communities in northern Alberta who live “downstream” from the goo and the guck and the ravaged natural environment, but to the economy of the country – particularly to the economy of Ontario.
The rise in the value of the Canadian petro-dollar, fuelled by escalating oil prices, has made Canadian exports much more expensive for foreign buyers to purchase. The result: a too-rapid decline in Ontario’s manufacturing sector and an attendant decrease in commercial and industrial taxes have helped reduce Ontario to a “have not” province.
It is now a recipient of transfer payments from the federal government when once it was a contributor of those payments to other provinces. At one time not so long ago, Ontario had a well-earned reputation for playing a leadership role in the Canadian federation – being the mediator between the federal government and the other provinces who always seemed to have squabbling with each other and the feds as a favoured pastime. However, no longer can it claim that high ground.
What is even more disturbing, however, is how far Ontario has fallen behind other, more progressive Canadian jurisdictions in recognizing the need for and actively promoting a constructive dialogue around resource development and revenue sharing with First Nation communities. In that way as well, Ontario has become a “have not” province.